I have to admit to something: I didn’t see The Last Unicorn, a seeming favorite film of my peer group, until last year. My sister was even shocked. “How did you never see it?” Well, I’m assuming it had something to do with my obsessive viewings of my favorite films; I was so busy watching The Empire Strikes Back or Labyrinth for the eightieth time that seeing The Last Unicorn didn’t register on my movie radar. So when I found it on Netflix, I took the time to watch it.
The first time through, I was confused. It seemed incomplete, like I’d missed something in the middle. So I watched it again. Same problem. It wasn’t until I read the novel of the same name by Peter S. Beagle (who also wrote the screenplay) that the last pieces fell into place, and after I understood it all, I fell in love with the film.
The Last Unicorn is the story of a unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) who learns from a human hunter that she’s the only one left in the world. She doesn’t believe him until a butterfly (Robert Klein) tells her of a red bull who has stolen all the unicorns. Afraid her kind are in trouble, the unicorn sets off to find them.
While on the road, she is imprisoned by Mommy Fortuna (Angela Lansbury), and rescued by Schmendrick the Magician (Alan Arkin). Joining the pair is Molly Grue (Tammy Grimes), a sharp-tongued cook. Through Schmendrick’s messy magic, the unicorn is transformed into a human, and has to face obstacles like mortality and love on her quest to save her kind.
The villain in the film, the cruel and obsessive King Haggard, is voiced by legendary horror actor Christopher Lee, and his hero son Prince Lìr is played by Jeff Bridges. Featuring a soundtrack composed by the band America, this Rankin-Bass animated film is a fantastic musical adventure.
Like I said, there are a few places in the film where things seem a little confusing, even bizarre. There’s a tree that comes alive and falls in love with Schmendrick. There’s a harpy (an amalgamation of woman and bird, for those not up on their mythological creatures) with three breasts, and yes, they’re exposed (might wanna cover the kiddies’ eyes for that part). King Haggard tells the unicorn that Lìr isn’t truly his son, and nothing about the way Haggard’s castle is built, or where Lìr comes from, is mentioned in the movie. It probably would’ve taken an additional fifteen minutes to include these things in the script, but the film is still worth seeing. And if you really want to know the rest of the information, check out the book. Most of the dialog is lifted right from its pages, and it only serves to add another dimension to an enchanting animated adventure.