The Legend of Robin Hood (BBC 1975) – Part Three

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Robin and his small band of friends take shelter in Sherwood Forest, but they’re not alone.  It would be reasonable to suppose that Sherwood would be home to many different groups of outlaws (although we’ve not often seen this developed in most of the film or television adaptations).

Robin quickly becomes aware of a formidable rival gang (dressed in green) who are led by a giant of a man, John Little (Conrad Asquith).  Although some of his men aren’t trustworthy (and one later betrays Robin) Little John is presented as a dependable and honest man, although he’s somebody who’s not unused to violence.  He used to work at Nottingham Castle, but he got into an argument with his superior and threw him into the moat (after hitting his head with a hammer first, just for good measure!)

Robin and John meet for the first time and settle their differences in the traditional way – via a quarterstaff duel in the middle of a streaming lake.  It’s a nicely shot film sequence, with some effective quick intercuts (although it’s true that the scene is a little short).  After they both end up in the water, any enmity they previously felt has been forgotten and they pool resources and information.  John mentions that Sir Guy (who’s now taken charge of Robin’s estates at Huntingdon) is due to be married there.

Robin, naturally, makes haste to see Marion one more time – but thanks to one of Little John’s untrustworthy men, Sir Guy and his soldiers are waiting for him.  If only Sir Guy had dealt with him here then the story would have been over some three episodes early.  But, as usually happens, he leaves Robin locked up, although he doesn’t stay locked up for long (thanks to a little help from Marion)

There’s a lack of Paul Darrow in this episode, which is a shame, but on the plus side William Marlowe does get a very decent share of the action.  Whether he’s playfully taunting Marion or ordering his inept soldiers about, Marlowe’s always a joy to watch.  If Darrow’s Sherriff is more of an intellectual and a schemer, then Marlowe’s Sir Guy is an instinctive fighter and everything’s bubbling up nicely for the climatic confrontation between him and Robin.

So far, Robin and his men have only been concerned with their own self interest.  But towards the end of part three we see them help others less fortunate than themselves for the first time.  Prince John has burnt several villages to the ground and taken all the unfortunate inhabitants to work as slaves in a nearby silver mine.  Robin is able to free them (rather easily, it must be said) and afterwards he confronts John.

David Dixon continues to give a layered performance as John.  On the one hand, it’s possible to suggest that he’s nothing more than a stooge (manipulated easily by the likes of the Sheriff) but on the other he does seem to have a mind and a will of his own.  Robin tells him that the villagers are now free and that he’ll take enough silver to rebuild the burnt villages whilst the rest will go to fund Richard’s Crusade.

Naturally, John doesn’t take this at all well and we end with him promising that Robin will hang.  This now means that there’s three highly motivated men – the Sheriff, Sir Guy and Prince John – who all want Robin’s head, which helps to raise the stakes just a little more.

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