Robin and Marian (1976)

“Have you ever tried to fight a legend?”

Synopsis:
Robin Hood (Sean Connery) returns from twenty years of fighting in the Crusades to find that his one true love, Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn), has become a nun.

Genres:

Review:
I’ve struggled for a while now to figure out why Richard Lester’s seriocomic historical drama (listed as a Sleeper and Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book) doesn’t quite work, and I’ve finally realized that the problem is one of casting: while Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn are wonderful here as an older Robin Hood and Maid Marian, the fact remains that they never played their younger counterparts — and thus we have little emotional investment in seeing them get back together. While it’s fun to imagine a youthful Connery and Hepburn in an earlier incarnation, an entire story revolving around their reunion seems, at best, speculative.

Robin and Marian also suffers from a schizophrenic attitude towards genre: while Lester periodically attempts doses of humor (reminding one at times of Monty Python and the Holy Grail), this tone isn’t carried consistently throughout, and the film’s emotionally charged ending doesn’t resonate with what’s come before. In addition, Robin Hood’s renewed feud with the Sheriff of Nottingham (well played by Robert Shaw) feels contrived, and their climactic one-on-one swordfight doesn’t hold much interest (again, the blame lies with a lack of prior investment in the characters). The film’s most powerful element — and its true saving grace — is the genuine screen chemistry between Connery and Hepburn, who ultimately deserve a much better vehicle for their talents.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Audrey Hepburn in a much welcomed comeback performance
  • A genuinely touching romance between the older, wiser Robin and Marian
  • Robin Hood explaining to Marian why he lost his faith during the Crusades

Must See?
No. While it holds some historical interest as the film that brought Hepburn out of her self-imposed retirement from acting, it’s ultimately no longer must-see viewing.

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One Response to “Robin and Marian (1976)”

  1. A dismal film. Now that I’ve seen it a second time, it was one time, if not two, too many.

    Somewhat arguably, I suppose, Lester only made two successful films; everything seemed to come together somehow with his huge Beatles hit, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (though I recall fun stuff in ‘Help!’), and ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ is a better filmed musical than many give it credit for.

    But that’s about it.

    Here, I do actually find Lester restraining himself in terms of honoring genre and his efforts seem a bid for respectability. Unfortunately, screenwriter James Goldman has done little but attempt to capitalize on his earlier, enormously successful work, ‘The Lion in Winter’. At least ‘Lion’ has a highly charged power struggle inside a family whereas the broader thirst for power in ‘R&M’ is laid out in an uninvolving manner.

    The whole movie is tedious, actually. It doesn’t satisfy as historical drama or as a love story, and I find the ending embarrassing.

    Hepburn’s return to the screen points up the difficulty an actor with somewhat limited range (male or female) has in continuing a career when cinema redefines itself and enters a new age.

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