by Mark Greig
Legend was Ridley Scott's direct follow up to Blade Runner. Much like the sand dancer’s seminal sci-fi classic, it was a flop on its initial release, but has since gone on to become something of a cult classic and one of my favourite fantasy movies.
Rather than being an adaptation of a famous work, Legend is like a composite piece of many different sources, from the Grimm fairy tales to the Bible (just look at that poster image, I've visited churches with more subtle religious imagery). Jean Cocteau's 1946 film Le Belle et la Bête, which Scott and writer William Hjortsberg both shared a love for, was clearly a huge influence as well. The plot is a rather conventional story about a dark lord who plans to take over the world, a young hero who sets out on a quest to stop him, and a beautiful princess who gets caught up in the middle of it all. What sets the film apart from others fantasy films of the time is the visual flair Scott brings to the film.
Like all of his films, Legend looks absolutely stunning. The old Sandancer brings the same kind of obsessive attention to detail to this film that he brought to Alien and Blade Runner, creating a living breathing world that puts other fantasy films to shame. The forest sets, created completely on sound stages at Pinewood, look truly magical, while Darkness’ lair is simply gorgeous. The costumes and prosthetics for the various magical creatures are also impressive.
As Darkness, Tim Curry just owns the film. Backed up by a fantastic make up job, Curry injects some Frank N. Furter swagger into the role, making Darkness a charismatic and oddly sexy villain. Poor Tom Cruise just can’t compete. Cruise is definitely one of the film's weakest elements. He's not terrible, but the future mega-star fails to make Jack anything more than a fairly bland hero with a nice pair of legs. Mia Sara fares better as Lilly. She might start out as a rather whinny princess, but improves when she has Darkness as a sparring partner rather than dippy Jack.
Darkness' seduction of Lilly is one of one of my favourite parts of the film. It helps to make Legend a far more interesting film, and offsets the tweeness that threatens to engulf the film at times. The stand-out scene of the film is the Dress Waltz. It's a mesmerising sequence where a captured Lilly dances with a living dress in Darkness’ liar until the two become one. That is when Darkness finally makes his grand entrance, stepping out of the mirror in all his satanic majesty.
Why anyone would chose Tom Cruise over this guy is a mystery to me.
Notes and Quotes
--Meg Mucklebones is played by none other than Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Picardo.
--The face of goblin Blix was based on Keith Richards.
--During filming a fire broke out at Pinewood, burning the 007 soundstage to the ground and destroying all of the film’s sets.
--Two version of the film are available, the original theatrical release and a director's cut. As with Blade Runner, the director's cut is the superior version of the film.
--Jerry Goldsmith's sublime score was removed by the studio from the US version of the film and replaced with one by Tangerine Dream. It was restored for the director’s cut.
Lily: "I hear a throat begging to be cut!"
Darkness: "Are you so eager to see blood flow?"
Lily: "As eager as you are to drink it!"
Screwball: "I vote we run like hell."
Brown Tom: "I second the motion."
Oona: "What care I for human hearts? Soft and spiritless as porridge! A faerie's heart beats fierce and free!"
Darkness: "The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity."
Three out of four goblins that look like guitarists for the Rolling Stones.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.