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The Last Unicorn

The 1982 animated cult classic fantasy film directed by Julie Bass.

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If I Danced in my Dreaming...

  • Jan 12, 2002
  • by
Pros: Wonderful animation, good music, and a poignant and magical tale.

Cons: None, even the sad parts are appropriate to the story!

The Bottom Line: One of the greatest tales about unicorns in general and a masterwork of fantasy!

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Two huntsman enter a forest that is never touched by winter and begin talking about the belief that these woods belong to a unicorn, and unicorns in general. Only their horses know that a real unicorn follows them and is listening with keen interest in what they have to say. This serene, beautiful, pure, and immortal being is alarmed at the prospect that she may be the only unicorn left in the world. Where have all her people disappeared to? She has never needed any other company than the simple knowledge that their were others of her kind out there in the world, but now she cannot find a moments peace as she debates whether or not to search for them. Unicorns were not made to make decisions.

In the end, she decides that perhaps they are waiting for her or need her help, so she sets out on a long hard road to find them. As Bilbo Baggins once warned his nephew, one must stay alert for roads can be deceptive and dangerous things. One never knows where a road might sweep you off to! Alas, she did not know of Bilbo’s sound advice, and is captured by Mommy Fortuna and her Midnight Carnival (“Creatures of Night brought to Light!”) while she lays sleeping alongside the road.

Perhaps this abduction was her greatest piece of fortune though, because it is here that she gleans the first concrete information on what may have happened to her people. She learns that a strange and powerful creature known as the Red Bull may have systematically gathered up all of the other unicorns in the world and driven them off to some unknown fate all for the whim of a cold, unhappy king. With the help of Shmendrick (“Last of the red-hot swamis”) and his wayward magic, she escapes the carnival and sets out in search of King Haggard’s country. Fortunately, they later make the acquaintance of Molly Grue, or they may have never found their destination!

Our band of heroes have not been long in Haggard’s country before the Red Bull senses the presence of a unicorn and comes for her. The struggle between these two immortal beings does not last long, and just as we believe the Bull will herd our unicorn off never to be seen again, Shmendrick’s contrary magic seizes hold of her. Her form has been changed to one of no significance to the Bull, but the beautiful mortal frame the unicorn finds herself in terrifies her. “I am trapped here and I can feel this body dying all around me!” she cries. Her friends comfort her as best they can and Shmendrick tries to make her see that perhaps she can only find the answers she seeks while disguised as the Lady Amalthea.

Cold and selfish, King Haggard finds the trio intriguing and is determined to satisfy his suspicions of Lady Amalthea’s true origins. The amiable Prince Lir only knows that he has lost his heart to this graceful woman with the kind heart and quiet ways. As Amalthea searches and Shmendrick diverts Haggard’s attention with his paltry tricks, time passes. The last unicorn begins to loose herself in Lady Amalthea, becoming more human with each day that passes. Will Haggard uncover all of their secrets and stop them? Will they ever discover where the unicorns have been hidden? Will they be rescued to run free upon the face of our world once more, or will the last of their kind live out her days as merely a woman who loves her prince?

Released in 1982, this lovely film is based upon the marvelous novel by Peter S. Beagle. I am forever thankful that he was the one to write the screenplay, which also explains why this translated work stays so true to the original story! My imagination was so captured by this charming film, that I simply had to have the book, and in those pages I found one of the greatest stories ever told. I have since worn out five different copies of the written work! Thank goodness the film stands up better to repeated use!

The Last Unicorn is, in my opinion, the absolute pinnacle of all Rankin/Bass productions and a superb work of animation. This would be in my Top Ten Animated films, except for the fact that this work deserves to stand on its own for the marvel that it is. The animations are lush, dreamlike, and magical, with a gracefulness often lacking in Rankin/Bass works. The voices perfectly compliment their characters which certainly enhances the film’s impact. You will hear Jeff Bridges (Prince Lir), Mia Farrow (Amalthea), Angela Lansbury (Mommy Fortuna), Christopher Lee (King Haggard), Tammy Grimes (Molly Grue), and Alan Arkin (Shmendrick) as well as Rene Auberjonois, Paul Frees, and Robert Klein in this film. To top it all off, this 93 minute dream of a movie, has some lovely songs performed by the band America drifting along in the background! This film did not receive the attention it deserved when it was released, but it has withstood the test of time and is still available on video. Filled with magic, laughter, sorrow, tragedy, hope and love, this film is equally appealing to children and adults. No home should be without it!

P.S. So, why the title you may be wondering? Well, it is a paraphrasing of a line from one of the lovely poems in the novel which was Not included in the film. It's a wonderful piece and very complimentary to the Unicorn's character, as well as a thought-provoking view on life.

"If I danced with my feet
as I dance in my dreaming,
as graceful and gleaming
as Death in disguise,
Oh but then would I hunger
to be ten years younger,
or wedded, or wise."


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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May 01, 2011
ahh..hello, Quinn! You and Meghan has gotten me interested!!
May 26, 2011
should you give it a view, let us know what you thought!
More The Last Unicorn reviews
review by . May 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
This is one of those movies that i saw when i was really young (even though it was made before i was born) and tracked down on amazon as an adult. It is based on a book that sadly i have never read...but its on my list for the used book store. This film is about a unicorn that leaves her enchanted forest to seek out other unicorns after hearing a rumor that she is the last unicorn left in the world. After a butterfly tells the unicorn that she must seek out king haggard because he and his red bull …
review by . December 01, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Absolutely fantastic voice over cast     Cons: Never was a fan of the drawing style by Rankin/Bass     The Bottom Line: Completely faithful to the novel (...since Peter S. Beagle did the screenplay)     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. After my Top 10 Animated Goodness Movies list, in which I’d listed The Hobbit, someone mentioned I should have put The Last Unicorn instead. I hadn’t …
About the reviewer
Quinn Blackburn ()
Ranked #48
Hello, my name is Quinn. :o) I also answer to Mom, YaYa, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe these to be true and sacred things … more
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About this movie


Weary of being alone in the vast forest, unicorn Amalthea (Mia Farrow) begins to wonder if she's the last of her kind. Following a rumor, she joins forces with feeblish wizard Schmendrick (Alan Arkin) and wayward barmaid Molly (Tammy Grimes) to look for the mystical Red Bull, a creature known to hunt and imprison unicorns. In order to walk unnoticed among men, Schmendrick magically transforms Amalthea into a beautiful woman. Together the three embark on a adventurous journey into the dark land of King Haggard, the man rumored to control the Red Bull. <br> <br> Based on Peter Beagle's novel of the same name, THE LAST UNICORN is a bright, colorful tale about love and loss. Farrow loans her fluttering voice indelibly to the lips of the unicorn, and Arkin is spot on playing the spell-casting wizard Schmendrick. The film also features the vocal talents of Jeff Bridges, Christopher Lee, and Angela Lansbury. Complete with an over-the-top soundtrack by the pop band America, THE LAST UNICORN is perhaps the high...
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Director: Jules Bass
Genre: Family
Release Date: January 1, 1982
MPAA Rating: G
DVD Release Date: Artisan Entertainment (March 16, 2004)
Runtime: 84 minutes
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