6/21/11 Edition Twitter: THEAISLESEATCOM


Restoring LEGEND
A Tribute to Ridley Scott's Resurrected Fantasy
Plus: An Interview with Charles de Lauzirika

Ridley Scott’s long-promised, oft-delayed restored cut of Legend—once just a dream for Jerry Goldsmith fans in the U.S. prior to its 2002 restoration—has been released on Blu-Ray, in all the splendor of high-definition. It’s out there right now, sitting on store shelves like the pot of gold Tom Cruise and his band of forest-dwelling friends find in Scott’s lavish 1985 fantasy.

Most of us know the legendary tales (no pun intended) of Legend’s troubled history. How Scott took his original version with Goldsmith’s classic orchestral score and cut it down worldwide—how he didn’t have enough faith in himself to support his original vision. And, of course, how Scott went along with Universal executives and cut the film down further for the U.S., going so far as to re-score the movie with jarringly inappropriate, new-age rock by Tangerine Dream—all of which essentially bastardized what Legend was intended to be.

All of that was rectified with Universal’s 2002 “Ultimate DVD Edition" of Legend -- now on Blu-Ray -- which features Scott’s restored 113-minute “Director’s Cut," with Goldsmith’s score intact, along with the 89-minute American release version. The result is a phenomenal Blu-Ray package that gives the viewer the movie Legend should have been all along, plus the version most North Americans have been saddled with since its original domestic release.

In no version of the movie, however, does William Hjortsberg’s script become as important as the film’s visuals. The characters remain rather stilted no matter how long the movie runs, and the story stays as simple as its premise: In an undefined time, a world of fairies and fantasy, the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) seeks to banish all light from the world by destroying a pair of unicorns that represent purity and goodness. Into this scenario comes the noble, forest-dwelling Jack (Tom Cruise), who attempts to set things right after the naïve Princess Lili (Mia Sara) unwittingly creates a trap that Darkness’ goblin minions use to capture one of the mythical creatures. The movie isn’t great drama but is a marvelously conceived and executed visual experience, with some of the most incredible sets ever produced. The plot is secondary to the world of deep, lush forests, dark blue lakes, swaying trees and rolling hills that Legend so dreamily conveys.

Of course, that fantastic vision was compromised on its way to theaters. Editing removed Legend’s consistent pace, and Scott’s American version robbed the movie of its original intent. Character relationships and motivations were cut, condensed and often made confusing. In the U.S. version, scenes were clumsily altered to imply, for example, that Jack and Lili have sex, something that doesn’t jibe at all with the movie’s fairy-tale universe. Neither did Tangerine Dream’s synthesized score, which felt completely inappropriate and itself was subject to studio meddling, with tracks shuffled around and Jon Anderson vocals added to the movie’s climactic cue against the group’s wishes.

Before diving into the specific changes in the Director’s Cut (in actuality an answer print discovered by Scott's associate Charles de Lauzirika and staff after an extensive search), one must remember that Legend was cut down in all previous release versions around the world. In Europe, audiences received a 94-minute cut featuring Jerry Goldsmith’s music, while in the U.S., the film ran 89 minutes without it. Certainly the European version was closer to Scott’s Director’s Cut than the American release, but it still felt abbreviated and did no favors to Goldsmith’s original score, which had been diluted and dubbed down through all the editing room changes.

After years of hopeful speculation on the part of the film’s—and the score’s—fans, Scott's preferred, 113-minute Director’s Cut was miraculously found over a decade ago, enabling Legend to be reborn. The "new" (original) version is a sumptuous, lyrical fairy tale come to life, blessed with one of Goldsmith’s finest scores, rich cinematography by Alex Thomson, and evocative set design by Assheton Gorton, constructed on the famed 007 stage at Pinewood shortly before it burned to the ground. Their "handmade" filmmaking feels more organic than many fantasy films made over the past decade -- even Peter Jackson's much-acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, where CGI stands in for the kind of evocative production design seen in Legend.

While the film—even in its restored state—is still flawed (the pacing is too slow in the second half), at least Legend looks and feels like a genuine, fully realized film in Scott's Director's Cut. Both previous cuts of the film featured abrupt edits with barely any character development and conversations that often felt completely arbitrary. The 20 minutes of added footage are, unsurprisingly, extensions of scenes already contained in previous prints. What’s been added are the necessary elements that a movie needs in order to breathe: in this case, background detail and atmosphere.

If you’ve seen either the American or European versions of Legend, you likely noticed gaps in the film where material was cut, and you’ll instantly notice the new footage in the Director’s Cut because it all originates from scenes that felt  incomplete the first time around: the introduction of Princess Lili running through the forest; a clearer outlining of Darkness’ plans to control the world; dialogue between Jack and Lili; and interchanges between the Goblins and Darkness that may not be integral to the plot—but are essential to the film. A longer tracking shot of the faerie Oona waking up Jack in the now-frozen landscape displays Scott’s keen visual eye, while pertinent dialogue is restored between Lili and Darkness as he attempts to seduce her, though the scene still feels incomplete. As a downside to the additions, Legend may now feel a little more sluggish because it takes its time setting the scene, but at least it’s a gorgeous scene that needs to be set.

Musically, Goldsmith’s music gives Legend a lyrical sense of grandeur that was completely missing from the Tangerine Dream score. In the Director’s Cut, viewers can gain a better understanding of how the soundtrack album cues fit in the context of the film, and there are far fewer jarring edits and alterations than in the European version that did contain Goldsmith’s music. There are also some previously unheard passages (particularly at the end of the film) that fans of the score will find fascinating to listen to for the first time.

Although this is the closest we’ll ever get to hearing Goldsmith’s original work, the 113-minute cut still isn’t an ideal representation of the composer’s intent. Goldsmith never composed music for one sequence where Jack fights one of Darkness’ henchmen, since the temp score is still intact—meaning you’ll hear a familiar library cue by Tim Souster (best known by some as the composer of the main title from Amazon Women on the Moon) and the theme from Goldsmith’s own Psycho II shortly thereafter. (For an explanation why, read my 2002 interview with the disc’s producer, Charles de Lauzirika, below). There are still sequences in which Scott and editor Terry Rawlings took Goldsmith’s score out of context (the “Main Title” plays several different times during the film, even where Goldsmith had composed original music), but fortunately there are fewer instances of this during the Director’s Cut.

While an appreciable improvement on the European audio mix, the score still doesn’t make a major impression in the Blu-Ray's DTS Master Audio mix, which originates from a remixed 5.1 track produced by Chase Productions for the 2002 DVD. If Goldsmith’s score sounded pinched in the European release, it certainly has more of a presence here, but still lacks the punch that the music has on the album recording. (As de Lauzirika pointed out, the original music stems were gone, so the 5.1 remix had to be created from the existing 1985 stereo mix, limiting the fidelity). Sonically, the 5.1 soundtrack is otherwise solid, with very effective use made of the surround channels throughout.

Watching the Director’s Cut will only increase the disdain many already have for the U.S. version, which is (like the DC) included in a 1080p VC-1 encoded HD transfer along with some exciting special features. With alternate footage (including shots of the Unicorn being revived not in any other version), a different ending and restructured sequences, this Legend often feels like the work of another director, with the entire mood of the film disrupted by Tangerine Dream’s contemporary score, augmented by a hideous Jon Anderson song laid over the final scene. If anything, watching the American version following the Director’s Cut serves as a stinging indictment of how clueless studios can often be in assessing what the audience wants, and also that Scott handcuffed himself by personal indecision regarding his own work.

That said, Scott does say the decisions that lead to the Tangerine Dream score and the U.S. edit were mistakes, so unsurprisingly the disc's supplements thereafter focus primarily on the physical aspect of the film’s production—not studio politics and editing room tampering. Universal's Blu-Ray leaves off a couple of photo galleries and the DVD-ROM extras, but otherwise retains the prior release's supplements.

J.M. Kenny’s fine hour-long documentary on the making of Legend includes interviews with Ridley Scott, William Hjortsberg, Mia Sara, Terry Rawlings and co-star Alice Playten—plus nifty behind-the-scenes footage—though it comes off as a little flat after years of anticipation waiting for the disc’s release. Hjortsberg discusses his script and how Scott veered off the path during production, but despite an amusing anecdote from the director about stoners ruining one of Legend’s test screenings, there aren’t that many tasty nuggets about Legend’s turbulent post-production. Perhaps because Jerry Goldsmith was still (understandably) touchy about what happened with his score, the composer does not appear, and there’s little discussion of his music—there are also strikingly few comments ever made about Tom Cruise’s involvement in the film. Editor Terry Rawlings and producer Arnon Milchan basically state, as Scott does, that the movie lost a great deal through re-cutting and re-scoring, but they’re pretty diplomatic and refrain from finger-pointing, which may have been necessary for the release of this release in the first place but does take some fire out of the information being presented.

Two deleted scenes are included in rough, unfinished form: the movie’s original, excised Goblin opening (which Goldsmith scored, albeit not completely with the music running under the scene here), along with audio from the deleted Faerie Dance sequence, set to storyboards and still photos. The unused opening, showing the Goblins tracking light coming from the unicorns in the forest, seems to have been wisely dropped (and was reworked for Darkness' opening sequence with Blix the Goblin), but it’s a fascinating scene to watch, even in its very rough, incomplete stage here. The fairy dance sequence is a more regrettable loss, since it livens up the film’s staid tone (trying to solve a fairy riddle, Jack either dances or dies trying), but at least the viewer can gain an appreciation of what was lost. (Regrettably, the Blu-Ray leaves off the DVD's text introductions to those scenes, which gave pertinent background information on both).

In addition to Scott’s audio commentary on the Director’s Cut (quite interesting, as his commentaries typically are), both the U.S. and international trailers are included, neither of which give an accurate indication of what the movie was all about (then again, Scott himself didn't seem to be entirely sure at the time, either). Some ineffective American TV spots, featuring Bryan Ferry’s obnoxious “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” single, are also included, along with a must-be-seen-to-be-believed music video of Ferry’s ballad, heard over the U.S. version’s end credits. Portions of Tangerine Dream’s score are also isolated during the U.S. version (in 5.1 Dolby Digital).

Visually, both movies look just spectacular in high-definition, with almost no DNR on-hand. Scott wrote new text introductions to the two transfers, mentioning that the Director's Cut was limited by its answer-print source, and that the U.S. theatrical release was transferred in 2006 from the film's inter-negative, and as such has more detail. Despite that disclaimer, the theatrical version shows a bit of edge-enhancement in its presentation, and with the Director's Cut being newly transferred and seemingly untouched, the latter displays, if anything, more of a natural film image. (That said, since the best looking DVD release of the film was the international release of the 94-min., Goldsmith-scored European cut, fans may want to import Fox's upcoming overseas Blu-Ray release for comparison's sake).

Intriguingly, the U.S. theatrical version present on the Blu-Ray is different than the prior DVD and HDTV masters Universal struck from the 89-minute version: it runs 14 seconds longer and fans online have reported a number of small but audible differences in Tangerine Dream's score.

Viewers campaigned for years to see the fully restored cut of Legend not because they wanted to unearth a masterpiece—which the film is not, even in the Director’s Cut— but because the world Ridley Scott and his crew devised here is a cinematic experience like no other, necessitating the restoration of Goldsmith’s score and additional footage in order to fully come alive. The Blu-Ray goes even further to restoring the film's stature as a unique and beautifully designed fantasy -- finally, some 25 years after the film debuted in North America, Legend has a happy ending after all. ■

(This was a re-edited version of my original Laserphile column which ran in Film Score Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 4)

Restoring LEGEND - An interview with DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika

Charles de Lauzirika is Ridley Scott’s main man when it comes to DVD and Blu-Ray, having produced the Special Edition DVDs of Alien, Gladiator, Hannibal, Thelma and Louise, Blade Runner and Legend. I interviewed him prior to the DVD's release in May of 2002.

AD: Fans have been anticipating this DVD for a long, long time (some of us hoped it would happen on laserdisc back in those days).When did Universal really become interested in a Legend release—and when did you first become involved in the project?

CL: Universal had been contacting Ridley’s office for years, going back to those laserdisc days you mentioned. Apparently, Legend was one of their most requested titles. It was going to be one of their Signature Edition laserdiscs, but Ridley didn’t have much interest in revisiting his older films, especially one that had been as troubled as Legend was. It wasn’t really until the advent of DVD that Ridley started warming up to the idea. I had been working on the Alien DVD when Universal tried to interest Ridley again, and this time, since he had become interested in the possibilities that DVD offered, he said yes, and since I was finishing up work on Alien, he put me on the Legend project. This was three years ago [1999].

AD: What was the hold-up for the DVD's [almost two year, 2000-2002] delay?

CL: When all is said and done, it was really about making the best Legend DVD possible. This entire project was about righting a wrong, or maybe several of them, as best as we possibly could. Since this isn’t the type of film that will get revisited over and over like a popular blockbuster, it was very important to get it right the first time.

The disc was first delayed in the fall of 2000, because we took a long, hard look at the disc as it was then and realized that it was lacking. Ridley convinced Universal to hit the emergency brake on everything so that we could improve the transfers and locate some of the extras that had originally turned up missing. As anyone involved could tell you, it was not a happy situation, but since so many compromises had been inflicted upon Legend in the past, it was time to stop compromising and follow through on the dream disc that the fans had been waiting so long for. I’m sure some people would say, “Why go to all this trouble for a forgotten little cult film that bombed?” Well, in all honesty, this DVD wasn’t made for those people. It was made for the fans who kept this film alive [over the years]. And I think it shows a lot of vision and courage on Universal’s part to follow through with this disc, and a lot of generosity on their part for indulging us with this “dream disc.”

AD: We’ve heard various reported running times of other versions of Legend rumored over the years. The DVD runs 113 minutes—was there a longer version ever shown?

CL: There were two longer versions, neither of which were intended to be seen by audiences. There was a 140-minute rough cut, which was then cut down to a 125-minute version. Ridley thought the film was still running too long, so he had that version cut down to the 113-minute Director’s Cut that appears on the DVD. The 113-minute version is the longest version ever show to an audience, and it’s the version that Ridley prefers out of them all.

AD: Where did you find the 113-minute version,and what condition was it in?

CL: After searching Universal’s inventory and calling up several sources to no avail, it wasn’t looking good in terms of finding any longer versions, so for a while there, we almost had to resort to including the European version on the DVD. While all of this was going on and I was looking around L.A., I had been in contact with Garth Thomas, who worked on Legend as assistant director, and he wasn’t having much luck finding anything in London either. One day, Garth found an unmarked print of something in storage at Ridley’s London office and decided to take a look at it. Turned out to be a beautiful, pristine answer print of the 113-minute Director’s Cut of Legend.

But just as we were about to have the print shipped here to L.A., Jeff Cava, who was working for Universal at the time, called to let me know he had found a print of the same version here in L.A., and this one was in even better shape. In terms of remastering, there was a lot of clean-up done, and some minor digital tweaking here and there. There were some unfinished temp effects in the Director’s Cut that needed to be replaced with their finished counterparts in the U.S. version, and, of course, we needed to create a 5.1 mix for the Director’s Cut, which was produced over at Chace Productions.

AD: Even in this version, we have the Tim Souster library music and a passage from Goldsmith’s own Psycho II. Did Jerry ever score music for those scenes?

CL: It’s my understanding that Ridley and Jerry Goldsmith had agreed that the scenes in question, primarily the kitchen fight sequence, would play without music, so those scenes were never scored. As Ridley was cutting the film down and refining it, changing the pace, and so on, it became clear that the scenes needed music after all, so enter the dreaded temp track. Another unfortunate casualty in Legend’s troubled post-production hell.

AD: I noticed on the European version of Legend that Goldsmith’s music was dialed down so much that it was hard to hear in places. Were you satisfied with how his music is represented in the new Director’s Cut 5.1 track?

CL: Unfortunately, Legend wasn’t extensively archived back in 1985, long before DVD and 5.1 remixes were a priority for the studios. That’s just the way it was for a lot of films. In this case, the original audio stems for the Director’s Cut were gone, so Chace Productions worked their magic to extrapolate a 5.1 mix from the existing stereo mix. As such, there wasn’t much control over the music levels. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but considering the built-in limitations and the film’s age, I think the 5.1 track sounds very good.

AD: Was Jerry Goldsmith asked to consult about the music for the Director’s Cut, or interviewed for the documentary?

CL: Jerry Goldsmith’s representatives were approached about getting him to participate in the project, but it just wasn’t to be. I can only imagine Mr. Goldsmith still has some pretty strong feelings about what happened with Legend, and rightfully so considering what an absolutely beautiful score he created.

AD: FSM readers will want to know why Goldsmith’s score isn’t on an isolated track…

CL: Isolated tracks on DVDs have become a difficult topic for a lot of the studios, and due to legal issues with some composers in the past, most of the studios just want to drop isolated scores entirely, which is a shame. From the beginning, isolated tracks for both Jerry Goldsmith and Tangerine Dream were very important to us. After all, the different scores are at the very heart of Legend’s mystique. I’m not privy to the specifics, but I know in the end, Universal was unable to get the clearances for an isolated Goldsmith track.

AD: The final 20 minutes of the Tangerine Dream’s isolated score track is silent.How much of their score was re-edited in the American version, roughly speaking?

CL: It’s difficult to say because, again, the original music stems were gone. That’s part of the reason why this project took so long. Things were cobbled together and massaged until they were presentable. The technical services staff at Universal really did the best they could with what little they had. But since much of the music in the film’s final minutes are actually songs by Jon Anderson and Brian Ferry, they were inappropriate for an isolated score track, not to mention the headaches involved in clearing songs.

AD: We first heard it was Universal’s decision to dump Goldsmith’s score from the U.S. version, but Scott has since said it was his own decision to a certain extent. The 94-minute European cut with Goldsmith’s music seems to be evidence of this (as it was also cut down from the 113-minute version). How does Scott feel about the U.S. version now—does he look at it as a different movie that he still feels proud of,or is it a compromise?

CL: The U.S. version of Legend is included on the DVD as sort of the “ultimate deleted scene.” It’s there as a supplement, to show people what happened, much in the same way the “Love Conquers All” version of Brazil is included along with Terry Gilliam’s final cut in the Criterion release. But most importantly, it’s there for the fans who demanded it. I don’t think Ridley is ashamed of the U.S. version, but he does acknowledge it was the wrong thing to do. I know Ridley is very happy with the Director’s Cut of Legend, especially because of Jerry Goldsmith’s exquisite score, and that this DVD sort of closes the book on the whole thing for him.

AD: Were there additional supplements that you wanted on the DVD that didn’t end up there? Any other footage you wanted to find but could not? What are your thoughts on how it turned out?

CL: It was a big disappointment that we weren’t able to find actual film footage of “The Faerie Dance” or the alternate [Goblin] opening. Perhaps with a bigger budget and more resources, we could have gone to London and really scoured every corner. But even then, it would be doubtful. I asked editor Terry Rawlings about all of this stuff, and he told me
he was pretty sure that most of it was long gone. But considering all of that, I think we got a lot of great extras onto the disc, not the least of which is J.M. Kenny’s wonderful documentary on the making of the film.

And as strong as the supplements turned out, I’m most pleased that Ridley’s cut of the film has now been made available for people to see. It’s really the whole reason we fought so hard to make the DVD what it is, and I’m glad people seem to be appreciating the final result and the effort that went into all of this.

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