The Last Unicorn (1982) Review

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The Last Unicorn (1982)

Directed by Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.

Based on The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Starring: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, René Auberjonois

Running time: 84 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A brave unicorn and a magician fight an evil king who is obsessed with attempting to capture the world’s unicorns.

My Opinion:

As the parent of a young child but also a movie lover, I’m often on the lookout for kids’ films that I may actually enjoy as well. I’ve sat through enough crappy movies for kids that I think it’s okay to sometimes get to watch one that interests me as well. Right?! 😉 Enter the 1982 film The Last Unicorn which, apparently, is something of a cult classic, has a very high IMDB rating (for its age & the fact it’s animated) of 7.5/10, AND it’s from RANKIN/BASS plus the animators who went on to form STUDIO GHIBLI yet I’d somehow never even heard of it before?!? Holy shit – I was all over this thing when I read about it! It sounded like something that couldn’t be more ME!!! So we got the DVD & for about two months I said to the hubby & kid “Let’s watch The Last Unicorn!!!!” until they finally agreed (probably to shut me up).

Wow. The Last Unicorn is a strange one. I kind of sort of loved it. I can see that, if I’d watched it as a kid, it may now be as special to me as the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. No, it’s not as good as Rudolph and it certainly doesn’t beat any of the Miyazaki Studio Ghibli films but there’s something kind of special & “magical” about it in the same way I feel there is about the Ghiblis. Hmm… How should I put this? This movie is so “1982” which, to me, is a great thing while to others it’ll be a bad thing. I’d only recommend this one to certain people who like things such as Studio Ghibli, Ralph Bakshi’s work, Heavy Metal (1981), The NeverEnding Story, and… maybe Labyrinth? I’m struggling to describe this but if you hate all the things I’ve listed, you should probably steer clear of The Last Unicorn. Oh – I’d also recommend it to any bronies! Bronies would love it.

I can’t really get into the plot too much and there are pictures I have to avoid posting that would contain massive spoilers. In the movie, a unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) discovers she’s the last unicorn in the world & goes on a journey to find out what happened to the others. She’s joined along the way by a magician called Schmendrick (voiced by Alan Arkin). Talk about an impressive voice cast, we also have Jeff Bridges as a prince, Angela Lansbury (always a favorite of mine) as a witch, and the amazing Christopher Lee who is of course perfect as the evil king who tries to capture all the unicorns in the world.

This movie has so many things that fantasy lovers will like: magic, wizards, witches, kings & princes, mythical creatures including a harpy and a rather scary, demonic Red Bull, talking butterfiles, etc etc. Oh yeah – and a unicorn! I have to say that, although unicorns have come to be seen as a “girl” thing, this movie is every bit as much for male viewers as for female – it’s not aimed just at one sex. In fact, when I mentioned this on Twitter, the response I got was from adult males saying how great this film is. I can see why it’s a cult classic – it’s very unusual and the animation is stunning. The story takes a very unexpected turn (the spoiler I’m avoiding) which I now love but took getting used to at first. It’s nice to not be able to predict what will happen like you can with most kids’ films!

As I mentioned, I found the animation stunning. I was happy just looking up images of this film to be included in this post. I think I may have to change my work computer’s wallpaper from My Neighbor Totoro to this!

Yeah, I’m a mature adult. Give me a break – I literally had a big poster of a unicorn jumping over a rainbow over my bed for years as a young girl. God I was girly for a while! Anyway, as I mentioned, the studio responsible for animating this film (Topcraft) were later hired by Hayao Miyazaki to do my other favorite Studio Ghibli movie (along with Totoro), Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. The studio’s main members then formed Studio Ghibli. (Thanks for that info, Wikipedia!). Anyone who has been around here for a while will know what a big fan I am of Ghibli & how much I love Nausicaä so you can see why I had to see The Last Unicorn after I read about it.

My six-year-old’s opinion:

I’ve started including my daughter’s opinion on kids’ movies so that I don’t appear as some crazy old person rambling on about “cartoons”. So, I’ll include it again this time but I think it’s pretty obvious by now that this one was more for mommy. 😉 

We watched this a few months ago & the movie held her attention well but she’s not really mentioned it or asked to see it again. I asked last night what she thought of that Last Unicorn movie we watched & the reply was “It was better than I thought it would be!”. lol – What does that mean?! I think she was humoring me when she agreed to watch it, then. How sweet! I do think she’s a little too young for it as some of the themes at the end are too grown-up to fully be understood. There’s nothing I’d consider “inappropriate” but it’s a bit “out there” if your kid doesn’t like weirdness plus the Red Bull may be too scary for the very young who scare easily. I can see it being one she’d rediscover & possibly love in two or three years so I’d maybe recommend it to kids of 8 or so. She does love the young Studio Ghiblis, though, (Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service & of course My Neighbor Totoro) so she was probably better able to handle any strangeness.

Summary:

Hopefully I’ve given a bit of an idea as to what this movie is like – I’m going to include a clip of the opening at the end of this post to give you a better idea. This is one of those movies I’m hoping to “introduce” to people here but it’s definitely not going to be loved by anyone who isn’t into this sort of thing or the other films I mentioned in the review. I also think being over 35 & under 10 would help. This is exactly the type of animated movie that obsessive film lovers my age who have young kids look for. I forgot to mention that this movie includes songs by America that are the very definition of late 70s/early 80s “easy listening”. If you like K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies, you may be able to handle this film. Or if you’re the type to get that reference.

My Rating: 8/10

**I’m including a clip of the opening of this film to give you an idea what it’s like. If you can’t make it past the song by America at 2 1/2 minutes in without gagging, this movie may not be for you… 😉

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Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Thanks for the review, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, IMDB rank 37 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“Hello?… Uh… Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can’t hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?… Oh-ho, that’s much better… yeah… huh… yes… Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri… Clear and plain and coming through fine… I’m coming through fine, too, eh?… Good, then… well, then, as you say, we’re both coming through fine… Good… Well, it’s good that you’re fine and… and I’m fine… I agree with you, it’s great to be fine… a-ha-ha-ha-ha… Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The *Bomb*, Dmitri… The *hydrogen* bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ahm… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri… Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?… Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?… Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?… *Of course* I like to speak to you!” – President Murkin Muffley

Nominated for four Oscars at the 1965 Academy Awards, Dr. Strangelove is based on a fictional and calamitous series of events where an insane general sets in motion the path to a nuclear war.  Fighting to save the world from total annihilation, it is up to the President of the United States (Peter Sellers), other leaders and generals in the war room to save us all.

One thing I absolutely love about Dr. Strangelove is that it’s filmed in black and white.  If you’re watching this for the first time without reading the plot or having no knowledge of the film, on the surface you probably see this as a dark, tense documentary style film based on a very serious matter.  There’s nothing to hide in a black and white film – all the permutations are laid out on the screen.  However, there is one thing that sets it apart.  When you see the delightful Peter Sellers playing three distinctive yet memorable characters, your mind is put at ease.  What you have let yourself in for is 95 minutes worth of genius, satirical comedy.

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The greatest achievement in Dr. Strangelove is taking a familiar and fearful concept and turning it into a comedy that is both hilarious but also a social commentary on the real world.  It’s the biggest hurdle the film faces and in the wrong hands, Dr. Strangelove could have been remembered as something entirely different.  Originally it was meant to be a serious piece until director Stanley Kubrick and writer of the novel (which this film was based on) Peter George decided to change its tone.  What they delivered was a particular type of comedy.  This is not a slapstick comedy in the vein of Airplane or The Naked Gun.  The humour is more deadpan and cerebral as if every character totally and genuinely believes in what they’re saying and doing.  As the audience, this only increases the disbelief and the laughter we get from it.

The theme of the entire film is based on one principle – fear.  It’s the fear from the enemy.  It’s the fear from your closest friends and their actions.  It’s the fear of not fulfilling your duty and your job to the letter.  What sets off this chain of events belongs to one general – General Ripper (Sterling Hayden).

Ripper believes that politicians and leaders are incapable of handling war situations – too much talking and not enough affirmative action.  He’s a no-nonsense style general who would rather let his soldiers shoot first then ask questions later.  Through sheer paranoia based on the idea that the commies are going to take over our fluids (yes you read that correctly), he takes matters into his own hands and gives the order to a B-52 bomber to drop a nuclear bomb on the Russians.  Trust me, if you suddenly feel the urge to shake your head wondering how he came to this conclusion, you are not alone!

Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.” – General “Buck” Turgidson

Because Dr. Strangelove is set during the height of the Cold War doesn’t make it irrelevant.  I think there are plenty of lessons that Kubrick infuses which make the war room aspect easier to parody.  The whole idea of the film is designed to make you feel uncomfortable and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if scenarios like in Dr. Strangelove happened in real life.

It’s a scary notion seeing how easy it is to launch an attack on another country, with one man “pushing” the self-destruction button with such ease and no concern for anyone else.  It’s a scary notion knowing that all the failsafe plans to stop it, has an abundance of technical or procedural loopholes, which can’t be overturned.  It’s a scary notion how people of authority can react so stupidly, like Colonel Guano telling Mandrake that he would have to answer to Coca-Cola for shooting at the vending machine for change.  There are many more examples which I won’t spoil for you, but everything descends into madness all based on fine margins of political and diplomatic posturing.

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The film does have its tense moments with the paratroopers on board Major Kong’s B-52 plane as a case example.  They go through their manual checks before locating their target and dropping the bomb, all to the backdrop soundtrack of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”  This reinforces the scare factor of the film with precise attention to detail of the crew’s operations.  It reminds the audience the seriousness amongst the humorous stupidity.

Even the character names are interesting – General Jack D. Ripper aka Jack the Ripper.  Coincidence?  I think not, but these supposedly cool-headed individuals in the highest positions of power revert to uncontrollable eccentric behaviour.  Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove is a classic example.  His character is in the film for the briefest of moments but his impact is unforgettable, playing a former Nazi German scientist, most likely pardoned for his crimes but enthusiastically provides advice on eugenics to the President of the United States.  Turginson who rapidly inserts chewing gum into his mouth in every scene he’s in, is an animated individual. He’s always concerned about what the enemy is going to do in a particular scenario and his energy feeds into that paranoia.  It’s a brilliant performance by George C. Scott who is a standout alongside Peter Sellers.

Dr. Strangelove is a film hell bent on showing humanity at its lowest ebb.  Even when the world is at stake, common sense should prevail but the distrust and fear of the enemy is the real winner.  It’s filled with surreal moments such as the often-parodied scene where Major Kong rides the bomb as if he’s participating at a rodeo.  The ending with Vera Lynn singing while the world blows itself up is a bleak reminder of what the world could become and the whole absurdity of war.  Kubrick’s careful balance keeps the message on point yet at the same time the satirical jokes will live with you for years.

It’s safe to say, you will have a blast watching this!