Legend is a tale that although very simple has resulted in several different versions and there are immovable fans devoted to each one
For as long as film as been around as a media there has been movies that although they did not appeal to the masses the held the favor of a fanatical group of fans. These ‘cult classics’ have a fan base that can recite every line of dialogue, know all the behind the scenes dirt and will debate into the small hours of the morning controversies only they can see. Universal has dedicated themselves to bringing such cult classics to DVD and they are doing an incredible job. One of the gemstones of this newly released collections is the 1985 Ridley Scott film Legend.
Legend is a tale that although very simple has resulted in several different versions and there are immovable fans devoted to each one. The story revolves around two young lovers, Princess Lily (an 18 year old Mia Sara) and Jack (Tom Cruise), a young man that lives in the forest and can communicate to the little woodland creatures. The world they live in is beautiful and full of magic. Lily enjoys her walks outside the castle to visit with an elderly couple and meet up with Jack. One day Jack has a surprise for her, he takes Lily to see a unicorn couple. Unknown to them the evil Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) has dispatched his henchman (all evil lords seem to have henchmen standing by) Blix (Alice Playten) to kill the unicorns and retrieve their horns. If this can be done the world would fall into complete and utter darkness, forever. Lily unwittingly makes this possible by trying to approach the male unicorn permitting Blix to shoot a poison dart into the beautiful creature. Naturally, Lily gets captured, Jack with the help of fairies and gnomes have to rescue her, save the remaining unicorn and destroy the evil Darkness. Just another day in the life of a guy that lives in the forest.
What makes the Legend story work is it is a classic good versus evil fairy tale. While many critics gave some bad marks for the many dark themes in a film that is basically a fairy tale you should remember that some of the most gruesome stories every created were the well loved Grimm’s tales. Traditionally such ‘children’s stories’ have a dark and heavy side. Legend has all the required elements to appeal to those outside the cult followers. It has a love story, desire, greed and the hunger for power.
Legend has the most eclectic cast I have seen in a long time. Cruise as Jack is a choice that may not have seem like it would work at the time but it does. Legend was before his star really rose but it was after Taps and Risky Business so people already were beginning to recognize him. As Jack Cruise presents a young man without responsibility being drawn into a battle to not only save the girl he loves but the whole world. His cocky portrayal may have helped him in his next role, Top Gun, his real break out film. Legend was the type of role that would follow Cruise for years, the brash, confident young man. Still you can see the core of his talent here that would lead him to one of the most notable actors today. He plays Jack with élan but unfortunately there is little substance to the role. Mia Sara made her big screen premier with this movie. For a while she was queen of the innocent young girl roles, a trend undoubtedly started with her role here as Princess Lily. Sara has the most effective personal story arc in Legend. She has to change from the sweet, innocent princess dressed in her flowing gown to a black lipstick wearing, S and M styled object of Darkness’ amorous attention. For such a young actress (17 during filming) she handles the change well altering her vocal pattern and body language to meet the challenge. Tim Curry is beyond recognition as Darkness. His makeup is so heavy that his expressive eyes are barely visible. Only a few lines of dialogue give any clue to who he is. Darkness is little more than a one-dimensional character, the epitome of evil. Still, Curry is talented and during the scenes where he tries to ‘woo’ the princess, some more human feelings creep in.
Ridley Scott had already made a name for himself with Alien and Blade Runner when he took on Legend. Apparently he had quite a fight with the studio on the presentation of Legend. Scenes were cut, the entire soundtrack written by Jerry Goldsmith was replaced with one by Tangerine Dream in order to appeal to a younger audience. There were differences between the US and UK versions and neither one really reflected what Scott wanted from the film. Scott directed this as a true fairy tale, a story in three acts. The first is light and beautiful. Young love grows in the midst of a magically forest. The evil present from the beginning grows like a cancer until in act two Darkness appears to be on the verge of winning. The final act shows love overcoming the heinous times to win out. While many of the characters look like Muppets on acid the story is extremely well staged. Lighting, framing and set design combine to a true classic.
My site received a lot of emails when I posted the announcement for the cancellation of this title over a year ago. Well, this two-disc set was worth the wait. Disc one has the director’s cut in full Dolby 5.1/DTS glory. The Goldsmith soundtrack was located and restored with magical results. The video is anamorphic 2.35:1 and while not free of defects is well done. This version also has a commentary track by Scott, a rare treat for all. The second disc has the US theatrical release with the rock sound track. The sound was mixed down to Dolby two track but after all it is really an extra. There is also a couple of entertaining and informative documentaries and some lost scenes. This is the version of Legend we have been waiting for. As part of the Cult Classic series it brings Universal into the forefront of DVD studios. Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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