Weekend Review – Dragonslayer

This week I’m looking at one of Disney’s serious live-action fantasy films, with Dragonslayer.

Cast & Crew

Peter MacNicol as Galen
Catlin Clarke as Valerian
Ralph Richardson as Ulrich
John Hallam as Tyrian
Peter Eyre as Casiodorus Rex
Albert Salmi as Greil
Sydney Bromley as Hodge
Chloe Salaman as Princen Elsbeth
Roger Kemp as Horsik
Ian MacDermid as Brother Jacopus

Directed by Matthew Robbins
Written by Hal Barwood & Matthew Robbins
Vermithrax Pejorative designed & operated by David bunnett, Phil Tippet, Danny Lee, Brian Johnson, Chris Walas, and Ken Ralston

Available from Amazon.com

The Premise

The kingdom of Urland is being terrorized by a 400-year old dragon, Vermithrax Pejorative. To placate the wyrm, the king of Urland, Casiodorus Rex sacrifices one virgin girl to the dragon at each Equinox. A delegation of peasants from Urland comes to see the sorcerer Ulrich for assistance in slaying the dragon. When Ulrich is slain by a soldier from Urland, Tyrian, ulrich’s apprentice, Galen, decides to go to Urland to slay the dragon.

High Points

Vermithrax Pejorative. I don’t know if it’s the first dragon to appear in a live-action film, but it’s beyond the shadow of a doubt one of the best dragons in the history of film.

Additionally, considering this is his second film role, Peter MacNicol does a great job as Galen. This is a character that, in the hands of a lesser actor, could become grating and obnoxious. MacNicol manages to show the character’s inexperience and lack of confidence, without making him seem wishy-washi, petulant, or an active liability.

Low Points

This is probably the most cynical film Walt Disney Pictures ever made. It is a film where authority figures is corrupt, the military is malevolent and out only to preserve the status quo, religion will get you killed, and should Good actually triumph over Evil, Petty & Officious will swoop in to claim the credit. Conan the Barbarian is sunshine and rainbows by comparison.

The Scores

Originality: The story is loosely based on St. George & The Dragon – very loosely. 5/6

Effects: See the High Point. 6/6

Story: The film’s tone is a little too dark, but the story is executed well. 4/6

Acting: Every actor in this film puts in an excellent performance. 5/6

Production: The set design in this film is fantastic. The castle sets in particular are very well done. We even have sets designed with visible ceilings and floors on the sets, which makes everything feel just perfect. 5/6

Emotional Response: This film felt to me like almost a bit more of a downer then some episodes of Game of Thrones. In Game of Thrones, while nobility, honor and chivalry are not rewarded, neither is officiousness. Being a Pointy Haired boss will get you killed in Game of Thrones, while in Dragonslayer PHBs get out on top. 3/6

Overall: I enjoyed the movie, and found it visuall stunning, but I wouldn’t consider it one of my favorite fantasy films. 4/6.

In total, Dragonslayer gets 32 out of 42.


3 replies on “Weekend Review – Dragonslayer”

    • You should be $8 curious. Like Brian, below, this was one of my favorite movies as a kid and it still holds up nicely. The low point in this review was actually a high point for me. I found it very endearing that the various power structures claim credit, but the actual heroes did what they did pretty much anonymously, exiting the story when their work was done without seeking recognition or reward. That’s the mark of a hero.

  1. This was one of my favorites as a kid. And the effects, even 30+ years later hold up remarkably well. Also, I didn’t find the ending as cynical as Alexander. I think the point wasn’t the glory of the kill, but that he was now a full-blown wizard (and had the girl) and that was all he really needed.

    A little parental warning, even though it’s PG, keep in mind this is 1981 PG, just like Raiders of the Lost Ark. So there’s some gruesome parts that younger kids might not take to. This would be soundly PG-13 these days.

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