Unicorns go to the cinema. There may never be another dawn.


This is the first serious movie ever created about unicorns (that I know of anyway) – ‘Legend’ from 1985.

Is it good? Is it worth seeing? Well, it’s hard to say as there were three different versions made which means that it is quite likely everyone will have a different opinion about it!

This post will be about the movie itself (obviously) and how it was created as this interests me greatly and I hope it interests you too!

How it was made… – Unicorns problems

The movie script was been rewritten 15 times before the final version was completed. The production began in 1984 but it took a further three years before Legend was finally completed by Ridley Scott, because of the film’s immensely troubled production history.

Famous movie stars such as Tom Cruise and Tim Curry were involved in the production. For the purpose of the film an enchanted forest was created with real trees and about five thousand live birds. The whole movie was based in the 007 hangar, where James Bond movies were made at Pinewood Studios. Filming was interrupted twice, by the death of Tom Cruise’s father and when while shooting the hangar burned down completely. The rest of the movie, including the famous scene in which Princess Lily is taken to see and touches the unicorns by Jack, was made in a hurried made replacement set.

The very first theatrical version of the movie was released in 1986 on the videotape as a children’s movie. Unfortunately it turned out to be financial disaster and went through the cinemas practically unnoticed. The main reason why the movie was so poorly received were the changes that were made after the first test display.

Tom Legend

Its original, American version was intended to be a 140 minutes long fairy tale for adults (in fact, it’s too intense for really young children). This version has been then chopped up and badly re-edited many times (none of the ‘middle’ versions were ever shown to the public). In the end, the European version of the movie was reduced to 94 minutes. Scott had to re-do the film to enhance the love and adventure story, thereby reducing the topic of saving the world. The feeling and tone of the film were ruined by its treatment. Apart from the fact that the audience was not able to get to know the characters better, there was also a bad synchronization of sounds and errors such as suddenly disappearing shield. Unfortunately this version of the movie is the one most people have seen.

The original Jerry Goldsmith score has been replaced by the rather trite Tangerine Dream soundtrack. Goldsmith stated that his path made for 140 minute version was the best work of his life. Tangerine Dream version differs significantly from the original, where instead of the symphony orchestra and choirs we hear electronic music. Some fragments do not fit in the movie at all, where instead of playing the fairy song, we hear the electronic sounds removed from the context.

Real unicorn

After the cold reviews, the movie was surrounded by a cult trying to get the original version on VHS cassettes. In 1999, it was decided to release a Director’s Cut version on the DVD. For 10 months, warehouses were searched for the longest version of uncut movie. Finally, a 113-minute version was found in a container labelled RSA (Ridley Scott Associates). The movie was released on DVD in May 2002 under the name of “Legend: Ultimate Edition” and it is a completely different movie. If you haven’t seen this version, you haven’t seen the movie. It doesn’t look like a movie made 20 years ago. Scenes which are vital to the tone of the film and the meaning of the story, as well as the sumptuous original soundtrack recorded with a full orchestra have been restored.

Even Tom Cruise apparently wasn’t happy with the American cut of the film and wouldn’t talk about it for years because of it. He very much encouraged fans to go with the Director’s Cut. As he also felt the Director’s Cut was far superior, and became one of his favourite films.

About the movie… – It’s gonna be LEGEN – wait for it – DARY

In general Ridley Scott’s “Legend” is a visually beautiful piece work that makes a fantastic fantasy movie. The only problem is that it seems like it missed its target. The main characters are sweet and naive, but not bearable for young children. Unfortunately the movie as a whole is too dark, grotesque and cheap for such an audience.

Legend darkness

This magical fantasy takes place in the world of goblins and gnomes, where the lord of Darkness wants to destroy daylight and to create eternal night. To do this, the demon wants to kill the last two unicorns by removing their horns and marrying a fairy princess. His people manage to kill one of them and kidnap princess Lily. Her beloved Jack an adventurous forest dweller together with his elven allies, the spirit of the forest Gump and his friends set off on the trip to save Lily and prevent the last unicorn from being killed.

Legend crew

Something about the performances. A very young Tom Cruise is excellent as the hero and Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness is remarkable. In fact, his costume and voice alone are worth the cost of renting or buying the DVD. Mia Sara actually plays two different versions of her character, both brilliantly. This was her first role and she made the performance of her career. The elves and fairies, both good and evil, are incredibly real-looking and believable.

What must be said is that special effects as well as make-up in the movie’s display time stood at a very high level. Today, some effects (like Blix and Pox look) are no longer so impressive and may now seem comical and artificial. Another story is with the magical forest, or the seat of the ruler of darkness, which is still incredibly realistic. Another asset is the characterization of the ruler of darkness played by Tim Curry looking extremely effective.

Funny fact – the sound of the unicorns at play is actually a recording of humpback whales.

All in all ‘Legend’ didn’t rock the cinema world but it is wort watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon for some light entertainment.

The end.

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