When I was a kid, Dragonslayer was the kind of movie that I adored — dragons, swords, young maidens in distress — check, check, and check! I had only vague memories of this memory before watching it again last night — I remembered the dragon scale shield because I used that technique in D&D adventures (those scales are hard to find!). I also remembered the twist regarding one of the main characters, Valerian, but other than that, memories of this film were hidden away in some dark dungeon of my mind.
This movie was produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions in 1981, with a pretty sizable budget of $18m+. That money was well spent as the costumes, scenery, and special effects are pretty incredible. The dragon breathes fire, burns villages, and flies through the sky, and is totally believable. Phil Tippet was the man behind the effects, along with Industrial Light & Magic, so you know the movie was in capable hands, and it’s amazing what they were able to achieve in this pre-CGI era.
Peter MacNichol plays the lead sorcerer/apprentice, Galen, and seems like an odd choice for the main actor, but he plays the part well. He’s no leading man material by today’s standards, but that helps to make you feel more affection for the character. Since his appearance in this movie, MacNicol has gone on to appear in numerous other movies and TV shows, such as Ghostbusters 2, Ally MacBeal, 24, and Veep, and a ton of voice acting roles. The characters he plays are not usually the hero, so it was interesting to see him play that part in one of the first acting roles of his career.
Dragonslayer has all the standard elements you would expect to find in a sword and sorcery flick, without too many surprises along the way. It feels comfortable, like all the other fantasy films you may have seen, but more innocent and “real” if that makes sense. There’s no over the top battle sequences filled with gore and muscle-bound bravado — it’s a more subdued tale that engages you as it unfolds. This movie could take place in Middle Earth, Shannara, or any other fantasy landscape that features dragons and sorcery. Heck, this could even be a prequel to Game of Thrones!
Random thoughts while watching:
- How much did this move affect George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones novels? Valerian, Tyrion, dragons…
- How much did the dragon design affect HBO’s Game of Thrones dragons? The way the dragon looked and crawled is eerily similar..
- I wonder how old I was when I understood what a virgin was.
- Whoah, that’s emperor Palpatine!
Dragonslayer holds up really well, and had me engaged through the entire movie. The pacing is slow, like many 80’s movies, and it takes a while to get to the good stuff, but the payoff is rewarding and exciting. Definitely seek out this movie if it slipped by you.
This summer, I am going back to the 70’s and 80’s with the Cool, Cool, Cool Summer 2019. Follow along and let me know if there’s something you think I should revisit.