The Mighty Epic of the Rogue of Rogues!
Starring: Barrie Ingham, James Hayter, Leon Greene, Eric Flynn, Gay Hamilton, John Gugolka, Reg Lye, Douglas Mitchell, John Arnatt, William Squire, Peter Blythe
Director: Pennington Richards
1967 | 85 Minutes | Rated G
“The more, the merrier.” – Robin Hood
Norman nobleman Robin de Courtenay (Barrie Ingham) is framed for murder by his cousin. With no other options, he flees to Sherwood Forest and joins a merry band of men in their fight against the tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
A Challenge for Robin Hood plays fast and loose with the Robin Hood mythos in the early minutes of the movie. Robin is a Norman noble (not a Saxon and not of Locksley) framed for murder. He escapes with the help of Friar Tuck to Sherwood where Alan-a-dale is the leader of the forest dwellers prior to Robin’s arrival. He encounters Little John for the first time at the Nottingham fair and they hit it off immediately… meaning there is no quarterstaff duel between them, just a feigned wrestling match to fool the Sheriff.
This whole 30+ minutes of treading close, but not too close, to ground that has been covered in MANY movies before begins to feel like a trod. Once we are past this point, things really pick up and become quite fun, if not a tad corny.
For example, there’s a series of traps that the men set for some of the Sherriff’s men who are invading the forest. Every single one could only be triggered if the knights did EXACTLY what Robin’s men hoped… stepped in the exact place… took the exact path through the woods… you can even see one actor kind of hop into place at one point. It’s really a pretty funny scene but something that would be the laughing stock of Hollywood if released today.
There is a fun musical interlude… I’ll be honest… I don’t have the slightest clue if that is the correct term. The merry men are sitting around a fire and sing a song. I’m not a guy that typically cares for stuff like this but it just fits so well with Robin Hood. His original stories were told in song. The 1950s TV show, The Adventures of Robin Hood always started out each episode with a song specifically written for each episode. So this merry jingle put a smile on my face.
Though completely unrelated, there are a couple of fun casting choices that harken back to previous iterations of Robin Hood.
James Hayter, who plays Friar Tuck here, had also played Tuck in Disney’s The Story of Robin Hood. He also had a small part in a couple episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood as Tom the Miller.
There’s also John Arnatt as the Sheriff of Nottingham. This was a bit of a promotion for him as he had previously only been the Deputy Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
There’s also a fella by the name of Alfie Bass who has a very small part here as an unnamed pie merchant. For some reason his name stood out to me and, sure enough, he had been one of Robin’s men named Edgar… again in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
The action is again quite cheesy throughout, though there are plenty of deaths for a G rated movie. When people are shot with arrows there is a tiny bit of blood shown at the end of the arrow. It’s all quite tame by today’s standards but I’d imagine for its day, this was quite the rip-roaring adventure. And I have to admit, the grand finale had me glued to my screen.
My last complaint is about the man himself, Barrie Ingham. He doesn’t quite have the look or charm that should be inherent in any Robin Hood.
If it weren’t for a few odd choices in changing the typical Robin Hood origin story and some of the early cheese, A Challenge for Robin Hood would actually be a pretty fine movie. That’s not to say that what we actually have here is bad but it just isn’t up to the same level of some of the really fantastic Robin Hood stories I’ve seen on film and TV.