If you love ’80s relics, none come more gorgeously artificial than Ridley Scott’s faerie-tale Legend. Darkness (Tim Curry) requires the solace of shadows and seeks to destroy sunshine by ridding the land of unicorns. Princess Lily (Mia Sara) frolics among the kingdom’s poor folk, courts a pin-up forest dweller named Jack (Tom Cruise) and turns the kingdom to ice when her mortal hands touch a unicorn. Darkness captures Princess Lily, courts her and loses her when Jack and his army of fairies and elves turn a unicorn’s severed horn against evil. Though it was poorly received at the time of its original theatrical release, Legend went on to become the most requested title in the Universal film library. Today, the film feels especially simplistic; Darkness may be wary of female fertility when the goblin Blix (Alex Playten) lets a unicorn mare live yet there’s never been any real allegorical subtext to the film’s Grimm tableaux. Still, the look of Legend is so luxuriously overwrought it merits surface comparisons to Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. In the film’s most visually arresting sequence, Jack dives into a lake in pursuit of Princess Lily’s ring, just as the forces of Darkness destroy the male unicorn. By the time Jack rises toward the now-frozen lake’s surface, his kingdom has turned into a winter wonderland. What with the film’s cotton-candy mise en the scene, rhyming goblins (“Mortal world turned to ice/Here be goblin paradise”), sexless pixies and elementary light/dark metaphors that reference the order of its universe, Legend is a gothic fairy tale brought to life.
Universal's two-disc Legend DVD gives you the chance to compare the film's 90-minute U.S. theatrical release with Ridley Scott's 114-minute cut. Though shadow delineation is unfortunately steep during the film's dark interior sequences, Legend has never looked as good as it does on the superior Director's Cut. This is cotton candy for the eyes: the colors are luxuriant, the bleeding is slight and the edge enhancement is virtually non-existent. The Director's Cut comes equipped with a powerful Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and an optional DTS 5.1 track. Though the sound on the theatrical cut is noticeably flat, the ambience and dynamic range on the Director's Cut is unbelievable.
Legend's packaging and layout alone is a work of art. The first disc contains the Director's Cut and an informative, engaging commentary by Ridley Scott. Like the film itself, the commentary track comes with its own chapter stop descriptions. Scott discusses the film's ties to Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, the building of the film's CGI-less sets, Alan Parker calling him a "softy" (because the film was such a departure from his three previous films: The Duellists, Alien and Blade Runner) and his need for Darkness melodrama. "Creating the Myth" is an in-depth look at the making of the film, replete with stock footage of the making of the film's lifelike forest set, early camera tests and rare photographs of the Andalusian horses-turned-unicorns and Tim Curry in the make-up chair. This featurette serves both as a condensed version of Scott's commentary track and a trivia treasure trove (yes, Blix was modeled after Keith Richards). Cinematographer Alex Thomson was hooked when he first read how the hooves of the film's unicorns would leave rings of posies behind whenever they lifted from the ground. Though this conceit was never actually filmed, it's the kind of magic that immediately lured Thomson to the project. The second disc allows you to listen to the isolated score by Tangerine Dream. (Jerry Goldsmith's ominous score accompanies the Director's Cut.) A video dupe of the film found in March 2001 is responsible for a ten-minute alternate opening sequence included in a Lost Scenes section. Using rare photos, storyboards and original music, the producers of this DVD edition of Legend have also recreated the destroyed "Faerie Dance" sequence. Also included here is a section for storyboards, the film's U.S. and European theatrical trailers, Brian Ferry's "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" music video, production notes, three photo galleries (one devoted to continuity Polaroids), four TV spots, and cast and filmmaker bios. The disc's DVD-ROM feature gives you the chance to compare the original Hjortsberg draft of the film to the final shooting script.
Seventeen years after its original theatrical release, the folks at Universal have given Ridley Scott’s cult classic a legendary DVD treatment.