Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Ladyhawke

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, May 13, 2000

This is not unlike escaping mother’s womb. God, what a memory!

Special features

Cast Information8
Production Notes5
Related Movies4

A very good fantasy adventure with a soundtrack that was dated even in 1985 when the movie came out. One of Matthew Broderick’s first roles (after Wargames, before Ferris Bueller), one of Michelle Pfeiffer’s first roles (after Delta House, before The Witches of Eastwick), and one of Rutger Hauer’s last movie roles (after Blade Runner, before Blind Fury).

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorRichard Donner
Movie Rating6
Transfer Quality5
Overall Rating6
  • Letterbox
  • Pan and Scan

I’m fairly forgiving of bad soundtracks. But I have a friend, who when we first saw this movie in college, thought he was going to hate the movie once the credits ended and that incredibly overdone semi-disco music started in earnest with the hawk flying around beams of light. (I think this same friend actually owned an Alan Parsons album, for what that’s worth.) Fortunately, we were seeing the movie for free, plus we were college students and didn’t have anything better to do (schoolwork never counts). Because the movie itself is pretty good.

It’s a fairly simple fantasy story, of a kind that could almost be role-played in Dungeons and Dragons. You’ve got the fighter (Rutger Hauer), the thief (Matthew Broderick), and the priest (Leo McKern). They come together, loosely, for a quest: to free the Etienne Navarre (the fighter) and Isabeau d’Anjou (his lover, played by Michelle Pfeiffer) from a curse placed by an evil high priest (the Bishop of Aquila, played by John Wood). According to the production notes, the story has its origins in thirteenth century France.

The evil high priest and the thief get most of the good lines, probably because they both talk to God on a regular basis. This movie is as much comedy as adventure. After the thief escapes prison, the bishop’s captain of the guards says “it would be a miracle if he were to come out of the sewers alive,” and the bishop says, “I believe in miracles, Marquet. It’s my job.”

Ladyhawke” takes place in France, and is filmed in Italy. The scenery can be marvelous. The film is in 2.35:1, so you’ll want as big a screen as possible to get the effect. A pan & scan version is on the flip side, but of course that chops out some of the scenery. You can see a good (bad?) example of the effects of this by watching Matthew Broderick talking to the hawk in the barn during the rain. In the complete movie, both the thief and the hawk are onscreen at the same time. In the chopped pan & scan version, it’s a talking-head soliloquy for Matthew Broderick; the hawk is only rarely in the scene.

Part of the beautiful scenery is the odd weather; the weather changes from snow to rain to mist in what appear to be a few hours travel. One minute they’re walking through a grassy field, the next they’re camping near an icy lake. This could very well be a natural feature of the terrain they’re in, of course.

This is a fun movie, with reasonable acting and reasonable direction, some good work by the animal wranglers, and a nice storyline. If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to avoid the blurb on the back of the DVD box: it lets out more secrets than the trailer did.

There are only a few, minor extras on this DVD. I have never been a huge fan of the ‘text extras’, mainly cast information, that usually runs a screen or two of bad fonts and outdated information. But Ladyhawke’s extensive text ‘cast and crew information’ and ‘production notes’ areas are more useful than most.

There is a listing of recommended movies, based on actor, director, and “genre”, but no trailers for any of those movies. And there is a trailer for “Ladyhawke”, with a rather bad voiceover. I think that trailers got better around the eighties, but voiceovers on the trailers remained generally bad for a little longer.

The widescreen side of this disc is not anamorphic.

This is a nice movie, and a decent disc. The price is usually pretty good—you shouldn’t have to pay more than $15, and you ought to be able to get it for at least a few dollars less. If you haven’t seen it, and you like light fantasy, you should at least rent it. It’s an enjoyable experience.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorRichard Donner
ActorsMatthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leo McKern, John Wood, Ken Hutchison, Alfred Molina
Spoken languagesEnglish, French, Spanish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Production Notes, Related Movies, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Ladyhawke…

For more about fantasy, you might also be interested in Excalibur, Highlander, The Hobbit, Pan’s Labyrinth, A Princess of Mars, Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and The Worm Ouroboros.

For more about Matthew Broderick, you might also be interested in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Inspector Gadget.

For more about Richard Donner, you might also be interested in Superman II and Superman: The Movie.