After changing the face of science fiction cinema forever with Alien and Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott turned his visionary eye to the fantasy genre, teaming with writer William Hjortsberg (Angel Heart) to create a breathtaking cinematic fairytale with one of the screen’s most astonishingly rendered depictions of Evil.
In an idyllic, sun-dappled forest, the pure-hearted Jack (Tom Cruise) takes his true love Princess Lili (Mia Sara) to see a pair of unicorns frolicking at the forest’s edge. Little do they know that the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry, in a remarkable make-up designed by The Thing’s Rob Bottin) has dispatched his minions to capture the unicorns and sever their horns so that he may plunge the world into everlasting night. After Lili and the unicorns are taken prisoner, Jack must team with a group of forest creatures and descend into Darkness’ subterranean lair to face off against the devilish creature before it is too late.
Despite a troubled production in which the elaborate full-size forest set was accidentally incinerated and a lengthy post-production that resulted in multiple versions of the film (with competing music scores by Jerry Goldsmith and Tangerine Dream), Legend has since been restored to Scott's original cut and embraced by generations of film fans eager to see a master director’s unique vision of a world beyond our imagination.
Arrow Video presents Ridley Scott’s Legend on Blu-ray in a brand-new 2-disc limited edition set. The first dual-layer disc presents the US theatrical cut with the second presenting the director’s cut. Both versions are presented in 1080p/24hz high-definition in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. For the director’s cut, Arrow is re-using Universal’s high-def master created in 2011 for their own Blu-ray edition. The theatrical cut, on the other hand, has received an all-new 2K restoration from Arrow, coming from 4K scans taken from a couple of elements: the 35mm original camera negative that was conformed to the international cut (not included due to licensing restrictions), and a 35mm interpositive that I assume made up footage exclusive to the US version, the notes not specifying.
When Arrow announced the title would be standard Blu-ray only with no alternate 4K UHD edition, referencing the quality of the materials as their reason for not going that route, I kept my expectations in check for both versions of the film. Having done that I do have to say I was more than pleased with the outcomes of each here. Of the two, the theatrical version does look better than the director’s cut: it ends up providing more detail and looks sharper, grain appearing to be better defined. It’s a dark film for the most part, but I thought dynamic range was strong and you can still make out some finer details in the shadows. I haven’t seen how Universal’s previous Blu-ray presented the film, but this has a very fresh, wonderful film-like texture to it.
Long thought to be lost, the director’s cut ended up being sourced from an answer print discovered in 2000. This same print was the basis for for the Ultimate Edition DVD and then the 2011 Blu-ray. As noted by Ridley Scott in the included booklet, the source does limit things, but all things considered I still thought this presentation looked pretty strong itself. Detail isn’t as sharp in comparison to the theatrical cut, but it’s not like this is a mushy mess at all. Comparing a handful of similar sequences (some scenes with Darkness, the winter scene with the faeries, the dungeon, and that dance sequence with the dress), fine-object details still show through, and the textures are nice. Shadow detail limited a bit in comparison, the blacks getting a bit heavier, but it’s still not hard to make out things in the darker sequences. Film grain is also rendered well, though I still think it comes off a bit cleaner in the theatrical version. I was expecting the director's cut's presentation to show the hallmarks of an older master but when all is said and done it too offers a solid film-look.
Between both the black levels are strong, though there are better gradients in the theatrical version. Colours also pop nicely, the green in the eyes of Darkness in the opening of the US theatrical cut (oddly, the only version of the film to feature a clear shot of him so early) and his red skin later on being particular standouts. The forest in the brighter sequences also offer some wonderful greens and violets.
Unsurprisingly, restoration wise, the director’s cut looks great, damage and such wiped away, which I think has always been the case since the DVD (I no longer own it). I recall the theatrical cut looking a bit worse in comparison, and my understanding is that the Universal Blu-ray showed the same, but it looks pretty amazing here, only some minor blemishes remaining.
It’s a shame Arrow didn’t see a full 4K restoration and a UHD version worth it, even if it was just for the theatrical cut to end up on the format; I think it could have looked spectacular, boosted more by an HDR pass than increased resolution. It’s a bit unfortunate, but as it is, both versions still look striking here.
(All screen grabs come from the theatrical version of the film.)
Both versions of the film come with DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo surround soundtracks along with DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround remixes. For both, I only listened to the 5.1 presentations.
Both sound sharp and crisp, delivering incredible range, balancing out the lower frequencies and rumblings where appropriate. The real differences really come in the scores. I’ve admittedly never been a big fan of the theatrical score, provided by Tangerine Dream, but it sounds nice in this presentation, that dreamy, electronic sound filling the environment in an effective manner. Still, I’ll take the classical sound of Jerry Goldsmith’s score included with the director’s cut, which offers a few louder, booming moments. It’s sharper and has a less electronic/filtered sound.
As expected, Arrow packs on a wealth of material, providing a lot of new content with most of Universal’s previous material. On disc one, with the theatrical cut, Arrow first provides a new audio commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of the book Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies. Referencing his book's chapter on the film Sammon's track ends up being more of a summation of the film's production, covering everything from initial script development to the disappointing test screenings. He does get more into the film's large range of influences, from fairy tales to Brian Froud's artwork, and also touches on how the script was altered from first draft to shooting script, the film going from a more adult tale with a Lily that sounds to have been darker (or "complicated," as Sammon puts it) to something more kid friendly. It's incredibly thorough, covering subjects barely mentioned in the other features found in this release, though sadly can be a bit dry at times.
Following the track is a new making-of entitled Remembering a Legend, running 31-minutes and featuring camera grip David Cadwallader, production designer Hugh Harlow, costume designer Charles Knode, camera operator Peter MacDonald, set decorator Ann Mollo, draftsman John Ralph, and co-star Annabelle Lanyon. It’s a talking-heads segment that is sadly a bit dry, but it’s beneficial for the fact it expands on or touches details not covered in any of the other features. There’s substantially more around the design that went into the film, getting more into the storyboards (a large sample of which can be found elsewhere in the set) and the construction of the set. There was also more around Tim Curry’s make-up, including how the prosthetics almost suffocated his skin at one point. Arrow tries to liven things up with photo inserts and clips, but thankfully the stories and information are interesting enough to keep the piece moving.
Arrow then includes a couple of other new features to expand on the previous Universal features (included in this set and found on the second disc), starting with 2 visual essays around the film’s music. The first, running 15-minutes, features music expert Jeff Bond explaining the background behind Jerry Goldsmith’s score and why it was abandoned for the US theatrical cut. He then tackles how it was edited into the film. I like the background behind it, but I was more impressed with his analytical breakdown of the score and how it was reincorporated back into the director’s cut, though in a slightly mangled manner.
The second part, featuring music expert Daniel Schweiger and Canadian pop duo Electronic Youth (Brownwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick), examines Tangerine Dream’s score. Schweiger gives some background to how the group came to be involved with the project and how it works with the film, feeling it smooths out the shorter version's rough edges. The other two talk about the compositions, the decisions that more than likely went into it (from the perspective of a music group) and the sounds contained within.
Both essays are well done, delving deep into one of the film’s many fascinating elements, clearly explaining why there are two scores for the film and offering up why they work (or don’t) for their respective versions.
Arrow then offers up two more visual essays, this time around the creatures within the film, running 10 and 16-minutes respectively. The first part, narrated by illustrator Martin A. Kline, goes over the evolution of the creature designs, offering up sketches and drawings. Darkness proved to be a large undertaking, and this touches on the steps they went through until they came up with the impressive design featured in the film. The second part features make-up effects artist Nick Dudman talking about the actual make-up effects, including the numerous prosthetics and the prep work that went into getting Tim Curry made up (and taken out of) his outfit every day he worked. The old Universal feature touches on this aspect, but to a very small degree, so I appreciated the expanded technical details here.
Next up, Travis Crawford offers up a 21-minute visual essay around the many versions of the film, entitled Incarnations of Legend. He goes over the reasoning behind the three different versions of the film, part of which was born out of different distributors (Universal in North America, Fox internationally) and the perceived expectations of the different audiences, with the studios also focusing on aiming the film at children. He brings up the director’s cut and work versions as well, and then examines some of the key differences between all of these edits. Sadly, due to Fox owning the international version, Arrow was unable to license it for this release in its entirety, but this visual essay does an admirable job sorting through all of it. (For those in North America dying to see the international version Fox did release a region free, albeit barebones, Blu-ray overseas.)
Arrow next digs up a 2003 television documentary on Ridley Scott, The Directors: Ridley Scott. The 58-minute documentary—which has the production values of an educational museum video from the mid-90’s—manages to pull together an impressive number of actors and cohorts to talk about the man’s work, including-but-not-limited to Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Jerry Bruckheimer and Keith Carradine. It makes its way through his filmography, all the way from The Duelists to Matchstick Men, with mention of his then-upcoming Kingdom of Heaven and the never realized Tripoli. It’s a great overview of the man’s work, even getting Scott himself to participate, but it ends up focusing on his more successful or well regarded films in more detail, like Blade Runner and Gladiator, while briefly summing up the less successful ones, which includes Legend.
Arrow also includes isolated score/effects tracks for the theatrical version, one presenting the Tangerine Dream score, the other featuring what sounds to be the effects alongside Goldsmith’s score, though I’m not entirely sure: the notes mention that this track was probably put together for international markets where they'd create alternate dubs, and some of the cues don’t sound to be by Goldsmith or Tangerine Dream. People far more familiar with the film than myself will know better.
The disc then closes with the alternate television opening, which is the theatrical version’s opening text crawl with added voice-over. This is then followed by a music video for Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough.”
The second disc, featuring the director’s cut, is where you can find the carry-overs from the previous Universal releases, starting with Ridley Scott’s audio commentary for the director’s cut of the film, recorded originally for the 2002 DVD. Scott's track, like Sammon's, is also very much about the film's production, though the director focuses more on the technical details, from the set designs to the make-up, explaining the reasoning behind most of his decisions. He explains how some of the film's effects were accomplished, a lot of them in-camera, and he jokes about how an effect that was literally accomplished using fishing line and a small light would be done using CGI today, costing substantially more in the process. I was hoping Scott would talk about this edit a bit, or maybe even talk about the process behind editing the film down to the various shorter edits that exist, but he never touches on that, at best maybe mentioning why some things didn't seem to connect with an audience. Otherwise, it's an entertaining track.
Also from the old editions is the 51-minute making-of documentary Making a Myth: Memories of Legend, which is of the quality you more than likely expect from late-90s, early 2000s studio-produced bonus documentaries. It does well enough going over the development of the story (the original draft, intended more for adults, led to one studio executive proclaiming you “can’t have the villain fuck the princess”) and then the casting process that led to then-unknown Tom Cruise being cast in the lead alongside Tim Curry’s villain, the latter cast because Scott was so impressed by his theatrics in Rocky Horror Picture Show. The difficulties that arose throughout filming come up, including the fire that burned down the 007 stage at Pinewood, taking the film’s elaborate sets with it, and the different edits that were created do come up. It does a decent job covering the production, and even gets interviews with cast members Curry and Robert Picardo, but it does quickly move through the material. Thankfully Arrow filled in most of the gaps with their new features.
Following that is an original 10-minute promotional featurette from the time; sourced from a VHS it doesn’t look great, but seems to provide the only behind-the-scenes recordings from the set. The disc also carries over the lost scenes from the previous releases, including the alternate introduction featuring “four goblins” (there were only three in the finished film), which I assume was meant to play with the opening credits since it features the group wandering around, and not much else, for 10-minutes. Darkness does show up eventually, and he lays out the plot around the unicorn. The disc also includes the 3-minute “fairies dance,” though only the audio still exists. To fill in for the visuals the storyboards from the scene are edited in with the few production photos taken of the sequence.
As mentioned earlier, Arrow could not include any international versions of the film, so they’ve instead presented some of the exclusive footage from those versions in a section called “Alternative Scenes.” The footage is essentially alternate takes or added shots (or different credits) but there isn’t much of anything here that alters things significantly; it feels most of it was just smoothing out transitions and pacing. We also get a large collection of galleries, including a gallery presenting the first and shooting drafts of the film’s screenplay, along with hundreds of storyboard frames in another gallery. There’s also an image gallery featuring production photos, costume tests, and previous poster and home video artwork, though this artwork appears to be limited to international markets; very little of Universal’s own work shows up here. There is then a collection of trailers, including two from the US and one from the international market, followed by 4 TV spots from the US. It’s clear Universal was unsure on how the film should be marketed.
I’m unsure if the second disc is limited to this release or not; I would assume future pressings would include both cuts of the film since Universal (and even Fox) have been pretty good about that. What is exclusive to this edition, though, is the more elaborate packaging, which includes a sturdy sleeve that encases the Blu-ray case (which itself houses six collectible postcards alongside the two discs), a plastic sleeve containing photo reprints of the costumes, a double-sided fold-out poster featuring the original poster on one side and Arrow’s new artwork on the other, and then finally a 59-page booklet. Nicholas Clement opens this booklet with an essay around Scott’s journey to getting this film made, giving a fairly detailed account of the film’s production. This is followed by Kat Ellinger’s essay on the appeal of “dangerous fairy tales” and the many elements from these classic tales that found their way into the film; the essay is packed with great details and I’m a bit puzzled why she wasn’t commissioned to do some sort of video feature around the subject. Simon Ward then provides a new essay that focuses on Scott’s attention to detail and his knowledge in how said details will photograph on film. The rest of the material is dug up from the archives, including a collection of production notes around the film, a reprint of an introduction written by William Hjortsberg that accompanied a novelization of the screenplay, followed by a reprint of a 2002 interview with DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika, who talks about the long journey to getting the director’s cut out. The booklet then concludes with details around the restoration and a reprint of Ridley Scott’s notes on the condition of the materials, which I believe were included with Universal’s 2011 Blu-ray.
As always, Arrow has done their due diligence in digging up all of the archival material they can, making sure to carry everything over from previous releases, filling in the gaps they can with new material. Easily the best special edition put together for the film.
It’s still a little disappointing Arrow didn’t go full-4K on this title (elements aside, detail is still strong and the higher dynamic range would have serviced the film nicely) but their new restoration of the theatrical version looks great and the new supplementary material builds off wonderfully from Universal’s pre-existing stuff. This is the edition fans will want to pick up.