Legend (1985)

“As long as unicorns rule the earth, evil can never come to the pure of heart.”

[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]

Synopsis:
A young forest dweller (Tom Cruise) shows the girl he loves (Mia Sara) where the world’s last unicorns are, accidentally unleashing a battle with the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry).

Genres:

  • Coming-of-Age
  • Fantasy
  • Ridley Scott Films
  • Tom Cruise Films

Review:
I hesitated for quite a while before deciding to designate Ridley Scott’s Legend a Missing Title from Peary’s book. It isn’t all that compelling a movie, but its status as a cult favorite (probably not evident yet to Peary back in 1986) is now clear — and its truly impressive, other-worldly special effects finally convinced me that it’s earned a certain niche in cinematic history. The brief synopsis given above just about covers the gestalt of the extremely basic hero-myth storyline: Cruise loves Sara, who opens a Pandora’s Box of evils when she can’t resist wanting to touch a unicorn, thus allowing the minions of the Lord of Darkness access to said unicorns, and setting in motion a battle between good-and-evil, with Sara as the romantic pawn (Curry wants her for his evil bride). Will Cruise come to the rescue, with the help of his fairy/elven friends? What do you think?

This film, however, is all about the magical universe it presents — and to that end, it’s hard not to be impressed. Twenty years before the emergence of Peter Jackson’s (clearly superior) Lord of the Rings trilogy, Scott and his team crafted a remarkably haunting mystical landscape which Richard Scheib of the SF, Fantasy, and Horror site refers to as “sumptuously textural” and “achingly beautiful”; filled with eerily “realistic” creatures, including elves and fairies and Tim Curry’s horrifically gruesome Lord of Darkness (those horns!). Scheib, a clear fan of the film, calls the movie (which was lambasted by most mainstream critics) an “extraordinary synthesis of production design, cinematography, editing and effects” — and it’s actually hard to disagree with this specific assessment, given that he doesn’t try to make any claims about the narrative. Regarding the performances, Cruise isn’t all that memorable, but Sara is lovely and fine in her screen debut (she’s perhaps best known for playing Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend the following year), and Curry’s performance is a stand-out.

Note: In 2002, Legend was released on DVD in two different versions: the original, shorter, American theatrical release (with a synthesized score by Tangerine Dream), and the longer director’s cut (with a score by Jerry Goldsmith). I watched the original — trying to remain faithful to the version Peary might/would have seen around the time he was writing GFTFF — and loved the score, but took a brief look at the other version and liked Goldsmith’s score just as well, in a different way. In my opinion, the “score” (ha) is ultimately even between the two.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness
  • Mia Sara as Lili
  • Rob Bottin’s astonishingly effective make-up design
  • Ethereal cinematography

  • Magical special effects

Must See?
Yes, as a cult movie with truly impressive make-up and effects.

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One Response to “Legend (1985)”

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    My rating applies to the 113 minute director’s cut only as it makes the most sense and is the best piece of storytelling. A sumptuous, exquisitely crafted fairytale with good performances and the Jerry Goldsmith score was his favourite of all those he did (apparently).

    The original US version (90 minutes) has a score by Tangerine Dream and although it is a great score it suits the material less in my view.

    The European edit (94 minutes) was the one I first saw back in 1986-87 upon it’s UK VHS release. This has the Goldsmith score.

    These theatrical edits have problems but both would rate ⭐️⭐️⭐️.

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