The Adventures of Robin Hood

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

As a child I was fascinated by Howard Pyle’s beautifully illustrated Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.

(Aside: I cannot believe publishers are issuing new editions of Pyle’s work without his illustrations. He is one of the great illustrators of all time.)

Oddly, I have only the vaguest memories of seeing the Errol Flynn classic, The Adventures of Robin Hood, on TV.

Last night I saw it for the first time in my adult life, and I know I speak treason — fluently — when I say this, but I found it laughably bad, with all the depth of an episode of He-Man.

In fact, the characters routinely stated something not funny at all, clapped the victim of their wicked jape on the back, and threw their heads back in uproarious laughter — not at all unlike Saturday-morning cartoon characters at the end of the episode.

Far more interesting than the on-screen movie is the archery of Howard Hlll, the bow-hunter who performed all the trick-shooting for the movie:

Hill shot coins flipped into the air, apples off people’s heads, etc. — and he made the most famous shot from the film:

His role as stunt archer in the film The Adventures of Robin Hood (in which Errol Flynn plays the title character) allowed for a famous shot of the movie, in which Robin Hood splits an arrow from nock to tip. In an episode of MythBusters, nobody was able to replicate the complete splitting of an arrow, and it was revealed that Howard Hill was able to accomplish this only because the arrow to be split was made of bamboo, not wood.

The stunt men on the movie were paid $150 per arrow to get shot by Hill — while wearing padding underneath a steel breastplate overlaid with some balsa wood to absorb the impact of the arrow.

I may have to order a copy of his African-hunting movie, Tembo, because the included extra, Points on Arrows, is one long demonstration of his bow skills.

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