Flashback Fridays: When the wine drinks itself, when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time . . .

This is the first in what I hope to be a regular Friday posting.  A chance to look at authors, books, movies and such from yesteryear and highlight them here.  To kick it off, I thought I’d do so with one of my all time favorite movies.

Remember this?

I first encountered The Last Unicorn as a fragment.  During the absence of my PE teacher one day in first grade, the class was allowed to sit and watch the beginning of The Last Unicorn.  I’m still not sure why we were watching that particular movie, nor why we only watched a few minutes of it that day.  But the images of the unicorn, the Red Bull, the Magician . . . those stayed with me.  I finally saw the complete movie about five years later.  By that time I was in to a full-on love of all things unicorn.  I drew unicorns, I had unicorn decorations . . . I covered my walls with unicorn posters.

My general unicorn fever wore off long ago.  But The Last Unicorn remains.  I’ve read the original book by Peter Beagle (who also wrote the screenplay for the movie).  I’ve bought the soundtrack (and have it memorized) and the DVD.  And I’m delighted that this movie is back.

After so many years of obscurity, and lawsuits muddying the waters and literally paralyzing the movie, it’s finally being re-released in an unedited version that promises to be the best we’ve seen in years.  The kickoff  screening was held on April 20th, 2013 in San Francisco at The Cartoon Art Museum–just in time for Peter Beagle’s 74th  birthday celebration.

Check out this gorgeous lithograph produced for the event! The entire text of the book is printed on the poster!

Now the book on which this was based is not exactly a children’s book. So this might be breaking my rules of the blog a little.  I can’t remember anything particularly objectionable for a sophisticated tween reader, however.  (Someone let me know if they do).  But the movie is squarely marketed to children–even if it makes a startlingly mature children’s movie.

If you’ve never encountered it, this is not some twee story about my little unicorn and flowers and pretty princesses and twu wuv solving everything.   If anything, Beagle wrote his book to counter many of the standard conventions of fantasy–and much of that remains reflected in the movie.  The basic premise is that of  an immortal unicorn who discovers she is the last in the world, and goes in search of what happened to the rest of her kind.  On her journey through the perilous and grim world of man, she gains allies:  a mediocre magician named Schmendrick and Molly Grue–a disillusioned and worn out woman who has always wished to see a unicorn.  They follow rumors of a red bull to the stark and cold kingdom of  King Haggard.  But the closer they come to an answer, the more the unicorn is in peril from the same force that drove the other unicorns from the world.  The only way to save her relies on a wild and dangerous magic . . . but what price will our characters pay for that magic?

Whenever I think of unicorns–it’s always the Last Unicorn vision that comes to mind.

I won’t give away the ending.  Suffice to say, there is no wedding at Canterlot to wrap things up.   The themes of this movie include mortality and immortality,  regret and love,  happiness and misery.  It’s NOT a movie for little kids.  Quite frankly, I don’t know who decided to show us this when I was in 1st grade, but I will  admit I was too young for it.  I think eight years and up, with the caveat that adults should watch it first and decide.  This is no benign Disney movie and it’s a good idea that adults know up front what to expect.

This clip is one of my favorites.  It’ll give you an idea of the flavor of the movie:

And to close with, here are a few of my favorite lines from The Last Unicorn:

Unicorn: “I am no longer like the others, for no unicorn was ever born who could regret, but now I do. I regret.”


The Cat:When the wine drinks itself, when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time, only then will you find the tunnel that leads to the Red Bull. There be a trick to it, of course.” 

Molly Grue:Why won’t you help me? Why must you always speak in riddles?

The Cat: “Because I be, what I be. I would tell you what you want to know if I could, mum, but I be a cat. And no cat anywhere, ever gave anyone a straight answer.”


Schmendrick:There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.

If you are a fan, what are some of your favorite lines?  Please share!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on May 3, 2013, in General Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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