The Original Longbow Rebel!
Starring: David Warbeck, Kathleen Byron, Ciaran Madden, David Butler, Kenneth Gilbert
Director: John Hough
1973 | 56 Minutes | Rated G
“I’m a free man and you’re on my land.” – Robert of Locksley
Robert of Locksley (David Warbeck) leaves his family farm after he is made an outlaw by Norman noblemen Roger and Jeffrey of Doncaster after he harbors a runaway serf.
I’m on a bit of quest. I want to view and review every Robin Hood movie possible. I have always loved the Robin Hood story. I grew up watching Prince of Thieves over and over and over again. It’s time for me to catch up on all the other versions of my favorite non-super hero.
For those that don’t know, the term “wolfshead” was a term used for outlaws in medieval times signifying the bounty on their head being no larger than that of a wolf in the King’s forest. Hence the name of this movie, Wolfshead: The Legend of Robin Hood. The film was originally created as a pilot for a television series but was only released in theaters in 1973. It was later released on VHS as The Legend of Young Robin Hood. Had a viewer not known this fact, they’d figure it out pretty easily. The pacing, structure and, of course, the 56 minute length are all reminiscent of a first episode story arch.
The film attempts a darker, more realistic in look and tone but the dialogue, acting and direction let it down. It actually comes across as a bit cheesy in many parts. I actually found myself put off by the cheese factor for the first quarter of the movie. Then all of a sudden I really started getting into it.
This version of Robin is made a simple Saxon farmer, while Marian is a Norman noble. I can’t begin to comment on the potential historical accuracy or inaccuracy of this take but it is one that is somewhat new to me. I’ve never seen a Robin Hood movie that didn’t present him as a noble and/or a returning Crusader.
Another new aspect to the movie is that he doesn’t have a giant band of Merry Men, he just has himself, Little John, Much, Wat and a young boy named Tom, whose entire family has been killed by Roger and Geoffrey of Doncaster, the main baddies of the film. And it essentially takes the entire movie (episode) to add all of the members to Robin’s band. You can imagine that things would have really taken off from this point but one episode is all that was ever filmed.
Additionally, Robin is missing his typical sense of humor and charm. The movie is mostly a joyless affair. The lone exception to this is the meeting with Little John, whom he doesn’t meet until almost 40 minutes into the 56 minute feature. He’s not the typical charismatic, jovial Robin Hood. He looks kinda dirty and seems a bit down in the dumps about the state of things.
After being really annoyed with the hokey-ness of the first 15 minutes or so of the movie, I was really shocked that I found myself wishing this had found at least a full season of episodes. Maybe it would have devolved into a lot of the well-worn Robin Hood stories or maybe it would have continued to follow its own path. Either way, it definitely had potential. Judging it strictly as a standalone movie, it’s probably not great. It’s really only the beginning of what likely would have been a much longer story. The Avengers wouldn’t be viewed very well if the movie ended right when the Avengers come together as a team, ready to take on Loki and the Chitauri forces and then never came back for a sequel. That just doesn’t make for a good film.