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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men is a 1950s Disney live-action retelling of the popular British legend that contains some moments of brief peril, music, and songs. Robin Hood (Richard Todd) is forced to become an outlaw after his father is murdered for speaking out against the bullying and excessive taxation of the corrupt ruling class. Robin is a thief, but a "moral" one as he only robs from the rich and gives to the poor. He is very much portrayed as the good versus the evil Prince John (Hubert Gregg) and Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch) who behaves aggressively and punishes the locals. There are some non-bloody fight scenes with punching and choking. There is also some weapon use -- bows and arrows, swords, and spears -- but again there is no blood shed, although one man is shot dead instantly with an arrow. In another scene, a poacher is beaten with sticks as he's hoisted by a rope. There is some mild flirting between Maid Marian (Joan Rice) and characters drink alcohol but only in moderation.
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What's the story?
THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN tells the story of Robin Hood (Richard Todd), a young man with a talent for archery who becomes an outlaw after Prince John (Hubert Gregg) kills his father. While hiding in Sherwood Forest, Robin recruits a band of men who swear loyalty to King Richard (Patrick Barr) the absent but rightful ruler of England. Together they undertake a series of ambushes and battles against Prince John's men -- including the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch) -- and redistribute wealth unfairly taken from local citizens.
Is it any good?
An old-fashioned telling of an even older tale, this familiar story is competently told, but there are few memorable moments. The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men was a commercial hit upon its release in 1952, but has not remained as popular as other family-friendly versions, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn or Disney's better-known animated version, Robin Hood. The story is partly told through music and song, something that underlines its historical look and feel. This may entertain some children, especially those who enjoy more modern Disney movies, which have many of the same hallmarks. But equally they may fail to be impressed by the then-cutting edge "Technicolor," which looks dated.
As is typical of movies from the 1950s, the scenes are highly staged with loud dialogue and its action scenes lack the sophistication of modern cinema. The story is slow moving and requires patience, but builds to a fitting climax where Robin Hood must save Maid Marian (Joan Rice) and defeat Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham once and for all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men. Did it seem realistic? How does it differ from violence in movies made today?
Discuss the character of Robin Hood and the fact that he steals from people. Is he justified in his actions? If so, why? Talk about the idea of breaking the rules for the right reasons.
How is Maid Marian portrayed in the movie? How might her character be different if the movie was made today?
How does this movie compare to other Robin Hood movies?
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