Robin Hood in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, 29 August 2011

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)
Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)

• Update 19 September 2011: Cambridge Film Festival is screening Robin Hood again, tonight, with live music by Neil Brand in the grand surroundings of Trinity College. Sounds wonderful. Click here for details.

It’s going to be a good summer for outdoor screenings of silent films, both across London and at festivals around the country. And I expect this one will be one of the most atmospheric. Cambridge Film Festival On Location is presenting a special screening of Robin Hood (1922), the swashbuckling classic starring Douglas Fairbanks, along with the world premiere of a new score by Neil Brand.

This is an epic, but charming Robin Hood, shot on some of Hollywood’s largest and most lavish sets, with fantastic action sequences and a mischievous streak of humour. Fairbanks leaps tall turrets in a single bound as a spectacularly gymnastic Robin Hood, while Wallace Beery gives us an imposing King Richard. Allan Dwan directs with flair, making the most of the gigantic sets – getting a lot of mileage out of the drawbridge, in particular.

Robin Hood dazzled audiences back in the 1920s. Photoplay magazine (quoted on Kevin Brownlow’s The Parade’s Gone by) raved about it, while considering it the apotheosis of Hollywood excess:

More than anything else, Robin Hood is a show. It seems to be stretching the word photoplay to classify it under that name. In fact, it’s the last thing in spectacles. We doubt if the silversheet will go much further along this expensive road.

If only Ridley Scott had taken the hint. I love the word “silversheet”, too. Perhaps we should try to bring that one back.

Robin Hood screens at the theatre in Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk on Monday 29 August. Neil Brand’s merry band will include violinist Günter Buchwald and percussionist Jeff Davenport. For more details, click here.

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