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The Greatest Film Ever Made

19 May

“So what is your favorite film?”

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That’s a fair question that I’ve been asked many times. Motion pictures are difficult to ignore in any culture and film stars are often revered as royalty. In fact, I would argue that for many of us movie stars are the equivalent of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United Kingdom’s Royal family. We love them, we hate them, we ridicule them, we shower them with praise. Celebrities and their all too public lives provide us with voyeuristic opportunities as they either self-destruct or in some way manage to distinguish themselves as the world’s most famous imbeciles. Just ask Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson.

 

Ah, but the movies themselves are so often magical. I hold steadfast to my belief that Hollywood’s best films were made in the 1930 and 1940s. Of course, every decade has its classics. In recent years I’ve enjoyed THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. That’s a classic series, to be sure. And NATIONAL TREASURE starring Nicholas Cage was a nifty albeit traditional adventure film. I loved CAST AWAY starring Tom Hanks and The two KILL BILL films. BEFORE SUNSET and its sequel BEFORE SUNRISE directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reaffirmed my belief that screenwriters could still write meaningful dialogue. Yes, there are some great films out there. But the greatest film ever made? What would that one be?

 

I decided to ask around and you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the responses were as varied as the personalities that I spoke with. It should be noted that I intentionally avoided asking film critics this question and whenever possible I shied away from what I call “The artsy-fartsy” crowd. I already know what they’ll say: CITIZEN KANE, LA DOLCE VITA, THE BICYCLE THIEF, LA STRADA, BLOW UP, etc. And those sage minds over at The American Film Institute have their own ideas on which films belong on a list titled “The Greatest Films of All Time.”

 

One fellow told me he loves DIE HARD. A few women mentioned PRETTY WOMAN as their favorite. TITANIC is still fresh in everyone’s mind as a modern masterpiece. Men that love Westerns as I do all said RIO BRAVO is their favorite. Now there’s a classic that’s on my “Top Ten” list. In fact, nobody I spoke with about Westerns mentioned HIGH NOON, but all of them mentioned THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE SEARCHERS. Several mentioned TOMBSTONE. These films are all great and I would certainly include them on a longer list. But I’m still talking about just one film.

 

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD starring Errol Flynn is the greatest film ever made. It’s the perfect movie. A great cast, superb script, stunning Technicolor photography, outstanding costumes, inspiring music, and Errol Flynn at the top of his form. What more do you want from a movie?

 

This is not meant to disparage any of Flynn’s other films, so since I’m on the topic let’s not forget that CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, DAWN PATROL, DODGE CITY, THE SEA HAWK, GENTLEMAN JIM, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON and OBJECTIVE BURMA are just a few of Flynn’s films that deserve to be called “classics.”

 

April/May 2008 marks the 70th anniversary of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and I’m celebrating early. Every month until next May I will post an image or two on this site from Sherwood Forest in celebration of 70 years of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. This year long celebration begins today.

 

I want to encourage everyone reading this post to find a copy of the DVD and watch it with your family or your friends. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

 

That’s my rant on that topic.

Keep rockin’ and best wishes always,

 

Thomas McNulty

— Shamrock

 

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  1. Anonymous

    May 20, 2007 at 5:02 am

    I must have seen Robin Hood on TV as a kid a few dozen times before I ever saw it properly on a huge movie screen at The Picture Show Theatre in Bellingham, WA 'round about 1975… 1975!
    Yikes, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since THOSE days!
    On TV back then the film was shown in B&W mostly, or sometimes in color–but always cut down to fit the amount of time available to the station in whatever time slot they fit the movie into.
    On that large movie screen in full techincolor and non-digital sound but stereo, at least–the movie was shown in its entire length and there were shots and bits of scenes that extended what I had always seen as the movie. The colors! The details of the costumes stood out (many actually shimmered, or caught the light in unexpected ways) and the sound was rich and moving, excitement was in the air!
    Even though I knew much of the dialogue by this time–anticipating it was joy, and the audience of long time film goers (this was a university crowd mostly, and the theatre was an art house movie theatre in the oldest waterside part of town) was swept up in the adventure!
    I have often imagined what the film's FIRST audience must have felt!
    Anyone who has never seen this film is envied by me!
    They get the first time impressions, the first feelings, the first experience of the film that brings all the elements together in the viewer in such a splendid way–not knowing how it will all turn out!
    Somehow, knowing how it all turns out hasn't diminished the movie for me at all… it is like the taste of some fine wine. Ah, yes! I want to go out and pull a bowstring every time I see it!
    This film has outlasted all imitation–and enjoyed the comparison between the old and new swashbucklers over the years. The Three Musketeers films, and the Pirates of the Carribean movies have come along and made a splash of their own–but NOTHING has come close to the impact, and the accomplishment that THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD starring Errol Flynn has…
    …nothing…
    Best always,
    David~

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  2. Anonymous

    May 20, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    While I don't know that Captain Blood necessarily is the best flim ever made, it absolutely is *my* favorite film. In my little universe, then, that makes it the best film ever made. I honestly don't know any other person who enjoys Flynn's films who prefers Captain Blood to Robin Hood, and I'm not sure that I even can articulate fully why, but there it is. Part of it for me may be just the “freshness” of the movie and Flynn's performance, that they weren't quite as polished as Robin Hood. But I certainly would not quarrel with anyone thinking Robin Hood was #1. Clearly, perfection all around.
    I first saw this movie, as well as Robin Hood and Sea Hawk, on the big screen in college in the early 70s (gulp). The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus had numerous outlets for classic films, and, of course, this was long before video and cable. It's really a shame that so few today can view those movies in that way. Wolfie

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  3. Anonymous

    May 20, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Wolfie –
    thanks for your insightful comments. I actually think Captain Blood is one of the classics and I also have very strong feelings for that one, too. Captain Blood is lacking only Technicolor. I do feel that the on-screen chemistry between Flynn and Olivia de Havilland is near perfect, too. I watched it again recently and loved every moment!
    Tom

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  4. Anonymous

    May 20, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Dave, you are right on the money about Flynn's Robin Hood outlasting all imitators! I am, however, fond of the silent Douglas Fairbanks version, and I'll even dare to publicly state that Kevin Costner's version, while flawed, was a fair effort – Alan Rickman steals the show in that one. The new Robin Hood television show also has “it's moments” but I haven't quite warmed up to it yet. The bottom line is that The Adventures of Robin Hood starring our man Flynn is the best of them all – and always will be.
    Tom

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  5. Anonymous

    May 21, 2007 at 1:49 am

    I saw the Fairbanks silent version in an old time movie palace with organ accompaniment of the original music–it was a huge treat and I loved it!
    Seeing Allan Hale as Little John was a treat, too. This was a gorgeous production in its own right–and I suspect that when Flynn came along with the 1938 version–it did the impossble when it eclipsed the original Fairbanks film in many people's minds.
    That trick has not been accomplished again since the day Errol's RH first appeared, to my mind. Kostner, well–he pales in my mind but I understand what he was trying to do. Who wouldn't like to take a swing at playing RH if you have the chance? Yet, with Flynn's stamp on the role–good luck, Chum!
    David~

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