[box cover]

Dragonslayer

After years of a pact in which a village proffers a virgin sacrifice to a dragon, some townsfolk think of getting a magician to rid them of the beast once and for all. This sends them to the old wizard Ulrich (Ralph Richardson). But Ulrich is killed just as they are about to set out, and his apprentice Galen (Peter MacNicol) volunteers for the task. In desperation, the villagers accept his offer. However, it seems that one of the villagers, Vallerian (Caitlin Clarke), has secret reasons for wanting to stop the town's lottery — which randomly selects a virginal maidens for sacrifice — reasons that have nothing to do with the inequality of the draft (a system that excludes the town's richest daughters, as well as the king's). And when Galen arrives at the dragon's den, he makes a rock-slide that seems to imprison the dragon and makes him a hero, yet all it really does is upset both the beast and King Casiodorous Rex (Peter Eyre), who made the deal with the dragon in the first place. When the lottery is rigged by Casiodorous's daughter, and she's drafted, Casiodorous turns to Galen for help Dragonslayer (1981) was an oddity at the time — special-effects vehicles were more in line with Star Wars space operas than the now-popular Lord of the Rings-style fantasy-adventures. Nevertheless, perhaps now is the time for Matthew Robbins' smart and clever little film to be rediscovered. A fine talent who made the cult favorite Corvette Summer, writer/director Robbins' work here is excellent — the movie is aware of its genre without tipping its hat too far, it offers an amusing commentary on religion, politics, and class, and it's also a solid genre entry. If the picture has any problems, it's that the leads (MacNicol and Clarke) are a little weak, but that may be because the real star was Industrial Light and Magic, whose effects work on the dragon, and in particular their convincing shifts between puppets and the then-new Go-Motion process, which gave stop-motion effects a visible blurring to make them more photorealistic. Unfortunately, Paramount's DVD does nothing to help this cult favorite gain more ground — the film is presented bare-bones. However, it's presented in a stunning anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) that highlights the great photography by Derek Vanlint, and with remastered DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks that make better light of Alex North's impressive score. Keep-case.
—DSH



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