14 January 2007

Speaking of Richard Donner...

I started cataloging my DVD collection this weekend, and came across a Richard Donner movie that most folks may have missed. Ladyhawke
was made in 1985, and I have to admit, it shows a bit. Now, you're probably thinking that any movie that stars Rutger Hauer and Matthew Broderick is questionable at best, and you'd be right. On the other hand, Michelle Pfeiffer is one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century, and one of the most beautiful women. As soon as she comes on screen, you forget all about the cheesy 80's synth score and Broderick's fake accent, and the film becomes all about the title character, a beautiful lady cursed by a jealous and powerful suitor to live half her life, the daylight half, as a hawk, while her lover is transformed by night into a wolf, so that they are eternally separated.

As I said, the movie certainly has its flaws. The DVD is also not terrific. The print is a bit rough, and it's mastered as 4:3 letter-boxed rather than the superior 16:9 enhanced version, which doesn't help. There are no extras to speak of, just production notes. This DVD was an early release, before studios knew what to do with the format. I would love to see a remastered special edition, but I'm not holding my breath.

What Ladyhawke has going for it is an involving, compelling love story that drives into your heart and pulls you in despite yourself. You sympathize with Hauer's Navarre, and instantly fall in love with Pfeiffer's Isabeau. If you're not careful, you might even find yourself liking Broderick's rascal Phillipe "the mouse". The lovers are torn apart by a curse, and you feel their ache to be reunited, as well as Navarre's urge for vengeance. You even feel Phillipe's conflicting fear of involvement in magical matters and desire to assist the hero in his quest.

Whether a movie's budget is a hundred million or just a hundred dollars, ultimately it is the story and its characters that define its success. By that measure, I find Ladyhawke to be a worthy endeavor, and well worth viewing.

Just don't buy the soundtrack album. Yikes. :)

P.S. For the truly movie obsessed, this film plays a role in another Richard Donner film, Conspiracy Theory, when a chase scene takes the characters through a movie theater where the climactic scene of Ladyhawke is playing on the screen.

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