Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Dragonslayer (1981)

Dragonslayer (1981)
Since April is Monster Month here I thought it might be fun to check some monster-themed Sword & Sorcery & Cinema movies.  Up first is a classic and premiered at the height of the 80s fantasy craze. Here is 1981's Dragonslayer from both Paramount and Disney.

We are introduced to one of the most famous dragons outside of Westeros or Erebor, Vermithrax Pejorative.  Though he is mentioned among the dragons in Game of Throne's first season.  

The movie is a little slow, but on par with what was normal at the time.  Peter MacNicol is fine as the apprentice turned dragonslayer Galen, but I can't help but think if someone else would have been better in the role.  Caitlin Clarke was great as the girl pretending to be a boy Valerian.  She returned to theatre work after this and this was her only major role.  She sadly passed of ovarian cancer in 2004.

Sadly the movie under-performed in the box office and some of the reviews were not great, but the movie was fun then and to be honest the effects have held up well enough.  It has achieved "cult movie" status and that is not a bad thing.  It certainly is a great one to have on a Dragon-themed movie night.

The effects are good and the director gets away with a lot of "showing less is more."  We only see bits and pieces of the dragon until the very end when it is most effective. Sure some of the stop motion looks very stop motion-y, but Vermithrax still looks like he could go toe to toe with Smaug or Drogon.  I really can't help but think that this dragon wasn't at least some of the inspiration for the DragonRaid game

The musical queues in this are pure Disney so they are also very effective. 

Gaming Content

Now THAT is a Dragonlance! The Sicarius Dracorum really shows that a spear, or a lance, is the best weapon for fighting a dragon.  The forging scene where Galen heats the metal with magic is really one of the best.  If you are not forging your magic weapons like this then you are missing out!

Caitlin's dragon scale shield, while less theatric, is just as magical. 

I am sure there are those that will nitpick that the "dragon" only has two legs and not four, but I can't get worked up over that. He is still a fantastic dragon.


Ruprecht said...

I could be wrong but I think this was the first or one of the first PG movies by Disney. I think this confused the market, is it for kids? Grownups? I think that explains the boxoffice at least.

JB said...

This may well be my favorite fantasy movie of all time. Definitely my favorite cinema dragon. I even remember the first time I saw it...on my grandfather’s television set (probably on Showtime) circa ‘82 or thereabouts. In Port Angeles, Washington on a grey afternoon.

Dick McGee said...

The reason the SFX hold up so well is that most of them weren't traditional stop motion. ILM used a technique called "go motion" on many of Vermithrax's scenes which produced a motion blur effect that's less jerky than even the best true stop motion, as well as an elaborate mechanical puppeteering rig to smooth slower movements.

It's pretty much a dead technology that's been replaced by CGI, but as dead-ends go it's an interesting and fairly impressive one.

TheShadowKnows said...

Saw it at the drive-in along with Raiders of the Lost Ark. What a great double bill.

Venger Satanis said...

Yeah, but how many decapitations?

JB said...

It may not have decapitations, but it has princesses getting eaten (which is probably the most realistic fate of a damsel in distress ever being depicted in ANY medium).
; )

Spuddie said...

Unlike fantasy rpgs, despite the magical properties of that spear, it was utterly useless against Vermy due to the sheer size of her. Any human sized weapon being wholly inadequate against something so big.

Spuddie said...

It had brief nudity, gratuitous Ralph Richardson and princess devouring.