September 16th, 2006


The Last Unicorn

Spechtreum: Infernal Progeny

The Last Unicorn
{XVI A.S. Directed by Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr. Starring Christopher Lee, Mia Farrow, Keenan Wynn, Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin}

The enchanting story of a lone unicorn searching for the meaning of her existence, and any others of her kind, but comes to find out that the others are being kept prisoner in the waves of the ocean by a tyrant who lives in a black castle on a cliff's edge overlooking the raging ocean that is their keep, enforced by an enormous demonic red bull, forcing them back into the waves upon any attempt at escape.

An amusing singing butterfly circles around her in the beginning, singing many fanciful songs but providing clues here and there for her journey.

Unicorn: Say my name then. If you know my name, tell it to me.
The Butterfly: [quoting Romeo & Juliet] Your name is a golden bell hung in my heart. I would break my body to pieces to call you once by your name...!
Unicorn: Say it, if you know.
The Butterfly: Rumpelstiltskin! Gotcha!

During her quest, she meets "Mama Fortuna", a witch-hag with a tree stump for a hat, who is accompanied by an ogre-like henchman and a bumbling wanna'-be "magician" named "Schmendrick" {which I have come to call occultniks}.

Schmendrick: I am Schmendrick the magician, last of the red hot swamis.

Fortuna runs a travelling carnival sideshow which features a satyr, harpie, and a manticor, among other creatures of legend for the awe and gawkings of villagers. She feels she hits bank when she discovers and captures the unicorn for display, who warns her that the harpie will one day take her due, and can see through the spell placed upon these others who amount to nothing more than an old toothless lion and a monkey.

Mommy Fortuna: The harpy's as real as you are, and just as immortal. And she was just as easy to catch, if you want to know.
Unicorn: Do not boast, old woman. You death sits in that cage, and she hears you.
Mommy Fortuna: Oh, she'll kill me one day or another. But she will remember forever that I caught her, and I held her prisoner. So there's my immortality, eh?
Unicorn: Let me go. And let her go to. I cannot bear to see her caged. We are two sides of the same magic... The harpy and me, we are not for you.

Schmendrick decides to help the unicorn and eventually accompanies her in her escape and quest to the dark castle. A country wench 'Molly Grue' joins them, regretful that the unicorn did not visit her when she was "new", yet becomes her servant nonetheless.

Molly: Where were you twenty years ago? Ten years ago? Where were you when I was new? When I was one of those innocent young maidens you always come to? How dare you! How dare you come to me now, when I am this!

At The Castle, the unicorn is transformed into 'Lady Amalthea' {Mia Farrow} and meets King Haggard {Christopher Lee}, Prince Lir {Jeff Bridges}, along with a talking pirate cat and an obnoxious though entertaining skeleton with a penchant for wine. Amalthea falls in love with Prince Lir, which keeps her from changing back into the unicorn for awhile. As the mortal Lady Amalthea, the transformed unicorn feels her magic diminishing, the longer she remains a woman, and can feel her new body "dying all around her".

The group gather the clues and finally reach the other unicorns where both Schmendrick and Prince Lir battle The Red Bull.

The Skull: To get to the Red Bull's chamber, you must go through time. A clock isn't time; it's only gears and springs. Pay it no mind.
The Cat: When the wine drinks itself, when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time, only then will you find the funnel that leads to the Red Bull. There be a trick to it, of course.

The Last Unicorn features an "all-star" cast, and the folkish music of 'America', which actually works quite well here.

Overall, it seems the Last Unicorn is a "coming of age" tale, the journey of a girl into womanhood until finally finding her purpose in life.

Unicorn: [now a woman] I am afraid of this mortal body... more afraid than I was of the Red Bull.
Unicorn: Once, I can't remember, I was long ago, someone strange. I was innocent and wise, and full of pain. Now that I'm a woman, everything has changed. Once, when I was searching, somewhere out of reach, far away, in a place I could not find, or heart obey. Now that I'm a woman, everything is strange.

Another one of those late-night films I caught once, which remains an evocation. There certainly is a compassion-inducing quality to the unicorn's plight, as well as the music used. The Red Bull is a remarkable beast, and King Haggard, a compelling character.


Gamera: Guardian of The Universe


Guardian of The Universe

{XXX A.S. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Starring Yoshinari Yonemori, Naoya Kusangi, Mayumi Nagamine, Asagi Kusanagi}

Mega-turtle Gamera sleeps in the deep and is summoned forth by a girl who retains a sympathetic connection through a comma-shaped rock pendant, to do battle with an old enemy in Gyaos, the monster pterodactyl who feasts on human beings. Gamera's whereabouts are divulged when a team of oceanographers discover an island which conceals a mystical megalith encribed with actual Futhark runes, describing the prophesy of the monsters returning when the world is in perceived environmental peril.*

The little humans are predictably afraid of the monsters, and seek to destroy both of them, despite Gamera's heroic inclinations, but after awhile, they realize Gamera is the only great beast who can battle Gyaos, who has set up nest atop Tokyo Tower in the middle of the city. Instead of luring the giant away, the seemingly idiotic military deem to destroy the pterodactyl right there amidst the metropolitan surroundings. Their battle destroys the city at the cost of only a few human lives {in which Gyaos treats herself to "canned human" as she peels away subway trains, shaking the residents into her mouth}.

With the help of the life-force of the girl, Gamera gathers up enough energy to defeat Gyaos, which takes them from the city to the ocean, and even into outer space. Though Gamera receives some potent blows, thus also effecting the girl, he prevails in the end, with a nod of recognition.



* This is the constant theme underlying oriental monster mythology, as these "monsters" are an incarnate metaphor for "Nature's Avengers", as it were. This can also be seen most dramatically in the Godzilla films.

Having been a fan of monster movies since Draclinghood, I was pleased to see a well-done resurrection of the genre in this film since the late 70's/early 80's craze.

For those unfamiliar, Gamera is a likable giant turtle with snaggle teeth arising from his lower jaw, can fly in his unique way from biochemical jets within his shell {sometimes spinning}, and emits a deadly nuclear spray from his mouth.