This virtually forgotten Hammer film is a real treat for fans; being as it is a fast-paced, action-packed and excellently-made little adventure film, which, while lacking any familiar faces in the cast, still manages to impress in all areas. The film visually looks as good as the best of the Hammer horrors; the photography is crisp and clear, it's very colourful, and the action scenes are well filmed and choreographed. This is just the kind of old fashioned adventure yarn for kids that they used to make in the '60s, of course replaced today by bloated blockbusters packed with dumb special effects, too much comedy and a lack of effort all round. Bitter, me? Despite the fact that only a couple of familiar Hammer names pop up in the cast and crew of this film, all involved are uniformly good. While Barrie Ingham may lack the same charisma as other famous Robin Hoods of the cinema, he looks the part and at least brings a good nature and a sense of justice and honour to the role of Robin, all important factors for me. The real scene stealer is James Hayter, who plays his Friar Tuck as comic relief. Hayter is excellent and frequently has very funny lines. Peter Blythe and John Arnatt make for a pair of thoroughly wicked villains, and the only character who's really underused is Maid Marian. Gay Hamilton is fine, fragile and beautiful in the role, but she's given nothing to do except stand in the background, be kidnapped or do old-fashioned "womanly" tasks, i.e. tending wounds etc.
As per usual for a Hammer picture, the sets are authentic and the costumes are fine. You can really lose yourself in this film and totally forget about real life, which of course happens with all the best adventures. There is plenty of action and child-friendly violence, and the finale sees the hero battling the villain in the best ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD-style swashbuckling sense. Downsides? Only two I can think of. Rather too many of the bad guys all die exactly the same death, i.e. getting shot in the back with arrows. Maybe this was a cheap, non-violent effect but seeing it repeated a dozen times (albeit from a different angle each time) is kind of disappointing, and I'm sure a little imagination would have gone a long way. The sole other disappointment is the ending, which sees the evil Nottingham escape on horseback. This was obviously done to leave room for a possible sequel, although none materialised and indeed this turned out to be the last of Hammer's Robin Hood pictures. But I think a sequel to this film would have been stretching ideas a bit, and it sits proudly as a stand-alone movie as being one of the liveliest, colourful adaptations of the legend since the classic Errol Flynn film.