The Legend of Robin Hood

90 min. BBC radio drama from 1992 of the Robin Hood story, which may well be one of the few — or only — attempts to feature the character in radio (other than the occasional one off story in an Old Time Radio anthology). It stars John Nettles, Gerry Hinks and Carolyn Backhouse and was scripted by John Fletcher (which, let’s face it, is the bestest name ever for a guy writing a Robin Hood story!)

Unfortunately, it’s disappointing — even annoying, suffering from an acute case of self-importance. Instead of telling a Robin Hood movie in audio (with character development, and a linear plot) it, as the title “legend of…” implies, spans years and is episodic, comprised of little vignettes (no less than two captured-by-the-sheriff-and-rescue sequences within a few minutes of each other) and presumes we already know the story and uses that as a crutch so it doesn’t really develop the characters or relationships.

Then there’s a lengthy mid-story sequence with Robin and Little John off on the Crusades which, though part of some versions of the legend, doesn’t really feel like a “Robin Hood” story (almost as if Fletcher had wanted to write a play about the Crusades but could only interest a producer if he inserted Robin into it)…and still is more just a collection of moments and voice overs as opposed to gelling into a “plot.” Presumably part of the point was to try a certain historical realism, Fletcher having researched the period (and descriptions of the Holy Land), and with a greater emphasis on Robin’s Christianity (not — necessarily — in a proselytizing way, but simply for authenticity), yet also nods to paganism (strangely, I half wondered if Marion was supposed to be a mystical wood nymph or something at first, her initial scenes are so odd) and with evocative period music.

It feels pretentious. Full of voiceovers, poetic monologues, reflections on Christianity, and disjointed incidents, without really gelling into an actual plot about characters we like or care about. I’ll admit, Robin Hood is one of those iconic characters I have a great fondness for…yet rarely have I found a Robin Hood movie/book that really captured what I’m looking for in a telling of the tale. The swashbuckling Adventures of Robin hood (with Errol Flynn) and the bittersweet Robin & Marion (with Sean Connery) being my two favourite Robin Hood movies.

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