Monday, May 24, 2010

Robin Hood (1922)

As King Richard the Lionheart prepares to go on Crusade, his good friend and trusted knight Robert, Earl of Huntingdon, distinguishes himself in a tournament and wins the heart of Lady Marian Fitzwalter. In Richard's absence, however, his brother Prince John takes advantage of his position as regent to enrich himself and his cronies, squeezing every possible penny out of an increasingly distressed populace until a grassroots resistance begins to coalesce around a certain merry outlaw in Sherwood Forest.

Douglas Fairbanks as Huntingdon/Robin, Wallace Beery as Richard, and Alan Hale as Huntingdon's squire/Little John: how can you go wrong?  It probably says something that two days after I watched the DVD I don't remember the actress who played Marian, though.

Interesting take on the legends.  There's no trace of the Norman/Saxon tensions that would be so prominent in the gloriously Technicolor Errol Flynn version sixteen years later, and certainly no hint of the pagan mysticism of even more recent versions.  Robert is seen to accompany King Richard on Crusade, but never reaches the Holy Land, so there's no chance of adding a Muslim to the merry men. 

I watched this with my brother, who fell asleep in the first thirty minutes.  It's pretty long for a silent movie, but I found it entertaining.

Monday, May 3, 2010


When Daiyu admires a black jade ring at a booth at Fair Saint Louis, the elderly Asian vendor tells her it is meant for her because her name means "black jade." Persuaded to buy it, Daiyu passes under the Gateway Arch wearing it and finds herself transported to another world, where the continent was colonized from the opposite direction; instead of being an adopted Chinese teenager in the United States, she is, to all appearances, a young woman of the ruling Han class in Jia.  Kalen, the kindly white boy who takes her in hand during her initial panic, is a desperately poor laborer a step away from being homeless, but he knows the people who needed Daiyu or someone like her to come to their world, and he takes her to someone who can explain: she must infiltrate the highest level of Han society to send another traveler back to his world of origin.

I like Sharon Shinn's novels, and I recommend them often, particularly to people who don't necessarily read a lot of fantasy but do like romance.  The romantic element in this one kind of takes a back seat to the politics, but is still an important part of the story.  I liked the concept of many different worlds, or "iterations," made by various gods in imitation of an original world they all thought they could improve on; Jia is not the original, and neither is Earth.  Daiyu seems oddly passive for a large part of the story, but she has a brain and she's not afraid to use it.