Ridley Scott directs this lavishly mounted fantasy film that’s high on style but relatively low on action. The sets are jaw-dropping, whether it’s the huge, scintillating fairy forest or the fiery underground dungeons of hell. Makeup artist Rob Bottin showcases some spectacular work that was robbed of an Oscar (David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly took home the trophy that year). Just look at Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Darkness, in his head-to-toe prosthetic makeup, red skin, cloven hooves, and immense black horns. It’s one of the most breathtaking achievements in the history of movie makeup, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg here. Other makeup highlights include Darkness’ long-nosed servant Blix and the lanky swamp-witch Meg Mucklebones, played delightfully by Robert Picardo.
Unfortunately, Scott had to make the budgetary decision to favor sets and makeup over action sequences. The big confrontation between light and darkness (they’re not being metaphorical here) is anti-climactic. Except for Curry’s Darkness, the characters fail to leave an impression. The actors, including Tom Cruise and Mia Sara, end up swallowed by the sets, wardrobe and prosthetics. These problems would sink most movies, but when I say Legendis ‘high on style’, I mean there’s nothing higher. Few films achieve this kind of visual magnificence. Whatever problems the movie has do little to tarnish it’s grand design and execution.
There are two versions of the movie out there: a U.S. theatrical version with new-age music by Tangerine Dream, and an extended European cut with an orchestral score by Jerry Goldsmith. The European cut doesn’t really gain much with the extra footage, but Goldsmith’s score provides depth and grandeur that Tangerine Dream can’t even begin to touch. The U.S. version is still worth a look though, if only for the kitschy Jon Anderson and Bryan Ferry songs that play over the finale.
Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)