Friday, November 30, 2018

Robin Hood Month Concludes with "Hood...Robin Hood"

Robin and Marian (1976)
As we conclude Robin Hood Month at Movie Churches, I realized we probably should have called it Friar Tuck Month. After all, he’s the main clergy in these films, and he’s gotten the bulk of our attention. Tuck is in this film, too, but in Robin and Marian, the most important member of the clergy is in the title.

This version is directed by Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night and Superman II) and written by James Goldman (The Lion in Winter), the brother of the recently departed William Goldman. (The Goldman brothers went to high school with my father-in-law in Highland Park, Illinois, though I suppose this is interesting only to a small portion of our readership. It’s a very important portion.)

It also features stars that outshine most other actors in these roles, with Sean Connery as Robin and Audrey Hepburn as Marian. (They’re rivaled only by the stars in the best version of Robin Hood: Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Sorry Kevin and Mary Elizabeth. Sorry Russell and Cate. Not sorry Taron and Eve.) Previous versions told stories of the origins of Robin Hood. This is the only version I know of that tells the end of the Robin Hood story.

As the film begins, Robin is an old man returning from the Crusades (Connery was 46 at the time). On the journey home, King Richard (Richard Harris) is killed during an attack on a castle, so Robin and Little John (Nicol Williamson) leave the army and return to Sherwood Forest where they are welcomed by Friar Tuck (Ronnie Barker) and Will Scarlet (Denholm Elliott). To make a living, Friar Tuck has been taking confessions from the faithful while Will steals their horses. Robin is amused to learn that in his absence he’s become a legend. Robin asks what has become of his young love, Maid Marian, and is shocked to learn she is the abbess of the Kirkley Abbey. Marian has been a nun for eighteen years, caring for the poor and sick.

King John (Ian Holm), now the monarch, is in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and has ordered the expulsion of all the senior clergy from the land. Under these orders, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw) is sent to arrest Marian. Robin learns of these orders and goes to rescue his former love, but Marian wants none of it.

When he arrives, she asks, “What the hell are you doing here?” He says he’s come to rescue her, but she replies, “It’s Mother Jennett now, and you can march back to Israel.” When Robin insists she needs his help, she responds, “God will be with us.”

Robin says, “He was with us in the Crusades, and He didn’t do much good there.”

As Robin leaves, Marian mutters, “Damn that man.”

Robin doesn’t follow Marian’s instructions but instead battles the sheriff when he comes to arrest Marian. When Marian insists she wants to surrender herself peaceably, Robin knocks her unconscious. Violence ensues between Robin and the sheriff, of course -- the very reason Marian didn’t want Robin to get involved.

Robin retreats to the forest, with his men and the nuns. And Marian. Marian and Robin’s romance resumes; they take long walks in the woods and make love in the fields, but Marian wants Robin to cease his battle with the sheriff. She threatens to leave Robin.

But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, so Robin agrees to fight the sheriff one on one in the field outside the forest. Robin kills the Sheriff but is himself mortally wounded.

Robin is brought to Marian at the abbey, where she gives him medicine which relieves his pain. After a moment, Robin realizes she’d actually given him poison knowing he wouldn’t recover from his wounds. And she takes the poison herself.

She tells Robin, “I love you. More than all you know. I love you more than children. More than fields I've planted with my hands. I love you more than morning prayers or peace or food to eat. I love you more than sunlight, more than flesh or joy, or one more day. I love you...more than God.”

Marian as a nun had been doing pretty well in the Movie Church Steeple rankings up until that moment. Sure, she had slept with Robin, but she helped the sick and tried to prevent violence. But this little speech is in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus (from the Message paraphrase), “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters, yes, even one’s self, can’t be my disciple.” Some may find Marian’s words romantic, but it brings her Steeple rating down to two of the possible four.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Robin Hood Month Continues with... The Prequel

Robin Hood (2010)
Fans of Robin Hood have an ongoing debate about the hero’s political inclinations. Some point to Robin’s stance against unjust taxation and his work to restore government to how it had been -- clearly showing him to be a conservative who would be right at home in the modern Tea Party. Others claim Robin’s “rob from the rich and give to the poor” actions clearly mark him as a Socialist.

Ridley Scott’s 2010 version of Robin Hood certainly belongs in the latter camp. However, our concern at this blog is religion rather than politics, and this film’s attitude toward the church might be characterized as closer to Communist perspective.

This version of the tale begins in 1199 with Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) returning from the Crusades in Jerusalem with the army of King Richard the Lionheart. This Robin is a common soldier, an archer, and also a con man who runs a medieval version of Three Card Monte (ball and cups). Warweary and cynical, Robin is outspoken in his criticism of the King and his war crimes. Robin says, “I don’t owe God or any other man service.”
He is thrown in the stocks along with Allan A’Dayle, Will Scarlet, and Little John, but when the King dies while attempting to loot a French castle, Robin and his comrades escape and return to England.

But Robin has one more duty to perform left from his time abroad. He promised the dying Sir Robert Locksley that he would return the Sir Robert’s sword to his father in Nottingham. Robin impersonates Robert to gain access to Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), the dying father. Robin is surprised when he is asked to continue to impersonate Robert, so that the newly crowned King John (Oscar Isaac) will not gain title to Sir Walter’s land.

Robin finds the people of Nottingham are going hungry because the church is confiscating their grain and sending it to the Bishop. Robin meets Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett), who opposes the bishop’s actions, “The church has reaped all we have, I don’t know if the bishop or king is worse.”

Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) has been newly appointed to serve the local church, where the grain is being stored. Only the elderly and children attend services. The Friar says, “I’m moving the grain to York, abiding by the rules.”

Friar Tuck has a profitable hobby as a beekeeper, making mead from the honey. “I keep them (the bees) and they keep me.” When Robin asks the friar where a man can get a drink, Tuck responds, “Have you tried the honey liquor we call mead?” He adds, “I’m not a churchy friar.”

When the Bishop’s men come to collect the grain, Robin blackmails Tuck into giving the grain to him, telling him that otherwise he’ll inform the Bishop about the Friar’s profitable winemaking. Tuck succumbs to the blackmail, and aids Robin in returning the grain to the people of Nottingham.
The major conflict in the film turns out to be quite different than in other Robin Hood films: the French want to invade England. Friar Tuck is actually one of the first to be aware of the invasion, when an expeditionary force of French soldiers steal his barrels of wine.

King John finds he needs the support of all of England to oppose the French, so he promises to change his oppressive policies. And all of England comes together to drive back the French. Not only does Robin join the battle, but Marian does as well, fighting the French on the shore. But after the battle is won, King John reneges on his promises and claims “God made me King,” and says he will take whatever he wants from the people.

The film ends with Robin retreating to Sherwood Forest with his Merrie Men and Women to establish a commune, free from the oppression of the monarchy and the church (though Friar Tuck joins them). A title card reads, “No tax, no tithe, nobody rich, nobody poor, all sharing at nature’s table.” Perhaps we could say Robin is a part of the Green Party. The film ends where most Robin Hood films begin with Robin and his band in hiding.

The Church in this film is a wealth-grabbing institution in competition with the monarchy to steal the most from the people. Even Friar Tuck only does good when blackmailed into doing so. So the church in this Robin Hood earns our lowest rating of One Steeple.

Bonus Robin Hood: I’d like to point out one Robin Hood that is free of the ideological debate about the politics is found in the fantasy/time travel film Time Bandits. In that movie, John Cleese plays a Hood who is just a hood. He robs from the rich and the poor to get stuff. He just has a really good PR agent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Robin Hood Month: In Theaters Now!

Robin Hood (2018)
Friar Tuck warns us at the beginning of this new telling of Robin Hood to “forget history” and “forget what you’ve seen before.” The filmmakers (director Otto Bathurst and writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly) do a great job of forgetting history in their hipster version of this story. More relevant for us here at Movie Churches, they also forget theology and ecclesiology -- if they knew anything about these things to begin with.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman) plays Robin of Loxsley, who receives a draft notice from the Sheriff of Nottingham to serve in the Crusades (like they did in the day). In Arabia, Robin tries to come to the aid of a prisoner of the English (with an Arab name that translated as “John”). Robin is shot for efforts and is sent back to England on a “hospital ship.” Robin finds his property has been confiscated by the Sheriff of Nottingham through the War Tax (“for our church and its glorious crusade”) because Robin is said to be dead. John, who came to England with Robin, urges him to fight the power by becoming a thief, stealing from the Sheriff and the Church using a secret identity, “The Hood.”

Though at night, Robin is the Hood, during the day he still plays the part of Robin of Loxley, a dandfied noble. Robin’s aim is to win the trust of the Sheriff (Ben Mendelsohn) in order to learn his plans. When he goes to church, Robin pours a large bag of coins in the offering plate -- catching the Sheriff’s attention. (Coins, especially of the gold and silver variety, attract a different kind of attention in Robin’s world than coins attract when they are dropped in a plate these days.) After giving large sums to the church coffers during the day, he steals it all back (with very much interest) at night as the Hood.

The Church of Rome is not pleased about the Hood’s attacks. The Crusades and the War Tax are just a money making scam, and the Church is not happy about the loss of funds. They send out the Cardinal (F. Murray Abraham) to deal with the situation. Robin is in the meeting of the Sheriff with the Bishop, where they discuss their plan to use the funds to overthrow the King (we never see the King or learn which King this was supposed to be).

The Cardinal is a sinister character, concerned about the people adopting the Hood as a hero. He advocates cracking down on the poor, “Fear is the greatest tool in God’s arsenal. That’s why we invented Hell.” The Cardinal talks about the necessity of quenching hope in the people. He doesn’t seem familiar with the Scriptures that promise hope. When Friar Tuck mentions “turning the other cheek,” the Sheriff and the Cardinal seem unfamiliar with that portion of Scripture as well.

Friar Tuck serves as a pastor to both Robin and the Sheriff. Robin goes to him for confession; the Sheriff tells Tuck he has nothing to confess. Neither knows that Tuck is secretly plotting against the Sheriff. When Tuck attends a party to honor the Cardinal -- a party with roulette and craps and scantily clad women -- he steals keys that allow Maid Marian to steal documents proving that the Sheriff is in cahoots with Arab princes to use the Crusades as a money making scheme.

Robin knew Tuck would be caught, so he turned him into the Sheriff and the Cardinal as a thief. The Sheriff asks Robin to kill Tuck, but Robin says that would only make Tuck a martyr. He says a better punishment would be for Tuck to be defrocked. Later Robin apologizes to Tuck for having him defrocked, but Tuck said that set him free “to work like the devil.”

In many previous Robin Hood films, clerical figures are balanced against one another, often a corrupt bishop and a godly Friar Tuck. The Tuck in this film is not a godly figure. He is a better man than most in the film, but like the Bishop, he doesn’t seem to really believe in the Gospel. It’s just a convenient facade used to achieve their purposes. In some previous films, the clergy is on occasion hypocritical, but hypocrisy implies there is truth that the clergy member is being unfaithful to. This film doesn’t seem to believe there is any truth in the Gospel. The church is evil, and Tuck is better off when he abandons it. Therefore, we give the church in 2018’s Robin Hood our lowest rating of One Steeple.

(We rate churches and clergy in this film, not films. But as a public service, I’d like to let you know that if we did rate films, we’d be giving this Robin Hood film the lowest rating we had.)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Robin Hood Movie Month Continues with a Yank in the Lead

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

In Mel Brooks’ 1993 spoof, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Prince John asks Robin why anyone should listen to him. Robin (Cary Elwes) responds, “Because, unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.”

What other Robin Hood could he be referring to? There’s no doubt he’s referring to Kevin Costner in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. (I do appreciate that the title added PoT, making it so much easier to Google than other Robin Hood films.)

Directed by Kevin Reynolds (Costner worked with him on Waterworld as well), this telling of the story has Robin of Locksley join Richard the Lionheart on the Crusades, but Robin is captured imprisoned in Jerusalem. After escaping, he returns to England with a Muslim companion, Azeem (Morgan Freeman). When he reaches land, Robin kisses the ground, giving thanks to God. He learns that King Richard is still in France and the land is ruled by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman). Prince John is strangely absent in this version, but the Sheriff is aided by Guy of Gisborne, Mortianna the Witch, and the Bishop of Hereford (Harold Innocent).

Robin tries to go home, but learns that his father, Lord Locksley (Brian Blessed), is dead. This is especially poignant because when Robin left, his father had called the Crusades a foolish quest. The Bishop welcomes Robin back, saying, “I see the boy I knew in the man before me. Welcome home, John Locksley.” But Robin learns that the Bishop isn’t really so...welcoming.

The church had accused Robin’s father of heresy, which his father denied -- further proof of his guilt. Robin’s father was killed by the church, as other wealthy landowners were killed, so the church could confiscate their goods.

The Bishop doesn’t have a problem with the Sheriff consorting with a witch with an upside down cross. Nothing heretical to be seen there.

Robin encounters a band of outlaws led by Little John and Will Scarlet. Robin not only joins the crew, but becomes their leader, training them for battle. They rob from the rich, which includes the clergy, that past through Sherwood Forest. When the Merry Men encounter a drunken clergyman, Little John greets him, “Welcome to Sherwood, Friar! You travel in poor company when with the Sheriff’s soldiers.”

Not making this up.
Friar Tuck, who’s pulling a wagon filled with kegs of beer (“the Lord’s brew”) won’t willingly surrender. He battles Robin -- even biting his leg -- but Tuck eventually admits defeat. Robin asks him to join them, to minister to his men and, well, make beer.

Tuck is a fan of beer. At various times he says, “Let us learn of God’s bounty, though beer” and “This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us praise our Maker and glory in His bounty by learning!” He even offers a drink to Robin’s Muslim friend.

“Alas, I am not permitted,” Azeem tells him.

“Then you talk, and I’ll drink,” the Friar replies.

But even with this fondness (perhaps over fondness) for brew, the Friar is still a much better clergyman than the Bishop, though the Bishop does provide some churchly duties. He prays for God’s blessing on the Sheriff of Nottingham’s mission to pursue the outlaws of Sherwood Forest. (The Sheriff smirks throughout the prayer.)

But most of what the Bishop does is fairly reprehensible. Robin’s father, the Lord of Locksley, is just one of many noblemen he accuses of heresy and kills in order to take his land and property. He schemes with the Sheriff to solidify the lawman’s power by marrying Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Robin threatens to stop the marriage (which is against Marian’s wishes), and the Bishop attempts to perform the ceremony even as the Sheriff tries to consummate the marriage (and yes, it is as bad as that sounds).

In the end, Friar Tuck who must confront the Bishop, who is trying to escape the wrath of Robin Hood.

Friar Tuck: “So you sold your soul to Satan, Your Grace? You accused innocent men of witchcraft and let them die.”

The Bishop: “Brother Friar, you would not strike a fellow man of the cloth?”

Friar Tuck: “No, no, I wouldn’t. In fact, I’ll help you pack for your journey.”

The Friar weighs the Bishop down with sacks of treasure, “You’re going to need lots of gold to help you on your way. Here’s thirty pieces of silver to pay the Devil… on you way to hell!” And Tuck shoves the Bishop out a high window.

After Friar Tuck avenges Robin’s father, he performs a more conventional clerical duty for the outlaw, performing the ceremony when Robin marries Maid Marian.
For our Movie Churches Steeple Rating this week, we’ll take an average of the two prominent clergymen in the film. The Bishop of Hereford receives our lowest rating of one Steeple for greed and murder and abetting attempted rape. Friar Tuck fights for what’s right, so he receives our second highest Three Steeples. (Habitual drunkenness keeps him from our highest rating of four). Between the two, the clergy of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves receive the average rating of Two Steeples.

(Above I mentioned Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Mel Brooks’ spoof of the Robin Hood story. It really didn’t have enough Christian clergy to merit a Movie Churches post, as the most prominent clergy in the film is Rabbi Tuckman, played by Brooks himself. There is an Abbot in the film played by Dick Van Patten that has my favorite line of the film. Some calls out to him, “Hey Abbot!” sounding much like Lou Costello, and the Abbot says, “I hate that guy.” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, stat!)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Robin Hood Month: Disney Double Feature

Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
Robin Hood (1973)
If you mention Disney’s Robin Hood to most film fans, they’ll think of Robin played by a fox and Richard the Lionheart played by a… well… lion. We’ll get to that version, but it wasn’t Disney’s only telling of the story.

Disney Studios began, of course, as animators. Founded in 1923, they made animated shorts until their first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. But animated features were very expensive and took a long time to complete, and sometimes films like Fantasia were initially flops and took years to recoup their costs. Walt decided to add live action to the program to balance the risks.

In the 1940’s they began experiments that mixed animation with live action, such as The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, and So Dear to My Heart. And in 1950 they made their first full live action film, Treasure Island with Robert Newton as Long John Silver. I think it’s the best film version of that story ever made.

Disney’s second live action film was 1952’s Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, and it’s definitely not the best telling of the Robin Hood story. There are reasons why the Disney version with a rooster minstrel singer is much more fondly remembered than this version. Here at Movie Churches, though, we’re interested in how the clergy is portrayed in films, and there’s something the two Disney versions share, which is different than most tellings of the story: all the men of the cloth are pretty good guys.

Even 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, made under the freshly minted Hays production code when the legitimacy of the church was not to be questioned, had a corrupt Bishop who sought to betray the King. But in Disney’s live action version, the Archbishop of Canterbury is loyal to King Richard. When the King goes off with his men (including Maid Marian’s father), he goes with a blessing from the Bishop.

When Richard is captured and held for ransom, the Bishop zealously raises funds for his rescue, even encouraging other churchmen as they “melt down their offering plates” to contribute to the fund. Perhaps it would be better if the Bishop had more concern for the poor and starving people of Nottingham than the nobility, but at least he isn’t just looking out for himself.

He even comes off a little better than Friar Tuck, who is still a good guy.

About the good friar: when Robin Hood decides he and his band need “a man in holy orders to care for our souls and look to our wounds,” Little John suggests a holy hermit, Friar Tuck. (But John whispers to the other Merrie Men that Tuck “would rather break heads than mend them.”)

Robin sneaks up on the Friar, who is alone and acting out a song using his ale and meat pie as the characters. Which is rather odd, but Robin seems amused as he watches from afar. But the two are soon battling each other.

The friar is with Merrie Men when they capture the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Robin asks if he is joining the band. Friar Tuck responds, “God forgive me, but I think I already have.” He’s asked to rule on what the Sheriff owes the poor of Nottingham, and Friar Tuck demands an amount the Sheriff claims is more than he possesses. As Robin had hoped, the friar cares for the sick in Sherwood Forest, included an injured Robin Hood.

Disney made another version of Robin Hood in 1973, an animated, animal version with Robin Hood as a fox, and more importantly for this blog, Friar Tuck as a badger (voiced by Andy Devine).

He is the only clergy to be found in the film. There are no bad bishops stealing from the poor or good bishops trying to support King Richard. In this version, Friar Tuck is pastor of a church in Nottingham, and we see him caring for the poor (rabbits and mice, who are the certainly “the least of these.”) He even confronts the Sheriff of Nottingham when he tries to steal from the poor, “Now see here, you evil flint heart!”

The sheriff tells him, “Save your sermon, Father, it ain’t Sunday yet.”

Tuck also cheers Robin along in his battles against the evil Prince John. He sings and dances in opposition to the Prince, “A pox on the phony King of England.” In the final battle against Prince John and the sheriff, Tuck joins in as they rob from the King’s treasury, calling out, “Praise the Lord and pass the tax rebate!” (When I first saw this as a kid at the drive-in, my dad explained to me this was a play on “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”)

So all of the clergy in this film is positively portrayed, and it’s probably all part of Disney’s strategy of appealing to families with non offensive material. There’s nothing critical or negative about the church or the clergy in either film (unlike every other telling of Robin Hood I’ve encountered). So the clergy in these two films, especially, of course, Friar Tuck, receive our highest Movie Church rating of Four Steeples.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Robin Hood Month: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Robin Hood had been portrayed on the screen many, many times, and he’ll be coming again to a theater near you later this month. But there is a clear critical consensus (which I agree with) that the best portrayal of Robin Hood was filmed decades ago in Hollywood’s Golden Age. (I have zero hope the version opening later this month will top it.) 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood tells the story best. Errol Flynn’s Robin is the most dashing and gallant, and most importantly for us here at Movie Churches, Eugene Pallette gives the most memorable portrayal as Friar Tuck.

I’ve watched this film many times through the years, but until I watched it again for the purposes of this blog, I don’t think I’d ever realized how much a part clergy and the Church play in the story (and in many other tellings of the the legend we’ll be looking at this month). The good Friar isn’t the only representative of the church in the story. Let’s begin with another one.

In this telling of the story (set in England in 1191), the King, Richard the Lionheart, has gone off to the Crusades -- which in this film is portrayed as a noble endeavor. Richard is captured and held for ransom, and his evil brother, Prince John usurps the throne of England. With the aid of Sir Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone) and the Sheriff of Nottingham, John exploits the common people with burdensome taxes. John is also allied with the Bishop of the Black Canons, who also robs from the poor by taking compulsory tithes. We see the Bishop enjoying an opulent banquet while his parishioners throughout the land starve.

The worst thing the Bishop does is betray King Richard. When the Bishop discovers that the king has returned to the land incognito, he snitches to Prince John. He looks to undermine the rightful king.

The Church plays a role in other aspects of the story. Robin robs from the rich, and that includes rich churchmen (like the Bishop). The wealthy clergy who venture into Sherwood Forest risk their possessions, “What is this country coming to when even a high churchman can’t travel this country in safety?” one says. (In spite of their thefts, Robin and the Merry Men seem to want to show some respect to the Church and what it represents).

When Richard returns to England, he disguises himself and his men as men of the cloth (and Robin tries to rob them). And when Robin and Richard need to sneak into John’s castle, they again dress as clergy.

But really, the clergyman people think of with Robin Hood is Friar Tuck. In this version of the story, when Robin encounters Tuck, the friar has a leg of meat and Robin wants to steal it. The Merry Men tell Robin Tuck is a man known for his “piety.” In fact, the friar is known for his swordsmanship. Robin and Tuck end up battling, a close battle, but Robin wins.

Robin asks Friar Tuck to join his troop to provide spiritual counsel, “someone for our christenings.” Friar Tuck does join in with Robin and his men and looks out for the bandits’ best interests. “He’s one of us!” Robin says.

In the end, King Richard is restored to power, Robin is honored, as is Friar Tuck. But the Bishop is exiled from the land.

So we’ll give Friar Tuck our highest Movie Church rating of Four Steeples, but the Bishop (who does repent a bit), gets a rating of Two Steeples -- for an average of Three Steeples for the movie.

(Bonus Robin Hood clergy - Robin Hood Daffy (1958), in which Porky Pig plays the good Friar Tuck. In this version, Friar Tuck is wiser and more competent than Robin Hood. Considering that Robin Hood is played by Daffy Duck, that’s not a very high bar. It is amazing punsters at Warner were able to resist switching roles to have Friar Duck. See also Rabbit Hood. )

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Robin Hood Month

This month marks a special moment in movie history as the millionth depiction of Robin Hood is going to appear on the big screen. Guinness World Records names Sherlock Holmes as the fictional character with the most appearances on film and television (256 and counting), but Robin Hood has been portrayed in films and on television many, many times.

This time, in the creatively titled Robin Hood, the man in green is described as “A war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing choreography, and a timeless romance.”

For the last six hundred years or so people have been telling stories about this legendary figure known for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. The hero’s persona has varied greatly; sometimes he’s been of noble birth and at times a commoner, at times a supporter of the monarchy and in other tellings an anarchist, sometimes a jolly trickster and sometimes a grim warrior.

There has been great debate about whether Robin Hood or Robin of Loxley (Locksley) or Longstride or Sir Robin Hode of Sherwood has a basis in history or is purely fantasy. Though real figures of history, such as King Richard the Lionheart and his brother, Prince John, often make cameos in these tales, historians say it’s highly unlikely he was a real guy. The Man in Green’s politics are another point of debate. Those on the left point to his desire to redistribute wealth, while those on the right claim him as an anti-tax crusader. In spite of the controversies, we can learn a number of interesting things from the Robin Hood stories.

Over the years, there’s been less debate about the religion within the legend. Due to the presence of Friar Tuck, one of the Merry Men, the Church and clergy have always been part of the story. Since that’s what we are interested in here at Movie Churches, throughout November we’ll be looking different portrayals of Robin Hood, focusing particularly on the good friar -- but also the church in the stories (always the Roman Catholic Church at this moment in English history). We’ll have Merry Olde Times.