Tuesday, 21 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 5 - The Last Unicorn

#96 - The Last Unicorn

Today’s entry marks the first animated film to make the list. The Last Unicorn is one of many dark animated films released in the 80s including Disney’s The Black Cauldron and Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH and despite how the poster and the title might suggest, it isn’t something you should show to little kids unless you want to scare them. Highlights include a harpy with three bare-breasts, several death threats, a nude young woman (with plenty of Lady Godiva type hair) and two graphic death scenes.

The main character is a unicorn who overhears a rumour that she is the last of her kind left in the world. She goes on a quest to find out the truth and discovers that all the other unicorns have been rounded up and kidnapped by a monstrous creature called the Red Bull. When the bull comes for her, a magician saves her life by transforming her into a human girl. However being an immortal creature trapped in a mortal body the unicorn starts to forget who she is and slowly loses faith in who she is.

The film is pretty impressively animated and one of the better animated films you’ll find out there. Not that I’m naming names but you won’t find any cute singing animals in this one as well as a lot of mature themes that would probably be a bit too severe for a younger audience. As I said before, the animation is beautiful to look at. Produced by Rankin Bass, the film takes on a more serious and artistic style as opposed to the overly cute art found in a lot of Disney movies (*cough* Cinderella). Some of the more impressively animated sequences are the scene where the Red Bull finds the unicorn at last and chases her through the forest, as well as the final battle with the bull. The human characters are also drawn in a way that prevents them from looking too cartoonish.

Another great part about the film are the voice talents; it has an impressive cast with Mia Farrow as the unicorn. I was never really a fan of her but her voice is so exotic and unique in this film, perfect for a fantasy creature. We also have Jeff Bridges (all hail Iron Man!) as the Prince Lir, the unicorn’s eventual love interest when she becomes a woman. Then we have veteran British actors Christopher Lee as the crabbid old King Haggard – a magnificent anti-villan – and Angela Lansbury, playing a villain of all things. That’s right, sweet pompous Jessica Fletcher/Mrs Potts/Miss Price plays Mommy Fortuna, an old toothless witch who runs a carnival of exotic mythical creatures (yes she does kidnap the unicorn). Another dark horse in the cast is Tammie Grimes who plays Molly Grue. Her voice is very distinctive and Molly was one of my favourite characters in the movie, if she mostly just busts the other characters’ chops.
Sadly the film has a good few flaws despite being so great. I absolutely despise the butterfly that appears at the start. He talks in riddles and hints that the unicorn is the last of her kind, but he does it in the most annoying way. The filmmakers could have made him a mysterious and interesting character but instead they went with a singing Jive Turkey. I pretty much mute his lines whenever I watch the film (though thankfully the unicorn herself doesn’t like him either). The musical numbers that appear in the film also seem pretty out of place. There are two songs, “That’s All I’ve Got To Say” and “Now That I’m a Woman” sung by Jeff Bridges and Mia Farrow respectively. Neither of them are great singers and the songs just slow the film down. They don’t really fit in with the serious nature and seem like they were last minute additions to make the film appeal more to kids. On the other hand, the songs done by the band America who did the whole soundtrack are much better and are at least comfortable to listen to.

Probably my favourite scene would be the final battle with the Red Bull, which is quite a long sequence and almost as epic as any Disney villain death with the Lady Amalthea turning back into a unicorn and raising the others of her kind out of the sea to ride free. The ending sequence is hauntingly beautiful where the unicorn says she is afraid to go back to her forest as she is now the only unicorn to have known love and regret. But she thanks the magician anyway.
I have a least favourite scene and it’s a freaky moment that comes out of nowhere when the magician accidentally brings a tree to life and it falls in love with him. Not really sure what the point of that was, except maybe to appeal to those with a tree fetish.

So that’s it for another day. Tomorrow I’ll be veering to our friends in the far East (that’s Japan for those who failed geography) and taking a look at the only anime film to make my list.


  1. The tree scene really is very strange.. as it has bosoms and is squooshing the Magician with them! And as a kid i never noticed the Harpee had them as well! I would love to see this in a live action film as I know the Author wanted to do so and I feel if he is involved, the movie would be great! I know they wanted to have Mia Farrow as Molly and Christopher Lee and Angela Lansbury as their original parts. But Funding was an issue and still is.

  2. Thanks for the comment. It's always nice how animated films find new ways to try and spook the kids haha. I think Christopher Lee said he was willing to do live action

  3. In all fairness, the butterfly scene was more or less word-for-word from Beagle's novel...it wasn't some cutesy attempt to make the film "relevant" with pop-culture references.

    The unicorn speculates on how butterflies never seem to know anything but whatever snatches of song and poetry they pick up along the way. As for the anachronisms, there are quite a few of those in the rest of the movie, to make it feel as though it takes place in no particular time period.