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“You’ll be dead Galen Bradwarden, Sorcerer’s Apprentice. You’ll be dead, the dragon will still be alive, and I’ll still be a virgin! You’ll be dead, and I don’t care!” Sounds like a good foundation for a lasting relationship, right? Join your faithful Grue-Crew – Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, Crystal Cleveland, and Jeff Mohr – as they check out probably the most realistic dragon (did I hear someone say wyvern?) set to film in Dragonslayer (1981).
Decades of Horror 1980s
Episode 222 – Dragonslayer (1981)
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A King has made a pact with a dragon where he sacrifices virgins to it, and the dragon leaves his kingdom alone. An old wizard, and his keen young apprentice volunteer to kill the dragon and attempt to save the next virgin in line, the King’s own daughter.
- Director: Matthew Robbins
- Writers: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
- Music by: Alex North
- Cinematography by: Derek Vanlint (director of photography)
- Film Editing by: Tony Lawson
- Visual Effects by:
- Sam Comstock (animation supervisor: ILM)
- Alan Maley (matte painting supervisor: ILM)
- Dennis Muren (supervisor of special visual effects: ILM)
- Ken Ralston (dragon supervisor: ILM)
- Thomas G. Smith (effects production supervisor: ILM) (as Thomas Smith)
- Phil Tippett (dragon supervisor: ILM)
- Gene Whiteman (equipment engineering supervisor: ILM)
- Selected Cast:
- Peter MacNicol as Galen Bradwarden
- Caitlin Clarke as Valerian
- Ralph Richardson as Ulrich of Cragganmore
- John Hallam as Tyrian
- Peter Eyre as King Casiodorus Ulfilas
- Albert Salmi as Greil (dubbed by Norman Rodway)
- Sydney Bromley as Hodge
- Chloe Salaman as Princess Elspeth Ulfilas
- Emrys James as Simon (Valerian’s Father)
- Roger Kemp as Horsrick, Casiodorus’s Chamberlain
- Ian McDiarmid as Brother Jacopus
Dragonslayer is Bill’s pick. Surprise! He had read about the technique called go-motion and really enjoys it, calling Vermathrax Pejorative one of the greatest dragons ever put on film. It is also one of his favorite kinds of fantasy movies; one where the world is messy and dirty, and a noble character does not get rescued despite audience expectations.
Crystal labels Dragonslayer as one of her all-time favorite movies. It would not be nearly so memorable for her without the special effects and the dragon. She also points out that technically, it is a wyvern, not a dragon. Not a big fan of pure fantasy movies, Jeff loves seeing Dragonslayer for the first time, especially the work from professionals like Phil Tippett & Dennis Muren. The Grue-Crew is universally impressed with Caitlin Clarke’s performance as Valerian and wishes that she was given much more work as a female lead.
If you’re in the mood for a great fire-breathing wyvern, née dragon, you can’t do better than Dragonslayer. At the time of this writing, it is available to stream from Kanopy, Prime, and Paramount+. As far as physical media, a Blu-ray version of Dragonslayer is scheduled for a 21 March 2023 release from Paramount.
Every two weeks, Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror 1980s podcast will cover another horror film from the 1980s. The next episode’s film, chosen by Crystal, will be Pet Sematary (1989), directed by Mary Lambert from the novel and screenplay by Stephen King. Sometimes, dead is better.
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