Dragonslayer (1981 film)

Last updated
Directed by Matthew Robbins
Produced by Hal Barwood
Howard W. Koch
Written byHal Barwood
Matthew Robbins
Starring Peter MacNicol
Caitlin Clarke
Ralph Richardson
John Hallam
Peter Eyre
Sydney Bromley
Chloe Salaman
Ian McDiarmid
Music by Alex North
Cinematography Derek Vanlint
Edited byTony Lawson
Distributed byParamount Pictures
(North America)
Buena Vista International Distribution
Release date
June 26, 1981
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$18 million [1]
Box office$14,110,013

Dragonslayer is a 1981 American fantasy film directed by Matthew Robbins, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Hal Barwood. It stars Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke. A co-production between Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, Paramount handled North American distribution while Disney thru Buena Vista International handled international distribution. The story, set in a fictional medieval kingdom, follows a young wizard who experiences danger and opposition as he attempts to defeat a dragon.

Fantasy film film genre

Fantasy films are films that belong to the fantasy genre with fantastic themes, usually magic, supernatural events, mythology, folklore, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered a form of speculative fiction alongside science fiction films and horror films, although the genres do overlap. Fantasy films often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, escapism, and the extraordinary.

Matthew Robbins (screenwriter) American screenwriter, producer and director

Matthew Robbins is an American screenwriter and film director best known as for his work within the American New Wave movement.

Hal Barwood American video game designer

Hal Barwood is an American screenwriter, film producer, film director, game designer, game producer, freelancer and novelist best known for his work on LucasArts games based on the Indiana Jones license.


The second of two joint productions between Paramount and Disney (the other being Popeye ), Dragonslayer was more mature than most other Disney films of the period. Because of audience expectations of the Disney name generally considered as solely children's entertainment at the time, the film's violence, adult themes and brief nudity were somewhat controversial for the company at the time even though Disney did not hold the US distribution rights. The film was rated PG in the U.S.; TV showings after 1997 have carried a TV-14 rating. It's possible that this film was one of several factors responsible for Disney's later creation of Touchstone Pictures to produce more mature fare, starting with 1984's Splash .

<i>Popeye</i> (film) 1980 film by Robert Altman

Popeye is a 1980 American musical comedy film directed by Robert Altman and based on E. C. Segar's character of the same name from the Thimble Theatre comic strip. Produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, the film stars Robin Williams as Popeye the Sailor Man and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. Paramount handled North American distribution, while Buena Vista International handled international distribution.

Touchstone Pictures American film production company

Touchstone Pictures is a dormant American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Touchstone typically releases films produced or distributed by Walt Disney Studios with more mature themes and darker tones that are targeted to adult audiences, than those released under the studio's main Walt Disney Pictures banner. As such, Touchstone is a pseudonym brand for the studio, and does not exist as a distinct business operation.

<i>Splash</i> (film) 1984 fantasy romantic comedy movie directed by Ron Howard

Splash is a 1984 American fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Ron Howard, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy and Eugene Levy. The film involves a young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman who is secretly a mermaid. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

The special effects were created at Industrial Light and Magic, where Phil Tippett had co-developed an animation technique called go motion for The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Go motion is a variation on stop motion animation, and its use in Dragonslayer led to the film's nomination for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; it lost to Raiders of the Lost Ark , the only other Visual Effects nominee that year, whose special effects were also provided by ILM. Including the hydraulic 40-foot (12 m) model, 16 dragon puppets were used for the role of Vermithrax, each one made for different movements; flying, crawling, fire breathing etc. [2] Dragonslayer also marks the first time ILM's services were used for a film other than a Lucasfilm Ltd. production.

Special effect illusions or tricks to change appearance

Special effects are illusions or visual tricks used in the film, television, theatre, video game and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a story or virtual world.

Phil Tippett American film director

Phil Tippett is an American movie director and Oscar and Emmy Award-winning visual effects supervisor and producer, who specializes in creature design, stop-motion and computerized character animation. Over his career, he has assisted ILM and DreamWorks, and in 1984 formed his own company, Tippett Studio. His work has appeared in movies such as the original Star Wars trilogy, Jurassic Park, and RoboCop. He is currently involved with his ongoing Mad God stop-motion series, which were funded through Kickstarter.

Go motion is a variation of stop motion animation which incorporates motion blur into each frame involving motion. It was co-developed by Industrial Light & Magic and Phil Tippett. Stop motion animation can create a disorienting, and distinctive staccato effect, because the animated object is perfectly sharp in every frame, since each frame of the animation was actually shot when the object was perfectly still. Real moving objects in similar scenes of the same movie will have motion blur, because they moved while the shutter of the camera was open. Filmmakers use a variety of techniques to simulate motion blur, such as moving the model slightly during the exposure of each film frame or using a glass plate smeared with petroleum jelly in front of the camera lens to blur the moving areas.

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score; Chariots of Fire took the award. It was also nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, once again losing to Raiders of the Lost Ark. In October 2003, Dragonslayer was released on DVD in the U.S. by Paramount Home Video.

The Academy Award for Best Original Score is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to the best substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film by the submitting composer.

<i>Chariots of Fire</i> 1981 film by Hugh Hudson

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.

The Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation is given each year for theatrical films, television episodes, or other dramatized works related to science fiction or fantasy released in the previous calendar year. Originally the award covered both works of film and of television but since 2003, it has been split into two categories: "Best Dramatic Presentation " and "Best Dramatic Presentation ". The Dramatic Presentation Awards are part of the broader Hugo Awards, which are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, and was once officially known as the Science Fiction Achievement Award. The award has been described as "a fine showcase for speculative fiction".


A sixth-century post-Roman kingdom called Urland (named after the River Ur, which runs through it) [3] is being terrorized by a 400-year-old dragon named "Vermithrax Pejorative". [3] To appease the dragon, King Casiodorus (Peter Eyre) offers it virgin girls selected by lottery twice a year. An expedition led by a young man called Valerian (Clarke) seeks the last sorcerer, Ulrich of Cragganmore (Richardson), for help.

End of Roman rule in Britain

The end of Roman rule in Britain was the transition from Roman Britain to post-Roman Britain. Roman rule ended in different parts of Britain at different times, and under different circumstances.

Peter Eyre is an American-born English actor.

Caitlin Clarke actor, instructor

Caitlin Clarke was an American theater and film actress best known for her role as Valerian in the 1981 fantasy film Dragonslayer and for her role as Charlotte Cardoza in the 1998–1999 Broadway musical Titanic.

Tyrian (Hallam), the brutal and cynical Captain of Casiodorus' Royal Guard, has followed the expedition. He and his lieutenant Jerbul openly intimidate the wizard, doubtful of his abilities. Ulrich invites Tyrian to stab him to prove his magical powers. Tyrian does so and Ulrich dies instantly, much to the horror of his young apprentice Galen Bradwarden (MacNicol)...and to that of his elderly servant Hodge (Sydney Bromley), who cremates Ulrich's body and places the ashes in a leather pouch. Hodge informs Galen that Ulrich wanted his ashes spread over a lake of burning water.

John Hallam 1941–2006; Northern Irish character actor

John William Francis Hallam was a British character actor, who was well known in the United Kingdom for playing hard men or military types.

Apprenticeship System of employment

An apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study. Apprenticeships can also enable practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated profession. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies. Apprenticeship lengths vary significantly across sectors, professions, roles and cultures. People who successfully complete an apprenticeship in some cases can reach the "journeyman" or professional certification level of competence. In others can be offered a permanent job at the company that provided the placement. Although the formal boundaries and terminology of the apprentice/journeyman/master system often do not extend outside guilds and trade unions, the concept of on-the-job training leading to competence over a period of years is found in any field of skilled labor.

Peter MacNicol actor

Peter MacNicol is an American actor and voice actor. He received a Theatre World Award for his 1981 Broadway debut in the play Crimes of the Heart. His film roles include Galen in Dragonslayer (1981), Stingo in Sophie's Choice (1982), Janosz Poha in Ghostbusters II (1989), camp organizer Gary Granger in Addams Family Values (1993), and David Langley in Bean (1997).

Galen is selected by the wizard's magical amulet as its next owner; encouraged, he journeys to Urland. On the way, he discovers Valerian is really a young woman, who is disguised to avoid being selected in the lottery. In an effort to discourage the expedition, Tyrian kills Hodge - who, just before dying, hands Galen the pouch of ashes.

Arriving in Urland, Galen inspects the dragon's lair and magically seals – he thinks – its entrance with an avalanche. Tyrian apprehends Galen and takes him to Castle Morgenthorme, from which King Casiodorus governs Urland. Casiodorus guesses that Galen is not a real wizard and complains that his attack may have angered the dragon instead of killing it, as his own brother and predecessor once did. The king confiscates the amulet and imprisons Galen. His daughter, Princess Elspeth (Chloe Salaman), visits Galen - initially to taunt him. Instead she is shocked when he informs her of rumors that the lottery is rigged; it excludes her name, and those who are rich enough to bribe the king into disqualifying their children. Her father is unable to lie convincingly when she confronts him over this.

Meanwhile, the dragon frees itself from its prison and causes an earthquake. Galen narrowly escapes from his prison, but without the amulet. The village priest, Brother Jacopus (Ian McDiarmid), leads his congregation to confront the dragon, denouncing it as the Devil, but the dragon incinerates him and then heads for the village of Swanscombe, burning all in its path.

When the lottery begins anew, Princess Elspeth rigs the draw so that only her name can be chosen. Consequently, King Casiodorus returns the amulet to Galen so that he might save Elspeth. Galen uses the amulet to enchant a heavy spear that had been forged by Valerian's father (which he had dubbed Sicarius Dracorum, or "Dragonslayer") with the ability to pierce the dragon's armored hide. Valerian gathers some molted dragon scales and uses them to make Galen a shield, and when the two realize they have romantic feelings for each other, they fall in love.

Attempting to rescue Princess Elspeth, Galen fights Tyrian and kills him. The Princess, however, is determined to make amends for all the girls whose names have been chosen in the past; she descends into the dragon's cave and to her death. Galen follows her and finds a brood of young dragons feasting on her corpse. He kills them and finds Vermithrax resting by an underground lake of fire. He manages to wound the monster, but the spear is broken. Only Valerian's shield saves him from incineration.

After his failure to kill Vermithrax, Valerian convinces Galen to leave Swanscombe with her. As both prepare to depart, the amulet gives Galen a vision which explains his teacher's final wishes: He used Galen to deliver him to Urland. Ulrich had asked that his ashes be spread over "burning water", which is in the dragon's cave. Galen realizes that the wizard had planned his own death and cremation, realizing he was too old and frail to make the journey.

Galen returns to the cave. When he spreads the ashes over the fiery lake, the wizard is resurrected within the flames. Ulrich reveals that his time is short and that Galen must destroy the amulet "when the time is right". The wizard then transports himself to a mountaintop, where he summons a storm and confronts Vermithrax. After a brief battle, the monster snatches the old man and flies away with him. Cued by Ulrich, Galen crushes the amulet with a rock. The wizard's body explodes and kills the dragon, whose corpse falls out of the sky.

In the aftermath, villagers inspecting the wreckage credit God with the victory. The king arrives and drives a sword into the dragon's broken carcass to claim the glory for himself. As Galen and Valerian leave Urland together, he confesses that he misses both Ulrich and the amulet. He says "I just wish we had a horse." A white horse appears to carry the incredulous lovers away.




According to Hal Barwood, he and Matthew Robbins got the inspiration for Dragonslayer from The Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence in Fantasia , and later came up with a story after researching St. George and the Dragon. Barwood and Robins rejected the traditional conceptions of the medieval world in order to give the film more realism: "our film has no knights in shining armour, no pennants streaming in the breeze, no delicate ladies with diaphonous veils waving from turreted castles, no courtly love, no holy grail. Instead we set out to create a very strange world with a lot of weird values and customs, steeped in superstition, where the clothes and manners of the people were rough, their homes and villages primitive and their countryside almost primeval, so that the idea of magic would be a natural part of their existence." For this reason, they chose to set the film after the Roman departure from Britain, prior to the arrival of Christianity. Barwood and Robins began to hastily work on the story outline of the film on June 25, 1979 and finished it in early August. They received numerous refusals from various film studios, due to their inexperience in budget negotiations. The screenplay was eventually accepted by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, becoming the two studios' second joint effort after the 1980 film Popeye . [3]

Dragon design and realisation

According to Barwood, the dragon's basic body plan was based on that of the Jurassic pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus Rhamphorchynchus white background.jpg
According to Barwood, the dragon's basic body plan was based on that of the Jurassic pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus

Twenty-five percent of the film's budget went into the special effects to bring the dragon to life. Graphic artist David Bunnet was assigned to design the look of the dragon, and was fed ideas on the mechanics on how the dragon would move, and then rendered the concepts on paper. It was decided early on in production that as the film's most important sequence would have been the final battle, it was deemed necessary to design a dragon with an emphasis on its flying abilities. Bunnet also designed the dragon to have a degree of personality, deliberately trying to avoid creating something like the titular creature from Alien , which he believed was "too hideous to look at". [3]

Ken Ralston's flying model of the dragon, Vermithrax Pejorative Dragonslayervermithraxp.jpg
Ken Ralston's flying model of the dragon, Vermithrax Pejorative

After Bunnet handed his storyboard panels to the film crew, it was decided that the dragon would have to be realized with a wide variety of techniques: the resulting dragon on film is a composite of several different models. Phil Tippett of ILM finalized the dragon's design, and sculpted a reference model which Danny Lee of Disney Studios closely followed in constructing the larger dragon props for closeup shots. Two months later, Lee's team finished building a sixteen-foot head and neck assembly, a twenty-foot tail, thighs and legs, claws capable of grabbing a man, and a 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) wing section. The parts were flown to Pinewood Studios outside London in the cargo hold of a Boeing 747. [3]

Brian Johnson was hired to supervise the special effects, and began planning both on and off-set effects with various special effects specialists. Dennis Muren, the effects cameraman, stated, "We knew the dragon had a lot more importance to this film than some of the incidental things that appeared in only a few shots in Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back . The dragon had to be presented in a way that the audience would be absolutely stunned." [3]

After the completion of principal shooting, a special effects team of eighty people at ILM studios in northern California worked eight months in producing 160 composite shots of the dragon. Chris Walas sculpted and operated the dragon head used for close-up shots. The model was animated by a combination of radio controls, cable controls, air bladders, levers and by hand, thus giving the illusion of a fully coordinated face with a wide range of expression. [3] Real WW2 era flamethrowers were used for the dragons fire breathing effects.

Phil Tippett built a model for the scenes in which the dragon would be required to walk. Tippett did not want to use standard stop motion animation techniques, and had his team build a dragon model which would move during each exposure rather than in between as was once the standard. This process, named "go motion" by Tippett, recorded the creature's movements in motion as a real animal would move, and removed the jerkiness common in prior stop motion films. [3]

Ken Ralston was assigned to the flying scenes. He built a model with an articulated aluminum skeleton in order to give it a wide range of motion. Ralston shot films of birds flying in order to incorporate their movements into the model. As with the walking dragon, the flying model was filmed using go-motion techniques. The camera was programmed to tilt and move at various angles in order to convey the sensation of flight. [3]


Peter MacNicol first met Matthew Robbins while waiting to audition for the pilot film of Breaking Away , and agreed to take part in Dragonslayer, despite having a dislike for performing magic tricks. McNicol had to learn horse riding, both English style and bareback for the role. McNicol found this difficult, saying that "They took away my stirrups, they took away my reins and whipped the horse, and then they told me to windmill my arms and turn a complete circle in the saddle. Then they took away the saddle!" He later took on vocal coaching in order to disguise his Texas accent, and took magic lessons from British prestidigitator Harold Taylor, who had previously performed for the British royal family. [3]

Caitlin Clarke was initially hesitant to involve herself in the film, as she was preparing to audition for a play in Chicago. Her agent insisted, though, and after doing an audition tape, was called back for more tests. Clarke failed them, but managed to pass after doing another test at the insistence of Matthew Robbins. She got on well with Ralph Richardson, and stated that he taught her more in one rehearsal than in years of acting classes. [3]

Set design

Ulrich's Castle looking over to Moel Siabod, Dolwyddelan Castle, North Wales Ulrich-castle-ball-siabod-small.jpg
Ulrich's Castle looking over to Moel Siabod, Dolwyddelan Castle, North Wales

Elliot Scott was hired to design the sets of the film's sixth-century world. He temporarily converted the 13th-century Dolwyddelan Castle into Ulrich's ramshackle sixth-century fortress, much to the surprise of the locals. Next, Scott built the entire village of Swanscombe on a farmside outside London. Although Scott extensively researched medieval architecture in the British Museum and his own library, he took some artistic liberties in creating the thatched roof houses, the granary, Simon's house and smithy and Casiodorus' castle, as he was unable to find enough information on how they would look exactly. Scott then built the interior of the dragon's lair, using 25,000 cubic feet (710 m3) of polystyrene and 40 tons of Welsh slate and shale. The shots of the Welsh and Scottish landscapes were extended through the use of over three dozen matte paintings. [3]

Shooting locations in North Wales

Galen (Peter McNicol) & Hodge (Sydney Bromley) rehearsing for the pack levitation scene. Mathew Robbins (Director) can be seen monitoring through the camera. Capel Curig, North Wales Galen-hodge-opposite-over-llygwy-bryn-llys.jpg
Galen (Peter McNicol) & Hodge (Sydney Bromley) rehearsing for the pack levitation scene. Mathew Robbins (Director) can be seen monitoring through the camera. Capel Curig, North Wales
Location of Valerian's speech and handing a shield (made from the Dragon's scales) to Galen. Below Tryfan, Llyn Ogwen, North Wales Galen-valarian-shield.jpg
Location of Valerian's speech and handing a shield (made from the Dragon's scales) to Galen. Below Tryfan, Llyn Ogwen, North Wales
Dolwyddelan Castle, used for Ulrich's Castle. Dolwyddelan Castle, Conwy, Wales.jpg
Dolwyddelan Castle, used for Ulrich's Castle.

Nearly all of the outdoor scenes were shot in North Wales. The final scene was shot in Skye, Scotland.

  • The filming crew were based in Betws y Coed, and the artists were stabled further down the Conwy valley.
  • Dolwyddelan Castle was used for all outdoor shots of Ulrich's Castle. This includes the arrival of the delegation from Urland, the arrival of guards from Urland, Ulrich's first death scene and funeral burning. Many locals were hired as extras during this scene.
  • The external long shots of the dragon's lair were of the main face of Tryfan, within yards of the A5, opposite Llyn Ogwen. The lair was shot looking upwards from the road, towards the broken face of Tryfan, Nant Ffrancon.
  • Shots of Galen and Hodge on the trek to Urland were shot on the old road from Cobdens to Bryn Engan, in Capel Curig.
  • The early morning camping scenes on the trek to Urland, Tyrian's shooting of Hodge, and Hodge's death scene all take place on a 500-yard (500 m) section of Fairy Glen between Betws-y-Coed and Penmachno.
  • The scenes of the delegation crossing over into Urland were shot above Ogwen Cottage, Nant Ffrancon.
  • Galen fleeing on horseback from Casiodorus's castle was shot high above Llyn Crafnant.
  • The scene where the party cross a wooden bridge below a waterfall was shot at the foot of Cwmorthin Slate Quarry
  • The scene where Galen Bradwarden sees an apparition in the lake was shot at the bottom end of Llyn Crafnant.
  • The bleak rocky outcrop where Valerian gathers Dragon scales is Castell y Gwynt, above the Pen-y-Gwryd hotel.
  • The scenes where Valerian delivers a shield made from the Dragon's scales and the intimate scene between Valerian and Galen were shot in the boulder field below Tryfan, about 300 yards from the A5 near the Llyn Ogwen Car Park.
  • The procession scenes in which victims are transported to the Dragon's lair were shot on Gelli behind the main shop in Capel Curig.
  • Vermithrax crashes into Llyn Llydaw, below Snowdon.


The costumes were designed by Anthony Mendelson, who consulted the British Museum, the London Library and his own reference files in order to make the clothing evoke the designs of the early Middle Ages. Mendelson designed the costumes to be roughly stitched and the utilised colours were ones which would have only been possible with the vegetable dyes then in use. The costumes of Casiodorus and his court were designed to be finely silked, as opposed to the coarsely woven clothes of the Urlanders. [3]

Musical score

The film's Academy Award-nominated score was composed by Alex North. The score's linear conception was developed through transparently layered, polyphonic orchestral texture dominated by a medieval-style modal harmony. The score was largely based on five major thematic concepts:

  1. the suffering of the Urlanders;
  2. a "magic" motif;
  3. the amulet;
  4. the sacrificial virgins;
  5. the relationship between Galen and Valerian.

North's had six weeks to compose score, [5] which featured music rejected from his score for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. (The opening sequence of Dragonslayer features a reworking of North's original music for the opening of the "Dawn of Man" sequence – which in the final film was played without music – and a waltz representing the dragon in flight was a variation of the cue "Space Station Docking", which in the final cut of 2001 was replaced by The Blue Danube ). [6] North was disappointed by the resulting dragon scenes, as they did not use the entirety of the pieces he composed for them. He later stated that he had written "a very lovely waltz for when the dragon first appears, with just a slight indication that this may not be a bad dragon". The waltz was scrapped in favour of tracks used earlier in the movie.

Despite the omission of the dragon-reveal waltz, the score was widely praised. Pauline Kael wrote in the New Yorker that the score was a "beauty", and that "at times, the music and the fiery dragon seem one". Royal S. Brown of Fanfare Magazine praised the soundtrack as "one of the best scores of 1981". [7]

Box office and reception

Dragonslayer is a compelling and often brilliant fantasy film; it is also, however, a movie which is at odds with the normal internal structure of the typical "hero myth". It first tries hard to evoke a certain time and place and then tries just as hard to reject the necessary, and expected, limitations its particular setting and historical era impose. To put it bluntly, Dragonslayer is not content to conform to the strictures of the genre and to tell a rousing good story; it seeks, as well, to impose modern sensibilities on its medieval characters and plot—twentieth-century political, sociological, and religious sensibilities which only serve to dilute its particular strengths.

— Von Gunden, Kenneth Flights of Fancy: The Great Fantasy Films, McFarland, 1989, ISBN   0-7864-1214-3

The film grossed just over $14 million in the US [8] with an estimated budget of $18 million. Despite its mediocre box office performance, it later became a cult classic on home video.[ citation needed ] At the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an average rating of 6.66/10 based on 28 reviews, with 86% positive reviews. The site's critics consensus reads: "An atypically dark Disney adventure, Dragonslayer puts a realistic spin -- and some impressive special effects -- on a familiar tale." [9] At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [10]


Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film three stars out of four in their respective print reviews. [11] [12] Siskel praised the "dazzling special effects" and the "convincing portrait by Ralph Richardson of the aged magician Ulrich," [11] and Ebert called the scenes involving the dragon "first-rate." [12]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called Vermithrax "the greatest dragon yet", and praised the film for its effective evocation of the Dark Ages. [13]

David Denby of New York praised Dragonslayer's special effects and lauded the film as being much better than Excalibur and Raiders of the Lost Ark . [13]


David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor , although praising the sets and pacing of the film, criticised it for lack of originality, stressing that McNicol's and Richardson's characters bore too many similarities to the heroes of Star Wars . A similar critique was given by John Coleman of the New Statesman , who called the film a "turgid sword-and-sorcery fable, with Ralph Richardson in a backdated kind of Star Wars of Alec Guinness role...". [13]

Tim Pulleine of the Monthly Film Bulletin criticised the film's lack of narrative drive and clarity to supplement the special effects. [13] Upon the film's first television broadcast, Gannett News Service columnist Mike Hughes called the story "slight" and slow-paced", but admired a "lyrical beauty to the setting and mood". [14] Nonetheless, he warned: "In movie theaters, that came across wonderfully; on a little TV screen, this may be strictly for specialized tastes". [14]

Alex Keneas of Newsday criticised the film for being too focused on superstition, and for being "bereft of any sense of medieval time, place and society...". [13]

Vermithrax Pejorative

Guillermo del Toro has stated that along with Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty , Vermithrax is his favorite cinematic dragon. [15] He further stated that

One of the best and one of the strongest landmarks [of dragon movies] that almost nobody can overcome is Dragonslayer. The design of Vermithrax Pejorative is perhaps one of the most perfect creature designs ever made. [16]

Author George R. R. Martin once ranked the film the fifth best fantasy film of all time, and called Vermithrax "the best dragon ever put on film", and the one with "the coolest dragon name as well". [17] Vermithrax is mentioned in a list of dragons' names in the fourth episode of the television adaptation to Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series. [18] Fantasy author Alex Bledsoe stated that

... everyone has a 'first dragon', the one that awoke their sense of wonder about the creatures. For many it's Anne McCaffrey's elaborate world of Pern, where genetically-engineered intelligent dragons bond with their riders; for others it's Smaug in The Hobbit , guarding his hoard deep in a cave. But for me, it was the awesome Vermithrax from the 1981 film, Dragonslayer. [19]

During the filming of Return of the Jedi , in which Ian McDiarmid, who portrays minor character Brother Jacopus in Dragonslayer, stars as the film's main antagonist, Emperor Palpatine, the ILM crew jokingly placed a model of one of the dragons from Dragonslayer in the arms of the Rancor model and took a picture. The picture was included in the book Star Wars: Chronicles. A creature based on the appearance of this dragon appears in one of Jabba the Hutt's creature pens in Inside the Worlds of Star Wars Trilogy.


A novelization was written by Wayland Drew that delves deeper into the background of many of the characters. Expansions upon the film's plot include details such as these:

Marvel Comics adaptation

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film by writer Dennis O'Neil and artists Marie Severin and John Tartaglione in Marvel Super Special #20. [20]

SPI board game

Simulations Publications, Inc. produced the board game Dragonslayer , designed by Brad Hessel and Redmond A. Simonsen which was based on the movie. [21]


Australian label Southern Cross initially released an unauthorized soundtrack album in 1983 on LP (a boxed audiophile pressing, at 45 rpm), and in 1990 on CD. That album also appeared on iTunes for a limited time. The first official and improved CD release came in 2010 by U.S. label La-La Land Records. The new album featured newly mastered audio from the original LCR(Left-Center-Right)-mix and included previously unreleased source music and alternative takes.

See also

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Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released by Walt Disney Productions. With story direction by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, and production supervision by Ben Sharpsteen, it is the third Disney animated feature film. The film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Music critic and composer Deems Taylor acts as the film's Master of Ceremonies, providing a live-action introduction to each animated segment.

<i>Willow</i> (film) 1988 American fantasy film directed by Ron Howard

Willow is a 1988 American high fantasy film directed by Ron Howard, produced and with a story by George Lucas, and starring Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, and Billy Barty. Davis plays the eponymous lead character and hero: a reluctant farmer who plays a critical role in protecting a special baby from a tyrannical queen who vows to destroy her and take over the world in a high fantasy setting.

Mike Jittlov American animator

Mike Jittlov is an American animator and the creator of short films and one feature-length film using forms of special effects animation, including stop-motion animation, rotoscoping, and pixilation. He is best known for the 1989 feature-length film The Wizard of Speed and Time, based on his 1979 short film of the same name.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a 2001 fantasy film directed by Chris Columbus and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is based on J. K. Rowling's 1997 novel of the same name. The film is the first instalment of the Harry Potter film series and was written by Steve Kloves and produced by David Heyman. Its story follows Harry Potter's first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as he discovers that he is a famous wizard and begins his education. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, with Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger.

Jim Danforth is a stop-motion animator, known for model-animation and matte painting. Danforth is known for his work on When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), a sequel of sorts to Ray Harryhausen's One Million Years B.C. (1967). Danforth later went on to work with Harryhausen on the film Clash of the Titans (1981), in which he was mainly responsible for the animation of the winged-horse Pegasus.

The sorcerer is a playable character class in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. A sorcerer is weak in melee combat, but a master of arcane magic, generally the most powerful form of D&D magic. Sorcerers' magical ability is innate rather than studied. In the words of the 3.5 Player's Handbook: "Sorcerers create magic the way a poet creates poems, with inborn talent honed by practice."

<i>Enchanted</i> (film) 2007 film directed by Kevin Lima

Enchanted is a 2007 American live action/animated musical fantasy romantic comedy film, produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Sonnenfeld Productions and Josephson Entertainment. Written by Bill Kelly and directed by Kevin Lima, the film stars Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, and Susan Sarandon. The plot focuses on Giselle, an archetypal Disney Princess, who is forced from her traditional animated world of Andalasia into the live-action world of New York City. Enchanted was the first Disney film to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, instead of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Mark Anthony is an American author who lives and writes in Colorado.

<i>The Reluctant Dragon</i> (1941 film) 1941 Disney film directed by Alfred L. Werker and Hamilton Luske

The Reluctant Dragon is a 1941 American film produced by Walt Disney, directed by Alfred Werker, and released by RKO Radio Pictures on June 20, 1941. Essentially a tour of the then-new Walt Disney Studios facility in Burbank, California, the film stars radio comedian Robert Benchley and many Disney staffers such as Ward Kimball, Fred Moore, Norman Ferguson, Clarence Nash, and Walt Disney, all as themselves.

<i>The Sorcerers Apprentice</i> (2010 film) 2010 American film produced by Walt Disney Pictures

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a 2010 American action-fantasy film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, directed by Jon Turteltaub, and released by Walt Disney Pictures, the team behind the National Treasure franchise. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, and Monica Bellucci.


A dragonslayer is a person or being that slays dragons. Dragonslayers and the creatures they hunt have been popular in traditional stories from around the world: they are a type of story classified as type 300 in the Aarne–Thompson classification system. They continue to be popular in modern books, films, video-games and other entertainments. Dragonslayer-themed stories are also sometimes seen as having a chaoskampf theme - in which a heroic figure struggles against a monster that epitomises chaos.

<i>Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie</i> 2009 film directed by Lev L. Spiro

Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie is a 2009 American made-for-television comedy-drama fantasy film based on the Disney Channel Original Series Wizards of Waverly Place. It was directed by Lev L. Spiro and filmed primarily in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February and March 2009. The full cast of the series starred in the film, although Jennifer Stone only had a small role at the beginning of the film. The film focuses on the Russo family taking a vacation to the Caribbean.

"Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things" is the fourth episode of the first season of the HBO medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, which first aired on May 8, 2011. It was written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Brian Kirk. In this episode Lord Eddard Stark, the new Hand of the King, investigates the sudden death of his predecessor. Jon Snow, Eddard's bastard son, defends a new recruit who has just joined the rangers at "the Wall". Exiled prince Viserys becomes increasingly frustrated as the Dothraki horde he needs to invade Westeros and win back his crown continues to linger at Vaes Dothrak. The episode ends with Eddard's wife Catelyn arresting Tyrion Lannister on suspicion of attempting to murder her son Bran.


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