If you are a girl born between about 1980 and 1985 there are a few
things that apply to just about everyone:
1. Jem was the greatest rock star that ever lived and My Little
Ponies were the best non-living animal you could play with.
2. At one time, you wanted to be one of the following: Punky
Brewster, Madonna, Whitney Houston and in some cases VICKI.
3. You loved the movie, "The Last Unicorn."
In my case, the first two applied to me, but not the third. I
didn't watch The Last Unicorn until I was in my twenties. It
was after a trip I had made with my friend to Blockbuster, we had each
picked out an old VHS tape to watch at her home. The first time
seeing it I was pretty uninterested. I'm sure a lot of the amusement
was lost on me being too old to enjoy it the right way. The advantage
of liking something as a child is that you end up being pretty forgiving
about things in it as you get older. That's the reason why I
can sit through the Dark Crystal, but don't like Labyrinth. One
I saw when I was little, the other I saw when I was older. Plus
a joke about David Bowie's bulge.
To those people I know that do like this movie; they have fond stories
of watching it. Someone once told me that they secretly wished
that they could find out what happened to their wizard so that they
could be turned back into a unicorn. My sister told me a sweet
story about how after her cat died, she watched the movie on TV and
it made her feel better. Regardless of how I feel about the movie,
it's something that does seem to mean a lot to people who
It's pretty obvious why this movie is so precious to so many people. It's
something the Lord Grade.
The Last Unicorn was a book that was written by Peter S. Beagle. After
years of working on his novel on top of his doghouse in between spreading Easter
to young children and being a World War I fighting ace, his book was finally
published in 1968. 14 years later, he helped write the screenplay for
the animated film version of his novel after having previously worked on adapting
the Lord of the Rings for its animated feature.
The move opens on what looks like a Warner Brothers backdrop. I'm half
expecting Daffy Duck to waddle out in his little Robin Hood costume at this
point, but instead we get some geeky redhead in the same clothes and F. Murray
Abraham. F. Murray goes on to explain how they're in a unicorn's woods
because it's always spring there and no leaves fall. He also points out
that animals that live in this wood are protected with magic. His redheaded
stepchild mentions that he didn't think unicorns were actually real or that
they were all gone. His father then proceeds to beat him with his knowledge
that the unicorn in that forest is the last and gives it
a warning to stay here in the woods.
Cue Mia Farrow as the unicorn talking through a cardboard tube. She
inquires if she is really the last unicorn and since she
mentioned the title that cues the title music.
A few facts about unicorns for this movie:
- In this movie, Mia Farrow doesn't have a name; she's just referred to as
- Men cannot see unicorns, all they see is a white mare
- They were created after the dawn of time and are the most massive and deadly
of all Transformers.
- If you wear a unicorn on your clothing you are likely to get beat up, but
their power can help you seek revenge on your enemies.
Rankin-Bass is the production company that put this together. It's
also how you figure out who won a fishing contest. The name might sound
familiar to you as they are the ones responsible for television specials and
shows like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Thundercats and the Hobbit. Their
animation style for cartoons like this is very 1970s. It's the style
of art you would expect to see on someone's platform van, the kind where they
have a mattress in the back. Something interesting to note is that this
was animated in Japan by Topcraft studios. Two years after this was made,
they were hired by Hayao Miyazaki to animate Nausicaa of
the Valley of the Wind and a lot of the major talent from that company later
joined studio Ghibli.
During the credits, we also find out that the band America performed all
of the songs on the soundtrack. I've gone to look for them. Apparently
my mother was a big fan of theirs long ago because she has almost all of their
records. Maybe it was because the singer kind of looked like her when
she had one those big plastic 70s style glasses. Anyway, I'm guessing
they wanted to travel through the desert again, that's why they were so interested
in Mia Farrow's character.
After the credits Mia Farrow as the unicorn starts talking in a tunnel again
as she starts going on to herself about how she can't possibly
be the LAST. The
word "last" gets thrown around a lot in this movie to the point where it almost
needs to be followed by a brooding "DUN DUN DUN" after every use of the word,
just to drive home the point that being the last (DUN DUN DUN) is not a good
thing. Apparently she is not a very smart unicorn. She lives in
a unicorn forest where there are no others around and it
took some wrinkly old hunter to let it dawn on her that she's the only one.
The same day in the forest, Mia Farrow happens upon Kenny Rogers the butterfly,
voiced by Robert Klein. How do I know it's Kenny Rogers? Because
he tells her right off that he's the gambler. Also something about fried chicken. It's explained that since he is a butterfly and travels from
place to place, he only speaks in song and plot point. After going through
a chorus of random songs from the 1940s, he finally talks about how something
called the "red bull" chased all of the rest of the unicorns to the sea. I'll
save any bad jokes about energy drinks and instead inquire
why Wahoo McDaniel and Tatanka joined Chicago's basketball team and wonder
what they have against mythical creatures.
So Mia Farrow convinces herself that maybe the other unicorns need her help
and she decides to leave the forest. All of the animals that
will be totally fucked by hunters when she leave gather to
say goodbye, I guess.
Jesus Christ, is that a dodo? Well, I guess we all know why they went
extinct now. Way to go unicorn.
She wanders through several scenes of weather to let us know time passed
or something until she reaches a field where Bilbo Baggins
and Friar Tuck's child is farming dirt. After a lesson in politics and why it takes more
than being handed a sword by some "watery tart" is no basis for being a king,
he takes notice of the unicorn, which looks like a mare to him. When
Mia Farrow hears this, she freaks out about being called a *gasp* horse. I
guess that would be an insult. I mean, if someone called me B.J. Whitmer
or Julia Roberts I'd be kind of pissed too. She flips out horsey style
and runs away.
Hey, I just thought of a joke. What do you call a mare's alcoholic drink? Horsey
The wandering begins again and America sings about walking manzo? Or
mango maybe. Mia Farrow goes and falls asleep in a meadow and is captured
by Mommy Fortuna, voiced by An-ja-ler Lansbury. Years before she played
a sweet old teapot, she played a warty old woman with a tree on her head, complete
with a bird nesting in it. She's revealed to be a witch when she babbles
something in Russian and blue waves that I guess are supposed
to be magic come from her hands. After she gets her crew to sit down and shut
up, she gets them to capture the unicorn and put it with the rest of the animals
Mommy Fortuna (which is what you say when you want to trade your mother for
a can of fish) has a whole two employees working on her carnival: Rook
and Schmendrick. Rook is an ugly, hunchbacked former fighter pilot, as
I can guess from his headgear. There is a trend in this movie that ugly
people are either stupid or manipulative/evil. Since Rook is a lackey
and worth less than a bishop or a knight, he is pretty dull. Schmendrick,
voiced by Alan Arkin, is a mediocre magician and the last of the red hot swamis,
as he says. Alan Arkin is when Noah got everybody together to help him
build his giant boat. Everyone that has ever seen or remembered this
movie always points out that Schmendrick is a Jewish magician, so you can make
your own joke about that. Perhaps the reason why he isn't able to do
magic is that he is only dressed up for Purim. Unlike Rook, he can see
that Mia Farrow is a unicorn and not a horse, but plays dumb
to Mommy Fortuna for the time being.
The next day after the unicorn is captured, the carnival stops in a town.
Rook leads a party of people around the carnival, showing off their
other mythical creatures. He describes things like the dragon they have
by saying that it speaks seventeen languages badly and is subject to gout,
I think. Among the many creatures that are at the carnival, only two
are real mythical creatures: the unicorn and a harpy. The Virgin Mary
is apparently with them because we get a shot of her crying
when she sees the unicorn.
I'd like to say that the harpy is really creepy looking. If there was
a giant, three-titted bird thing flying around I'd be pretty freaked out. During
the stop, Schmendrick tells the unicorn that he would help her escape since
it was likely the harpy was going too soon and would end up killing everyone
when she does. He disappears until later that evening, but before he
comes back Mommy Fortuna comes by and starts reminding the harpy and unicorn
that she was the one that caught them and they'd always remember that. She
talks a little bit about magic and then finally mentions the red bull and how
he belongs to some King named Haggard. Schmendrick returns and frees
the unicorn who in turn frees the rest of the animals, harpy included. The
magician and the unicorn make their get away while the harpy
attacks and kills both Mommy Fortuna and Rook.
The two travel together until Schmendrick is captured by a band of outlaws
and taken to their camp. There he meets Molly Grue and some guy named
Captain Culley, who fills in the second Robin Hood motif of the movie. There
is talk about rat soup that Molly made, which they're eating because they don't
like the Marx brothers. We also get a glimpse of Captain Culley's merry
men, which apparently include Andy Capp, Hero from A Funny
Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and some Mexican guy.
During the night, Schmendrick performs some magic which makes a vision of
Robin Hood show up. Since apparently this is highly offensive, Captain
Culley and one of his comrades tie the magician to a tree. While tied,
Schmendrick uses some magic which ends up making the tree come alive and fall
in love with him. If this movie was done by Peter Jackson, Schmendrick
would fall back in love with the tree and be distraught when it was cut down. Also
there would have been an hour long action sequence with fighting dinosaurs. Mia
Farrow comes before he is smothered in the gigantic wooden bosom and turns
the tree back to normal and sets him free so that they can continue their journey. Before
they get too far, they run into Molly Grue again who can also see the unicorn
and she joins their party. Her gourmand skills can be leveled up by eating
There is more wandering until they finally reach King Haggard's kingdom,
which looks pretty haggard too. Traveling in the night, they run into
the red bull that they've heard so much about. Since none of them have
invested with Merrill Lynch, he's pretty pissed and starts chasing around the
unicorn. With Molly pleading to save her, Schmendrick uses some of his
magic and ends up changing the unicorn into a naked albino girl. Now
that she is a human, she can make it into the kingdom safely,
but not before she whines and cries about how much she hates to be a human.
The next morning, they reach the castle and finally meet King Haggard, voiced
by Christopher Lee, and Prince Lir, voiced by Jeff Bridges. Molly and
Schmendrick introduce the now human unicorn as "Amalthea", Schmendrick's niece. Since
there is no chubby guard to make Lord Gloom over there smile,
they convince him to let them stay so that they can try to make him happy.
Amalthea spends most of her time staring at the ocean while the Prince
makes eyes at her. When he offers her some help they cut to a montage
as they begin to get settled in at the castle.
Lir is shown riding off and slaying a dragon so that he could bring back
the head to impress Amalthea. I know that every bit of advice that I've
ever heard about dating includes bringing the heads of creatures to the person
you like. Amalthea spends her time whining about being there and starting
to forget why she's there. Lir spends his time whining about how Amalthea
doesn't like them. Everyone pretty much ignores the best part of the
movie: the pirate cat.
There is seriously a black and white cat with a peg leg and a patch over
its eye. This is the coolest animated cat ever. Seriously. The
best part is that even when he speaks, he says stuff like "yarr" and "matey",
which is exactly what I would want a talking pirate cat to sound like. Molly
is the only one that pays attention to the pirate cat, which
pays off, because it knows how to see the red bull, which is how they are to
figure out what happened to the unicorns.
After more whining, Lir ends up wooing Amalthea by singing a duet with her,
which is exactly how every guy I've ever dated has won me
break out their lute and sing me some "Greensleeves" and I'm all theirs. The
problem with this part of the movie is that while they're singing love songs
and having montages, there could be some explanation. Like why King Haggard
is all grey, craggy and miserable, how did he find the red
bull and exactly what it is anyway?
After the Prince and Amalthea get all lovey dovey, King Haggard starts to
get even creepier when he tells her that he knows she is a unicorn by the way
she walks, moves and gestures.
Funny enough, that's how I started suspecting my friend Greg, was gay;
by the way he walks moves and gestures. Haggard then explains that unicorns
are the only things that make him happy, which is why he
had the red bull drive them into the sea, so he could watch them dance around
trapped in the water.
Meanwhile, Schmendrick works hard to find the passage to the red bull, knowing
that they need to find it soon; otherwise Amalthea will be
stuck as a human forever. After he figures out a way to trick a drunken skeleton into
revealing the passage, he gets Molly and Amalthea and smuggles them through. Haggard
finds out that Amalthea is going to free the unicorns and flips out and ends
up trapping them in the red bull's cave along with Prince Lir, who was following
Amalthea. When they're in the cave, Amalthea starts whining again about
how now she wants to be a human and to be with Lir. Because she
spends too much time whining, the red bull appears and she
is nearly killed when she trips over a rock.
Schmendrick uses his magic and she is able to be transformed back into a
unicorn again, but starts to get pushed towards the sea by
the red bull. Determined
to rescue her, Lir jumps in front of the red bull with arms wide open. Since
no one really likes Creed, the red bull is offended and ends up killing him. Seeing
Lir dead, the unicorn uses her powers, which is basically just making her horn
glow and drives the red bull into the sea, freeing the other unicorns from
the ocean who crumble Haggard's castle with him in it on their way back to
their forest. Amalthea stays behind and heals Lir and says goodbye to
everyone before she leaves for her forest while Schmendrick
notes that she is now the only unicorn who can feel regret and love.
Overall, this really isn't a terrible movie.
It's very 70s in a way, despite being made in 1982. It also is
too deep in the vein of fantasy for my taste. There are a few things
to be learned from the movie:
- Unicorns are kind of jerks at heart and like to complain.
- If you ever have to go to a renaissance fair, there are going to be a lot
of people dressed like Robin Hood.
- Jews can be magicians too.
- Pirate cats are totally awesome.
Also, don't fuck with harpies. They'll claw your eyes out.