Reviewed by Tempest
No alternate review available
Now be it known throughout the kingdom that this maiden, having lawfully been chosen
by a deed of fortune and destiny, shall hereby give up her life for the greater good of Urland.
By this act shall be satisfied the powers that dwell underground.
Dragonslayer is an old movie with a limited budget that achieved a
disappointing box office results but in retrospect, it earned some notoriaty as a cult movie over the years, probably due to to all disappointing swords and sorceries movies with unconvincing heroe, scantily clad damsels in distress and fake-looking weapons & armor, that followed. Dragonslayers stands out as a movie where the characters wear believable costume and live in what looks like a real medieval setting.
However, while Dragonslayer is enjoyable, I don't think the movie is a must-see; the story is interesting, even if a bit cliché, there are several unexpected plot twists but also some continuity problems per moment. The theme surrounding the dragon isn't oversimplified (as in many movies) to good vs evil and Ulrich will speak respectfully of the dragon even as he realize the need to kill it. The movie is less forgiving to Christianity (which in this particular setting, is starting to take hold in the region) by displaying their adepts as people whose faith approach the mindless (this will be very apparent at the end which is downright Orwellian).
In Kragenmoor, just as Ulrich (Ralph Richardson), an old sorcerer, foresaw his own death. Valerian (Caitlin Clarke) and a small delegation of people knocks at his door demanding to see him. They seek the help of the sorcerer to vanquish Vermithrax Pejorative, the dragon. The kingdom from where he (she) comes from, performs human sacrifice (actually, they only sacrifice virgin females) to feed the dragon. In return the dragon leave the townspeople and their crop alone. The selection is made by drawing the name of the woman from a basket and as such is officially completely random with equal chance for all regardless of the rank and wealth but in reality people with money can often bribe their daughter out. They don't really explain why all females simply do not rush to marry the nearest guy avaiable or how the dragon know if the female is virgin or not (it doesn't seems to get very interested in such minute details in the movie) nor do they explain why cattle cannot please the dragon as well as virgins... At any rate, due to Ulrich's age, he is uncertain if he can travel the distance to reach the kingdom of Urland.
As he is about to leave, a soldier from Urland named Tyrian (John Hallam) show up. He believe that the arrangement in place to deal with the dragon is the best approach as a few sacrifice is certainly better than the destruction of their realm. Moreover, stirring the pot in unsuccessful attempt to kill the dragon only invite retribution and misery for all. As such, Tyrian demands to know if the sorcerer is the right person to defeat the dragon. As a test Ulrich request Tyrian to stab him, telling him he can do him no harm. He complies and kills the sorcerer.
The delegation no longer able to have what they sought, leave. Ulrich's apprentice and assistant, Galen (Peter MacNicol) and Hodge (Sydney Bromley), leave their master's home some time later to rejoin with delegation in order to fulfill the task their master could not.
SPOILER... Well sort of...
(select the text with your mouse to read it)
While inviting himself in a lake to bath with Valerian, Galen soon discovers that Valerian isn't a male (which I thought her to be female from the very beginning since every male except the main character, have beard). She had always hid her gender to others in order to avoid being picked for the dragon's next meal. Durien their absence, Tyrian who was spying on the delegation, saws that Hodge is amongst them and realizing he should not be there, he decides to kill him in order to prevent him from disturbing the way they have chosen to deal with the dragon. Before dying Hodge make an obscure statement about what to do with the ashes of Ulrich he was carrying on him.
On they way to Valerian's village, Galen stop at the dragon's lair and decide to deal with the dragon right away by using his magic to create a landslide to block the entrance. Believing that the dragon is forever trapped, they return to Valerian's village and celebrate. She then reveals her true nature to the people of her village believing herself to be safe. But the dragon was not killed and a few days later, it has managed to dig its way out to wreck havoc on the village and its surrounding.
The kind, Casiodorus Rex (Peter Eyre), hold another lottery to appease the dragon but princess Elspeth (Chloe Salaman) having realized (i.e. told by Galen) that her name was removed from the basket because of her standing, decides to change every name in the basket with her own to see if the lottery is indeed fair for everyone. As her name is picked out and read aloud (with much reluctance) by Horsrik (Roger Kemp), the King's advisor. The King objects and takes the name from his hand and proclaims that the tag is unreadable which provoke outrage amongst the crowd watching the lottery. But as he pick another tag with the same name again, the princess declares the rumors that the lottery was unfair are true and she will pay the price for all these years of injustice (that others have risked their life for the safety of the realm) by being the dragon's next meal. Casiodorus Rex knew the dragon was old and had hoped to merely wait for it to die from old age but once realizing that it is his own daughter on the line, the King becomes desperate and literally beg Galen to save her and use his mysterious power to kill the dragon at the great disappointment of Tyrian and despite that the king himself after his brother disastrous attempt to kill the dragon, was a firm believer that the best way to avoid the dragon reprisal and random raiding, was to sacrifice a few persons.
And so the apprentice tries to vanquish the dragon and put an end to this once and for all.
Special effect are rather good for a movie as old as this one. During a battle scenes when the dragon litterally toss around Galen like a puppet, you really have the impression that he is tossed around. Of course the effect are less than spectacular by today's standards, and the little dragons could be a lot better but it's an old movie.
Sound & Music:
There is not a lot of music in this movie but it's clearly not the best soundtrack I have heard. In a lot of scenes, I think the music is rather inappropriate (not all the time, but most of the time) as it induces the wrong mood and tends to be a tad annoying.
The characters behave realistically most of the time. Galen seems a bit reckless per moment but it's in-character for a young apprentice not knowing exactly where are his limits. The King may look a bit heartless with his idea of virgins sacrifice but they explain it in the movie. Even Tyrian's behavior that may look a bit too eager to do evil at the beginning of the movie is explained before the movie ends. Overall, the acting is quite good, realistic and appropriate once you know all the facts.
Note: the overall is not an average, but more a general appreciation of the movie as a whole.
R a t i n g
|Images:||(7/10) - Good|
|Sound & Music:||(3/10) - Poor|
|Story line:||(7.5/10) - Good|
|Acting:||(7.5/10) - Good|
|Innovation:||(5/10) - Fair|
|Educational Value or|
Level of Wisdom:
|(6/10) - Average|
|Overall:||(6/10) - Average
A rating of 5/10 should be considered as something not good but not bad either (# bad points = # good points).