Ladyhawke For a New Generation

This past weekend I watched Ladyhawke, a 1985 flick. I love this movie, but I hadn't seen it in a while. Since paranormal is so hot, this is a movie that needs to be remade or at least re-scored again.

I was drawn into the fantasy world of Etienne Navarre and Isabeau d'Anjou, two lovers cursed by the Cardinal whose love Isabeau had scorned. There's only one negative feature of this film: the soundtrack. If I had to use a couple of words to describe the musical score, I'd have to say: "it sucks." Big time.

This emotion-drenched story is so compelling, so well-acted by the young and beautiful Rutger Hauer as Navarre and Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau, but the soundtrack is so jarring and inappropriate for a love story that sweeps you away to medieval times. This movie doesn't just make you suspend disbelief at the fantasy story; it makes you fling disbelief into oblivion. The desperation and despair of the two ill-fated lovers is wrenching and believable.

People Behind Ladyhawke

Directed by Richard Donner, 7 years after he did the original Superman movie and 2 years before he directed the first Lethal Weapon film, the set of Ladyhawk was where Donner met Lauren Shuler who produced Ladyhawke. The couple subsequently married and remain married today. They were both honored with a double star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in October 2008. he shows why he's such an amazing director. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and for several science fiction awards.

Edward Khmara wrote the story and the screenplay. (Writers, you can learn from Mr. Khmara's screenplay because it works on so many levels.) The Warner Brothers marketing department said the movie was based on a true medieval legend. Of course, Mr. Khmara, who created the story from his writer's imagination, took issue with that claim. He took his complaint to the Writers Guild Association and was awarded a cash settlement from Warners. However, the medieval legend claim had a life of its own by then.

Because of Ladyhawke, I decided to forgive Mr. Khmara for his other 1985 work, the horrendous Enemy Mine starring Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett as a pregnant male alien. Mr. Khmara went on to write Dragon, The Bruce Lee Story, 1993, another of my favorite movies.

The Story

Ladyhawke had the tagline: Cursed for eternity. No force in Heaven will release them. No power on Earth can save them. The movie starred Matthew Broderick, fresh from his War Games star turn, as Philipe Gastone, a thief who escapes from the dungeon at Aquila. He's nearly captured, but Captain Navarre rescues and befriends him.

Navarre has been hunted by the evil Bishop's men for two years, ever since he escaped with Isabeau, the object of the Bishop's lust. Since the Bishop couldn't have Isabeau, he cursed her and Navarre. By night, Navarre is a wolf; by day Isabeau is a hawk. They are always together, yet always separated. Navarre wants Philipe help him re-enter the city so he can kill the Bishop.

The Cast

Broderick's character is am amusing distraction, but the real acting heavy hitters are Hauer and Pfeiffer. Rutger Hauer is so completely believable as the tortured knight in love with a woman he can only see when he's in the shape-shifting form of a wolf. Pfeiffer is electric as the Isabeau who loves her knight, but can only be with him as a hawk. Wolves and hawks mate for life, just as these two cursed lovers.

Hauer's role was three years after his mortality-conscious android in Blade Runner, another favorite of mine. Michelle Pfeiffer played Isabeau after paying her dues through years of television performances and 3 previous movies: Grease 2, Into The Night, and the infamous Scarface. John Wood, also in War Games with Broderick, was the evil Bishop of Aquila. He's so good that you instantly hate him. Leo McKern, the late Australian actor who some always thought was English, played Father Imperius the Monk. He set the whole story in motion by betraying a confession to the Bishop who then cursed the lovers. Naturally, he's the one who knows how to break the curse.

Introduce to New Generation

I don't know what would be required, but if someone were to re-score Ladyhawke and re-release the movie, I think they'd be surprised at the business the movie would do. The sweeping love story needs some kind of soul-stirring music like Carmina Burana or something like the Clannad cuts used on Last of the Mohicans or look at the Lord of the Rings Trilogy music. There are professionals who know far better than I how to score an epic movie.

Takeaway Truth

Some movies transcend their flaws. The epic love story Ladyhawke is such a movie, and it possesses the power to win a new generation of viewers.


  1. Hi Can I jsut say that I sooooo completely agree with everything you say! I only jsut watched the movie again for the 20th time I think last night (I own the DVD) and ech time I know I will watch it again with the same enjoyment. I re-release would be wonderful and a re-scoring a must! Thank you for the post! long live imagination and beautiful legends...

  2. So glad I found this posting. I have loved the movie Ladyhawk since I first saw it at the theater. Being a music buff, I also detested the musical score. I had to tune out the music completely to stay with the fantasy/medieval/romance story-line. Truly the worst movie score ever made. I agree that the studio could re-score and release the movie again.
    I actually think given the public's lust for vampires and werewolves, that a shape-shifting unconsummated love story persecuted by a corrupt church official would be a very popular story-line with young people today. It has the potential to be the kind of movie that people go to see multiple times, like they did with Titanic.
    Over the years I have made lists of possible actors for the re-make... this became a fun game to play with like minded friends!! Oh, if only I had tons of money and contacts in Hollywood.