Legends of the Fall (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Everything in my head tells me I should hate this movie. It is a 1957 movie made in 1994, kind of a cross between Giant and Spencer's Mountain, and it has every possible corny Hollywood cliché attendant to the pioneer family epic genre.  


Julia Ormond and Karina Lombard showed one nipple apiece.
  • It has a narration by an old Indian who is the wisest of all the characters in the film, his wisdom deeper than Socrates, possessing not only what he has learned in his life, but all the secrets of his ancestors, not to mention the combined knowledge of the deer, the snake, several major vegetables, all Indians from all other movies, and Dr Steven Hawking. 
  • The aforementioned narration includes a sensitive reference to the name of the film. "Oh, sure, the summer has its legends, but the Old Ones teach us that the greatest legends are (stirring music) the legends of the fall. Oh, ok, I forgot about the legends of Indian summer. They were big, too, and they got some of the hottest chicks. That's why they named Indian summer after us. Or maybe they named it after those other Indian guys in India. I'm not sure, but that point is that the greatest legends were (stirring music) the legends of the fall."
  • Three brothers all in love with the same woman, all go off to WW1 together, all serve in the same trench. Need I say more?
  • The sensitive youngest brother sings a song in his soft, sensitive tenor. When he dies, that song (in symphonic form) becomes the theme song for the movie.
  • The future pits brother against brother, but they come together when they need to.

Yeah, I know. Very lame kitsch, and I didn't even scratch the surface of it.

And yet I didn't hate it. In fact, I enjoyed it.

This movie is completely corny and old-fashioned, but the director did it so professionally that it sucked me right in. When the untamed Brad Pitt came back from that multi-year absence, riding out of the horizon with the symbolic herd of wild horses, I was stirred. Damn, I knew that the old Indian couldn't possibly have known that was Pitt a ridin' and a whoopin' five miles away, and I knew they were manipulating me with the music, but I fell for it anyway. And, dammit, I was really rooting for Pitt to wipe out those evil dudes that killed his sweet, innocent wife.

If you know it's going to be larger-than-life, by jiminy, do it right, be inventive, and do it much larger than life. And that's exactly what they did. You may not like this kind of movie, but you just can't deny they did it as well as it can be done. They threw all the best talent they could at this project. The sounds and sights are absolutely top of the line from start to finish.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • two full-length commentaries (director and Pitt on one), cinematographer and production designer on the other)

  • Making-of featurette

  • 3 deleted scenes

I compared this film earlier to Giant, but this movie is much better than Giant, much closer to Gone with the Wind in the category of sweeping sentimental epics. The acting in Giant is embarrassing. James Dean, who could be so effective when he had the right role, was over-the-top silly in his cowboy clothes and his spray-on gray hair. And Rock Hudson? Nice guy, but couldn't win a high school dramatic interp contest if the only other contestant was Bill Shatner.

This film, on the other hand, is solidly acted by people who are both actors and stars (Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt), and the two female stars are two women that I adore (Julia Ormond, Karina Lombard). You could compare that favorably to the Gone With the Wind cast in its own era. There is nobody quite as charismatic as Gable, but the team is just as solid. 

Ok, maybe I was wrong. Maybe this film is 60 years out of date rather than 40, but so what? Just take off your thinking cap, don't be too analytical, and just enjoy Hollywood professionals entertaining you with a big Old Hollywood movie. If you simply don't enjoy this type of corn syrup, rent a Bergman film instead.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, 

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Eight articles on file

  • won an Oscar for best cinematography. was nominated for Best Sound and best Art Direction.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.5 
  • With their dollars ... it was a solid hit. Box office was $66 million, and it has also taken in $32 million in rental income. The budget was $30 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Top of the line in those multi-generation family melodramas that Hollywood used to churn out by the zillions, and television still does. 

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