Back in 1985, I was a recently licensed driver and still exulting in the new freedoms automotive travel could bring to a teenager in the suburbs. Finally free of my families shackles, I could go to see a movie nobody else in my household was interested in as long as I paid for it myself. One of my first such expeditions to the cinema took me to see a new picture called Ladyhawke starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and the incomparable Michelle Pfeiffer (that white ghost). It was marketed as a fantasy movie and, as I was at my Dungeons & Dragons peak, that qualified it as a must see.
Today, as I was then, I am hesitant to describe this as a “fantasy film” in the traditional sense. If fantasy conjures for you images of Tolkien’s noble elves or Howard’s sword swinging barbarians you won’t find that here. Instead, the story purports to take place sometime during the historical middle ages. The villain is a Chaothlic Bishop, not a dark lord, there are no hobbits, orcs, or dwarves, and the only source of magic is a demonic curse.
As such curses were widely believed to exist in the middle ages, to me it doesn’t break the historical framework to include one. However, I conceded that as such a thing is impossible in the real world, calling the film a fantasy is not altogether off base. As for D&D elements…well the chief characters are all either thieves, fighters or clerics so the party is well rounded out.
The film contains a lot of action and swordplay as our heroes attempt to undo the curse of the Bishop of Aquila. It also includes some first-rate dialog and character drama. Broderick’s character, Philipe the Mouse, even has some hilarious one-sided conversations with God throughout the film. Honestly, I found the movie then and now to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience and only the director’s choice to use rock music in the soundtrack throws me off a bit.
If you are a fan of things historical or fantastical and have not seen this movie, I recommend you reward yourself and do. Thirty plus years later and it is still one of my favorite films…and my kids like it too.
By Clayton J.Callahan