4/9/2010

Top 6 Words: Legend

Posted in Top 6 Words at 5:00 am by Sam

“Legend” is the word for this entry in the Top 6 Words series. The word seems to be heavily used in martial arts movies and bad sequels.

My favorite movies with the word “legend” in the title follow the jump, but try coming up with your own list before peeking. Chime in with your own favorites in the comments section.

Ironically, the movie “Legend” is not here. It’s a phenomenally silly movie, and I don’t know what director Ridley Scott was thinking, nor what Tom Cruise thought prancing around in a fairy costume would do for his career. I also left off “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” which is a good but ultimately forgettable movie.

A lot of people would put “I Am Legend” here, as it seems to be a popular movie, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Some of the aforementioned bad sequels: The Legend of Zorro, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues, and Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, although that last one is good for camp value. Original bad movies include The Legend of the White Horse, The Legend of the Red Dragon, The Legend of Boggy Creek, and The Legend of the Dinosaurs. I guess “legend” is one of those words that sounds exciting, so bad movies throw it in the title as a last ditch effort to drum up some appeal.

6. The Legend (1993)

Jet Li gives the legend of Fong Sai Yuk pretty goofy treatment with this film. It’s part martial arts drama, part comedy of errors. The mix is uneasy, and a lot of the comedy falls flat, and yet the film works because of the convincing story and electric action. There is one great scene where the action and comedy mix nicely: two combatants must keep off the ground, so they leap about on the heads of the spectating crowd. You get the idea.

There was a sequel, The Legend II, which is worth seeing if you like this.

5. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

For this animated story about the legendary Arabian Nights hero, audiences “stayed away in droves.” But the box office rejection doesn’t make sense to me. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is not a classic, but it’s a fast-paced swashbuckler with enough action, humor, and dazzling visuals to keep both adults and children entertained. Note that some parents may find some of the gags a bit on the racy side; the film’s content is comparable to that of Antz, the previous work of much of Sinbad’s creative team.

Today’s word, by the way, is all that separates this title from the name of the best bad movie ever.

4. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)

Rare amongst Tarzan films in that it actually tries to tell Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original story faithfully. Purists still find fault, but it comes closer than most of the movies have. But this is not necessarily a good thing: here and there, the movie seems to be trying too hard to be the book instead of being a good movie. But it is mostly successful, and the serious thinking it does about the character makes an intriguing complement to the more adventure-oriented adaptations.

3. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

There are several versions of the story with this exact title (but not Tim Burton’s, which is named only “Sleepy Hollow”), but this is the one I’ve seen. It’s the Disney animated version which was originally released as half of “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” the other half being “The Wind and the Willows.” They were subsequently released as separate features.

Although not one of the better known Disney works, this is a very well done adaptation of the story.

2. Fist of Legend (1994)

Jet Li again, though this one couldn’t be any more different in tone than The Legend. The opening scene had me worried. Li takes on a band of ruffians, and the ensuing fight results in a cringe-inducing series of broken bones and dislocated joints. I don’t appreciate martial arts films that are graphic like that. Graphic violence can be a powerful tool in a film with something significant to say, but entertainment-oriented action works better when the hero isn’t so much of a butcher.

As it turns out, however, that’s the most graphic scene, and the rest of the action focuses more on breathtaking athleticism and rapid-fire choreography. Moreover, we get a pretty good story about tensions between the Chinese and Japanese during the Japanese’s occupation of Shanghai, which is particularly effective when societal pressures hit on a personal level.

Between the unusual attention given to story and character and the increasingly astounding fight scenes, this is a significant cut above the usual martial arts film. The climactic battle at the end is one of of the most amazing I have seen.

1. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

More amazing still, however, is this, Jackie Chan’s best film, made the same year. It has it all: action, humor, stunts, and a decent story to tie it all together. Entertaining throughout, it outdoes itself in the final act, which ranks with the most exciting fight scenes ever put to film.

8 Comments »

  1. wintermute (157) said,

    April 9, 2010 at 8:35 am

    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind in the Willows as a single movie? Not a double feature?

    I’m having trouble working out how that would work…

  2. Nyperold (116) said,

    April 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Well… in effect, I think it is a double feature, though apparently it’s called a “package film”. It’s not like they try to combine the stories; you wouldn’t see Mr Toad in his motor car, trying to outdrive the Headless Horseman.

  3. Sam (405) said,

    April 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Exactly, yeah. The two films are only about 45 minutes apiece, and they were released as a single entity — much like Grindhouse was Planet Terror and Death Proof stitched together as a single film.

    Disney had done this a couple of years earlier with Fun and Fancy Free, which was Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk stitched together in the same way.

  4. ThePhan (128) said,

    April 9, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    …I have not seen one single movie with the word “legend” in it. But now that I think of it, it tends to be a word I steer away from in moviedom.

  5. joem18b (231) said,

    April 10, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Rule of thumb: If you’re choosing between two movies and one of them has the word “legend” in the title, pick the other one.

    But anyway,

    6. Xian dai hao xia zhuan (Modern Day Wonder Heroes Legend) (1993) - Because I definitely have a thing for Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Chung.

    5. Tamnaan somdet phra Naresuan maharat: Phaak prakaat itsaraphaap (The Legend of Naresuan: Declaration in Independence) (2007) - Part of an epic Thai historical trilogy. Will broaden your horizons.

    4. Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend (1989) - Documentary narrated by Richard Widmark, including Marilyn footage and interviews with various costars and friends.

    3. 1895 (Blue Brave: The Legend of Formosa in 1895) (2008) - For those interested in Taiwanese cinema, not to mention history, as I happen to be at the moment, this is a pretty good two-hour epic about the Japanese takeover of Taiwan. DVD available on eBay. The director Chih-yu Hung worked as 2nd unit director for Nien-Jen Wu and was otherwise involved in the New Wave in the 90s, while still in his 20s.

    2. The Return of Captain Invincible (Legend in Leotards) (1983) - Unjustly neglected musical with Alan Arkin as Invincible and Christopher Lee as Mr. Midnight.

    1. Legend in Granite (1973) - Ernest Borgnine is a great Vince Lombardi and Colleen Dewhurst of all people is his wife. My top legend movie and fittingly, it’s about a real legend.

    Not-so-honorable mention:

    - Chôjin densetsu Urotsukidôji (Legend of the Overfiend) (1989); Urotsukidôji Legend of the Demon Womb Part One: A Prayer for the Resurrection of the Lord of Chaos (1990), Part Two: Battle at Shinjuku Skyscrapers (1993) - As with kung fu, there seem to be a lot of Hentai/Anime legends. These aren’t bad, though there are some dark parts.

    - The Legend of Awesomest Maximus (2010) - Haven’t seen this one yet but every tenth outing or so, National Lampoon makes a good movie, and… they’re due. Rip Torn as King Looney and Will Sasso as Awesomest Maximus. Other characters include Testiclees, Hottessa, Minoritees, Pervious, Ginormous, and Jamal.

  6. Sam (405) said,

    April 10, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Surely no movie called “Legend In Leotards” could be unjustly overlooked?

  7. joem18b (231) said,

    April 11, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I still have four sets of leotards and tights, purchased for contemporary community dance class. Mix-and-match black, white, green, and maroon. Black leotard and white tights best make the legs look less skinny and the torso less zaftig.

  8. wintermute (157) said,

    April 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I love Captain Invincible, but I’m not sure what the status of the “Legend in Leotards” title is; it’s not a subtitle, and doesn’t seem to be an alternate title that was ever actually used. I can only imagine that it was either a working title, or maybe a tagline.

    Anyway, if you’ve ever wanted to see Christopher Lee sing a series of puns based on the names of alcoholic drinks, this is a must.

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