After dozens of movie and TV incarnations, it's anyone's guess what Russell Crowe can add to — or subtract from — the Robin Hood myth. • Once Mel Brooks shreds a legend, there really isn't any farther down to go. • Yet Brooks was kicking an icon while he was down with Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The rogue of Sherwood Forest took a worse beating when Kevin Costner stepped into his boots in 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. • The late, great film critic Vincent Canby wrote of Costner: ". . . swinging on a Sherwood Forest vine, there is no sense of thrill or dash, only the vague fear that he might fall and hurt himself." Then there was Costner's accent that was more Midwestern than Middlesex, and the way his arrows didn't whistle through the air; they played a Bryan Adams pop song. • Crowe's Robin Hood wasn't screened in time for Weekend. Read the review on entertainment.tampabay.com and Friday's Etc, Page 2B. • Until then, here are five Robin Hoods of the silver screen better than Kevin Costner:
1. Errol Flynn, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Costner cOULDn't match . . . : Flynn's flamboyant line deliveries and nimble swordplay.
Fashion statement: The archetypal Robin Hood look, appearing slightly less fey than Peter Pan in green tights, jaunty feathered cap and snappy leather tunic.
Quotable: To swooning Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland): "I have nothing to offer you but hardship and danger but we would be together."
Lingering question: How did Flynn swashbuckle in Sherwood Forest brambles without ripping those green tights?
2. Douglas Fairbanks Robin Hood (1922)
Costner cOULDn't match . . . : Fairbanks' extraordinary stunt work, climbing walls without wires and leaping like he's in zero gravity.
Fashion statement: As the first movie Robin Hood, Fairbanks invented the macho pixie look, yet before color came to the movies.
Quotable: "......." (Hey, it's 1922, when movies were silent.)
Lingering question: From Blazing Saddles: "How did (Fairbanks) do such fantastic stunts with such little feet?"
3. Sean Connery, Robin and Marian (1976)
Costner cOULDn't match . . . : Connery's consistent accent, even if it's Scottish rather than English.
Fashion statement: Playing Robin as an aging lion, Connery ditches the swashbuckler look for earthier, loose-fitting duds from Ye Olde Beall's.
Quotable: To wistful Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn): " 'The day is ours, Robin,' you used to say, and then it was tomorrow. But where did the day go?"
Lingering question: How could Connery later stoop to an unbilled cameo in Costner's flick?
4. Robin the fox (voice of Brian Bedford), Robin Hood (1973)
Costner cOULDn't match . . . : The Disney animation hero's knack for aiming arrows exactly where he wishes, without killing anyone.
Fashion statement: The only Robin Hood refusing to wear pants.
Quotable: "Faint hearts never won, fair lady."
Lingering question: How fast can he jump over a lazy brown dog?
5. Cary Elwes, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
Costner cOULDn't match . . . : Elwes' way of intentionally making audiences laugh.
Fashion statement: The classic ensemble, but the semiautomatic six-arrow bow is a neat accessory.
Quotable: When asked why people should listen to him: "Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent."
Lingering question: Where's History of the World, Part 2, Mel?
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.