Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, and Cork Hubbert.
Fans of Ridley Scott’s Legend will want to get their hands on Arrow Video’s handsome new Blu-ray release as soon as they can. In addition to including the U.S. theatrical and director’s cuts, along with new bonus content added to the extras that were ported over, Arrow threw in a nice square-bound book, a poster, and some image cards. Highly recommended.
Ridley Scott’s Legend is one of those films, like so many in the science-fiction and fantasy genres during the 1980s, that underperformed at the box office but later found an audience on home video. Starring Tom Cruise as Jack O’ the Green and Mia Sara as Princess Lili, Legend is Scott’s vision of a traditional fairy tale: Jack must stop the Lord of Darkness from killing two unicorns that live in the forest near his castle and plunging the world into a frigid eternal darkness.
The story opens with an almost Disney-esque feel, as Jack and Lili frolic in the woods and Lili sings to the creatures around them, including the unicorns. However, the film takes a dark turn as Darkness obtains one unicorn horn and strives to get his hands on the other one, kidnapping Lili in the process. Jack sets out to free her with help from some local elves, making his way through a deadly swamp and then entering Darkness’s forbidding castle.
In the 36 years since its release, Legend has become a cult favorite, not just among Ridley Scott fans but also with those who also love Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Willow, and other 80s fantasy movies. When I look at the director’s filmography, I’ve always found Legend to be a bit of an oddball entry, given his penchant for more uniformly dark material like Blade Runner and Alien, but it’s still a solid movie that holds up decades later.
Given the film’s cult status, Arrow Video has brought it to us in a new two-disc Blu-ray edition that also includes physical content, which is a nice touch. Arrow and Criterion are the only companies these days adding physical materials to their releases on a consistent basis, and it’s much appreciated by those of us who like to stock our literal shelves with movies, not just our digital ones. (Unfortunately, neither company has the licensing for digital codes, like the major studios do these days.)
The physical goodies include a square-bound book, a poster, and some image cards. The book features a mix of current and archival essays that give a nice overview of thoughts about the film today and when it was released. There’s also an interview with Charles de Lauzirika, who supervised the creation of the Director’s Cut of the film for its initial 2002 release on DVD.
The Director’s Cut of the movie is included here, but it’s the version that was approved by Ridley Scott for the 2011 Blu-ray release of the movie. The booklet also includes text introductions for the Director’s Cut and the U.S. theatrical version (included here too) that were written by the director in 2011. The theatrical version was restored by Arrow for this release – both versions of the film looked beautiful on my setup, complete with an adequate amount of grain, so I imagine fans of the film will be very happy with this edition.
Moving on to the new bonus material, the big one is a commentary track for the U.S. theatrical version by author Paul M. Sammon, who has written, among other books, Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies. If you’ve heard any of his commentary tracks on other films, you know that he comes prepared to talk about all of a movie’s nooks and crannies, digging deep into everything from making-of information to its place in history.
Each version of the film occupies its own disc, with a batch of extras, and the U.S. theatrical version platter has a new 30-minute documentary called Remembering a Legend, which has interviews with grip David Cadwallader, production supervisor Hugh Harlow, costume designer Charles Knode, actress Annabelle Lanyon (Oona), camera operator Peter MacDonald, set decorator Ann Mollo, and draftsman John Ralph. Those are job titles you don’t normally see in bonus features, so it’s nice to hear from people who put in long hours on movies and aren’t usually asked to sit down in front of a camera to share their experiences. I hope more home video releases take that approach with some of their bonus content.
Arrow also commissioned a new 20-minute visual essay, Incarnations of a Legend, that’s narrated by critic Travis Crawford. It’s a good primer on the different versions of the movie, which actually also include a European cut that was slightly different from the U.S. one and isn’t included here.
The rest of the extras on the U.S. theatrical version disc were ported over from past releases and include:
- The Music of Legend (28 minutes): A two-part featurette that looks at the movie’s competing scores by Jerry Goldsmith (the Director’s Cut) and Tangerine Dream (the U.S. theatrical version), which is probably the most well-known example of a film that has two very different scores to choose from.
- The Creatures of Legend (27 minutes): Another two-parter that looks at the movie’s make-up effects, which predated the CGI era and thus had to be done physically.
- The Directors: Ridley Scott (58 minutes): A 2003 documentary that focused on the director’s career up to then, with comments from Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Scott himself, and others.
When Legend aired on TV, a voice-over narration was added to the theatrical cut that reads the opening scroll, and that’s included here as a bonus feature too, along with Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” music video. Remember when MTV was primarily a music video station? Good times.
Moving on to the Director’s Cut disc, nothing new was created for it among its bonus content. The main extra is a commentary track by Scott, who clearly came prepared to discuss the making of the film as it unspools before him. Great stuff. The other extras on this platter include:
- Creating a Myth: Memories of Legend (51 minutes): This is a comprehensive making-of documentary that charts the movie from Ridley Scott’s earliest ideas to its underwhelming release and its later resurgence on home video.
- Archival featurette (9.75 minutes): This is one of those old school featurettes that film studios created way back when to pitch their movies to theater chains and the media. Arrow sourced this from a VHS copy, complete with all the flaws inherent in such a process, but it’s worth watching to step into the Wayback Machine and pretend it’s 1985 again.
Two lost scenes, alternate versions of footage, the first draft of the screenplay and the shooting script (available as text on the screen), trailers and TV spots, and image galleries round out the platter.
Overall, this is a must-have for fans of the film. There’s been some chatter online about the lack of a 4K release for this one, but Arrow has explained that there are technical and bureaucratic reasons why it’s not possible to issue Legend on 4K right now.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★