Ladyhawke (1985)


Introduction

Ladyhawke is a 1985 American medieval dark fantasy film directed and produced by Richard Donner and starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

The story is about a young thief who unwillingly gets involved with a warrior and his lady that are hunted by the Bishop of Aquila.

As he comes to know about the couple’s past and secret, he finds himself determined to help them overcome the Bishop’s oppressions, both in arms and in the form of a demonic curse.

Outline

In medieval Italy, Phillipe Gaston, a thief known as “The Mouse”, escapes from the Bishop of Aquila’s dungeons right before execution. He is recaptured at an inn by the Bishop’s guards, led by Captain Marquet. However, the former captain, Etienne Navarre, shows up and defeats Marquet and the guards. He rides off with Phillipe while his hawk scatters other guards along the way.

Navarre, accompanied by Phillipe, stay the night at a farmer’s barn. Phillipe narrowly escapes from the farmer’s attempt on his life when an enormous black wolf emerges and kills the farmer. Navarre has disappeared from the barn. A mysterious young woman appears and accompanies the wolf.

Navarre reveals his intention to kill the Bishop and asks Phillipe to help him get inside Aquila. Phillipe refuses to help him, and Navarre ties the unwilling Phillipe to a tree that night. Phillipe escapes by tricking the mysterious woman into untying him, but he is soon captured by the Bishop’s guards. The guards set up an ambush to capture Navarre as well.

In the ambush, Navarre and his hawk are each hit by a crossbow bolt, yet he manages to defeat the Bishop’s guards and save Phillipe. The wounded Navarre makes Phillipe take the dying hawk and ride his horse to a monk’s (Imperius’s) ruined castle for help. The hawk is sequestered in a room, but a curious Phillipe picks the lock and finds the mysterious woman inside, her chest also struck with a bolt. After tending to her wound, Imperius explains that she is Isabeau of Anjou. She and Navarre were cursed by the Bishop because she refused the Bishop’s love, and their secret vows were leaked to the Bishop by Imperius in a drunken confession. The Satanic curse turns Isabeau into a hawk by day and Navarre a wolf by night so that despite being always together, they are eternally apart.

When Navarre catches up in the morning, Imperius tells him that the curse can be broken if the couple face the Bishop together as humans on “a day without a night and a night without a day”. Navarre dismisses Imperius as an old drunk, and continues his way to Aquila intent on simply killing the Bishop. Phillipe decides to leave with Navarre and “Ladyhawke”.

After Isabeau’s perilous encounter with Cezar the wolf trapper, and Phillipe saving the transformed Navarre-wolf from freezing in an icy river, Phillipe succeeds in persuading the couple to break the curse. At night, Imperius and Isabeau smuggle the Navarre-wolf into Aquila while Phillipe dives into the sewers to get inside the cathedral.

Unable to see any divine sign on the day that he and Isabeau are to appear in the flesh together, Navarre reverts to his original plan to kill the Bishop. He convinces Imperius to euthanise the hawk should the cathedral bells ring, which would mean he had failed.

Phillipe infiltrates the cathedral and unlocks the doors. Navarre rides in and duels with Marquet. Amid the bout, Navarre sees a solar eclipse through a high window and realises the curse really can be broken. He tries to get back to Imperius but fails to keep the guards from ringing the bell. Despairing that Imperius has killed Isabeau, he continues his fight and eventually kills Marquet.

As Navarre is about to kill the Bishop, Isabeau enters the cathedral and stops him. Together they face the Bishop and break the curse. The maddened Bishop tries to kill Isabeau, only to die by Navarre’s sword instead. Isabeau and Navarre finally embrace in joy.

Cast

  • Matthew Broderick as Phillipe Gaston, a young thief known as “The Mouse”.
  • Rutger Hauer as Etienne of Navarre, the former Captain of the Guard of Aquila who, with Isabeau, is hunted by the Bishop.
    • Akeela, Kollchek, Levi, and Sasha – a quartet of melanistic Siberian wolves—as Etienne’s lupine form.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau of Anjou, the Comte d’Anjou’s daughter, who, with Etienne, is hunted by the Bishop.
    • Gift (c.1979–2 or 3 Dec 2014) and Ladyhawke (d. May 2007) (named Spike II until 2000) – two female red-tailed hawks – as Isabeau’s avian form.
  • Leo McKern as Imperius, an old monk living in a ruined castle who used to serve the Bishop.
  • John Wood as the Bishop of Aquila, who is obsessed with killing Etienne and capturing Isabeau.
  • Ken Hutchison as Captain Marquet, the current Captain of the Guard.
  • Alfred Molina as Cezar, a wolf trapper who serves the Bishop.
  • Giancarlo Prete as Fornac, a higher ranking guard.
  • Loris Loddi as Jehan, a higher ranking guard.

Trivia

  • Richard Donner had attempted to get the film financed for a number of years and came 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 green-lit by Alan Ladd Jr.
  • Originally, Kurt Russell was 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.
  • Eventually, Russell pulled out during rehearsals, and Rutger Hauer was chosen to replace him.
  • Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing (Robert G. Henderson) and Best Sound (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).

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Richard Donner.
  • Producer(s): Richard Donner and Lauren Shuler.
  • Writer(s): Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas, Tom Mankiewicz, and David Peoples (uncredited).
  • Music: Andrew Powell.
  • Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro.
  • Editor(s): Stuart Baird.
  • Production: Warner Bros. Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
  • Distributor(s): Warner Bros. Pictures (North America) and 20th Century Fox (International).
  • Release Date: 12 April 1985 (US).
  • Running time: 121 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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