Robin Hood Men in Tights

  • Title: Robin Hood Men in Tights
  • Director: Mel Brooks
  • Date: 1993
  • Studio: Columbia / Tri-Star
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Cast: Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Amy Yasbeck, Tracey Ullman, Megan Cavanagh
  • Cameo Cast: Patrick Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Mel Brooks
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R2, PAL

“Let me introduce you to my best friend, Will Scarlett.” – Little John
“Scarlett is my middle name. My full name is Will Scarlett o’Hara. … We’re from Georgia.” – Will

“And why should the people listen to you?” – Prince John
“Because, unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.” – Robin

“We’re men, we’re men in tights. Tight, tights!
Always on guard, defending the people’s rights.
When you’re in a fix, just call for the men in tights.” – “Men in Tights”, song and dance number (Cast)

Robin Hood: Men in Tights came out as a parody of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but actually also parodies the classic 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. There are also some references to the ITV series, Robin of Sherwood (aka Robin Hood – the one starring Michael Praed and Jason Connery). But with a new Robin Hood film in theaters (Starring Russell Crowe, and directed by Ridley Scott) and a new Robin Hood TV series (starring Jonas Armstrong and Richard Armitage) – this parody actually almost seems to work better now than when it was originally released. Some references no longer really work, but Cary Elwes is the perfect Robin Hood.

In this version of the tale, Robin is captured in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and thrown in a dungeon. There he meets Asneeze, who help him get free. The two led a revolt freeing all the prisoners. Thankful to be freed, Robin promises to look up and help Asneeze’s son, Achoo when he arrives in England. In England, Robin finds his family’s castle being repossessed and the local villages being burned. He vows to rescue England from tyranny. Soon he’s put together a merry band: Achoo, Blinkin (Robin’s family’s blind servant), Little John, and Will Scarlett. In a parody of Flynn’s Robin Hood, Elwes’ Robin brings a wild boar (rather than deer) to Prince John’s feast. He sees Marion, and they fall for each other. After a fight with Prince John’s men, Robin, rescued by his men, returns to the forest and begins training the villagers. Also, in a scene straight from The Adventures of Robin Hood, John decides to lure Robin into a trap with an archery contest. As in the Flynn film, Robin arrives at the archery contest, dressed as an old man. But it is John’s archer who splits Robin’s arrow. Shocked, Robin checks the script to see – and discovers he gets another shot. He uses a patriot target-seeking arrow and blows up the other arrow. Robin is captured and John threatens to hang Robin if Marion doesn’t marry him. She’s about to do it, when Achoo saves the day, shooting Robin loose from the hangman’s noose. King Richard (Patrick Stewart) arrives and knights Robin. Robin and Marion are “quickly married” by Rabbi Tuckman (Mel Brooks), and start their new life. Robin appoints Achoo the new sheriff of Rottingham. At first the villagers protest, “A black sheriff?” But Achoo responds, “Why not – it worked in Blazing Saddles,” – why do I get the feeling Brooks was waiting the entire film to use that line?

Elwes has a pencil mustache, like Flynn’s from The Adventures of  Robin Hood, and the costumes are also vintage the 1938 movie. Several scenes from the 1938 film are also parodied, notably, Robin bringing the deer/boar into the Prince’s feast, and the archery contest scene. Also, Robin has a habit of starting long speeches – which quickly bore his audience. In one, he starts, sounding like Flynn, and ends, sounding like Churchill.

From Robin of  Sherwood – we get the opening sequence of the flaming arrows being shot from English longbows (in silhouette). Also, the character of Achoo seems to be drawn from Nasir, though he’s a lot more chatty.

But, Robin’s jibe that, “at least I can speak with an English accent,” is aimed straight at Kevin Cosner – who’s really awful accent (and inability to do one) was a major problem in Prince of Thieves. Unfortunately, though Elwes does an English accent perfectly – most of the rest of the cast is American and sounds it. The worst is Richard Lewis, who just does a bad job as Prince John. (What is it with Prince John, anyway?  Nobody seems to get him right! I swear, Doctor Who had the best Prince John I’ve seen in the story “The King’s Demons”). But yeah, Robin Hood should definitely not sound like he comes from Iowa, and that was the trouble with Cosner’s film.

However, though funny in parts, and filled with some excellent honest-to-goodness sword-fighting scenes, this isn’t the classic Mel Brooks of The Producers, Blazing Saddles, or Young Frankenstein. I did like that it drew on all the Robin Hoods to date, and, again, with two new Robin Hoods out there, it’s worth watching again, but overall a bit disappointing for Mel Brooks.

There is a lot of excellent music in the film – the Robin Hood Rap is fun, the title number of We’re Men, We’re Men in Tights, is hilarious, and even Marion’s Theme is quite sweet.

Yes, I do have an R2 version of this film. I couldn’t find a US/ R1 / NTSC version anywhere when I bought it. However, you can now find the film as part of the boxed set of Brooks’ films.

Recommendation:  It’s OK, but not stellar.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Roman Holiday

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The Adventures of Robin Hood

  • Title: The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Directors: Michael Curtiz & William Keighley
  • Date: 1938
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia deHavilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Alan Hale
  • Genre: Adventure, Classic
  • Format: Technicolor, Standard (4 x 3)
  • DVD Format: NTSC, Region 1
  • DVD Notes: 2-disc Special Edition

The Adventures of Robin Hood is another of my favorite films. The Technicolor process results in very bright jewel tones, that add to the storybook quality of this movie – as does shooting much of the movie on location. For once the “this is obviously Southern California” look is a positive thing because the bright sun (even in day-for-night shots) adds to the storybook feel.

Errol Flynn is excellent as Robin, smiling and laughing his way through the film, though he delivers his speech rousing the men of Sherwood and Loxley well. But this is definitely a lighter edged Robin Hood – which is fine, it’s part of what makes it work in, again, a very storybook fashion. Also, Flynn is brilliant in the sword-fighting scenes – and his derring-do works well for the character of Robin Hood.

Olivia de Havilland is quite feisty as Lady Marian, in this version of the story a Royal ward of King Richard (the Lionheart) who’s been living under the thumb of Prince John (Raines) – though she really has no clue what he’s doing to the country. Once Robin makes things clear to her – she jumps sides and also falls in love with Robin. But it’s nice to see in a movie from 1938 such a feisty, intelligent, independent Lady Marian. I also liked that her maid falls for one of Robin’s men.

The plot covers many of the familiar legends of Robin Hood in an almost episodic style — meeting Little John and Friar Tuck, challenging Prince John – by stalking into a party carrying a Royal deer and plopping it in the middle of the table, the archery contest (that results in Robin being captured by Bad Prince John), and finally King Richard showing up and he and Robin over-throwing John and the Sheriff of Nottingham and the king not merely knighting Robin but declaring him a Baron and an Earl and marrying him to Marian.

It’s a fun movie with lots of sword-fighting and adventure. Flynn is brilliant at sword fighting as I said — the finale with the fight between Robin and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Rathbone) is brilliant, including both a fight on a curved stair and a shadow play fight. Marian is also quite feisty and well-played by deHavilland.

I have the 2-disc special edition, which includes a plethora of special features including:

  • Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of  The Adventures of  Robin Hood
  • Deleted scenes, and bloopers
  • Robin Hood through the Ages
  • A Journey to Sherwood Forest (home movies)
  • Classic Cartoons: “Rabbit Hood” and “Robin Hood Daffy” (NOT to be missed – they are brilliant!)
  • Vintage shorts (one on archery and another interviewing Flynn)
  • Splitting the Arrow — Art, Costume Design, Drawings, photos, publicity materials
  • Audio-Only Extras: Robin Hood Radio Show, Korngold Piano Session
  • Glorious Technicolor – Angela Lansbury narrates a documentary explaining the tri-color (and base b/w) film process that results in Technicolor (Another do NOT miss extra)
  • Feature-length Commentary with Rudy Behlmer, Warner’s Film Historian
  • Warner Night at the Movies hosted by Leonard Martin (Trailer, newsreel, short, & cartoon)
  • Errol Flynn Trailer Gallery

Recommendation: See it! Add the Special Edition DVD your collection! Show this movie to your kids or nieces & nephews.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Next Film: Airplane!