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 Ridley Scott's Legend (1985)

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Ridley Scott's Legend (1985)   Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:52 am

Ridley Scott got his start in commercials, and to date, he has directed about 3,000 commericals!! Shocked He also dabbled in television with the likes of Z-Cars and Adam Adamant Lives! By the mid-1970's, he was getting restless and was wanting to branch out into films. He finally did it with the low-budget period piece The Duellists (1977), based on Joseph Conrad's The Duel and inspired by Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. It got Scott recognised as a rising talent. Then, Hollywood came calling, and he went and made Alien (1979), which was a brilliant dark antidote to Star Wars, and again was brilliantly visual, and he was now well known as a visual genius. Although reluctant at first to do two sci-fi films in a row, for his next film, he did Blade Runner (1982), more down-to-earth than Alien, but it was a dark, film-noir set in a dystopian 2019. Although not a huge success, it's since become a cult favourite years later. Before Scott could focus on mature, real life films, he had one itch that needed scratching, and that was the desire to do a fantasy film. And this would be a fantasy film in the vein of Disney films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and Fantasia (1940). It's a complete contrast to the dark, bleak sci-fi of his previous two films, but it's also a contender for his most visually beautiful film. Legend (1985) was a nightmare to get made, but the final result makes for sumptuous viewing, and maybe the best fantasy film of the 1980's.

Written by William Hjortsberg, (whose book Falling Angel became Alan Parker's Angel Heart (1987)). Legend is set in a fantasical world of long ago, where mythical creatures like unicorns, fairies, goblins and demons exist. It begins in the fortress of the Lord of Darkness (an unrecognisable Tim Curry), gets Blix (Alice Playten), the most loathsome of his goblins, to find the last two unicorns living in existance, and remove their horns, this way, dawn will never break again, and Darkness can rule the land. Meanwhile, in the forest, young nature boy Jack (Tom Cruise) meets with his love Princess Lily (Mia Sara), and they both go to see the last two unicorns living in the forest. Whilst they do so, Blix attack the unicorns with a poison blowpipe and removes a horn from one of the unicorns, and soon, the world freezes over and plunges into darkness. Lily is partially responsible for what happened, she is determined to put things right, Jack teams up with elf Honeythorn Gump (David Bennent), fairy Oona (Annabelle Lanyon) and two dwarves Brown Tom (Cork Hubbert) and Screwball (Billy Barty), to retrieve the horn of the unicorn and restore light to the world. At the same time, Lily finds herself in the presence of Darkness, who plans to make Lily his bride...

Ridley Scott has a perfect visual eye, and from watching this, it makes you wonder why he hasn't tried dabbling in the fantasy genre since. He did wonders with sci-fi. Here, he was at the top of his game, he has made brilliant films since, but this was in a league of it's own. It came out around a time when loads of family friendly fantasy films were being made, like The Dark Crystal (1982) and The Neverending Story (1984), but Scott had always had aspirations of making a fantasy film, and he was going to do it his way, as well as being inspired by the visual beauty of Disney's early feature films, Scott also drew upon inspiration from Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946), whose misty gothic atmosphere was in influence upon Darkness' fortress. He got top Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who had recently done Once Upon A Time In America (1984) and Brazil (1985) to fund this epic fantasy. He wanted it to look visually perfect, and he got one of the best British cameramen to shoot it, Alex Thomson shot some of the best films of the 1980's, (Excalibur (1981), The Keep (1983) and Labyrinth (1986)), here he and Scott bring this fantasy world to life, it looks bright and colourful within the forest and dark and forboding within Darkness' fortress. Even the films special effects, (such as Darkness emerging from a mirror), are stunning for their day, proving that pre-CGI effects are and still can be just as good as what a computer can conjour up. The production design by Assheton Gorton is jaw-dropping, and it is pure fantasy, the forest (all built on the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios), is one of the best film sets ever created!! Very Happy

Cast-wise, Scott made some good choices for these very offbeat and fantastical characters. Tom Cruise was a rising star at the time, and he did look young back then, but it adds the innocence of the character of Jack, a pure forest hermit who looks out for the forest and the creatures that inhabit it, and must show courage to fight Darkness. Mia Sara's Princess Lily is equally innocent, but it was one mistake made by Lily that set this whole dark adventure into motion, but she is determined to put things right, and this means confronting Darkness, she is innocence in it's purest form and Darkness is evil in it's purest form. To play Darkness, Scott went to Tim Curry, a versatile, underrated character actor who was always known for doing Rocky Horror, this is a world away from that. Curry was emerged in Rob Botton's flawless make-up, and was unrecognisable and it didn't sound like him, but he gives a show-stealing performance whenever he's on screen. Everyone else is submerged in Bottin's amazing make-up, from goblin Blix to dwarves Brown Tom and Screwball and creepy swamp hag Meg Mucklebones (Robert Picardo), who come straight from the world of fantasy, and you can't believe it came from the imagination of William Hjortsberg, who Scott had commissioned to do the film. You'd swear it was based on a book of some sort. Oh, and this had unicorns in it, and Scott's previous film, Blade Runner, had unicorns as a running motiv throughout. Coincidence?? Wink

For all it's visual beauty, it was a nightmare to get the film made. It had been in production since 1982, and it was a labour of love for Scott. It was made for $30 million, but it took it's toll on Scott to make. The decision to film entirely in the studio, rather than in a real forest meant they could control the elements. However, disaster struck when the 007 stage at Pinewood burnt down during production, and the forest was destroyed. Though they did get it completed, it got worse as the test screenings were not good, and they didn't understand Scott's flawless vision, (one critic called the film "the most expensive Timotei commercial ever made"). Universal Pictures had Scott cut nearly half an hour from the film, and also dump Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant score in favour of "a more commercial score" by German Electronic band Tangerine Dream with songs by Jon Anderson and Bryan Ferry. Shocked Although this version was seen on the American cut, Goldsmith's score was retained for the European versions. But, Scott's original version was finally released on DVD in 2002 for all to see. And it is one of Scott's very best films.

Trailer!!





This is a beautiful and enchanting fairy tale, and it has an rich dreamlike quality to it all. Scott does well with a fantasy film, and he tackles it with such confidence like he's done films like this for years. But, he's come from a background of making commercials, that he could have tackled stuff like this back then, and it's a pity he hasn't done anything like this since, as he has a knack for it. After this he moved onto more character driven pieces such as Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), Black Rain (1989) and Thelma and Louise (1991), but he has made a return to big visual epics every now and again like 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and his upcoming version of Robin Hood (2010). The latter of which may have it's parallel's with Legend, with any forest set scenes. It is beautiful, and it has a brilliant story about good fighting evil, and it's up there with Scott's best film work and deserves to be seen more and get more recognition!! Very Happy
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