A swashbuckler is a flamboyant, swaggering adventurer. The word came about in the 15th century, likely from the swords hitting the buckles of the fighters.
A swashbuckler film would be just that—a film of swaggering adventurers, probably using swords as they ‘swashed’ their way through obstacles, whether they be monsters, aliens, daunting forests, or just the old-fashioned ‘bad guys.’ An excellent example of this action-packed adventure is The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn.
Whether or not Errol Flynn could be termed the ‘original swashbuckler,’ he certainly demonstrated great bravura as he held his own in this genre.
Released in 1938, it wears its ‘classic film’ mantle beautifully. Filmed in Technicolor, it is a take on the legend of Robin Hood. While some of the facts are not 100% accurate, this film delivers in getting general facts straight in the telling of the tale of a quintessential swashbuckler.
Robin Hood is portrayed as a man of high integrity and completely fearless. He is calm in his ability to defend not only himself, but as well, his highly dedicated group of men who support his steadfast stand for the rights of the oppressed in England. You gotta love this guy.
Olivia De Havilland, who played Melanie in Gone With The Wind a year later, is Lady Marian. She does a fine job of disdaining Robin until he shows her first-hand the oppression Prince John and his men are wreaking on England while his brother, King Richard, is out fighting in the Crusades.
The cast includes Claude Rains as Prince John, subtly evil without a ‘comic book’ touch, Alan Hale (not ‘the Skipper in Gilligan’s Island, but his father), Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy, and a host of others who made their marks in cinematic history.
There is no swearing in this film, no nudity, and a refreshing lack of blood. It is well-paced as it moves through 140 minutes of high adventure.
Extras in the DVD include a cartoon, a lighthearted jazz show, and a newsreel. The newsreel is unsettling, as it reports that the Nazis took over Austria. There is the chilling realization that this appalling legacy of Earth history was being made as Americans flocked comfortably to movie theaters, while an agenda of unspeakable atrocities was occurring with rapid efficiency across the Atlantic. This disturbing historical juxtaposition of the current events being played out at that moment, lurks, unhappily, as a ghostly shadow to the timing of this film’s release.
If you are looking for a realistic, gritty, factual rendition of this story, then this version is not for you. If you are looking for something very well-performed and a fairy-tale sort of romp, with insight to film-making at a time well before the advent of CGI, then you will undoubtedly find this to be a very satisfying film experience.