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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Last Unicorn - 25th Anniversary Edition

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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted February 04 2007 - 04:53 AM

25th Anniversary Edition

Studio: Lions Gate
Distributed by: Maple Pictures
Film Year: 1982
Film Length: 93 minutes
Genre: Animation/Fantasy

Aspect Ratio:

  • 1.85:1 theatrical ratio

    Colour/B&W: Colour

  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Film Rating: G

  • Release Date: February 06, 2007.

    Rating: /

    Featuring Voices of: Alan Arkin (Schmendrick), Jeff Bridges (Prince Lir), Mia Farrow (Unicorn/Amalthea), Tammy Grimes (Molly Grue), Robert Klein (The Butterfly), Angela Lansbury (Mommy Fortuna), Christopher Lee (King Haggard)

    Written by: Peter S. Beagle
    Directed by: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.

    A lone wandering unicorn receives a clue that she may be the last unicorn on Earth. Determined to find answers, she befriends a struggling magician and a peasant woman on a journey to King Haggard’s castle where the myth of a fiery red bull pushed all of the unicorns in the sea by Haggard’s will. But an unintentional run-in with the bull makes the magician’s magic turn the unicorn into the beautiful Lady Amalthea. Not knowing what to fear more – being trapped in a human body or being the last unicorn – Amalthea falls in love with King Haggard’s son Prince Lir. But should her love for him overpower her quest to find all of the lost unicorns, or can she live safely without Haggard knowing her true identity?

    This is the 25th Anniversary release of this title and included is an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 widescreen transfer with a few new features packaged in a glittery cardboard slipcase. This is not the theatrical version, but the slightly extended Incorporated Television Company (ITC) home video version adding up to a minute of additional scenes as well as including a few different audio cues.

    VIDEO QUALITY: 2.5/5

    This release is disappointing for an anniversary edition. I expected some care to be put into it, but this DVD version seems to be a transfer of the ITC video version. I noticed unusual video-related artefacts on the screen that I don't usually see so I immediately knew it wasn’t from a film source. The DVD-3910 isn’t perfect with all video cadences so many viewers will notice the shimmering lines around curved objects (such as around eyelids); it all depends on the performance of your DVD player.

    The resulting picture is lower in resolution than what it could be even though the animation isn’t spectacular to begin with. The picture appears to have a bit of a blur at times. But what is really disappointing is the amount of artefacts the original source had. Whatever source ITC used for their video version, it doesn’t look the greatest. It’s littered with grain and dirt and countless other artefacts that could also be related to the animation at the time. For this release, the video quality is the trade off for the extended scenes. Was it possible to reconstruct a new transfer using film as a starting point? Probably, but that takes time and money for a release that is welcomed but won’t be flying off of the store shelves.

    The picture is bright; the day lit scenes are good and the unicorn always looks so white contrasting well with the scenery around. Color is never exceptionally vibrant, in fact, it has a muted look. Again, a variety of factors come into play here: is it the original animation or the source used for this release? For this DVD, the source is undoubtedly several generations from the original.

    As the story moves to King Haggard’s castle, grey and dark brown are dominant colours. Dark parts of the picture become more dominant although black level depth isn’t striking.

    The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and most of that black bar is at the top of the screen. The disc is enhanced for widescreen televisions. Some compression artefacts and edge outlining exist but neither is very distracting.


    The theatrical version had a Dolby Surround soundtrack. That soundtrack is available on this release as well as a separate Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (default). I preferred the Dolby Surround version more for its extra ambience. The 5.1 mix is fairly quiet and has a few discrete effects. The soundtrack is thin and has little LFE or bass in any channel. Dialogue is a mixed bag of quality. Much of is sounds veiled and the recording could be easily mistaken for being twenty years older than what it is.



  • The Tail of the Last Unicorn (8.34): This appears to be a new interview with the novelist Peter S. Beagle and he speaks about the story, how the idea came to him, how he developed it, and how it became successful.

  • Escape the Red Bull - is a game to test what you know of the story. Get the facts right and you push the bull into the sea, if you get them wrong, you’ll join the fate of the unicorns

  • Schmendrick’s Magical Gallery - 19 stills

  • About Peter S. Beagle - features a voice discussing many aspects of the writer’s life including other works and the “lost version” of The Last Unicorn.

    The disc also includes the original theatrical trailer that’s very rough looking with mono sound. Another trailer gallery with Lions Gate/Maple Pictures releases can also be found here (and forced when the disc is put in the player).

    IN THE END...

    I will admit I expected more from this anniversary release. The picture quality could use an entirely new transfer and a good clean up too. I don’t expect anything like that to happen on SD-DVD because it’s probably argued that the costs would outweigh the benefits at this time. When the time comes for an HD release, a new source must be created for the HD delivery medium. I hate saying this, but for now this is the best we’re getting.

    Mike Osadciw
    February 04, 2007.

    Michael Osadciw

    THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator

    Video Contributor

    CANADA HiFi Magazine

    #2 of 10 OFFLINE   Edwin-S



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    Posted February 04 2007 - 08:18 AM

    I saw this film during its initial theatrical run. As I recall, the original color palette of this film was always muted, tending towards browns and greys. The color palette matched the somewhat depressed nature of the story. Your description of this release seems to indicate a poor effort on the part of Lionsgate. As you stated, this film is not about to fly off of shelves and most likely will appeal mostly to animation buffs or fans of the film. It is beyond me why Lionsgate would bother releasing the film if they couldn't be bothered with doing the job right, since the film is likely going to appeal mostly to collectors who expect to have a proper transfer, from proper elements, that replicates what they originally saw. I would like to have a copy of this film. However, after reading your review, it is unlikely that I will bother with this poor excuse for a release. If these outfits cannot be bothered to treat lesser known films like these with the proper respect then it would be better not to bother with them at all. I all ready have a VHS copy of this film. Why would I spend money on a DVD that apparently doesn't look like it is much of a step above the VHS version? I hope that this film eventually gets revisited for an HD release. Maybe then they will actually get it right.
    "You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

    #3 of 10 OFFLINE   WillG



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    Posted February 04 2007 - 10:36 AM

    Well, not to defend lazy practices by studios, but since so many people were up in arms about the original P&S version, fans of the film can at least be thankful that the film is now offered in Widescreen, especially since this is a relatavely low interest release. Lion's Gate was never going to invest alot for a full restoration, but in this case it might have been enough of a bone to fans of the film to do an anamorphic transfer.
    STOP HIM! He's supposed to die!

    #4 of 10 OFFLINE   Joel C

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    Posted February 05 2007 - 08:18 AM

    Anyone compare this to the R2 German release? I have that one but no longer have my APEX region free player.
    "Why I laugh?"

    #5 of 10 OFFLINE   Matt Czyz

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    Posted February 05 2007 - 10:14 AM

    That's nothing less than damn disappointing. I was so excited for this release, and I'll still pick it up, but I was really hoping for something better than what those scores reflect.

    #6 of 10 OFFLINE   Brian Kidd

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    Posted February 05 2007 - 12:32 PM

    Hey, at least it's in widescreen this time. Posted Image Count your blessings, I guess. The film hasn't been given a lot of love in the past.
    Support Film Preservation before it's too late!

    #7 of 10 OFFLINE   MarcoBiscotti



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    Posted February 07 2007 - 01:08 AM

    So should I hang on to my PAL disc from the UK?

    #8 of 10 OFFLINE   Matt Czyz

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    Posted February 07 2007 - 05:23 AM

    Michael, Is there any way you can post some screen grabs?

    #9 of 10 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw


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    Posted February 10 2007 - 08:16 AM


    I would love to...but I need a crash course on how to...I'm not a computer guy and I learn as I go along... Posted Image


    Michael Osadciw

    THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator

    Video Contributor

    CANADA HiFi Magazine

    #10 of 10 OFFLINE   serenapowell


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    Posted February 11 2007 - 02:39 AM

    Too bad there wasn't more work put into this DVD, but I am glad it was finally released in widescreen. I read that Peter S. Beagle contributed more extras but didn't really have control over the final product... guess Lions Gate decided to spend the least amount of money possible. Anyone know if the Canadian version has bilingual text marring the artwork? I haven't seen it in stores here yet myself...

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