Rat Pack 'n' the Hood
"Robin and the 7 Hoods" is a movie for fans of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr ripping it up doing what they do best will provide plenty of fun and song & dance. But then for those who are not fans may find themselves wondering what all the fuss is about. Whilst easily the best of the Rat Pack movies with an amusing story and some great musical numbers it's also a movie which is all about Frank Sinatra being "The Chairman of the Board". He has the best lines, the best song and basically dominates every single scene he appears in and as such there is an element of "look at me" about the movie. It doesn't stop "Robin and the 7 Hoods" from being fun but you wonder how much better it could have been if there had been a stronger director on board to control things and by things I mean Sinatra.
In prohibition-era Chicago, mob boss Big Jim (Edward G. Robinson) is bumped off by Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk - The Princess Bride) who along with the corrupt Sheriff plan to take control of mob activities in the city. But North side gangster Robbo (Frank Sinatra - Ocean's Eleven) thinks otherwise and refuses to go along with Guy even if Guy has the support of all the other gangsters. Along with pool hustler Little John (Dean Martin - The Cannonball Run) and the loquacious Allen A. Dale (Bing Crosby - High Society) they set about stopping Guy by turning Robbo into a modern day Robin Hood, helping the poor and sponsoring orphanages. None of which stops Guy wanting to get rid of Robbo and finds himself an unlikely ally in Marian (Barbara Rush), the daughter of Big Jim who also wants to run things her way.
Before actually getting to what "Robin and the 7 Hoods" is about it has to be said that it's a miracle it ever got made. During the production JFK was assassinated and also Frank's son was kidnapped, two of just a few issues which must have dogged the production. But it did get completed and to be honest you wouldn't know that there were problems behind the scene as it comes across like the cast had a great time playing at being gangsters.
So now to the actual movie well the actual story is quite amusing as it mingles the legend of Robin Hood into a prohibition setting with Chicago gangsters at war with each other. It is in fact a very simple storyline with Guy Gisborne trying to take control of all gang activities with only Robbo and his hoods standing firm against him. And to aid them in defeating Guy and his army of hoods there is the loquacious Allen A. Dale who spins things so it makes Robbo look like a modern day Robin Hood as he supports soup kitchens and orphanages. Put simply you have this fun tale of Guy trying to stop Robbo whilst Robbo is trying to stop Guy and all the time there is Marian in the background cooking up her own plans to take control of the gangsters.
This play on the tale of Robin Hood is good fun with some great character names and some amusing scenes as Robbo tries outsmarts Guy with his knock proof casino. As such you would never really say that "Robin and the 7 Hoods" is a gangster movie because it is all very tongue in cheek with even the gangster action having a very comical element, often providing the corner stone to many an amusing scene. But it works and as a whole it brings a smile to your face.
And what certainly does work are the various musical elements and each star has his moment to shine with Sammy Davis Jr giving a memorable rendition of "Bang! Bang!" as he and Robbo's hoods rip to pieces Guy's club. And of course Frank Sinatra gets the big show stopper with a wonderful version of "My Kind of Town". But ironically it is Peter Falk who delivers the most memorable musical moments as he purposefully goes over top as he leads his hoods in a comical version of "All for One and One for All" although he is rivalled by Bing Crosby leading everyone in the comical "Mr. Booze".
Going back to Peter Falk he steals many a scene because as Guy Gisborne he is intentionally going over the top with his gangster mannerisms and speak and it is a comedy performance which puts most of the other cast in the shade. But the trouble is that along with Peter Falk you have the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Victor Buono and Barbara Rush all who deliver enjoyable performances but seem to be playing second fiddle to Frank Sinatra. Now as Robbo Frank is of course the lead character but almost every scene seems to be playing to his ego as the big boss and as such there are scenes where he ends up the centre of attention when in reality he didn't need to be. For me it slightly spoils things and leaves you with a feeling that maybe Sinatra's ego along with the fact he was also produced the movie ended up causing director Gordon Douglas to pander to him more than was needed.
What this all boils down to is that despite a couple of issues "Robin and the 7 Hoods" is a fun movie and a great play on the tale of Robin Hood with it becoming part of a gangster tale. It is very much a movie for those who are fans of the Rat Pack and delivers those great musical numbers where Frank, Dean and Sammy get to excel but may leave those who are not such fans wondering what all the fuss is about.
Tags: Robin Hood Movies