SWASHBUCKLING WOMEN OF WESTERN CINEMA PART III:
Uma Thurman gets to poke a sword at a villain in Robin Hood (1991) but looks inept during her brief & sorry attempt at fighting. The British television series Maid Marian & Her Merry Men (1989-1994, twenty-six episodes) of the Black Adder school of comedy assumes Robin (Wayne Morris) was "an incredible chicken" who got his name Robin "Hood" from pulling his hood over his head, whereas Maid Marian (Kate Lonergan) was the actual rebel. Though framed as a kiddy series, the humor is often Pythonesque & would be completely missed by children.
PRINCESS OF THIEVES
For the most part the character of Marian seems to be too rigidly "set" in the public imagination. A desire for a swashbuckling female in the Robin Hood cycle pretty much requires a daughter. Among novels we have Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest by Nancy Springer & sequels, & the pop musical Robyn Hood: Outlaw Princess.
George Sherman's forgotten swashbuckler film Son of Robin Hood (1958) features also the daughter of Robin Hood, Deering Hood, played by June Laverick, who has become the leader of the remaining Merry Men after her father's death. She has some good martial arts scenes with sword & with bow & arrow. The acting is poor, but the final fight sequences are well done.
A similar tale gets a telefilm update with Princess of Thieves (2002), beautifully enough photographed to not seem to televisiony, but closer to an epic frilm, with the forests of Roumania standing in splendidly for Sherwood.
Keira Knightley, whose very name suggests she was born to swashbuckling roles, plays Gwyn the daughter of Robin Hood (Stuart Wilson) & Marian (Hannah Cresswell). On the day of her birth the Sheriff of Nottingham (Malcolm McDowell) intended Pharaoh-like to have Robin's child assassinated.
But on discovering Robin had a daughter rather than a son, laughed at Robin's misfortune. The day would come when the Sheriff regretted not having her slain in her crib.
Upon the death of Marian, Robin sent Gwyn away to be raised in a convent for which Friar Tuck appears to have been father confessor. Robin visited her a scant five times along the years, never for long, & for several years was away in the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart. Upon his return to England he finds his daughter has grown up a tomboy skilled at archery, simultaneously idealizing her father, & rebellious due to his absence.
It's a family film with the accent on the kids, but there's enough humor & visual beauty to sustain adult interest too. The swordfights are moderately well choreographed, even though not perfect, having a reluctance to be too brutal for younger viewers.
Keira was only fifteen years old when she starred in this, & surprisingly mature for her age. It's doubtless the role that got her cast for an even more swashbuckling performance in King Arthur (2004) as cinema's first truly warlike Guenevere, closest to how a historical Celtic princess & queen would've been.
In the main thread of the tale, Gwyn sets forth to save her father from captivity, as he is in the Tower of London tortured personally by Prince John (Jonathan Hyde). Gwyn will also help to restore the throne to a kinder heir than John, Prince Philip (Stehen Moyer).
This is Disney at the studio's best, not afraid to create a heroic female character who is fiercely independent, & for a change still independent as the story ends. Kiera is wonderfully believable as bow woman & thief, capable of a little swordplay in the bargain.
The one great weakness of the story is how Gwyn with hair cut to shoulder length is supposed to be passing as a lad, when obviously she's the prettiest girl in the shire & her "boy's" garments in no way disguise her shapeliness. If we imagine that such a girlishly gorgeous lad actually existed, he'd be whisked away & buggered with the same degree of reliability as had he been a girl. So much of the film is convincing without forcing an undue burden of suspended disbelief that it was annoying to have to overlook this basic flaw.
A lesser problem is with Jonathan Price & Malcolm McDowell as the key villains. They are written with cartoony two dimensionality, & fine though both actors can be, there was not much they could do with such untextured characters, though Malcolm does a bit better than Jonathan.
As a children's, young adult, & family film however, it's high-end entertainment, & I adore that Keira has provided this inspiring performance in particular for the young girls in the audience.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, one of the worst films to incorporate images of swordswomen or women warriors in the Robin Hood environment is the cheapy adults only Virgins of Sherwood Forest (2000).
A woman directing a rock video gets knocked on the head & wakes up back in Sherwood Forest where she establishes a coterie of merry women who battle the evil daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, punctuated at close intervals with porn sequences. It definitely does not rise above lowly stuff designed to help lonely guys whack a mole.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl