Tuneful, Light-hearted Prohibition-Era Robin Hood Spoof...5/10
ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS, last of the 'official' Rat Pack trilogy, was undeniably the best of the series (OCEAN'S ELEVEN, a glossy but ultimately standard 'B' movie about a Las Vegas casino heist had been filmed, between the Pack's nightclub appearances, in 1960, and SERGEANTS 3, a so-so comic Western cavalry remake of GUNGA DIN, appeared in 1963), and with tunes by the legendary Jimmy Van Heusen, it was the only film that gave it's legendary stars a chance to perform in the format best suited to them...an old-fashioned movie musical.
Set in Prohibition Chicago, the spoof of the Robin Hood legends offered Frank Sinatra as Robbo, favorite 'lieutenant' of murdered crime boss 'Big Jim' (unbilled Edward G. Robinson), who 'takes on' successor Guy Gisborne (a very funny Peter Falk) and his 'right-hand' man, Sheriff Alvin Potts (Victor Buono, also excellent), for control of the city. A likable gangster with a code of ethics, Robbo, and his pal, Will (Sammy Davis, Jr), are soon joined by 'new-in-town' grifter, Little John (Dean Martin), who easily beats Robbo in a game of pool (while harmonizing about being faithful to one's mother!). Meanwhile, a beautiful, mysterious woman (Barbara Rush) appears, introducing herself as Marian Stevens, with links to Big Jim, and an agenda of her own...
The arrival of milquetoast accountant Allen A. Dale (Bing Crosby, having a ball playing 'against type') with a scheme to turn public sentiment against Guy Gisborne and the Sheriff, through charity and 'good works', quickly brands Robbo as a hero who would steal from the rich to give to the poor, and Chicago adores him, driving Gisborne NUTS! As plots are hatched to discredit Robbo, body counts rise, and Marian proves the most duplicitous of all, in her quest to gain power.
While the plot summary doesn't sound particularly amusing, the film, with it's 'tongue-in-cheek' tone, is much closer in spirit to GUYS AND DOLLS than GOODFELLAS. With Sinatra, Crosby, Martin, and Davis crooning a rousing "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat"-style mission number, "Mr. Booze", Davis singing and dancing to machine-gun volleys, and Sinatra performing what would become one of his 'signature' tunes, "Chicago (My Kind of Town)", the music is all first-rate, with the dramatic elements all played for laughs.
As Marian ends up with a surprising new 'mob boss', and Frank, Dino, and Sammy are reduced to pan-handling (but happy) "Santa Clauses", ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS leaves viewers with a smile, and the Rat Pack with a film finally worthy of their considerable talents.
Not a bad legacy, at all!