Drew Struzan poster

Ladyhawke is a 1985 fantasy film based on a story initially conceived Edward Khmara. The film was directed by Richard Donner.

Plot[edit | edit source]

In medieval Europe, Phillipe Gaston (Matthew Broderick), a thief known as “The Mouse”, escapes from the dungeons of Aquila via the sewers right before execution. The Bishop of Aquila (John Wood) sends his Captain of the Guard, Marquet (Ken Hutchison), to hunt Phillipe down.

At a country inn, Phillipe unknowingly reveals himself to Marquet and his men. The guards recapture Phillipe and are ordered to kill him. But the former captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) shows up and saves Phillipe. The guard Francesco (Omero Capanna) addresses Navarre as captain which triggers Marquet to kill him by pushing him onto Navarre’s sword. Navarre knocks out Marquet and fights off the guards. Then he rides off with Phillipe while his hawk scatters the few guards along the way.

Navarre and Phillipe stop in the woods and lodge in a farmer’s barn. Later that evening, Phillipe barely runs away from the farmer’s sneak attack when an enormous black wolf emerges and kills the farmer. Phillipe dashes back to the barn and sees a mysterious young woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) there who goes out and accompanies the wolf.

Marquet rides back to Aquila and warns the Bishop of Navarre’s return. The Bishop calls Navarre Satan’s messenger, and orders Marquet to go after Navarre but warns him not to harm Navarre’s spirited hawk. The Bishop then sends for someone named Cezar.

Navarre reveals that he intends to kill the Bishop of Aquila and asks Phillipe to help him get inside the city. Phillipe refuses, and gets tied up for the night. Yet Phillipe tricks the mysterious woman into releasing him and escapes. However, he soon gets recaptured by the Bishop’s guards again.

At an ambush from the Bishop’s guards, Navarre and his hawk are each hit by a crossbow bolt, yet he manages to defeat them and saves Phillipe. The wounded Navarre makes Phillipe get on his horse and take the dying hawk to a ruined castle, and ask an old monk Imperius (Leo McKern) for help. Imperius locks the hawk in a room and goes out to gather herbs. The curious Phillipe picks the lock and finds the mysterious woman inside the room, her chest also struck with a bolt. Imperius returns, sends Phillipe away, and tends to the woman’s wound.

Later, Imperius tells Phillipe that the woman is Isabeau of Anjou. She came to live in Aquila and fell in love with Captain Navarre. But the Bishop was crazy about her and wooed her persistently. Imperius, who was the lovers’ confessor, revealed their secret vows to the Bishop in a drunken confession. The Bishop went mad and made a demonic pact to curse the lovers. By day Isabeau becomes a hawk and by night Navarre a wolf so that despite being always together, they are eternally apart.

Cezar the wolf trapper (Alfred Molina) arrives to see the Bishop. The Bishop orders him to find Isabeau and kill the black wolf who loves her.

After dispatching some of the Bishop’s guards at Imperius’ ruined castle, Navarre learns from Imperius that the curse can be broken if he and Isabeau both face the Bishop in the flesh on “a day without a night and a night without a day”. Navarre dismisses Imperius as an old drunk, and continues his way to Aquila intent on simply killing the Bishop. Phillipe decides to leave with Navarre and “Ladyhawke”, and he starts to transfer messages, which he most likely makes up, between the star-crossed lovers to enliven their spirits.

Isabeau and Phillipe encounter Cezar outside an inn after sunset. Isabeau sees Cezar’s wolf pelts and gets hysterical. She rides after Cezar into the forest. Cezar triggers some of the traps there intentionally to terrify Isabeau in order to draw out her black wolf. When he examines a black wolf that has just got trapped, the Navarre-wolf shows up and surprises him. Isabeau kicks the crouching Cezar onto the trap, and it snaps his neck.

On the following night, Phillipe convinces Isabeau that the curse can be broken. When the Navarre-wolf comes across the ice seeking Isabeau, the ice breaks and the wolf falls into the river. Phillipe’s chest gets severely ripped by the wolf’s claws as he saves the wolf out of the freezing water. When Navarre sees Phillipe’s fresh wounds the next morning, Phillipe is finally able to persuade Navarre to break the curse.

At night, Imperius and Isabeau enter Aquila through the main gate, and smuggle the Navarre-wolf along in a cage under false pretense while Phillipe dives into the sewers to get inside the cathedral. The next day, the Bishop holds a mass to hear the clergy’s confession. Navarre and Imperius wait on, but the day shows no divine sign, and Isabeau does not appear in the flesh with him. As the mass is going to end, Navarre decides to attack. And he convinces Imperius to euthanize the hawk should he hear the cathedral bells ring, which would mean Navarre has failed.

Phillipe infiltrates the clergy confession from the sewers and unlocks the cathedral doors. Navarre rides in and duels with Marquet. During their bout, Marquet throws his helmet at Navarre but breaks a window high in the cathedral instead. As the duel goes on, Navarre sees a solar eclipse through the broken window and realizes the curse can be broken. He tries to get back to Imperius but fails at keeping the guards from ringing the cathedral bell. Despairing that Imperius has killed the hawk, he continues his fight and eventually kills Marquet.

As Navarre is about to kill the Bishop, Isabeau enters the cathedral and stops him. Together they face the Bishop and break the curse. Isabeau confronts the Bishop. The Bishop goes into a fit of madness and tries to kill her, only to die by Navarre's sword instead. Isabeau and Navarre finally embrace each other in joy.

Production[edit | edit source]

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Charles Borromel .... Insane Prisoner
  • Massimo Sarchielli .... Innkeeper
  • Russel Case .... Lieutenant
  • Stefano Horowitzo .... Bishop’s Bodyguard
  • Venantino Venantini .... Bishop’s Secretary
  • Nanà Cecchi .... Bishop’s Woman
  • Gaetano Russo .... Guard in the Cell
  • Rod Dana .... Guard at the City Gate
  • Valerie O’Brian .... Peasant Girl
  • Gregory Snegoff .... Cart Driver
  • Donald Hodson .... Guard on Cart
  • Marcus Beresford .... Acolyte

Key crew members[edit | edit source]

Background Information and Notes[edit | edit source]

Development[edit | edit source]

Shooting[edit | edit source]

Marketing[edit | edit source]

In publicity materials, Warner Bros. claimed that the script was based on an actual medieval tale. Edward Khmara contacted the Writer’s Guild, who forced Warner Bros. to pay a small fine and promise to discontinue making the “old myth” claim in their advertising.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Critical response[edit | edit source]

Box office performance[edit | edit source]

The film was a commercial failure, failing to break even.

Home video[edit | edit source]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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