Friday Song: Bryan Ferry

Here’s a favorite from a not-at-all-guilty pleasure, Sir Ridley Scott’s magnificent, misunderstood 1986 fairy tale epic, LEGEND, written by William Hjortsberg (ANGEL HEART), with fantastic makeup effects by Rob Bottin and beautiful production design by Assheton Gorton. And Tim Curry as the greatest devil in film history. A critical and commercial failure on release due to the pragmatic Reagan era of Michael Keating and Donald Trump being a harsh buzz killer on a world of fairies and unicorns. Still, I showed the director’s cut of LEGEND to some friends a few years back and they were giggling in disbelief: “Unicorns?” Yet they loved THE MATRIX and could accept Keanu Reeves as a kung fu killing machine in the future. Ultimately, Tom Cruise with long hair didn’t work for audiences in the 80’s, especially after TOP GUN. He won’t even talk about the film today.

But as the third of Ridley Scott’s amazing genre trilogy, ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, I adore LEGEND, even though the American release has clearly been over-edited, losing its pastoral narrative rhythm in favor of a more MTV version. Replacing Jerry Goldsmith’s unique, evocative soundtrack with Tangerine Dream gives the film a different texture, if not wholly appropriate, yet I appreciate their score in its own way; obviously, I’m a big TD fan. Sir Ridley asked Roxy Music maestro Bryan Ferry to record a song for the end credits and to use as a promotional video. Ferry took an unused demo called “Circles” from the “Avalon” sessions and adapted it into this haunting, memorable song — with the added bonus of David Gilmour on guitar. Although “Is Your Love Strong Enough” didn’t save LEGEND and only made it to number 22 on English charts, I’m a sucker for Bryan Ferry’s ultra-smooth and sincere voice. That this song has its roots in their masterpiece, “Avalon,” makes it even more appealing. And then there’s lovely Mia Sara running among fairies, devils and unicorns…

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25 Responses to “Friday Song: Bryan Ferry”

  1. Cruise’s hair is FANTASTIC in Legend. It’s the hair I always wanted when I was young, but my hair was too thick to pull off. Now I’m way too thin on top to pull it off. After Kurt-as-Snake, Cruise-LEGEND is the second greatest head of long hair in modern film.

    And TD > Goldsmith for this movie by a MILE. Love the TD song, even if THE KEEP is a better score.

  2. tim curry is legend in legend, totally dig that flick (in my case on good ol’ VHS). i wish scott would get back to making weird genre shit

    (curry certainly leads the elite pack of de niro, price, viggo, peter cook, damian, the baby and allan cumming as one of the all-time classic lucifers in my devil book)

  3. I love this film too and remember seeing it in a nearly empty theater when it was first released. I remember at the time Ridley Scott saying that he wanted to be the John Ford of sci-fi/fantasy films. He was well on his way until the commercial failure of this film scared him off the genre(s). Damn.

    And yeah, big ups for Tim Curry who was amazing as the Devil! Bottin’s make-up job was AMAZING… holds up even today. I do enjoy the director’s cut more as I think it fleshes out the film, allows the story to breath more.

    This might be one of my fave Ridley Scott films. Gorgeous cinematography. And it still blows my mind to this day that the entire forest setting was all shot on a soundstage!! Take that Peter Jackson!

    • christian Says:

      He told that to Harlan Ellison and I wish it had become so. I definitely think after two big budget genre commercial non-hits that it turned Sir Ridley away from the genre. He’s never since directed a sci-fi or fantasy film. Bottin’s make-up is still staggeringly epic

      • I couldn’t agree more. And yer right, that was Ellison he talked to. Heh, I had forgotten ’bout that.

        And you are also right about Bottin’s make-up. It is absolutely criminal that the man doesn’t work more but I guess with the proliferation of CGI he probably doesn’t get many calls anymore but I would think that some indie filmmakers might still give him a ring. C’mon! Or maybe it’s by choice that Bottin doesn’t work much anymore.

        • christian Says:

          I think Bottin is fairly particular about his work. When we were talking he was definitely working on projects and talked about turning down lots of things.

  4. This one is one forgotten gem. Like J.D., I first saw this in a near empty theater. Wonderfully shot and envisioned by Sir Ridley. Curry looked like he was having a ball with his character and make-up. Is it only me, but I thought Mira Sara pretty in her elfin-like look (before her dark transformation), then she was drop-dead beautiful and stunning! When I look back at this, she in that guise is what I think about, my friends ;-). Thanks for this.

    • christian Says:

      Curry knows you don’t get a chance like this to play the operatic devil and he goes all the way beyond Hell. Mia Sara is stunning in this, particularly her uber-cool black gown. If LEGEND came out today, bank.

  5. christian Says:

    Allow me to name drop only in service of LEGEND and her fans here: I once spent a Malibu evening in the company of William Hjortsberg and Rob Bottin. Hjortsberg loved me because I loved LEGEND and he told me great tales of Ridley. I told Bottin that he created the greatest devil ever and he told me how the English make-up crew tried to sabotage his kit during the shoot, and that Curry at first refused to let him take off the intricate devil make-up, prefering his own regular man. When Bottin warned him that if he didn’t do it, the removal could tear his skin off. Curry ignored him, let his make-up man remove it — and tore his flesh. He said Curry and crew were in his court after that.

  6. Heh! That’s a great story. Don’t mess with Bottin! Along with Tom Savini and Rick Baker, definitely THE premiere make-up guys in the 1980s.

    I actually enjoy Tangerine Dream’s score even though the fans/purists gripe about because Jerry Goldsmith’s score was dumped in favor of it but I think both have the strengths and work in their own ways.

    Like you Christian, I am partial to TZ… even saw them live in the ’80s and their primary sponsor was Atari of all companies! heh. Rather fitting.

    • christian Says:

      Bottin is a real master and I miss him in today’s over-cg marketplace.

      I too saw TD in concert in the late 80’s. One of the best live shows ever and they threw in a few LEGEND cues! The shrooms helped.

  7. It’s hard to believe that Legend bombed. It should have been a huge success. It’s good that these days people seem to realise it’s a forgotten classic, though.

  8. big fan of TD and goldsmith… TD soundtracks are amazing (yes, even that other tom cruise flick, risky business), and especially miracle mile, which, as you know, is one of my fav 80s movies of all times.

    as for legend, a movie i hold cose to my heart, i wonder what kind of masterpiece if could have been with all those cuts back in….

    • Yeah, TD’s soundtrack for MIRACLE MILE is great! I really love the cue that is used over the opening credits as we see the main characters walking through the museum. I also love TD’s score for THIEF as well.

      • christian Says:

        THIEF and SORCERER are two of their best American soundtracks. I also love Edgar Froese’s score for KAMIKAZE 88 starring Fassbinder. Weird film.

  9. Those are two great soundtracks, J.D.

  10. Inspired by J.D.’s soundtracks, might as well include one of my favorites by Tangerine Dream:

  11. re: t-dream,

    just thought i’d mention, what with this being such a big year for my girl kathryn and all, that the score for ‘near dark’ – one of my all-time vampire faves – is bonza

    (also, the t-dream score for ‘risky business’ is extremely effective, driving that film with a haunting, moody vibe so pervasive it practically IS the film)

    • Good call on the NEAR DARK soundtrack! It is very effective and really establishes the specific mood and atmosphere of the film.

      As far as TD goes, hell, I even like the music they did for that short-lived TV show STREET HAWK, which I hear is getting released on DVD. Alas, except for a few examples, the presence of a TD soundtrack usually spelled commercial doom for a film. Or a instant cult film status. Take yer pick.

    • christian Says:

      Have to revisit NEAR DARK soon. But yep, the score for RISKY BUSINES is bonza indeed. The studios kept after them through the decade for film work, whether suitable or not. The score for STRANGE BEHAVIOR (filmed in NZ!) is quite awesome too.

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