Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-04-08
  The danger of old memories

While I always hated videotape (or any tape for that matter), I've collected movies in just about every other format that came out. It all started with the RCA CED format which featured a vinyl grooved platter which was read with a phonograph like needle. I eventually moved on to laserdisks (spending a small fortune to amass several hundred), and I have now settled in to a more laid back pace, collecting DVDs.

Besides buying new movies, I sometimes try to get a DVD of something I have on laserdisk or CED, as I imagine someday not being able to get spare parts or players for those formats and ending up with unplayable disks. Also I feel a bit better about my kids handling a DVD disk than one of the larger twelve inch platters that the other formats use. DVD's certainly are more portable as well. One can only imagine the stairs one would get if one tried to watch a laserdisc movie on an airline flight (never mind the size of the laptop required to have an on-board laserdisk player).

Still, all the old movies I have on Laser or CED aren't necessarily worth getting again. Some of those movies were bad 15 years ago (and haven't improved with age), and others are just kind of odd.

The last unicorn is one such movie. I thought I liked this movie when I first got it, but after watching a copy I picked up last week from the library, I'm really scratching my head about it.

The story is pretty good: an ancient unicorn overhears hunters talking about how she's the last unicorn left, and goes off in search of the others (since Unicorns are immortal and they have to be somewhere). Along the way she deals with country-folk who can no longer recognize her for what she is, and a witch who does recognize her and captures her briefly for a travelling freak show. As she learns clues about the other's fate, she gets near to the land of the red bull who has supposedly herded up all the other unicorns and to protect her, a friendly magician turns her into a human.

If you make it this far through the movie, things get even more difficult. Through to the end (no I'm not going to tell you how it ends) the movie feels like half the dialog was edited out, or that maybe this movie was poorly translated from another language. The animation was actually done in Japan, though the movie never came out there. It was in theaters in the US back in 1981, and since then has wandered out on video in a number of formats. This is probably one of those stories where the original book is much better that the film, or maybe I'm just jaded after 20 years of hollywood endings where at the last minute, wesley saves the ship, and everyone lives happily ever after. Perhaps that's not how this story goes, but the way things conclude in the movie is jarring and a little depressing.

[reference]
The entire script with pictures from the movie.

 
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