March 20, 2023

Revisiting DRAGONSLAYER in 4K

1981 / 109 min
Review by Mr. Paws😼

“Oh, yeah…Dragonslayer. I forgot all about that one…”

Surely I’m not the only guy of a certain age thinking that very thing right now. Its simultaneous 4K and Blu-ray debut suddenly sparked memories of paying to see this at the now-defunct Eastgate Theater when I was a teenager. Back then, the Eastgate was the largest, most state-of-the-art theater in Portland. That’s where the “event” movies played. 

Staring up in awe at the three-story, 100-foot-wide screen, Dragonslayer was indeed something to behold, with special effects that rivaled those in Star Wars and a convincingly monstrous dragon, brought-to-life by a team who never heard of CGI. For a couple of hours, I was enthralled. But shortly after leaving the theater, I never give the movie another thought, nor would I have been able to tell you a single character’s name.

Revisiting Dragonslayer four decades later, my overall assessment remains more-or-less the same. Considering the advances in special effects since then, Vermithrax Pejorative, the malevolent serpent terrorizing the kingdom of Urland, is still a visually impressive creation. Watching sorcerer’s apprentice Galen (Peter MacNicol) square off against the beast in its lair stirred a fond bout of nostalgia (though its impact at home is inevitably diminished a bit…even in 4K).

But aside from newly appreciating the great Ralph Richardson’s performance as sorcerer Ulrich of Cragganmore, nothing beyond Dragonslayer’s visuals is particularly memorable. While it’s interesting to see a very young, pre-AllyMcBeal MacNicol in a rare leading role, the characters are uniformly bland, as is the perfunctory dialogue. Even the plot is standard fantasy fare, with elements that are clearly inspired by Star Wars.

Still, the film has a bit of a cult following these days, perhaps some of the same folks who were blown away 40 years ago (and maybe found the story more memorable than I did). For them, this new 4K release will be a treat. Though Dragonslayer was always best-appreciated in a theater, the overall picture and sound are outstanding…the next best thing to being there.


“THE SLAYER OF ALL DRAGONS” - An hour long multi-part retrospective documentary features interviews with Matthew Robbins and FX artists Phil Tippett & Dennis Muren.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro (who’s a fan of the film).




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