Saturday, April 30, 2011


Directed by Matthew Robbins

Peter MacNicol - Galen Bradwarden
Caitlin Clarke - Valerian
Ralph Richardson - Ulrich of Craggenmoor

     A pact with a dragon, where virgins are left for sacrifice to it, by a king to save his daughter. An old wizard, and his keen young apprentice volunteer to kill the dragon.

     There's some movies that when you see them stick with whether they are good or bad for some reason or another. For me the '80s were a time of wonder for me where I actually believed that what I saw on the movie screen could possibly happen. From time travel (1.21 gigawatts is what's needed) to a on screen hero being frozen (he's a nerfherder). They were so many movies that just made me fill with  wonderment and excitement while being taken on a voyage that lasted 2 hours and got me back home safe.

      The acting in the movie was above average for the type of movie it was for the most part. The one real draw back was Peter MacNicol trying to over-act when he shouldn't have. Sure he was supposed to be playing a young man trying to prove he was able to take over his master's position, but it could have been done with more temperance from the acting. Thankfully this is what happens in the second half of the story after Galen, basically gets the sense knocked into him by screwing up and is responsible for unleashing the wrath of the dragon in the movie.  The actor that stand out above all others in the movie though is John Hallam who plays Tyrian, the King's enforcer for the kingdom. The reason I say this is because even though he can be considered the bad guy of the movie, in reality he's not, he's just trying to protect his King and the Kingdom as best as he can, by whatever means he has at his disposal. Yes, he kills Ulrich (kinda) and Hodge (for real) but he does so out of commitment to his position. This was the character that made me understand that sometimes when someone seems evil it is not always out of malice but for a purpose. Hallam plays Tyrian not with a aire of malice, but instead with a sense of he doesn't like what he does, but understands that it has to be done for the greater good.

     The setting of the movie and script is well put together as it shows that this isn't a Disney fairy tale kingdom, but of one that is grounded in reality for the most part. The village and houses are dirty and in poor condition for the most part while the King's castle is well kept and in fair repair and not lacking which shows the actual conditions that in reality were present during the time represented in the film. The countryside and surrounding environment adds a sense of grit to the film on top of the corruption and false authority that is presented by the monarchy in the film. Still the main attraction to the movie is the dragon Vermithrax Pejorative. The design of this creature is just stunning and amazing to look at. While the special effects of 1981 don't hold up to today for about a third of the shots of it, the scenes that do work, are a sight to behold though as Vermithrax has a depth and weight about it that isn't present in most special effects that are CG (I'm looking at you Lucas).

     While the story itself lags and sputters in spots,  the story picks right back up as it knows what it did wrong each time it does. One of the great things in this movie is that it doesn't take itself lightly. Every action has a consequence, more often than not that equals widespread destruction and suffering. While there is some humor in the movie, it doesn't last long and is non-existent after about 30 minutes. Regarding the film itself, it holds up relatively well after 30 years and is still nevertheless a great example of what a fantasy movie is. From the setting to the actual look and feel of the film, it's a movie that has a feeling of danger and it shows that the who we thought as the hero doesn't always get what he wants, but instead understands what the world is in the end and can live with that realization which is rare enough. 

     The soon to be Emperor  Palpatine being charbroiled for his stupidity. Seems like he doesn't understand getting cocky gets you killed!

     No. In fact, if it weren't for sorcerers, there wouldn't be any dragons. Once, the skies were dotted with them. Magnificent horned backs, leathern wings... soaring... and their hot-breathed wind. Oh, I know this creature of yours... Vermithrax Pejorative. Look at these scales, these ridges. When a dragon gets this old, it knows nothing but pain, constant pain. It grows decrepit... crippled... pitiful. Spiteful!

     Including the hydraulic 40 foot model, 16 dragon puppets were used for the role of Vermithrax, each one made for flying, crawling and breathing fire.

     To create the dragon fire, the FX team used a pair of military-style flamethrowers.

      In the novelization of the movie, a vision glimpsed by Ulrich in his scrying bowl implies that sorcerers could have been responsible for the creation of dragons. This is only briefly alluded to in the film. It is further mentioned that the sorcerer who created dragons also fashioned the magical amulet which Galen wears through most of the story.

     Guillermo del Toro has stated that along with Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty Vermithrax is his favorite cinematic dragon. He further stated that “One of the best and one of the strongest landmarks [of dragon movies] that almost nobody can overcome is Dragonslayer. The design of the Vermithrax Pejorative is perhaps one of the most perfect creature designs ever made."

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