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Ladyhawke (1985) - Blu-ray Review

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Ladyhawke (1985) - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

There is a robust earnestness surrounding Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke that, to this day, remains praiseworthy.  While Warner Bros does the film a favor with this freshly minted blu-ray release, the film stands on its own as a testament to the enduring qualities of solid fantasy.  The adventure is led by a sharp cast and a free-flowing nature that is buoyed by the synth-heavy score by Alan Parsons.  Donner, of course, keeps things in B-movie motion and works to charm the audience rather than turn them away.  Ladyhawke, a product of 1985’s attempts to embrace a bygone era while remaining contemporary with its inclusion of progressive rock, has always been a childhood favorite of mine.

Ladyhawke is a fantasy film by way of romance as two young lovers – Etienne (Rutger Hauer) and Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) – are cursed by an obsessed bishop (John Wood) to never exist in the same space in human form.  Isabeau becomes a sleek hawk soaring the sunlight skies as the day breaks and Etienne transforms into a black wolf at night, protecting the cold ground around Isabeau.  Their shared tragedy is alleviated by the comedic quips of Phillipe the Mouse (Matthew Broderick) and heroic commentary from Father Imperius (Leo McKern) as the team of ruffians find themselves fighting against a corrupt army under the bishop’s control in twelfth century Europe while Etienne pushes them to find a way to reunite the lovers.

Seeing the film again in 2015, I can tell you that it is not as quite dated as one would expect.  Some of the slow motion transformation effects are a tad blurry as close-ups of eyes and wings and fur fill the screen.  Hell, some of the location shots – especially around the lower edges - are a bit blurry, too.  There has been an attempt from Warner Bros to tighten up the effects but a sort of red wash tints the picture at the top of the frame in some spots.  It is unclear to me if this is from the natural shooting effect in northern Italy by Vittorio Storaro, the Oscar-winning cameraman of Apocalypse Now and The Last Emperor or if it is a weakness in the source material that no touch-up from MPI could support.  Regardless, it does play into the overall affect of watching the movie on blu-ray; no matter how “new” it appears to my eyes. 

Broderick and McKern steal the picture from the two leads at almost every chance they get.  Broderick kicks off the picture with his humorous escape through the dungeons of Aquila’s sewage and continues his humorous prayer to God through boastful exaltations of his own skills.  Once McKern gets in the mix as the old monk who accidentally betrayed the young lovers the injection of humor and pathos is indeed a bonus and, tonally, the film benefits from their effective character building. 

I’ve always thought that Hauer and Pfeiffer were far too otherworldly in their performances.  If that’s the purpose, then bravo, but their celebration (and corny dialogue) at the end of the movie just feels out of place.  No one is buying what they are selling in their moment of bliss and, as unfortunate as it is, that’s sort of the unbalanced territory of Ladyhawke.  The film needs Broderick and McKern to deliver the humanity and, yes, they do step up and make lives matter.

Ladyhawke, a favorite from my youth, still works.  While the nostalgia factor might blur my vision, I still give this fantasy flick high marks, warts and all, and hope that others might discover it for the first time with this low-key hd release from Warner Bros.

Ladyhawke (1985) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime:
121 mins
Director
: Richard Donner
Writer:
Edward Khmara
Cast:
Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
Genre
: Fantasy | Adventure
Tagline:
CURSED FOR ETERNITY...No force in Heaven will release them. No power on Earth can save them.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I know I promised, Lord, never again. But I also know that YOU know what a weak-willed person I am."
Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 12, 1985
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 5, 2015
Synopsis: Philipe Gastone, a thief, escapes from the dungeon at Aquila, sparking a manhunt. He is nearly captured when Captain Navarre befriends him. Navarre has been hunted by the Bishop's men for two years, ever since he escaped with the Lady Isabeau who the Bishop has lusted after. Navarre and Isabeau have a curse that the Bishop has placed on them that causes Navarre to be a wolf during the night and Isabeau to be a hawk during the day. Navarre insists that Philipe help him re-enter the city to help him kill the heavily guarded Bishop.

Ladyhawke (1985) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 5, 2015
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Warner Bros’ 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray has been color-corrected by MPI.  They also cleaned up some of the debris from Twentieth Century Fox’s DVD transfer.   The most effective the cleaning process ever is; however, comes with the natural beauty of the Italian locations.  Blacks aren’t too impressive but the sunrises are.  Flesh tones are good and, when you compare this release to the previous DVD version, the upgrades are noticeable.  The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1. mix is represented here in a lossless DTS-HD MA soundfield that does not disappoint.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

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