Sometimes, your favorite films come when you least expect them. For us, that came from the fantasy film Dragonslayer, now streaming on Paramount+.
Dragonslayer tells a dark medieval story about a sorcerer’s apprentice, Galen (Peter MacNicol), on a journey to free a kingdom from the dragon Vermithrax Pejorative.
A nearby kingdom has succumbed to the dragon by sacrificing a virgin woman through a lottery-style system twice a year. As the dragon becomes more powerful, a sorcerer and his apprentice work to stop the gruesome process from taking more victims.
The 1981 fantasy adventure flick Dragonslayer is streaming on Paramount+.
When Galen’s sorcerer master Ulrich (Ralph Richardson) is wounded after initially confronting the dragon, Galen is tasked to confront the monster. Galen stumbles across Princess Valerian and, with magic on their side– faces the dragon.
The story frames itself as a unique twist to the Arthurian drama, with maidens, magic, and innovative special effects for the time. A quarter of the film’s budget was spent primarily on special effects!
Director Matthew Robbins also reports he got much inspiration for the film from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene in Fantasia
You don’t need to be turned off by the 80’s time stamp; this is one of the most intriguing and intense movies made by the Disney company. The film takes a lot of inspiration for its special effects from the hit movie Star Wars, and the features share a lot of similarities.
Many of the special effects were even created through a department in Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). In fact, Dragonslayer was the first use of Lucasfilm’s special effects outside of a Lucasfilm production.
Director Matthew Robbins also reports he got much inspiration for the film from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene in Fantasia (the one with Mickey Mouse and the magical broomsticks).
At first, the movie was overlooked at the box office. The film raised S14.1 million out against its $18 million budget. It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Score, which instead went to Chariots of Fire.
As time has gone by, the movie has become a cult classic. This is especially due to the unique adult tone that the movie gives the genre. In a time when Disney was mostly adapting classic fairy tales, Dragonslayer was one of the first films that took the company outside of that particular box.
Rotten Tomatoes lists the movie with an 84% critic rating, calling it “an atypically dark Disney adventure.” Highlighting positive reviews, Rotten Tomatoes reports that “Dragonslayer puts a realistic spin — and some impressive special effects — on a familiar tale.”
Dragonslayer also is listed on LetterBoxd with a 3.3 rating, an average rating on the platform.
The New Yorker journalist David Denby praised Dragonslayer‘s special effects, saying they were even better than hit movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Famous reviewer Roger Ebert reported that the effects creating the movie’s dragon were “first-rate.”
Though Dragonslayer lists a PG rating, we would recommend it for those 13 and up due to some intense scenes, sexual innuendos, and brief nudity.
The movie stars Peter MacNicol (Galen Brandwardyn), Caitlin Clarke (Valerian), Ralph Richardson (Ulrich of Cragganmore), Peter Eyre (King Casiodorus Ulfilas), and Albert Salmi (Griel- dubbed by Norman Rodway).
The supporting cast also shines through the movie, with Sydney Bromley (Hodge), Chloe Salaman (Princess Elspeth Ulfias), Emrys James (Simon- Valerian’s father), Roger Kemp (Horsick), and Ian McDiarmid (Brother Jacobus).
The film’s production team consisted of the Director Matthew Robbins (Guillermo del Toro’s Pinnochio) and was written by Hal Barwood (Sugarland Express). Howard W. Koch (Ghost) served as a producer for the film.
The movie was co-created by Disney and Paramount distribution companies. Paramount was assigned to handle the North American distribution, while Disney was set to publicize the movie internationally.
It was the second joint production between the two companies, the first being the hit movie Popeye (1980).
We hope you enjoy the thrill and adventure of Dragonslayer!