HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, December 12, 2015

ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS -- Movie Review by Porfle

Since 1960's OCEAN'S 11 had been such a lark for the Rat Pack, some of them got together again four years later with director Gordon Douglas for the lighthearted crime spoof ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS (1964). But as we learn from Frank Sinatra, Jr.'s commentary--which, once again, serves as an absolutely invaluable first-hand account--this breezy musical about rival gangs in Prohibition-era Chicago was overshadowed not only by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was Frank Sinatra's personal friend, but also by the five-day kidnapping of Frank, Jr. himself in Lake Tahoe, California.

While much of the movie is breezy fun, it's apparent in several scenes that Papa Frank's heart just isn't in it. Still, he musters what he can as "good guy" crime kingpin Robbo, the lone holdout when rival boss Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) rubs out the current big cheese Big Jim (Edward G. Robinson in a brief cameo) and demands all the other bosses line up behind him. Robbo's refusal results in the opposing bosses hitting each other's speakeasies in a frenzy of mutual destruction.

Enter Big Jim's daughter Marian, played by a gorgeous Barbara Rush, who offers Robbo a hefty sum to eliminate the man who killed her father. Robbo instead donates the cash to an orphanage, thus gaining a citywide reputation as the new "Robin Hood." This new image suits him so he starts giving a cut of all his proceeds to charity, while Marian, whose intentions go beyond mere revenge, seeks the aid of any man who'll respond to her seductive advances to make a power grab. Meanwhile, Guy Gisborne continues in his efforts to bring down Robbo both violently and by trying to get him sent up the river on trumped-up counterfeiting charges.

As an old-style gangster comedy, ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS is about on the same level as BUGSY MALONE or the "A Piece of the Action" episode of "Star Trek", only with better production values. Some of the transitions into the song-and-dance numbers are awkward, to say the least, with Falk's number coming off as particularly ear-bending despite his giving it the old college try (fortunately, the rest of his comic performance is a delight).

Dino, who plays Robbo's partner Little John, fares better with his jaunty pool-hustling tune "Any Man Who Loves His Mother", and Sammy's energetic shoot-em-up number "Bang! Bang!" is a real blast. Frank, in his best moment in the film, seems to forget his troubles for a bit when he gets to croon his classic ode to Chicago, "My Kind of Town."

Another plus for the production is the presence of the venerable Bing Crosby as Allen A. Dale, an overaged "orphan" who joins Robbo's crew in order to help coordinate his charitable activities. Bing does a wonderful soft-shoe number with the boys back at the orphanage entitled "Don't Be a Do Badder!" (the lyrics are cringeworthy but Bing manages to sell them), then joins in another fun song-and-dance sequence with Frank and Dean, "You've Either Got or You Haven't Got Style", which is unique for having all three of these major singing stars together at one time.

A gaggle of wonderfully rough-looking character actors fill the supporting roles as well as some familiar names such as Victor Buono, Hans Conried, Robert Foulk, Richard Bakalyan, Billy Curtis, and Sig Ruman. A chorus line of flappers performing the number "Charlotte Couldn't Charleston" is led by none other than legendary singer-dancer-choreographer Toni Basil of "Mickey" fame, who would co-star in VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS a year later and go on to appear in the counterculture classic EASY RIDER in '69.

While the story tends to drag a bit here and there, and the songs aren't always top-notch, ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS is still an enjoyable enough gangster spoof and one of the last of the old wave of Hollywood musicals. It's a shame that the conditions under which it was made so dampened the spirits of those involved, especially its star, Frank Sinatra, resulting in a movie whose lightheartedness comes off as noticeably strained.


No comments: