The final recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for a viewing of Robin Hood, is this Disney take on the book of the same name, that set the tone and style for family adventure for some time.
I had never seen this film, and was quite delighted to settle in for it. It wastes no time as even as the credits begin, a terrifying storm strikes, and a sailing ship runs aground, causing our heroes to spring into action immediately to save themselves.
We are introduced to Father (John Mills), Mother (Dorothy McGuire) and their sons, Fritz (James MacArthur), Ernst (Tommy Kirk), and young Francis (Kevin Corcoran). As they gather supplies, and livestock from the torn and tattered ship, including a pair of dogs, they use a makeshift raft to find sanctuary on a nearby island.
But here, they will not only have to survive the elements, and the wildlife, including a vicious tiger, and threats from pirates as well, led by Kuala (Sessue Hayakawa).
Settling into the island, unsure of how long they are going to be there for, the family sets about making themselves a home, creating a rather luxurious tree house with all the conveniences one would want. It’s really a fantastic set, and gorgeously put together.
While that is going on, young Francis proves himself the bane of all the animals on the island, as he wants to catch and keep as many as he can for pets – there are elephants, monkeys, ostriches, zebras… These poor animals must have been so much more content before the Robinsons arrived, but once they are incorporated into the family they seem quite happy.
Fritz and Ernst are determined to chart the island, and perhaps get a better sense of where they are, so with their parents’ blessing they set off in a homemade boat, and find themselves in a world of trouble, both physically and emotionally in short order.
They stumble across a band of pirates and their two prisoners, Captain Moreland (Cecil Parker) and his cabin boy. Rescuing the cabin boy, but unable to get the captain away, the trio race across the island in search of home. But now, the pirates know they are on the island!
And as they travel homeward, its discovered the cabin boy, Bertie is in fact a Roberta (Janet Munro). This discovery causes some problems for the two older brothers, as they both start to fall for the young woman, competing for her affection and raising the ugly head of jealousy between them.
When the family is reunited, Roberta is welcomed into the family, but the tensions between Fritz and Ernst continue to rise, though everyone does their best to temper it, but soon, the pirates will arrive, and they’ll have to fight for their lives and their new home.
If they’re lucky, they’ll best the pirates, Fritz will win the girl, and perhaps, if they really want it, they’ll get off the island…
A delightfully fun adventure!