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Peter’s Retro Review: Legend (1985)

Legend Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

”I am the Lord of Darkness. I require the solace of the shadows and the dark of the night. Sunshine is my destroyer. All this shall change! Tonight, the sun sets forever.

There shall never be another dawn…”

Welcome to a magical place filled with fairies, elves and unicorns, but also with goblins, sea-witches and demon cooks. It’s a place where the forest holds wonderful secrets if you just care to stop and look for them, but tread carefully… there are rules to follow. This is a classic tale of the struggle between light and darkness and we do like those tales, don’t we?

So, ladies and gentlemen, this week I’d like to talk a little bit about another of my favorite movies, namely Legend. It was directed by Ridley Scott, a man who’s given us a bunch of great movies like for instance Black Hawk Down, The Duellists, The Gladiator and of course Blade Runner and Alien.

Legend is a dark fairytale where we see the Princess Lily running through the woods at the start of the movie. She’s strong-willed and likes to play pranks on people, but she’s also a very kind young woman who loves her friends dearly. She’s played by the very young and very beautiful Mia Sara in her first movie role. I believe she was only 15 or 16 years old when they started filming, but she’s fantastic in it and you can’t see it’s her first. Her next starring role would be opposite Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but she’s also been in Timecop, which I suppose isn’t so much of a classic as her two first movies.

The mysterious Jack of the woods.

The mysterious Jack of the woods.

Her co-star in Legend is an actor who really doesn’t need an introduction, but I’d just like to mention a couple of titles anyway… Cocktail, Risky Business and Eyes Wide Shut are just a handful from his lengthy CV… I am of course talking about Tom Cruise! Legend wasn’t his first movie, but it was one of his earliest ones.

Jack (Tom Cruise) is a woodsman in every sense of the word. We never learn where he comes from, but he has lived all his life in the forest and is essentially one with it. He knows all its secrets and the forest knows him, so to speak. The forest is also the place where Princess Lily spends most of her days. Even though she is of royal blood, it’s among her friends in the woods she likes to be, because as she says: “This place holds more magic for me, than any palace in the world.” It is also the place where she can be with her true love, Jack!

Lily and the unicorn.

Lily and the unicorn.

One day Jack is being more mysterious than usual and promises to show her a secret and sacred thing. He blindfolds her and leads her carefully through the forest and when he removes it he tells her to wait… All of a sudden, two unicorns appear out of the woods. They represent all that is good and pure in the world and is a rare sight.

Lily is completely enthralled by them and does something that is absolutely forbidden. She approaches them, singing a calming song and actually gets so close so she can touch one of them. And this is when bad things start to happen, because where there is good, there is also evil!

Hiding in the nearby bushes are Blix and his evil companions, Pox and Blunder. Blix is a deceitful and treacherous goblin who will do anything to please his master. He is played by Alice Playten (California Dreaming). I kind of like Blix, even though he is an ugly little ass-kisser with delusions of grandeur… and he looks cool too.

Blix is hiding in the bushes...

Blix is hiding in the bushes…

And speaking of cool-looking, it’s now time to talk about Blix’s master… The Lord of Darkness. He’s played to perfection by an inimitable and superb actor who also happens to be one of my absolute favorites… Tim Curry! Talk about prolific and diverse, this man has done a crap-ton of movies and different roles.

Everything from Annie and The Shout to Clue, The Three Musketeers, Muppet Treasure Island, Stephen King’s IT and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Lord of Darkness is an unbelievably impressive looking character and I have loved him ever since I first watched the movie in the theater all those many years ago.

The Lord of Darkness wants the unicorns dead in order to engulf the world in eternal night and this is why Blix and his friends are hiding in the bushes. They use the princess to lure the unicorns close and then shoot one of them with a poisonous dart. They proceed to take its horn and now the world is plunged into a snow-covered darkness. Jack is approached by the inhabitants of the forest lead by the wood-elf Honeythorn Gump. He’s played by David Bennent from Tin Drum, and together they set out to save the day, no pun intended!

The Lord of Darkness being suave.

The Lord of Darkness being suave.

Legend is a stunningly beautiful movie with great visuals and the special make-up effects were done by Rob Bottin (The Fog, The Thing) and his crew. The impressive sets actually burned down near the end of filming and new ones had to be hastily built for the remaining scenes.

I love this movie and have seen it many times. I love the story, I love how the movie looks and I love the characters in it… everyone from Jack and Lily, Gump and Oona the fairy to Brown Tom and Screwball. Yes, even Blix and Meg Mucklebones, the sea witch. She’s only seen in a brief scene, but she’s certainly very memorable. She’s played by an unrecognizable Robert Picardo, who’s known from The Howling and Innerspace, but also as the “holo-doctor” on Star Trek: Voyager.

And now… onto the controversy surrounding the musical score for Legend! Jerry Goldsmith originally did the score, but the studio felt the movie needed a more contemporary one and hired the band Tangerine Dream to re-score it for the U.S. theatrical release. Up until 2002 when the longer Director’s cut was released, this was the only version available.

The only way to see the movie with the original Goldsmith-score would have been the European theatrical release. And this is where the debate starts… Some say the original score is inferior to the Tangerine Dream one and others claim it to be the other way round. Those of you who’ve read my reviews from the start, know that I’m a huge fan of Tangerine Dream, but I’ve never seen the U.S. version, and have subsequently never heard their score in its entirety. So I tend to lean towards the original score being the best one, but to each his own, right?

So, my friends, we’ve come to roads end again. It’s now time for you to tell me what you thought of Legend. The comment section below is all yours!

Until next time…


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!