“I think you’re nothing but a boy — an apprentice!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
He points out that the “film presents a magical world — the countryside, the medieval hamlet, the castle and its dungeon, the dragon’s lair — in credible fashion,” and notes that “the enormous fire-breathing dragon is one of the great monsters of the cinema,” “like a Ray Harryhausen masterpiece” but “with remarkably precise movements.”
He adds that “the confrontations with the dragon are absolutely spectacular” (the “special effects were provided by George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic”):
… and notes that while “there are a couple of time when the brutality is too strong for young viewers”:
… it’s “otherwise… everything a fantasy film should be,” including “imaginative, intelligent direction by Matthew Robbins” and “fine performances by MacNicol (after you get used to him), Clarke, [and] Richardson.”
This film certainly divides viewers, with some (like Peary and other online viewers) extolling its virtues, and others, like DVD Savant, referring to it as “not at all bad, but lack[ing] the spark to fully capture the imagination.” Savant does highlight the truly “marvelous” special effects, describing the Go-Motion animated dragon thus:
Also of note are the highly effective sets and cinematography, with much of the movie shot on location in Scotland and Wales. Fantasy film buffs will surely want to check this one out, though it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
2 thoughts on “Dragonslayer (1981)”
Superb film. Significant in the development of SPFX in that it was the first extensive use of Go-Motion. A stop motion technique pioneered by Phil Tipett on The Empire Strikes Back for a couple of very brief moments.
Here it’s used for all the scenes of the dragon. It utilised computers to deliberately blur frames in the stop motion process to remove the staccato effect called persistence of vision.
Great script, excellent performances and direction … a real sleeper.
First viewing (5/6/21). Not must-see but it apparently has cult status among fantasy fans.
The influences are apparent: ‘King Kong’ (the sacrificing of young women), ‘Godzilla’ (the fire-breathing), Harryhausen, etc. And its storyline is not wholly original in general (i.e., sorcerer and apprentice).
Still, its approach is effective-enough to hold interest and the film becomes particularly engaging in its last 30 minutes – with its overall energy level getting a boost at that point. Alex North’s score is strong without being oppressive.
The atmosphere of the period is nicely represented and the dragon effects are striking. Though it’s not my kind of flick personally, it works well for what it is.