Judge Brett Cullum requires the solace of the shadows and the dark of the night because sunshine is his destroyer.
There may never be another dawn.
Ridley Scott filmed Legend at a time when he felt particularly vulnerable. Blade Runner had not lived up to box office expectations, and studios were demanding an audience pleasing hit that would make money. And so Ridley ended up releasing two distinct versions of this film—a more languid European cut with a classical score as well a faster-moving American release with pop group Tangerine Dream on the soundtrack. Eight years ago an elaborate DVD release of Legend provided us with great extras and two cuts of the film including a director's cut with the full Jerry Goldsmith score reinserted. This Blu-ray edition ups the transfer just a bit, but doesn't add much in the way of supplements. Still, it's a nice package that offers fans several ways to enjoy the cult film.
Facts of the Case
Set inside a fairy tale world this bedtime story is about a Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) who seeks to plunge the world into "forever night" by killing the last two unicorns. Tom Cruise (Top Gun) plays the hero out to save the world, and Mia Sara (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) is the princess caught in-between the good guy and the bad. It becomes a mystical opera full of demons and fairies as light and darkness fight it out in the magical woods.
Legend continued Ridley Scott's tradition of style above substance at each turn, and did so without as strong a plot as his earlier works such as Blade Runner or Alien. This was his bid at making a family freindly movie using heroic archetypes. It was a simple fantasy story that worked in the director's uniquely sophisticated visual landscape. Back in 1985 it wasn't a box office success thanks to an audience that didn't appreciate the material, but it seems time has been kind to the project. It's a gorgeous film full of practical effects that were shot at Pinewood Studios on the Bond set. It also contains a bravura performance by Tim Curry who quite easily bests any portrayal of the devil before or since. Hard to believe that Mia Sara was only 15 and Tom Cruise in his early 20s when this was made. They do a fine job playing the innocents who must grow up quickly in the face of darkness. Legend is a lot of fun, great to look at, and has solid performances.
There have always been multiple versions of the film floating out there in the world because Legend was tinkered with endlessly by the director and the studio. Most fabled is an assembly cut that ran over two hours that Ridley Scott used at a preview where it was decided the film drifted on far too long. By the time it reached theaters in Europe the running time was trimmed to 94 minutes, and in the United States it clocked in five minutes shorter. This Blu-ray edition includes the original US theatrical release as well as a "preferred director's cut" which runs one hour and fifty-four minutes. The theatrical version works quite well and has its merits, but fans seem to prefer the longer version which affords some more substantial character beats and more of the journey for the hero and his rag tag team of dwarves and fairies. The endings are a bit different, and the director's cut even suggests perhaps everything was a dream in a princess's mind.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What we have here is a trend that gets played out again and again as studios upgrade their releases from DVD to Blu-ray. There were rumors that additional interviews with Tom Cruise might surface or that more footage might be unearthed. None of this came to pass, and instead we simply get a minor bump in visual quality along with most of the supplements ported over from the DVD set.
Visually, if you look at the theatrical cut of the film it has a noticeable upgrade in its presentation. Contrast levels are balanced throughout, colors look warmer, and details jump out in new ways. It's a beautiful treatment, and one that makes this set worth a purchase. The preferred "director's cut" doesn't fare as well because the new footage was never up to snuff to begin with. They used an "answer print" as the source, and so it was never meant to be the source for a high definition showing. Contrast is increased to help the visuals, but there is less detail and colors look less vibrant. Grain crops up a lot more in the longer version, and quite often the seams show revealing what footage is completely new. Both versions do get the full DTS-HD Master Audio treatment which works with both the classical as well as the pop score quite well.
Extras include most of what was assembled by Ridley Scott scholar Charles de Lauzirika for the 2002 DVD. There is the making-of feature that clocks in at just over fifty minutes and includes interviews from director Ridley Scott, producer Arnon Milchan, writer William Hjortsberg, editor Terry Rawlings, director of photography Alex Thomson, makeup artists Rob Bottin and Peter Robb King, production designer Assheton Gordon, set director Ann Mollo, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, Universal chief Sid Sheinberg, and actors Tim Curry, Alice Playton, Billy Barty, Cork Hubert, Robert Picardo, and Mia Sara. The only people missing are Tom Cruise and David Bennent really when you think about it. Also included is a director's commentary track by Ridley Scott that deals with even more detail about the project. Two "lost scenes" are shown with one being a very rough look at an alternate opening and the other a combination of footage, drawings and animatics to show a never completed dance sequence. '80s music aficionados will find their favorite features are intact. The Bryan Ferry video for "Is Your Love Strong Enough" is here as well as an option to isolate the Tangerine Dream soundtrack on the theatrical cut. Trailers and promo materials including a photo gallery round everything out. Missing from this new Blu-ray are all the DVD-ROM features such as a script to screen comparison as well as some other animatics. Production notes and biographies are also absent.
Legend is a great fairy tale movie crafted by Ridley Scott as only he could in the '80s. It's over the top and wonderfully operatic with plenty of visuals to adore, something perfect for high definition. It comes from an era when effects were practical and live—no CGI was used to make this magical world. It's a great, charming cinematic experience. What a pity, though, that Fox has decided that the 2002 DVD extras are good enough to keep without any further supplementation. So we are paying only to see a better transfer and nothing else which seems a bit of a cheat. But hey, anything that makes this film look better is okay in my book at the end of the day.
Not guilty because it's a grand fairy tale that still looks amazing decades
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Scales of Justice
• Director's Cut
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