LEGEND is a dark fantasy adventure film, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Tom Cruise as Jack, Mia Sara as Princess Lily, and Tim Curry as Darkness, a traditional devil complete with horns and hooves.
It’s a traditional fairy tale, with some of the lushest sets ever devised, and a brilliant costumed performance by Tim Curry. Even better is Mia Sara, who makes the Devil himself fall in love with her, and reverses the roles of tempter and tempted. Tom Cruise is his usual likeable, everyman self.
The most fascinating thing about this movie is the reason it failed at the box office. Originally, the lush visuals were matched by an equally lush score by Jerry Goldsmith. Following its UK debut, the director delayed the North American release by four months, in order to cut almost 30 minutes of material and replace the orchestral score with a hastily recorded pop score by Tangerine Dream and others. This decision was not the result of studio meddling; it was made by the director himself.
Instead of trusting his artistic instincts, he tried to make the film more commercial to appeal to the alleged baseness of American tastes. In the process, he destroyed his own movie. It received poor reviews and was a flop at the box office.
I saw this butchered version as a teenager. I thought it was OK, but cheesy. I forgot the movie until 2002, when Universal released a nearly two-hour director’s cut, with the original Goldsmith score, on DVD. It was literally a different movie. It went from a disposable pop film, to a great fantasy film.
And no wonder: Jerry Goldsmith is one of the great film composers. His thrilling and mysterious score for the first Star Trek movie elevates it from a 2001 knock-off into something that evokes a genuine sense of wonder. In fact, it’s my favorite of all the Star Trek films.
I had a similar experience with Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS. I first saw it in a public-domain version on television, at the wrong speed, with a soundtrack composed of random music with no relation to the visuals. Years later, I saw it in a splendid restored version, with a new recording of the original score. What a difference!
Music and sound design is important. It’s an integral part of the cinematic art form. If you haven’t seen the director’s cut of LEGEND, you’re missing a film that was very nearly a classic.