The Importance of the Four Goblins Opening scene

By Bill Hiers

The original, alternate opening to Legend was something of a Holy Grail to us fans for some time. Ever since we heard about a completely different beginning, with a fourth "new" goblin character no less, we were dying to see it surface and/or possibly be reintegrated into the film in the Director's Cut we were all pining for at the time. And like the fabled Lost Spider Pit Sequence from King Kong, there was, to my recollection, some mild debate about whether or not Ridley Scott even filmed it. Then, on May 21st, 2002, the Ultimate Edition DVD of Legend came out, with a new, third (technically fourth if you count the TV version) version of the movie, and, to what to our wondering eyes should appear, but the Four Goblins alternate opening with, well, four goblins. A breakdown of the Four Goblins scene can be found here : What are Blix, Pox, Blunder, and Tic saying in the original "Four Goblins" alternate opening footage found on the DVD?

I still remember the excitement of me and my sister when we got the DVD. Being big fans of the goblins, we went straight to that particular scene and sat back and watched it to see if it would live up to our expectations as set by the scene described in the March 10th script. And it did. In a way. Nevermind that it wasn't exactly of the best sound and visual quality. The problem was that with the joy of finally getting to see this, the most famous of Legend's deleted scenes, there came a sense of disappointment. Disappointment, namely, that it wasn't included in the Director's Cut. Surely, we reasoned, they could have cleaned up the footage, had the actors come back in and re-record their dialogue, and add in the missing shots. But what do I know about moviemaking? For all I know, the footage is so far gone there isn't ever any hope of restoring it to the pristine glory of the stuff included in the Director's Cut, or it just would've been too expensive. In any event, we were lucky to even get the footage on the DVD at all, considering it was discovered on a videotape as opposed to actual film. Whether or not the original reel containing the footage even still exists at this time is unknown.

In the wake of the DVD's release, it got reviewed by just about every DVD website in existence, and they usually included a breakdown of the special features, including the Four Goblins opening. My heart sank as so many dismissed it as pointless or a mere curiousity. Admittedly, due to the poor quality of the footage, it is difficult to follow what's going on unless you've read the script beforehand, but, still, it amazed me how so few people realize how important this sequence was intended to be, as it would have explained away two huge plot holes left unexplained even in the Director's Cut. Namely, Blunder's chicken claw hand and why Screwball can't blow the "big trumpet." Not that anyone seems to care about these particular plot holes; most people I've mentioned them to (who are casual viewers rather than insane, obsessive fans like me and my sister) say they've never even noticed Blunder's deformed left hand. Why? Because nine out of ten average movie watchers don't pay much attention to Blix and his friends. Which is another reason why this excised beginning is so important: it properly introduces us to the goblins, which would've made it hard for even the most inattentive viewer to ignore them. Without this sequence, the goblins, Blunder and Pox in particular, are just background filler, and the "big reveal" of who and what Blunder really is (i.e. a faerie) winds up not mattering much to most people.

Anyway, now that I've gotten through my reasons for why I don't think the footage ought to be dismissed, let's get into the footage itself and compare it to William Hjortsberg's screenplays and the storyboards. Technically speaking, as with the three different versions of the Darkness and Blix opening included in the American, European and Director's Cut versions, it's basically the same, story-wise: the goblins attempt to capture the unicorns, depicted as flashes of ethereal light, fail, and go and report to Darkness about it, facing some minor trouble on the way. But there are enough between-the-line differences, both major and minor, to warrant going into them. And so, here is the main reason for this review, to compare and contrast the filmed version of this deleted scene with its screenplay and storyboard counterparts, starting with the March 10th script. The scripts referenced in this article can be found here LEGEND script from March 10th, 1984 - Second Draft and here LEGEND script from March 10th, 1984 - Second Draft with September 25, 1984 Revisions

The footage begins as the script does, with shots of animals in a nighttime forest, and hints of something magical in the vicinity, as evidenced by the irregular flashes of white light coming from over a hill. And, as in the script, this tranquility is broken by the sudden appearance of the goblins. This brings us to the first major divergence from the screenplay, namely which goblin we're introduced to first. In the script it is Blix; the others (Pox, Blunder and Tic) are introduced shortly afterwards in that order, and the four immediately begin stalking what the script describes as "Light beams" (i.e. the unicorns). In the filmed version, however, it is actually Blunder who is the first to be seen. We see him walking along a creek by himself before he runs into Blix and Pox, who are a bit rough with him, suggesting he is a new member of their little troupe. This, in my opinion, means that, as shot, even though Blix is the leader of the gang, this opening sequence sets Blunder up as the most important of the goblins narratively.

I asked William Hjortsberg about this, and his response was, "You must understand that you are asking about work done over twenty years ago, much of it in multiple drafts and often for reasons (productions costs, the director's changing vision, etc.) having nothing to do with the sort of thematic subtlties you are asking about. This was frequently work done in a hurry and under great pressure. I think I rewrote the beginning of the film at least twenty times, so forgive me if can no longer remember the goblins' motivation." So I guess Blunder being introduced before any of the goblins is still open to interpretation.

The murky footage with poor sound quality is a bit difficult to follow but from what I can tell, it does not appear that the goblins are even aware of the presence of the unicorns until Tic appears in the distance and alerts them with a birdcall, which Blix returns, leading our foursome to begin stalking the strange creatures. Blunder is focused on more than any of the other goblins in this portion of the sequence (lending more credence to my theory that he was originally intended to come across as being a much more important character than most people take him for), and, in particular, lives up to his name by popping up out of the bushes too far ahead of the others, scaring some birds and threatening to give their presence away. Pox, meanwhile, crawls forwards and encounters....something. We're shown a "Scene Missing" title card, and then cut back to Pox yelling in shock. The script says he comes face to face with a regular wild pig, only there it's the pig who is afraid, not Pox. Regardless, this loud scream from the pig-faced goblin would appear to give their position away, and the Light Beams promptly retreat, leaving behind naught but a single hair from one of their manes, which the goblins fight over, as in the script.

In the script it's only Blunder and Pox who fight over it, and Blix breaks it up by knocking their heads together; here, Tic joins in on the fray, and Blix breaks it up by repeatedly bashing his childish companions with his bow while shrieking in anger, which is undoubtedly the funniest bit in the entire sequence. Blix examines the hair and we cut to the goblins riding through the woods.

A word about the shots of the Goblins riding. Until now, everyone thought that Tic's milliseconds-long cameo was only in the European version; we all thought the third goblin riding behind Blix during the unicorn chase sequence was Blunder. However the Four Goblins scene clearly shows that Blunder is bringing up the rear, and it is Tic who is riding behind Blix, which means that Tic actually makes a cameo in all versions of the film, even the American one. We just always thought it was Blunder because his and Tic's helmets turned out to be so similar-looking.

There is no sequence in evidence of the goblins actually traversing the swamp to get to the Great Tree. We simply cut from them riding to them coming through the opening in the wall, which Jack and the faeries will come through later. It's possible, however, that some footage of the goblins crossing the swamp was shot, and just not included in the workprint. More gratuitous focusing on Blunder as he winds up tumbling comically down the slope in the exact same manner Screwball does later; a nice bit of forshadowing. We then get a rather lengthy scene of the goblins swinging across the narrow pit to the side with the tree affixed with what Hjorstberg's website calls the Ancient Horn. Blunder almost doesn't make it, and Blix, oddly enough, actually helps him, and pretty soon only Tic is left on the other side, and he refuses to come over.

In fact, let's talk about Tic, who was for so long the main draw of this sequence, the fabled fourth goblin. As noted, his helmet is similar to Blunder's, only the face grille is long and pointy, one horn is broken off, and the tip of the remaining horn is twisted into a spiral like a ram's horn. There is also a row of very tiny spikes running from the top of the helmet down the back. Beyond that, though, the poor quality of the footage makes it difficult to make out the rest of his costume. To some, the revelation that he's "basically Blunder minus one horn" may be a little underwhelming, but I think the subtle differences make him an interesting enough character for what little screentime he's got. During the writing of this article, Sean Murphy, who helped me greatly, put forth the notion that perhaps Tic is a faeire in disguise, since his face is concealed like Blunder's is. Rather than suggesting Tic is a faerie, I personally think he's definitely a goblin and was in a helmet like Blunder's so that no one would find Blunder's being similarly masked strange, thus making the plot twist of him being a faerie more surprising. The script makes it plain he's something monstrous with a bit involving him eating a moth with his tongue, but this wasn't in the filmed version - that we saw. As has been said we don't know conclusively what was filmed and what wasn't.

Which brings us to the next large divergence from the script: how Tic dies, and how big his role is. In the script he has no lines whatsoever (unless you count "Sshhh!"), does next to nothing, and then gets eaten by Meg Mucklebones. Here, he's a chatterbox compared to the script, and is depicted as being extremely irritable, and considers what they're doing a big waste of time....and in what apparently proves to be is undoing, he doesn't hide it. "Why all the rush?" he demands to know angrily, "All this fuss about a hair!" So, he refuses to swing over, and the remainder of his dialogue is just saying "No!" over and over again every time Blix and the other two try to persuade him to come over.

Ultimately, he does swing over, only for Blix to kick him back and cut the vine, dropping him down the pit, which we know leads to the cages in the Lord of Darkness' kitchen. And since Tic is not encountered by Jack and the faeries while down there later, it's a safe bet he got baked into a pie the same way Blunder almost does. Bye, Tic, you irritable grump, we'll miss you.

It's a toss-up as to which version of Tic's death is "better." Having him get eaten by Meg Mucklebones would, as has been mentioned elsewhere, provide some tension for when Jack, Gump and the others venture into the swamp, because the audience would remember that there's "something" in the water that likes to eat people. In the end I suspect they just cut out the goblins' swamp journey for pacing purposes. It goes on way too long in the script anyway. Having Blix be the one to kill Tic is a good way to show how evil he is, and, again, having Tic fall down into the pit would've provided tension for when the heroic characters arrive there later.

In yet another example of focusing on Blunder, he is positively horrified by what Blix has done, and yells "Tic! Tic!" uselessly down into the pit in dismay. Thus we see that he is not as evil as Blix is (which makes the European version and Director's Cut's insistence on having him be the one to contemplate eating the frozen baby all the more puzzling, although Sean Murphy suggests he was merely doing this to try to fit in with "the guys"). But in the end, he and Pox agree to just forget about Tic, and their journey resumes without any more ado. Blix blows the Ancient Horn, and, while doing so, farts.

Whereas in the script the other goblins merely grimace, Pox here tempts fate by saying an apparently ad-libbed line, "Is that the only tune you know?" One might think that he's walking the razor's edge by getting smart with Blix after he just got done killing Tic for that very reason, but since Blix later calls him "old pal Pox," one can assume that Pox is an old comrade of Blix's and is therefore able to get away with giving his leader at least a little bit of lip.

One rhyming incantation from Blix and another "Scene Missing" title card later, and Darkness appears as a wafting black cloak, although instead of wrapping himself around the bone fiddler statue out in the swamp, he comes out of the pit Tic fell into. Which I guess makes more sense, because, if the Great Tree is Darkness' home, why would be come from outside of it? Since this scene apparently never made it past the workprint stage (Tic being mentioned in the press kit notwithstanding), most of the dialogue is looped and is what was recorded on the set, which means that Tim Curry's off-camera reading of Darkness' lines here (the cloaked form floating in the air is just a puppet) are all in his normal voice, not the deep, booming one he would have in the final version(s) of the movie. Blix shows the hair to Darkness, Blunder rudely interrupts to explain that he's the one who found it (which actually isn't true; this version has Blix pause to examine the hair before running ahead, and then Blunder grabs it), whereupon Darkness shuts him up by zapping his hand and transforming it into a deformed chicken claw.

In the script, he doesn't appear to feel much pain from it since he recovers instantly, but here, he's still yowling in agony all through his excessive "thanking" of Darkness. From here on in the sequence is more or less the same as it is in the script, minus a few missing and/or slightly different lines. Blix asks what the "bait" for the "angel of light" is, and is told, "Innocence!" by Darkness. Cut to black, end scene.

And that's all she wrote.

But not quite. In addition to the March 10th script, there is an "alternate" version of the script, with some newly added sequences. This contains a slightly different version of the Marth 10th script's opening sequence, which is dated September 25th and is closer to what was filmed, except for a few small differences. Chief among these is the fact that Tic's line, "Why all the rush? All this fuss about a hair!" is spoken instead by Pox, and Tic's reason for not wanting to swing over is given as him being afraid (he has extra dilalogue such as "Me stay here!" and "Too far for Tic!" as opposed to simply going "No!" over and over again, as well as suggestions that the unicorn hair itself has magical properties; for instance it actually makes a leap for freeom when Blix is holding it.

And then, finally, we have the storyboards for the sequence which are, in a word, bizarre. The way they're drawn it is clear that the looks of the goblins (Blix in particular looks way too cuddly in a lot of them) hadn't yet been finalized. It begins with one of the unicorns using its alicorn to free a trapped bird from a thornbush, before leaving. This leaves behind the strand of hair. Afterwards, another bird (or perhaps the same one, it's difficult to tell) finds the hair and flies away with it, only to be captured by the three goblins. Yes, there's only three goblins in evidence....and Blunder isn't one of them. It appears as if, at some point, the filmmakers entertained the idea of the main goblin trio being Blix, Pox and....Tic.

Then, in an odd bit, Blix actually releases the bird without harming it, when you'd think, given the nature of the goblins, he'd bite its head off or something (although Sean suggests the raven was perhaps a trained pet of the goblins). This is all very strange, to say the least, to not have Blunder at all, and replace him with Tic, and to not have the goblins directly encounter the unicorns.

We then actually get to see them cross the swamp here, and, as in the March 10th script, Blix tosses a dead animal into the water so Meg Mucklebones will let them pass (in the script it's a rat; here it's a ferret; and unlike in the script, this appears to sate Meg, who doesn't spontaneously attack the goblins and eat one of them). This swamp-crossing sequence is especially interesting because Blix is whistling happily the entire time, completely unafraid. The constant threat of Meg seems to make Pox nervous, with Blix's whistling only aggravating things. Finally they come to the Great Tree, and blow the Ancient Horn, etc., and then oddly Blix is described as "snapping his fingers for fire." Whether this means he has pyro-kinetic abilities, or if he's just commanding Pox and Tic to start a fire is never made clear. Pox makes them a dinner of various small animals skewered on a stick (I can make out two frogs, a beetle, a lizard and a squirrel; Blix says he likes the "fat toad" the best), before Tic asks Blix if he can see the hair.

Blix refuses, so Tic grabs it and soon they're both pulling on it. Pox (incorrectly called "Pix") notices something, but thinks he's imagining things, before Darkness appears (in the form of a dark, brooding, shadowy form) and interrupts the fight by firing a big bolt of lightning between Blix and Tic.

This results in Tic getting his right hand completely blown off!

And the most he can muster in response is, "Ouch!" This is a far cry from just having a hand transformed; for Tic to be of any real use to his friends later on, he'll need some kind of replacement hand, say, a hook or a metal claw, but the loss of his hand is not dwealt on at all as Darkness demands to know where the goblins got the hair.

Blix responds, "In the woods, your lordship."

An enraged Darkness yells, "Fools! I send you hunting unicorns and you run toads to the earth!"

This is the biggest, and final difference; instead of the goblins apparently encountering the unicorns purely by chance, as in the March 10th and September 25th versions of the opening (not to mention the filmed version), here the goblins had already been specifically sent out to kill the unicorns, only to not find them and return.

The two most important things that this sequence would have provided the movie are

1) a reason for Screwball not to blow the Ancient Horn; it will summon Darkness straight to them, and

2) (all except the storyboards) a reason for Blunder to have a chicken claw for a left hand, and, perhaps most importantly, the beginnings of an actual character arc for Blunder that was completely lost when this sequence was excised. Without it, as noted above, he's just a background goblin like Pox, there to pal around with Blix and give him someone to play off of, and the revelation of him being a faerie comes out of nowhere and has no significance whatsoever. In some ways, I do like the low-key scene between Darkness and Blix in his throne room as seen in the American, European and Director's Cut versions due to the setting, but in the end, character development for the goblins is more important to me than showing the interior of Darkness' abode so soon.

So I guess the most important question left unanswered is, why was this sequence cut and when? Honestly to my recollection they do not go into it at all in the otherwise extensive documentary on the DVD, nor does Scott talk much about it on the Director's Cut's commentary. William Hjortsberg himself, whom I e-mailed, was unable to come up with a theory, saying, "In order to even attempt answering your questions, I would have to travel to a storage unit in Bozeman, where I keep all my papers, financial records, etc. It turns out, I simply don't have the time to spare." He was said to have been writing a biography of Richard Brautigan at the time, but was nonetheless kind enough to reply, so I thank him greatly. The sequence is for all intents and purposes mostly finished. All that was needed was to film the two missing shots, loop the dialogue and add some sound effects, so we know that the decision to axe the scene came relatively late in post-production, perhaps even before the infamous preview screening. If this is so, then the only possible reason I can think of for Scott wanting the scene taken out, would be to get to the good guys as soon as possible. If it was part of the preview screening, then it was most likely one of the scenes Scott felt didn't click with the audience. Either way, it was a mistake to cut it, especially since they didn't bother to also remove/change plot elements set up by it (Blunder's hand, etc.).

We can only hope that the footage isn't too far gone to be restored, and that, someday, hopefully before the actors involved in the sequence leave us, it can be finished and re-inserted into the film in a future edition of the DVD. Until then, Four Goblins will remain a sad echo of what could have been the perfect beginning to Scott's movie.

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