Legend (1985)

Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: William Hjortsberg
Stars: Tom Cruise (Jack O’ the Green), Mia Sara (Princess Lili), Tim Curry (Lord of Darkness), David Bennent (Honeythorn Gump), Alice Playten (Blix), Billy Barty (Screwball), Cork Hubbert (Brown Tom), Peter O’Farrell (Pox), Annabelle Lanyon (Oona), Kiran Shah (Blunder), Robert Picardo (Meg Mucklebones)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1985
Country: U.K.
Legend Blu-ray
Legend

There are some films that simply need time before they are fully appreciated. For whatever reason, when first released, they simply fail to connect with audiences and critics. Sometimes they are ahead of their time, and sometimes they are simply out of time, striving to be something that their contemporaneous audiences didn’t understand or desire.

Ridley Scott’s Legend is such a film. Originally released in the U.S. in 1986 after undergoing heavy editing and a replacement musical score, it fizzled at the box office, perhaps because the popularity of fantasy film in the early 1980s—from Conan the Barbarian (1982), which made a star of Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1985)—was waning by that time. But, as these things go, it slowly but steadily developed a following on home video and cable television, the media that have been responsible for the afterlife of more than a few movies that didn’t initially pass muster at the box office. Scott’s initial cut ran 125 minutes, which he then pared down to 113 minutes and tested. When the tests did not go well, he further hacked it down to 94 minutes, which is the version that was released in Europe.

Scott went further still, taking out an additional five minutes to reduce the running time for the U.S. theatrical released to a slim 90 minutes that often felt incoherent, despite the addition of a lengthy opening crawl establishing the world and the characters. Sid Sheinberg, the president of MCA (owner of Universal, the film’s U.S. distributor), felt that it didn’t appeal enough to the target demographic—teenagers—and, in a silly bid to make the film more hip and contemporary, forced a quick fix by removing the glorious orchestral score by Jerry Goldsmith and replacing it with an electronic score by the German rock group Tangerine Dream. It was all, alas, to no avail, as the movie-going public seemed to have little appetite for an extravagantly produced fairy tale about the eternal battle between good and evil. Thankfully, the 113-minute director’s cut has since been released on DVD and now Blu-ray, allowing us to see and appreciate what Scott originally intended.

At the time, Scott, a former commercial director, was known primarily for having directed two science fiction films, the highly influential box-office hit Alien (1979) and the at-the-time underappreciated sci-fi noir Blade Runner (1982), which had its own share of production woes and hasty editing to make it more “commercial.” Scott’s intention with Legend was to make a classic fairy tale on the big screen, something that had not been attempted outside of animation for many years. One of his primary inspirations was Jean Cocteau’s poetic 1946 version of Beauty and the Beast, and it shows in Legend, which plays more as large-scale art-house fare than popular entertainment. There are moments of action and quips of humor, but Scott’s primary focus is on visual grandeur, an updated version of poetic realism that is often breathtaking and visually ravishing, but makes for a slow-moving and contemplative film. Regardless of which score was used, there was no chance that Legend would ever be commercial.

The story, written by novelist and screenwriter William Hjortsberg, takes bits and pieces from various fairy tales and assembles them into something new and evocative, maintaining the fairy-tale balance of the innocent and the grim. A fresh-faced Tom Cruise, best known for Risky Business (1983) and not yet the international superstar of Top Gun (1986), stars as Jack, who is referred to as a “forest child.” Jack is in love with a free-spirited princess named Lily (Mia Sara), and he makes the mistake of taking her one afternoon to a glade where the last two unicorns, the literal embodiments of pure good, meet.

When Lily dares to touch one of them, she unwittingly steps into a trap set up by three goblins, led by malicious Blix (Alice Playten), who are there at the bidding of the demonic Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) to kill the unicorns. One unicorn’s horn is severed while the other, along with Lily, is captured and taken to the Lord of Darkness’ layer. This causes the world to fall into a state of perpetual winter. Jack meets up with a group of forest-dwelling fairies and dwarves, led by the puckish elf Gump (David Bennent), and sets off to rescue Lily and restore the world.

Ridley Scott has repeatedly implored that Legend was to be a family movie, although he may have underestimated how dark his vision was. While there are idyllic scenes in an impossibly beautiful forest (built from the ground up in Pinewood Studios by production designer Assheton Gorton), at least half of the film takes place in the bowels of the Lord of Darkness’ layer, bathed in darkness and lit only by hellish flames. There are scheming goblins, an enormous witch-like creature that tries to eat Jack, and the constant threat of violence, although there is actually very little on-screen. In many ways, it harkens back to the often-visceral horrors of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales before they were cleaned up for Disney movies.

Legend certainly has its flaws. In striking its balance between the ancient and the modern, there are moments that are undeniably goofy. The contrast of sweetness and horror is sometimes too abrupt, and you always get the sense that the filmmakers wanted more than their budget would allow. Yet, at the same time, the film is so visually evocative—so purely, sensationally beautiful to look at—that it transcends its narrative flaws and brings pleasure in a way that most mainstream films do not. The boldness of its images is striking, and at times you truly get the sense of a storybook come to life. Make-up effects designer Rob Bottin (The Howling, The Thing) truly outdid himself in generating the film’s assortment of creatures, particularly Tim Curry’s Lord of Darkness, a huge, red demonic hulk with enormous horns and a jutting, phallic chin. That Curry’s over-the-top performance matches so perfectly the deliberately operatic nature of his costume is only fitting.

Legend is an imperfect film—that is a given. Yet, the fact that so many people have taken it to heart over the past 17 years is evidence that it resonates on a deeper level than first thought. Its themes of the never-ceasing struggle between good and evil and light and dark are timeless to the point of being cliches, but Legend brings them to life in truly cinematic terms, painting them in a way that no other medium could. Perhaps ahead of its time, certainly too ambitious for its budget and its era, Legend is nevertheless a fascinating film, one that is thankfully being drawn out of the dustbin of the misunderstood and unappreciated.

Legend Two-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray Set

Aspect Ratio2.35:1
Audio
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish
    SupplementsDisc One: U.S. Theatrical Cut

    • Commentary by Paul M. Sammon
    • Isolated music score by Tangerine Dream
    • Isolated music and effects track
    • “Remembering a Legend” featurette
    • The Music of Legend two-part featurette
      1. “Part One: Jerry Goldsmith”
      2. “Part Two: Tangerine Dream”
    • The Creatures of Legend two-part featurette
      1. “Part One: Inside the Illustrations”
      2. “Part Two: Inside the Make-Up Effects”
    • “Incarnations of a Legend” featurette
    • The Directors: Ridley Scott documentary from 2003
    • Television version opening
    • “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” by Bryan Ferry music video

     

    Disc Two: Director’s Cut

    • Audio commentary by director Ridley Scott
    • Creating a Myth: Memories of Legend retrospective documentary
    • Original featurette
    • Lost scenes
      1. Alternate Opening: Four Goblins
      2. The Fairie Dance
    • Storyboard galleries
      1. Intro / Three Goblins
      2. Lili and the Unicorns
      3. Mortal World Turned to Ice
      4. Jack and the Fairies
      5. Find the Mare, Lose the Alicorn
      6. Jack’s Challenge
      7. Meg Mucklebones and the Great Tree
      8. Downfall of Darkness
    • Alternate Footage
    • Screenplay Drafts
      1. First Draft
      2. Shooting Script
    • Two U.S. theatrical trailers
    • International trailer
    • U.S. TV spots
    • Image galleries
    • Production stills
    • Continuity Polaroids
    • Poster and video art

     

    Illustrated perfect-bound insert book featuring new essays and archival interviews, a large fold-out double sided poster featuring both original and newly commissioned art, glossy full color portraits of the cast by Annie Leibovitz, six double sided postcard sized lobby card reproductions, and limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve.

    DistributorArrow Video
    Release DateOctober 12, 2021

    COMMENTS
    Arrow Video’s new two-disc Blu-ray set of Legend includes both Ridley Scott’s 113-minute director’s cut, which was first released on DVD by Universal back in 2002 and then further restored for a 2011 release, and the 90-minute U.S. theatrical version (the 94-minute international cut could not be included due to complicated international rights issues). Both films are presented in 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers. The director’s cut was transferred from a 35mm answer print because there is no surviving negative, while the U.S. theatrical version was transferred from the original 35mm camera negative of the international cut and additional interpositive film elements. According to the liner notes, these were “scanned in 4K resolution at Company 3, Los Angeles. The scans were manually conformed to the U.S. Theatrical Cut by Arrow Films and graded and restored in 2K at Silver Salt Restoration, London.” Now, there is bound to be some confusion and consternation as to why Arrow is only releasing Legend on Blu-ray instead of 4K UHD. After all, Arrow has released some fantastic 4K discs recently, and if any film is begging for the ultra high-def treatment, it is this one. Well, in the simplest terms, the materials simply aren’t currently available to justify a 4K transfer. The answer prints, according to Ridley Scott’s liner notes from the 2011 release, “by their nature offer limited latitude in the transfer process,” which results in “less-than-optimal picture quality” that would only be exaggerated in a 4K presentation, as would the unfinished visual effects that would have to be completed in 4K. So, the bottom line is that Arrow did everything in their power to give us the best possible presentation of two of the three versions of Legend, and anything better is unlikely to come our way. The good news is that both films look great in 2K, with strong detail and color saturation and contrast. There is some definite inconsistency in the presentation, with some shots looking softer and grainier than others, especially in the U.S. theatrical cut, which had to be pieced together from different elements. Overall, though, I can’t imagine anyone having any major complaints, and barring a miracle, this is as good as it’s going to get. Both films also feature DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround mixes that are wonderful. Whether you lean more toward Jerry Goldsmith’s classical orchestral score or Tangerine Dream’s evocative electronic score, the soundtracks are rich and full and immersive without being overbearing. The U.S. cut also includes an isolated music track that includes uncut music cues from Tangerine Dream’s score and an isolated music and effects track (both tracks are presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0).

    In terms of supplements, Arrow has clearly gone the extra mile to pack this set to the rafters, including a number of major new extras along with virtually everything that appeared on Universal’s previous releases. One the first disc, which includes the U.S. theatrical cut, we get an informative new audio commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies and Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, who takes us on a deep dive of both Scott’s career and the making of Legend. There are also several new featurettes, starting with “Remembering a Legend,” a half-hour retrospective featurette that includes new interviews with production supervisor Hugh Harlow, set decorator Ann Mollo, actor Annabelle Lanyon, grip David Cadwallader, costume designer Charles Knode, camera operator Peter MacDonald, and draftsman John Ralph. There is also a two-part featurette that looks at the film’s scores, with commentary by music expert Jeff Bond on the Goldsmith score and Daniel Schweiger on the Tangerine Dream score, with additional comments by Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin from the band Electric Youth. Similarly, there is a two-part featurette on the film’s creature effects, with one featurette focusing on the illustrations via commentary by illustrator Martin A. Kline and one on the practical make-up effects with commentary by make-up effects artist Nick Dudman. “Incarnation of a Legend” is a fascinating piece by critic Travis Crawford about the three different versions of the film and Ridley Scott’s penchant for revisiting his films and creating alternate director’s cuts. Also on this disc is The Directors: Ridley Scott, an hour-long archival documentary from 2003 that covers the entirety of Scott’s career up until that point (Legend takes up all of about two minutes); the television version opening, which adds narration to the opening crawl; and the music video for Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough?.”

    Most of the supplementary material on the second disc, which houses the director’s cut, was previously included on Universal’s “Ultimate Edition” DVD released back in 2002. Ridley Scott’s audio commentary is immensely enjoyably to listen to, although it bears the mark of having been carefully planned out ahead of time. He tends to talk at length about one subject at a time, which sometimes has little relation to what is on-screen (although there are many instances that are screen-specific). He is particularly attentive to the details of the make-up and production design, almost giddy in pointing out how the fake snow was made more realistic with the use of glitter. Interestingly enough (and somewhat disappointingly), he barely even touches on the multiple versions of Legend, with the exception of bemoaning the loss of the Jerry Goldsmith score for the U.S. release. Creating a Myth: Memories of Legend is an intriguing 51-minute making-of documentary that was produced in 2000. It reassembles most of the cast and crew to reminisce about the film’s troubled production. Interviews include director Ridley Scott, producer Arnon Milchin, writer William “Gatz” Hjortsberg, make-up designer Rob Bottin, production designer Assheton Gorton, cinematographer Alex Thomson, editor Terry Rawlings, set decorator Anne Mollo, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, former MCA movie chief Sid Sheinberg, key make-up artist Peter Robb King, and actors Tim Curry, Mia Sara, Alice Playten, Robert Picardo, Billy Barty, and Cork Hubbert (notice that Tom Cruise is conspicuously absent—big surprise). In addition to all the talking heads, this doc also features video footage and photographs of the construction of the enormous forest set, the production itself, and the aftermath of the burning of the 007 stage on which the set was built. We also get an original, 10-minute promotional featurette from 1985 that was clearly transferred from an old VHS tape. The section of lost scenes and storyboards remains a fascinating trove of insight into the film and what it might have been. There are two “lost scenes,” the first of which is a 10-and-a-half-minute alternate opening featuring four goblins discovering a unicorn hair and taking it to the Lord of Darkness. Because the film elements for this scene were lost, it has been transferred from a rough video copy. It includes a musical score, but this was obviously an early cut because it lacks any sound mixing, sound effects, or ADR work (you will notice that the goblins’ voices have not been synthesized yet). The other included lost scene, which would have been placed right after Jack acknowledges to Gump that Lily touched a unicorn and is known as “The Faerie Dance,” is truly lost, although the audio track and a few production photos survive. Thus, editor Terry Rawlings gives us a reconstruction of the scene using the audio, with photographs and storyboards to represent the visuals. There is also a section of storyboards, which includes two sequences that were not filmed: “Jack’s Challenge,” which involves Jack facing a two-headed giant that was never shot due to budgetary restrictions, and “Downfall of Darkness,” which is a different ending that also features a cut plot development that would have involved Lily turning into a cat (again, never even attempted due to limits in the budget). Also on the disc are nine minutes of alternate footage taken from the international version; two drafts of the screenplay (the first draft and the shooting script); three theatrical trailers, two for the U.S. market and one international (it is interesting to note how dark and violent these trailers make the film look—not at all like a “family” fairy-tale movie); and several television spots. The image galleries, all of which are presented in HD, are divided into three sections: Production Stills, Continuity Polaroids, and Poster & Video Art.

    The beautifully designed, 60-page perfect-bound insert booklet includes new essays by Nicholas Clement and Kat Ellinger and archive materials, including production notes and a 2002 interview with Charles de Lauzirika about the restoration of the Director’s Cut. Also in the box are a large double-sided poster with newly commissioned artwork by Neil Davies and original theatrical artwork by John Alvin, glossy full-color portraits of the cast photographed by Annie Leibovitz, and six double-sided postcard-sized lobby card reproductions.

    Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Arrow Video

    Overall Rating: (3)




    James Kendrick

    James Kendrick offers, exclusively on Qnetwork, over 2,500 reviews on a wide range of films. All films have a star rating and you can search in a variety of ways for the type of movie you want. If you're just looking for a good movie, then feel free to browse our library of Movie Reviews.


    © 1998 - 2021 Qnetwork.com - All logos and trademarks in this site are the property of their respective owner.