Friday, November 25, 2011

A Celebration of Ladyhawke

I actually saw this in theatre with my Dad as a kid, and it has remained one of favourite films. When I picked it up on DVD a few years ago I was a little worried that it had been visited by the Suck Fairy but the soundtrack notwithstanding, it holds up surprisingly well. It helps that it was directed by Richard Donner who has been at the helm of some of my favourite movies including Maverick, Scroodged, The Goonies, The Toy, and TV episodes of the Banana Splits!

The plot concerns a theft named Mouse (Matthew Broderick) who escapes from the infamous dungeons of Aquila. As a kid, I had thought that Aquila was a made up place, but I know realize the film is set in medieval Italy. Aquila also means 'eagle' in Latin which continues the animal theme running throughout the film.

Mouse makes the mistake of bragging about his escape in a tavern, which brings him to the attention of some guardsmen and a mysterious knight named Etienne d'Navarre (Rutger Hauer). Navarre then rescues Mouse from the soldiers, but not out the kindness of his heart. It turns out he needs the thief to break back into Aquila for reasons of his own, the prospect of which doesn't exactly thrill Mouse. The knight also carries a surprisingly intelligent hawk, which aids them in their escape.

As night falls they take shelter in a woodcutter's barn, but Navarre disappears. When Mouse tries to escape, he is nearly killed by the axe welding woodcutter, who is in turn attacked by a great black wolf. In the confusion, a beautiful young woman suddenly appears (a stunning Michelle Pfeiffer) who calms the rampaging wolf.

So unfold a tale of revenge, romance, magic and swordplay that has the feel of watching a particularly good novel. The plot is well structured with a good pace, a lot of humour (mostly derived from Mouse's running conversation with God) and a truly epic final battle between Navarre and the captain of the Bishop's guard. Hauer's Navarre made a huge impression on me and to this day he stands as my archetypal image of a knight. It was also the genesis of my undying love of whacking great two-handed Zweihänder swords.

Okay, so the 80's style synth-a-soundtrack is a little hard to take. I've actually seen it referred to as one of the worst film scores ever composed. Still, if you take that for pure cheese value, it isn't so bad. I think that if it had a more orchestral score the film would be a much higher rated geek classic. Soundtrack or not, it is still my favourite 80's sword-n-sorcery epic.
Double Crossbow
This custom built crossbow can fire two quarrels separately or simultaneously (requiring a single to-hit roll for double damage of a normal heavy crossbow). Because of its large size, it requires greater than average strength to draw and weld.

Curse of the Sun and Moon (WARNING: SPOILERS)
A powerful curse cast on two lovers, usually by a jealous or jilted suitor. The curse is so powerful that it cannot be cast by a mere mortal and can only be obtained by entering into a bargain with a powerful denizen of the underworld, though their price for weaving such a spell is terrible beyond measure.

The effect of the curse transforms one of lovers into an animal for the duration of the day, while the other is transformed into a different animal during the night. The only time the two might see each other in the flesh is for a single, heartbreaking moment at dawn and dusk.

While in animal form, the person is utterly loyal to their lover, will follow them faithfully and defend them to the death. However, while processing high intelligence for an animals, they are still wholly animals in temperament, intelligence and instinct. Upon reverting to human form, they have only a fleeting recollection of their time spent as a beast.

The only way to break the spell is to force the person who cursed them to gaze upon both lovers at the same time, while both are in human form. If any of the people involved is killed, then the curse becomes permanent.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite fantasy movies too. It is such an interesting blend of legend and gritty bits.