Re-Watch: The Last Unicorn (1982)

The Last Unicorn
Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Writer: Peter S. Beagle
Based on: Peter S. Beagle’s novel
Cast: Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Tammy Grimes, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Rene Auberjonois, Robert Klein
Seen on: 20.7.2015
[Here’s my first review of the film.]

The Unicorn (Mia Farrow) hears that she is supposed to be the last in the world, the rest of the unicorns having been chased by the Red Bull. At first, she doesn’t believe those news and she decides to go looking for the others. But as she scours the lands, she doesn’t find them. Instead she hears more stories about King Haggard (Christopher Lee) and his Red Bull. Joined by Schmendrick (Alan Arkin), a rather inept wizard, and Molly (Tammy Grimes), a former robber, they make their way to the castle to find out about the unicorns.

They brought The Last Unicorn on a cinematic tour to Vienna. Peter S. Beagle was supposed to accompany the film, but it appears he fell sick, unfortunately. But in his place, they showed interviews with him and some other people who were involved in the making of the film, which was also very interesting.

It was the first time I saw the film in English, not German, and the first time I saw it in the cinema, and the first time I saw it after reading the book and somehow all three things took a bit of getting used to.


Christopher Lee spoke both the German and the English version, which made at least Haggard “sounds right”. But when you’ve seen a film so many times and always in one language and then suddenly you see it in a different language, there’s no denying a certain strangeness to everything. Although the English voice cast is far from bad and neither is ther German, it took me a bit to not expect the voices to be like I always heard them.

And as much as I loved seeing the film on the big screen – it is just a beautifully made film, even if you do notice the lack of budget here and there – the audience I saw it with was a little weird, laughing at entirely inappropriate moments and ruining the mood a little.
Not that there isn’t anything to laugh about in the film. Sometimes it just misses its exit (like with the tree that falls in love with Schmendrick) and becomes a little much. But mostly it’s tragic and dramatic and no laughing matter.

Last_unicorn1I never noticed before how much of a flat, personality-less love interest Lír is in the film. Probably it’s more noticeable for me now that I read the book where Lír is the most vibrant emobidment of Beagle’s meta-thoughts on narration, whereas in the film he only starts sprouting confusing things about being a hero towards the end. Basically Lír is your average action movie love interest, only interested in the movie’s protagonist though nobody is very clear on the why of that obsession, and finally sacrificing themselves for said protagonist. It is only made interesting because the usual gender roles are reversed here.

But it’s definitely a beautiful film that proved it can stand the test of time again and again, that has wonderful music, a great story and stunning character design. If they show it again in the cinema, I’ll watch it again gladly. With or without Beagle.

Last_unicorn2 Summarizing: simply one of my all-time favorites.

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