Saturday, June 4

Ridley Scott's LEGEND...in production, 2011.

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Well, at least that's what it felt like last night watching Universal's new "Ultimate Edition" Blu-ray of the much beleaguered and rediscovered Legend. In spite of being in the kid target audience upon this dark fantasy's '85 theatrical bow, I never saw it until yesterday. Probably for the better.

Perhaps from either being dimwitted or highly functional, as a child I never really cared much for live-action entertainment that was designed for my age group. My parents would rent PG flicks and I'd watch them because that was what was expected...and I was aware of that. The only movie from my childhood that has stuck was, go figure, Ghostbusters and its sequel. Others like Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story are still hard to sit through from memories of disliking the experience. I can't imagine how screwed up I'd be if I was a kid nowadays...

Witnessing Scott's Director's Cut of Legend with totally virgin eyes, it's an enjoyable whimsical fantasy with a few hairline cracks in its otherwise perfect realm veneer. Essentially a dusty leather-bound storybook that cracks from its spine while opening filled with the usual young untested hero, virginal maiden, fairies, ghouls, goblins, and the Lord of Darkness himself. Tom Cruise is thankfully not Tom Cruise, but maybe a bit too much so. The now Church of the Alien God personality battling old age relies too heavily on everything that's so great around him to shape his performance from young boy to regal hero. That never quite happens even when opportunities are so readily laid before him. The Oprah couch surfer is still a clumsy kid with a sword in the final confrontation; not the mean motherfucking servant of God we seek. None of this is Scott's fault since, as Clint Eastwood attests, in the end a director cannot claim dominion over an actor's expression.

An invisible Tim Curry under an enormous amount of Rob Bottin make-up, as well, obviously Satan himself wrings the most out of his diabolical performance. As do Billy Barty and Kiran Shah as two scruffy, pint-sized tag-alongs on the eternal quest to save the fair maiden and triumph over the evil's evil doings. But a cavalcade of astonishing art direction, beautiful cinematography, and Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful score trump all else. Great "pure" fantasy that always feels timeless with just enough dark touches (including some Argento allusions) to help with the sometimes sickeningly sweet melodrama that creeps in here-and-there. It's a perfect film for Blu-ray and thankfully Universal, or more so Scott, take advantage of the format's strengths.

Without mincing words, the Director's Cut looks fucking amazing. I wasn't expecting the amount of truly incredible, naturalistic detail from a picture shot over several early '80s years. I titled this entry "in production, 2011" because Legend literally looks like it was shot yesterday. Universal Studios aren't known for great looking catalog titles on Blu-ray (and HD DVD). They tend to haul out outdated HD masters struck back in the days of DVD that feature noise reduction and edge enhancement; even last week's debut of American Graffiti on Blu-ray looks pretty iffy. That isn't the case here with Scott's preferred version receiving a new telecine, probably supervised by him (known to be very picky), earlier this year. Reference quality. Definitely home theater demo material for friends and a new experience for fans.

The same can't be said for the included theatrical version. After watching Scott's full version, skipping through the bastardized theatrical cut frankly sucked. The entire thing seems disjointed with Tangerine Dream's questionable score horribly dating anything it plays over. Like with the new DC DVD, Universal should have just ditched the theatrical abomination entirely. At least the Blu features both versions in separate encodes and defaults to the real version. Not to mention the shorter edit unsurprisingly being from an old HD master (from 2006) with baked-in smoothing and edge enhancement, destroying the striking appearance of the unmarred Director's Cut transfer. To paraphase Darkness, "I require the solace of the detail and the dark of the grain. Manipulation is my destroyer."
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4 comments:

Craig Edwards said...

I'm glad you found enough to enjoy in the movie; I have to be honest - I slept through it in the hometown theater in '85. Of course, you indicate it's a much different animal in the DC, so maybe it warrants another view 26 years later...
One connected (and looong) anecdote - I was working in a Spencer Gifts in Merrillville Indiana in the Fall of 1991 as an assistant manager. Halloween season rolls around. They had a Darkness mask that was HUGE. The horns were full size, hollow latex stuffed with foam to allow them to hold their shape - the mask actually had built in shoulder pads to help support it so it didn't break the wearer's neck. Well, this thing had apparently come out the same year as the movie, and with (I think) a $200 price tag no one touched it. Every year 1985-1990 it had gone back to the Spencer's warehouse and then returned the next Halloween season, a little more banged up and dinged. It had gotten marked down a couple of times, was down to I think $80 or something. Still no takers. One night, I saw this guy really checking it out. I called the manager at home and asked how much leeway I had to get that damned mask moving and gone from the store and warehouse. She told me I couldn't go below $30. I dickered with the guy like a prime used car salesman ("What's it going to take to put you in this mask this evening?") and finally got him to buy it for $40. I was a bit of a hero that night; even moreso when the time came to box up the Halloween remainders and we didn't have to try to pack that furshlugginer thing back up!

Jayson said...

Yeah, I'd give it a second chance (the DC), it's kinda slow to start rolling but I found it interesting and frequently funny once things got rolling.

I remember that mask, super badass but very expensive! I now wish I could have grabbed one of those great Lord of Darkness giant action figures or busts that are now hard as crap to find...

iZombie said...

oh, boy this was that movie that separated me from the normal kids... the darkness and evil this movie shared and the forever warped me was hatched. i loved mia sara at the time, and i normally dislike tom cruise except for a few... but he played jack like a trooper. tim curry was the total shit only being really introduced to him from this film... and that creepy kid from the film "the tin drum" playing the lead fairy... it worked for me. then the score that got two releases from tangerine dream [us] and jerry goldsmith [uk]... both amazing in their own right.

on to the darkness mask, i wish i could find that... there is a need for time travel... it would have paid 80.00 for...

The Film Connoisseur said...

I prefer the directors cut of the film, but I also love that Tangerine Dream score...I would love a mix of the two. But the directors cut is so much richer...and even a bit darker. I loved that Meg Mucklebones (my favorite of the creatures on this movie) gets a whole lot more screen time!

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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