Blu-ray/DVD review: “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” – Ultimate Edition (1991)

“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991)


Running time: 143 minutes

Written by: Pen Densham and John Watson

Directed by: Kevin Reynolds

Featuring:  Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Alan Rickman

[the Sheriff has said he’ll cut out Robin Hood’s heart with a spoon]

Guy of Gisborne: “Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?”

Sheriff of Nottingham: “Because it’s DULL, you twit. It’ll hurt more.”

Recently re-released on Blu-ray/DVD is the classic “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) now in two seperate cuts, the already available extended cut as well as the theatrical cut, never before released on Blu-ray. Upon its release “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” was a massive global hit in terms of both critics and at the box office, it was in fact the biggest grossing movie internationally that year.

Of course “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” cemented leading man Kevin Costner as a bona fide box office draw that extended globally setting up the best decade of movies for him that would the highs of “JFK” (1991), “The Bodyguard” (1992) and the underrated “Thirteen Days” (2000). It also saw the lows and backlash of “Waterworld” (1995), “The Postman” (1997) and “Wyatt Earp” (1994), all three of these were vanity projects that burnt up all of Costner’s goodwill with studios and the public. Of course since the 2000s Costner’s work has been much more even and he has turned up in some of the better Hollywood films of the last twenty years, even directing a classic in the excellent “Open Range” (2003). Of course up to “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” Costner had proved himself to be a magnificent leading man, a character actor, an Oscar winning director and producer as well as having a canny knack to spot a hit both critically and commercially. This movie was to prove his biggest ever hit although a movie with this impact is a rare thing indeed. What is impressive is that Costner would direct “Dances with Wolves” (1991) only a year before winning multiple Oscars then star in this movie, something that seemed unprecedented at the time.

Directed by Kevin Reynolds who was a friend of Costner’s but who had little experience in a movie of this size has only worked sporadically from this point, his other high profile movie was “Waterworld” which may have resulted from this first partnership but the latter probably killed any thought of a great career, which is a shame as he is able to balance plot, narrative, action, drama and comedy as can be seen with movie, which thirty years later is still so watchable.

Differences in editions of the movie:

After production and its release on video, a longer cut would emerge on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s the 148 minute version that’s now available on this disc release. Oddly enough though, adding more Rickman makes the film a little weaker. The longer cut explores in more detail his relationship with the bizarre Mortianna, revealing more backstory – specifically that she’s his mother – and adds in his worshipping at the altar of dual Gods. But it slows down an already bloated film, weakens the character a little and the leaner cut – which even then, isn’t too lean – is arguably the best.

The previous DVD-releases had been rather unsatisfactory. This reissue fulfills all possible wishes. The DVD offers an, according to the box, 12 minutes longer extended cut of the film as well as DTS and DD 5.1 sound. 

Actual Differences:

The Sheriff’s cousin reports in Locksley’s arrival 
Both versions miss something here – the entire scene had been changed rather complicatedly. 

The cut starts exactly after the Sheriff said to his cousin that, strangely, he had survived. The cousin says it had been very close. From here on, both versions differ. Here are two pictures of this scene, which both versions contain.

After this scene, in the Theatrical Cut, the cousin reports about the Moorish companion of Robin Locksley (Azeem, played by Morgan Freeman), while the Sheriff walks past him and sits down next to the woman in the background. 
This small scene is 6 seconds long and is not included in the Extended Version. 

In the Extended Version, there is something completely different: 

The camera goes past the statue of the Sherrif and zooms in at the wall behind it. In the wall, there is a small peephole, through which the Sheriff and his cousin are being watched. You can see a somber-blank eye through the hole. (Later, you find out it is the witch who had raised the Sheriff) So, in the Extended Version (short: “EV”) there had been mainly different footage used, but the sound makes it hard. It was superimposed onto the new footage. So, e.g., you still hear the Sheriff say that one would certainly need an entire army to defeat him. The despising reference to Locksley’s burn-down castle is contained, too. Only the above mentioned dialog about the Moorish is missing.

The final shot in the EV shows the Sheriff together with the woman. Suddenly, a carillon starts playing at the wall. The Sheriff looks up to the bells and says that it is time for something important. 

In the theatrical cut, the sequence of Robin finding his dead father inside the castle follows immediately. In the EV, though, you first see the next scene but one, in which the Sheriff climbs down into the dungeon to visit the witch. So you get the impression she had called him with the carillon. 
Because of the many cut-aways, it is a little bit hard to determine an exact time, so the scene had to be clocked completely: 

Clocking from the above mentioned scene up until the cut-away to the next scene results in the following lenghts: 
Theatrical Cut: 16 Sec. 
Extended Version: 20 Sec. 
Difference: 4 Sec. 

The Sheriff visits the witch 
While the Sheriff is looking for the witch in her arch, you see him in the EV turn to a falcon, go toward it and say “Shut up!”. 
8 Sec 

New scene at the witch 
In the Extended Version, before the scene in which Robin Hood visits Lady Mariane in the church, dressed as a homeless person, you see an entirely new sequence: 
An altar made of stone on which countless intestines and accessoires lie appears on the screen. A hooded figure with a coat is standing in front of it, performing a ritual. After finishing, it throws away the coat and turns out to be the Sheriff of Nottingham. He is chewing on a bone with raw meat. 

Behind him, there is the witch he turns around to and starts explaining to that it is important to show yourself at dominical masses, but that he is still faithful to his true belief. Then he turns back to the altar and watches the crucifix, which is, as per Satan, hanging upside down. He turns it correctly and ironically says that he sometimes didn’t even recognize any difference. Then, he lets it fall upside down again. He is asking the witch a little oddly and unsatisfied whether it really had been the wish of his parents for her to instruct him in satanism (OT: “All this”). She only answers that it was their dying wish, whereas the Sheriff leaves the locale. The witch stays and gives a bird in a cage a piece of raw meat. 

(Change of scenery) 
Robin approaches the castle area. He is dressed as a homeless person and seems to examine the big fortress. 
Total: 91 Sec 

The Sheriff’s wound gets stitched 
The scene is identical to the one in the Theatrical Cut, but at the end, it has been extended: 
After the Sheriff has commanded them to stitch and said that he wanted small scars, in the EV his cousin can be seen, but then the camera sways away from him and, again, shows the hole in the wall. Again, there is the witch’s blank eye. 
5 Sec. 

Another additional scene with the witch 

Again, the Sheriff descends to the witch’s arch using the dark stars. 
The witch is performing a ritual. During that, she looks into a laid out skull that gives off many clouds of smoke. The Sheriff irritatedly leans before her at the altar. 
Following dialog: 
Witch: “A tongue offends thee.” 
Sheriff: “Whose?” 
Witch: “One who rights all.” 
Sheriff (thinking): “One who…”, (then understanding) “That horrible little scribe? – His tongue?” 
Witch: “Cut it out.” 
After that, the Sheriff furiously takes a small dagger and leaves the scenery. 
34 Sec. 

Raid on the Sheriff’s men 
The scene has been expanded in the EV: 
The Sheriff’s cousin returns to the place where Robin and his men had abducted the carriage and only finds a soldiers’ helmet. From here on the scene continues in the Extended Version as follows: 
Robin and Azeem quickly ride with the carriage through the forest. It seems some men have dug themselves inside the carriage. Robin shouts that they should surrender and promises to let them all free. Azeem seemingly has no understanding for this diplomatic attempt by Robin and jumps off the carriage onto the carthorses (typical western-stunt). He removes the retainer and leads the horses to the side. Robin bewilderedly stays on the, now leaderless, racing carriage and, to crown it all, has to notice that it’s driving directly toward a lake. With an, actually spectacular, jump Robin saves himself into the safe water. The carriage (with the soldiers inside) drives at full tilt into the water. 

Annotation: Unintelligible that the scene is missing in the theatrical cut, because its nice, funny and spectacular. The shooting certainly wasn’t very easy, too. 
26 Sec 

Marian spends the night in the forestcamp 
While everyone is celebrating, a little girl confronts Azeem with his skin color. This scene has been meaningfully enhanced in the Extended Version: 
Azeem continues his explanation. He adds that, because of Allahs love of variety e.g. her hair is brown. Suddenly brother Tuck comes inbetween and pushes the girl away. Angrily he warns Azeem not to infatuate the innocent with his misbelief or else he would have to deal with him. Azeem firstly is disappointed and taken by surprise, recovers himself quickly, though and asks if Allah wasn’t Abraham’s god, just like his. Brother Tuck only answers scornfully that he could not fool him with his lies. Then he takes the girl and carries her away. Azeem remains, disappointed. 
29 Sec 

New Scene: Occult mass of the barons 
A group of hooded persons is standing around a table. They hum imploringly. Under a cloth in the middle of the table, a pentagram appears. The Sheriff walks around the table and hectically distributes small, strumming bags. You can often see the faces of the hooded ones and you can easily conclude they are the barons the Sheriff wants to bribe to rebel against the king. It seems they are all members of some sort of occult sect, just like the Sheriff. 
Disdainfully the barons look at the small bags. The final one takes the bag, opens it, looks inside and pours the content on the table. (Reminder: The money the Sheriff wanted to bribe the bishops with was, for the most part, stolen by Robin Hood.) 
Uncomprehendingly the baron asks the Sheriff what this is and points at the money. The Sheriff looks caught in the act and says it was an appetizer. Another baron reminds him he had promised them much more gold. The Sheriff smiles awkwardly and starts with a little speech. He says that there are bigger things than gold, while walking around the table taking off his coat. He lists land and power as examples. Then he takes the cover from the yet concealed pentagram and climbs onto the table. Below the pentagram, there appears some sort of map on which he divides all of England among the barons. 
One of the barons objects against him. He reminds that the Sheriff abets them to treatory but couldn’t even bring enough gold. Then he turns to the other barons and tries to urge them. He asks him how he would want to control England if he couldn’t even control his own country. The Sheriff seizes this issue and climbs down from the table. He turns to the door and loudly calls a man. Then the door opens quickly and a giant furred celt enters the room. The barons first are bewildered that the Sheriff has called even the celts to aid them and ask him what these mercenaries could do that they couldn’t do themselves. The celt answers this question himself though, going to the chimney fire, taking a burning log out of it and stubing it out with his bare hand. The Sheriff, delightedly laughing, goes to the huge man and slaps on his shoulder. One of the barons admits that it is impressive. Now the other barons conclude that the Sheriff wants the throne and ask him about that. The Sheriff confirms with a mean smile on his face. 
169 Sec = 2 Min. 49 Sec. 

Inside the Sheriff’s dungeon 
Again, in both versions, different footage has been used. The EV is drastically longer, though. 
For classification: It is about the scene, in which Will Scarlet (Christian Slater) lends himself to the Sheriff of Nottingham and proposes killing Robin Hood. 

Firstly, the scene begins completely different in the Extended Version: 
A rat is on the screen, suddenly it gets slapped away panically by a hand. Now you can see that the rat had been sitting on one of two prisoners, who are chained together in some kind of disgusting waters. From here on the camera moves a little through the dungeon, whereas countless suffering and moaning prisoners appear on the screen. Suddenly the dungeon door opens and the Sheriff enters. He says ironically that he apologizes for letting them hang around here. Then he goes to a shackled prisoner and asks him whether he would prefer pain or death. The prisoner answers: “Death”. The Sheriff looks over to a torturer and orders him to torment the prisoner. While, in the background, the prisoner gets freed of his bonds for the torture, the Sheriff goes to the next prisoner. Again, he asks him which he would prefer – pain or death. He seems to have observed the devilry from before and says “pain”. The Sheriff tells another servant to torture him, too, though. Quickly, he goes to a third prisoner and explains to him that it wouldn’t matter whatever they chose. Another prisoner asks the Sheriff to spare him. But he only says that they should be quiet. (“Will you keep the noise down, please!”) 

The following two scenes are shown with different perspectives and footage in both versions: 
1.) The Theatrical Cut begins with this take. In the Extended Version, the scene starts with the rat, as mentioned above, and the Sheriff enters the dungeon only shortly after. The takings are different in both versions, though, which is being exemplified by the following comparison: 

2.) In both versions, you can hear that Robin Hood might still be alive. In the theatrical cut the sentence begins directly after the Sheriff has entered the dungeon. In the Extended Version though, only at the end of the additional footage. After the sentencethe scenes in both versions are identical again. During this line, too, the footage and takes are different here, as the following pictures illustrate: 

Again, it’s hard to exactly determine the time, since partly, different footage has been used. Clocking both versions from the first take inside the dungeon up until the first take after the sentence mentioned above, results in the following times: 
Extended Version: 63 Sec. 
Theatrical Cut: 10 
Difference:53 Sec 

The end of the scene is a little bit different in both versions, again: After the Sheriff has threatened Will Scarlet to cut his lying tounge out if he would fail, the scene continues as follows: 

In the Extended Version the conversation between the Sheriff and Will is a bit longer. Will calls another requirement if he should succeed. He demands his freedom and the bounty for Robin Hood. The Sheriff is a little upset, but leaves the room like a clown after a short comment. The scene in which you see an executioner prepare the gallows is just a little later in the EV, but it is included! 
17 Sec. 

The Sheriff celebrates his victory over Robin Hood / New scene at the witch 
A description field can be seen. The Sheriff’s caretaker asks how the Sheriff’s bride feels by writing the question down there. Then he goes to the Sheriff and shows it to him (it seems the Sheriff did cut out his tounge, like the witch had ordered –> see above). The Sheriff answers ironically, saying she was delirious with joy. The Sheriff himself is pretty drunk, sitting at a long table that is rife with riches. He explains that all these things are his belongings Robin Hood had stolen before. When he stands up some money falls down and his caretaker darts at it to pick it up. The Sheriff tells him not to. Meanwhile he is moving to a corner that seems to have a strange draft. After a short examination, the Sheriff finds the hole through which the witch had always watched him before. Angrily he yells at his caretaker if he had spied on him. He shakes his head anxiously. But the Sheriff saw daylight. He leaves the room and goes to Mortiana in the basement. Angrily he confronts her. After avoiding for a short time, she explains him the true circumstances of his birth and the relation between the two: A long time ago she had kidnapped and murdered a baby. She put the Sheriff, her biological son, in the space of the baby she had killed. As soon as the Sheriff would make his son ascend to the throne it would be her grandchild, too etc. Finally, the Sheriff leaves the basement speechless and crushed. 

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