Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Donner|
|Produced by||Richard Donner
Lauren Shuler Donner
|Screenplay by||Edward Khmara
|Story by||Edward Khmara|
|Music by||Andrew Powell|
|Edited by||Stuart Baird|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.
(USA & Canada)
20th Century Fox
|Release dates||April 12, 1985|
|Running time||121 minutes|
In twelfth century Europe, Philippe "The Mouse" Gaston (Broderick) is a thief facing execution who escapes from the dungeons of Aquila via the sewers, and flees to the countryside. The corrupt and hedonistic Bishop of Aquila (Wood) is furious because no one has ever escaped from his prison. He sends his Captain of the Guard, Marquet (Hutchison), to hunt down Phillipe. At a country tavern, Philippe offers to buy a drink for anyone who will celebrate with him, for he is the only man to have seen the inside of Aquila's prisons and lived. Unfortunately for him, Marquet and his men are drinking in disguise. As they try to apprehend Philippe, they are foiled by a mysterious black knight who reveals himself to be their former Captain, Etienne of Navarre (Hauer). Marquet rides back to Aquila to warn the Bishop of Navarre's return. The Bishop summons Cezar (Molina) the wolf trapper.
Navarre travels with a well-trained hawk. He saved Philippe because of his boast about escaping from Aquila's dungeon and needs Philippe's unique knowledge to lead him inside Aquila to kill the Bishop. That night, Philippe is saved from a murderer by an enormous black wolf. He also encounters a beautiful blonde woman (Pfeiffer), who mysteriously greets the wolf as though they are old companions.
Navarre and the hawk are wounded by crossbows in another encounter with the Bishop's men. Navarre sends the hawk with Philippe to the old monk Imperius (McKern) to heal her. At Imperius' ruined castle, Philippe places the hawk on a table. When Isabeau appears in the hawk's place, with a crossbow arrow through her left breast, Philippe realizes that she is the hawk. Imperius reveals that the hawk is a woman named Isabeau d'Anjou, who came to live in Aquila after her father, the Count of Anjou, died fighting in the Crusades. All who saw her fell in love with her, including the Bishop, but Isabeau was already in love with Etienne, with whom she secretly exchanged vows.
Accidentally betrayed by their confessor, Imperius, they fled. In his insane jealousy, the Bishop made a demonic pact to ensure that they would be "Always together; eternally apart". By day Isabeau becomes a hawk, and by night Navarre becomes a wolf. Neither has any memory of their half-life in animal form. Only at dusk and dawn of each day can they see each other in human form for one fleeting moment, but they can never touch.
Imperius tells Navarre that the curse can be broken in two days at the castle, if both Navarre and Isabeau appear before the Bishop in their human form. Navarre knows this is impossible, but Imperius insists that there will be a day without night and a night without day when the Bishop is taking the clergy's confessions in the cathedral. Navarre dismisses Imperius as an old drunk. He proceeds to Aquila intent on simply murdering the Bishop, knowing that will make the curse irrevocable. Phillipe, convinced by Imperius, joins with him to convince Isabeau; with all three ranged against him, Navarre agrees to their plan.
The next night, with Navarre in wolf form in a crude cage, Imperius and Isabeau enter Aquila through the main gate while Phillipe swims in via the sewers, retracing his escape route. Before his attack, Navarre orders Imperius to euthanize the hawk if he hears the church bells ring, because that will mean Navarre has failed and is dead. Philippe infiltrates the clergy confession and unlocks the cathedral doors. Navarre rides into the church and duels with Marquet. During their bout, Marquet throws his helmet at Navarre and breaks a window. As the duel continues, Navarre sees a solar eclipse through the broken window, reminding him of Imperius' plan to break the curse. A guard rings the bells, and Navarre thinks that Imperius has killed the hawk. In a rage, he kills Marquet. He is just about to kill the Bishop as Isabeau appears in the cathedral. Together, they stand before the Bishop, breaking the curse. When the Bishop flies into a rage and attempts to kill Isabeau, Navarre throws his sword through the Bishop's chest. Isabeau and Navarre embrace in the cathedral as the credits begin to roll.
- Matthew Broderick as Philippe Gaston, "The Mouse"
- Rutger Hauer as Captain Etienne Navarre
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau d'Anjou
- Leo McKern as Father Imperius
- John Wood as Bishop of Aquila
- Ken Hutchison as Marquet
- Alfred Molina as Cezar
- Giancarlo Prete as Fornac
The film's score was composed by Andrew Powell and produced by Alan Parsons. Richard Donner stated that he was listening to The Alan Parsons Project (on which Powell collaborated) while scouting for locations, and became unable to separate his visual ideas from the music. Powell combined traditional orchestral music and Gregorian chants with contemporary progressive rock-infused material, to controversial effect. It has been cited[who?] as the most memorable example of the growing trend among 1980s fantasy films of abandoning the lush orchestral scores of composers such as John Williams and James Horner in favour of a modern pop/rock sound. The soundtrack album was released in 1985 and re-released with additional tracks in 1995.
Richard Donner had attempted to get the film financed for a number of years and come close to making it twice, once in England and once in Czechoslovakia. He eventually got the project up at Warners and Fox, where it was greenlit by Alan Ladd Jr. Kurt Russell was originally cast as the male lead alongside Michelle Pfeiffer. The role of the pickpocket was offered to Sean Penn and then Dustin Hoffman, before Donner decided to go with Matthew Broderick. Kurt Russell pulled out during rehearsals and Rutger Hauer was chosen to replace him.
Ladyhawke was filmed in Italy; the alpine meadow of Campo Imperatore-Abruzzo served as a prominent exterior location, while the monk scene was filmed at Rocca Calascio, a ruined fortress on top of a mountain. In the region of Emilia-Romagna, the village of Castell'Arquato in Piacenza and castle of Torrechiara in Parma (the castle of the movie) were also featured. Other Italian locations used include Soncino in the Lombardia region, Belluno in the Veneto region, and the Lazio region around Viterbo.
Ladyhawke has a rating of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 critics' reviews, indicating a fairly positive critical reception. Vincent Canby in the New York Times called the film "divided against itself," and went on to say that "scenes of high adventure or of visual splendor... are spliced between other scenes with dialogue of a banality that recalls the famous Tony Curtis line, 'Yondah lies my faddah's castle.'" Time Out called it "all rather facile sword-and-sorcery stuff, of course, but at times very funny... and always beautifully photographed." Variety described the film as a "very likeable, very well-made fairytale... worthwhile for its extremely authentic look alone."
The New York Times singled out Matthew Broderick's skill in coming "very close to transforming contemporary wisecracks – particularly, his asides to God – into a more ageless kind of comedy," and said of Michelle Pfeiffer that her "presence, both ethereal and erotic, is so vivid that even when she's represented as a hawk, she still seems to be on the screen." Variety praised the casting of the lead actors, considering Pfeiffer "perfect as the enchanting beauty." Time Out called Rutger Hauer "camp" and Pfeiffer "decorative."
Andrew Powell's score has been widely criticised as "dated" in the years since the film's release; Rob Vaux of Flipside Movie Emporium described it as the "worst soundtrack ever composed."
Awards and nominations
Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing (Robert G. Henderson) and Best Sound Mixing (Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore and Bud Alper), winning neither. It won a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, and was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Music (Andrew Powell).
- "Ladyhawke - Soundtrack". filmtracks.com.
- Tom Mankiewicz, My Life as a Mankiewicz p 260-265
- "Ladyhawke - Filming locations". imdb.com.
- "Ladyhawke (1985) at Rotten Tomatoes". rottentomatoes.com.
- "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Vincent Canby, April 12, 1985". nytimes.com. April 12, 1985.[dead link]
- "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Time Out". timeout.com.
- "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Variety, January 1, 1985". variety.com. January 1, 1985.
- "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
- "Ladyhawke - Awards". imdb.com.
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