Viking Night: Ladyhawke
By Bruce Hall
November 29, 2011
Mother always said not to cheat, and not to procrastinate. Well this week, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint her pretty badly. I say I cheated because I chose a film that I feel very strongly does not qualify for this column, but deserves inclusion into the Viking Night pantheon simply by virtue of genre. I say I procrastinated because the DVD has been sitting on my kitchen counter under a pile of bills for months. This is where it deserves to be, because it’s a terrible film and deserves to be buried, if only symbolically. But this tells you very little about my choice. So, I’ll start over.
I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend about recent comic book movies, and pointed out Thor and Captain America as two of the most recent examples of how the genre has become a soulless assembly line of indifferently produced pabulum. These are films that are neither good nor bad, but simply sufficiently non offensive to make you not regret seeing them. This is Lowest Common Denominator as high art - nobody has to love your film; as long as they don’t hate it, they’ll pay for it. But you see, this is nothing new. I’ve spoken often of the fantasy film glut of the early '80s, which produced many such films, and many of them are featured in this column.
The difference is, what makes a cult movie isn’t so much whether the overall critical consensus is good or bad. It’s whether or not there is a sufficient fan base of critically apathetic people who love the movie deeply no matter its flaws. I don’t think you can say this about Ladyhawke. Sure, there are uncritical types in the world who are generally receptive to anything, as long as it contains super heroes, spaceships, swords or sandals. These are the kinds of folks who found Captain America to be any more satisfying than an diffidently prepared bowl of lukewarm oatmeal. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that; we all have our preferences. But these are also people who will take offense when I say that Ladyhawke is a horrible movie that deserves to be forgotten, and I am riddled with guilt for even giving it this much due.
So if you are one of these people, take heed. That’s as nice as I’m going to be.
The first thing that you notice about Ladyhawke is the music. The opening credits are quite stylish, and much more so than the film deserves. By 1985 standards, I would consider them somewhat inventive were it not for the wholly execrable score that accompanies them. It’s mostly a guy on a trap set accompanied by a horn section and someone on one of those digital keyboards you used to be able to buy at Radio Shack. Had Stephen J. Cannell ever made a porno flick, this is what it would sound like. Oh God...I just destroyed my whole childhood with one sentence. I blame myself. But think about what I’ve just said - most people never notice the music in a movie unless it’s really really bad, or really really good. And believe me, you will remember the theme to Ladyhawke. It will keep you awake for days.
The second thing you’ll notice is Matthew Broderick. He plays Phillipe “The Mouse” Gaston, a Medieval thief whose nerdy, squirrely demeanor is completely unlike other role he’s ever played. No, I’m just kidding. You’ll recognize him. Gaston escapes the nefarious stockades of Castle So and So, where he had been prisoner to the evil Bishop of Aquila (John Wood), who reminds me of Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate (to hear someone utter the words “Biggus Dickus” would have earned this movie an automatic three stars). Following his escape through the sewers and a very uninteresting chase through the woods, Gaston is cornered by the Bishop’s guards in a nearby town.