The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955 – 1959)

Compared with some other classic characters, like Sherlock Holmes or Zorro, fairly little Robin Hood material appears to exist at the Internet Archive. There is Douglas Fairbanks’ classic 1922 film, but apart from that my only significant find is parts of the 1955 British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The Adventures of Robin Hood was the second ever Robin Hood TV series. The first was a six-part live production from 1953, also of British origin. But that first series has no complete preserved episodes, making The Adventures of Robin Hood the oldest Robin Hood TV series still in existence.

Archie Duncan as Little John and Richard Greene as Robin Hood facing off in the episode Dead or Alive from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955)

The series lasted for four seasons, until 1959. There were some changes in the cast along the way, but the title character was played all the way through by Richard Greene, an actor who I do not associate with any other role.

Richard Greene may not have the charm or charisma of either Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn, nor does he have half of their skill with a sword. But he is not a bad actor, and carries something personal and unique to the role. Greene’s Robin is perhaps a bit more thoughtful and calculating than most other interpretations, though he can still get that mischievous gleam in the corner of his eye.

The complete series is 143 episodes. The following list contains those that I have found at the Internet Archive. There may be more that I have missed. The episode numbers given at the Internet Archive is often at odds with those in the episode guide at Wikipedia. I have here used the numbers from Wikipedia.

      1. The Coming of Robin Hood
      2. The Moneylender
      3. Dead or Alive
      4. Friar Tuck
      5. Maid Marian
      6. The Inquisitor
      7. The Knight Who Came to Dinner
      8. The Challenge
      9. Queen Eleanor
      10. Checkmate
      11. The Ordeal
      12. A Guest for the Gallows
      13. The Highlander
      14. The Wager
      15. The Betrothal
      16. The Alchemist
      17. A Husband for Marian
      18. The Jongleur
      19. The Brothers
      20. The Intruders
      21. Errand of Mercy
      22. The Sheriff’s Boots
      24. The Ladies of Sherwood
      25. The Deserted Castle
      26. The Miser
      27. Trial by Battle
      28. The May Queen
      30. The Vandals
      31. The Byzantine Treasure
      33. The Youngest Outlaw
      34. The Traitor
      35. Tables Turned
      36. The Thorkill Ghost
      37. Secret Mission
      38. Richard the Lion-Heart
      39. The Scientist
      40. The Prisoner
      41. Blackmail (3D version)
      42. A Year and a Day
      44. The Goldmaker
      47. The Hero
      48. Isabella
      50. Outlaw Money
      55. The Dream
      57. The Final Tax
      59. The Bandit of Brittany
      60. The Goldmaker’s Return
      61. Flight from France
      62. Fair Play
      63. The Secret Pool
      65. The York Treasure
      66. The Borrowed Baby
      67. The Black Five
      68. Food for Thought
      72. The Little People
      93. A Village Wooing
      126. Goodbye Little John

As with any series, the quality of the episodes vary. The first half dozen or so are all good, so if you are looking for a few episodes to try out, I would recommend starting from the beginning.

The series became very popular, both in Britain and in the US, and it spawned several similar series. At least two, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Adventures of William Tell, can be found at the Internet Archive.

This series is best enjoyed if you like vanilla Robin Hood. There are no surprises here in the characters’ portrayals or backgrounds.

Richard Greene as Robin Hood, Archie Duncan as Little John, Alexander Gauge as Friar Tuck and Bernadetet O'Farrell as Maid Marian in the episode Checkmate from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955)

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Download link (episode 1)
Years: 1955 – 1959
Running time: Approx 25 min per episode
Directors: Ralph Smart, many others
Stars: Richard Greene
Image quality: Acceptable for most episodes
Resolution: Medium to High for most episodes
Sound quality: Acceptable for most episodes

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Quatermass II (1955)

In my review of Quatermass and the Pit, I wrote about the scientist Professor Quatermass, who was the hero of a trilogy of excellent British made-for-TV science fiction series. Professor Q. is a very well developed character, and if you are only slightly interested in well-written sci-fi, you should not miss the two preserved series (only two episodes of the original series, The Quatermass Experiment (1953), still exist, though all episodes were remade in 2005). In addition, Hammer films remade the entire trilogy a few years after the originals in good but somewhat different movie renditions.

The spaceship in Quatermass II (1955)

The second series was aptly named Quatermass II (episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), and was originally broadcast exactly 60 years ago (the final episode was televised sixty years ago this Thursday). The title was the first time the number two was appended to the title of a sequel, though the roman numeral refers not to the series as such, but to the spaceship Quatermass II, which is an important plot object. It has been suggested that it inspired others to use similar numbering for sequels in later film series. It has even been suggested that the spaceship name was just made up as an excuse to smack the “II” label on the title, though that explanation feels a bit far-fetched.

In Quatermass II, Professor Q. battles invading aliens who are jettisoned from an asteroid orbiting earth, and upon landing take control of human bodies. This idea was not new in literature. See for example The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein, available (parts 1, 2, 3) from the Internet Archive. But as far as I know, it had not previously been used on screen. The following year, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was released, which is one of the most famous examples in the movies.

This film is best enjoyed for the story (brilliant throughout) and actors (uneven, but mostly very good). Frankly, though, other aspects of the production, such as sets, special effects and camera work, feel very cheap and sometimes amateurish by modern standards. Even so, the positive aspects weigh so heavily that I can only recommend watching it.

John Robinson in Quatermass II (1955)

Quatermass II
Download links: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Year: 1955
Running time: 3 h 6 min
Director: Rudolph Cartier
Stars: John Robinson
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (512×384)
Sound quality: Acceptable
Best file format: Cinepack

The Big Combo (1955)

Film noir is a strange and wonderful thing. It is a genre that is more packed with clichés than most, many of which are effects to increase suspense and drama. One film which offers its share of such effects is The Big Combo.

Lee Van Cleef, Jean Wallace and Earl Holliman in The Big Combo (1955)

Here we can see a beautiful showcase of especially lighting effects that were often used in Noirs from around this time. There are contrasts between light and shadow, for example, as well as long shadows cast on background walls, and even ceilings. You can choose to admire the craftsmanship that lies behind these beautiful effects, so typical of this time and genre. Or you can laugh at the exaggerated melodrama that they help to produce. Both reactions are valid, and neither needs detract from enjoying this very neat and well executed Noir.

The Big Combo is well worth watching and well worth remembering, and perhaps not mainly because of its nice lighting, but at least as much for its many well developed characters, such as Cornel Wilde as the tough and stubborn cop or Jean Wallace as the girlfriend of the crime boss. These are also cliché, but they are so well played that if you love Noir, you will love the characters.

The version mostly linked to from this post has a slight synch problem, which can be easily fixed with many viewing programs, such as VLC. If you need better synch another copy is available, but the images are less crisp and clear in that one.

This film is best enjoyed if you like Film noir, or if you want to explore this wonderful and fascinating genre.

Cornel Wilde and Robert Middleton in The Big Combo (1955)

The Big Combo
Download link
Year: 1955
Running time: 1 h 24 min
Director: Joseph Lewis
Stars: Cornel Wilde
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (576×432)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: Cinepack (679 M)