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Back in the days when everyone believed in magic, a horrifying fire-breathing dragon terrorized the sixth-century British countryside. The only hope for the beleaguered citizens is an aging sorcerer (Sir Ralph Richardson). But when he is killed before he can save the people, the task falls on his young apprentice, Galen (Peter MacNicol). Galen's mission is complicated by resistance from the king - and by falling in love - but his biggest challenge comes when he is suddenly face to face with the dreaded monster. Is his magic enough to save him?
Despite its box-office failure in 1981, Dragonslayer was gradually recognized as one of the finest fantasies to emerge from the post-Star Wars boom in special effects. It's still one of the best adventures of its kind, featuring one of the most fearsome fire-breathing serpents in movie history. Ominously named Vermithrax Pejorative, this ill-tempered monster terrorizes the peasantry of sixth-century England, feeding on maidens sacrificed by a duplicitous king until a sorcerer's apprentice named Galen (Peter MacNicol, long before Ally McBeal) is recruited as a reluctant hero. Aided by a tenacious beauty (Caitlin Clarke) and his resurrected mentor (Ralph Richardson), Galen confronts the soaring beast in a breathtaking climax. Employing a then-innovative technique called Go-Motion to animate the dragon, the special effects are still dazzling, and stunning locations in Scotland and Wales allow director Matthew Robbins (cowriter of Steven Spielberg's feature debut, The Sugarland Express) to maintain a vivid atmosphere for the wealth of movie magic. --Jeff Shannon
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Top customer reviews
It's a genuine Magic & Dragon fantasy Genre film with a slightly off-beat un-traditional movie story. And it's a very authentic fantasy film.
It is not a blockbuster type of film though. Its more like a run of the mill young adult fantasy magic novel being brought to life in an excellent film.
The best bits are when there is Magic or the Dragon, and the old Sorceror is top notch. The rest of the plot, while not always so exciting-can seem just abit too pastoral at times - is also interesting and abit quirky. This includes the fading of magic out of the world, at least that or sorcery & dragons, and the new type of magic, that of Christianity, starting to emerge.
While not one of the best Fantasy films, Dragon Slayer is one of the best Sorcery & Magic straight Genre type of films around, & when one is in the mood for just that, it's a unique wee gem.
But besides the special effects of this movie, the whole atmosphere is real "Middle Earth" (or Middle Ages) and is convincing. This is a finely shot movie, with nice wide angles on a nice wide-screen and a sound track that was meant for the movie theatre. I was glad there were subtitles as well, as some of the British accents get a bit muddled at times (they don't bother translating the Latin however!). There are no extras.
5 stars may include one for nostalgia.. some might find the story somewhat simple.. though it does contain a good deal of tension and as I mentioned before, atmosphere. So while 4 may be more objective, this is still a good movie for its type and does stand on its own merits.
What is most surprising, perhaps, is the dragon. It was breathtaking in 1981. Today it still looks pretty good. Obviously, it's not quite as realistic as today's CGI creatures. But given the limitations of pre-CGI special effects, it's still really impressive, and doesn't look completely dated like, for example, the 1933 Kong does. The "go-motion" techniques they used to film the dragon Vermithrax would be superseded by CGI effects before too many years had passed, but they were still a huge improvement on the stop motion animation that was previously the only way to put such mythical creatures on the screen.
This movie benefits from a really good story, great special effects, a first rate cast, and cinematography that is positively superlative. It should have done better at the box office. Some movies just don't get fully appreciated till later. "Bladerunner" is another such movie. While this movie has not been as influential as "Bladerunner", it has, like that movie, been more appreciated since it was released than it was at the time of its debut. Great fantasy movies are really pretty thin on the ground. This movie is one of the better ones.