34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Great fantasy movie.,
This review is from: Dragonslayer [DVD] (DVD)
In the early 1980s there was a spate of fantasy movies -- ranging from movies like "Conan the Barbarian" and "Excalibur", to distinctly B-grade productions like "The Sword and the Sorceror", and "Hawk the Slayer". This was probably due to the phenomenal success of "Star Wars", as science fiction and fantasy have always marched pretty closely beside one another as genres. "Dragonslayer" was one of the better films of this type, and the movie's lack of financial success is frankly inexplicable to me. The best guess I can make to account for it is that the movie is not so action packed as "Star Wars" or "Conan the Barbarian", and not quite so fast paced, so perhaps audiences were let down by that. But it's still a great movie. The production values are second to none. The film perfectly captures the look of the Dark Ages -- the early medieval period, no more than a century or two after the fall of the Roman Empire. This was a time when records were scanty, many communities were more isolated than at any time before or since, Christianity was a new religion, and just one faith among many, and a time when people really believed in magic and the supernatural. It is the PERFECT setting for such a movie. The cast is superbly chosen. Peter MacNicol makes a good Galen, who is naive, brash, and possesses the arrogant confidence of youth, but who finally comes to understand he didn't have it all as completely figured out as he thought. Ralph Richardson, in one of his last roles, is superb as the wise old sorceror. Peter Eyre is thoroughly believable as the weak-willed king of Urland (presumably one of the smaller kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England) who has made what he sincerely believes is the best bargain he can make with an invincible supernatural creature. John Hallam is a charismatic, though ultimately villanous king's henchman. And Caitlin Clarke is cast perfectly as a woman who is just barely androgynous enough to pass for a boy, and yet just barely attractive enough to pass for a romantic interest for Peter MacNicol's character.
What is most surprising, perhaps, is the dragon. It was breathtaking in 1981. Today it still looks pretty good. Obviously, it's not quite as realistic as today's CGI creatures. But given the limitations of pre-CGI special effects, it's still really impressive, and doesn't look completely dated like, for example, the 1933 Kong does, or like the Kraken from "Clash of the Titans" another film that came out the same year as this one. The "go-motion" techniques they used to film the dragon Vermithrax would be superseded by CGI effects before too many years had passed, but they were still a huge improvement on the stop motion animation that was previously the only way to put such mythical creatures on the screen.
This movie benefits from a really good story, great special effects, a first rate cast, and cinematography that is positively superlative. It should have done better at the box office. Some movies just don't get fully appreciated till later. "Bladerunner" is another such movie. While this movie has not been as influential as "Bladerunner", it has, like that movie, been more appreciated since it was released than it was at the time of its debut. Great fantasy movies are really pretty thin on the ground. This movie is one of the better ones.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Dec 2007 02:37:06 GMT
Adrian P. Austin says:
Well said man, this is my favourite dragon movie of all time... A true classic...
Posted on 7 Jul 2010 22:08:30 BDT
Excellent review!!! I just discovered this film, by complete fluke, and agree totally with your assessment!! Also, I had never heard of the Go-motion technique.....Thanks!
Posted on 27 Jul 2010 18:15:46 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Dec 2012 16:46:13 GMT
Green Knight says:
I worked on 'Dragonslayer' at Pinewood. 'Clash of the Titans' with its mega-star cast was finishing off across the lot. It was a closed set most of the time. We weren't. The breathtaking design of the Dragon - big and small versions, and of the sets which filled stages as vast as the 007 stage, were worth seeing - off-screen as well as on. I feel the film is maybe underrated - but the Dragon wins each time. Proper stop-frame animation, pioneering 'go-motion'. Read up on it in Cinefex, No.6, 1981. The magazine also contains a great article on 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'.
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jul 2010 18:17:08 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 7 Dec 2012 16:46:21 GMT]
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