Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuesday Treasures: Dragonslayer

When I was ten years old, I was obsessed with fantasy. What had begun a few years earlier with a second-grade reading of the Chronicles of Narnia quickly led to a two-night reading of The Hobbit (I wouldn't read the rest of Lord of the Rings until a few years later, but by the end of second grade, I was already a denizen of Middle-Earth), which led to the eager reading of the Chronicles of Prydain by Alexander, which led to an equally-greedy consumption of The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher (all right, strictly speaking, that's a science-fiction trilogy, but it was very influential to my young mind, and so merits a mention here).

I devoured any and every book I could find on mythology, fantasy, and history, leading to my love of swords, sorcery, unicorns, gryffons, trolls, orcs, and of course, dragons.

The point being, I loved this stuff. I couldn't get enough of it (truth be told, I still can't).

Then, in June of 1981, Disney unleashed Dragonslayer.

My ten-year-old mind was blown away.

Dragonslayer tells the story of young Galen Bradwarden, a sorcerer's apprentice who undertakes a mission in his dead master's name.

A mission to exterminate a very old, very nasty dragon named Vermithrax Perjorative, "The Wyrm of Thrace who makes things worse".

Coolest.  Dragon.  Ever.

Through leagues of travel, betrayal, murder, and love, Bradwarden and his deceased master prove victorious (just in case you haven't seen this movie, I'm not giving anything away).

It's difficult to explain the impact this film had on me. It was the first time I had seen a dragon (outside of animation; thank you, Rankin-Bass, for Smaug) that looked good; the first time I had seen my beloved man-vs-monster fantasy tales brought to such convincing life.

I have watched this film recently, and it is one of the few that truly stands up to my childhood memories of it.

Filmed long before the problems of bringing dragons to life could be solved with cgi, Industrial Light & Magic pioneered a process called go-motion photography to animate its dragon models and puppets, eliminating the herky-jerky crispness of the stop-motion photography that had ruled the industry since the 1930's (don't get me wrong here; I love that unreal, dream-like look of stop-motion, but ILM brought a level of reality to Vermithrax that is as impressive as anything wrought by a computer today).

Dragonslayer is the standard by which I judge dragon movies, and though some have been impressive, so far none have defeated the mighty Vermithrax in my imagination.

If you somehow haven't seen this movie, I encourage you to seek it out. You should be able to find it on DVD for five dollars or under.

If you have seen it, but just haven't seen it for a while, revisit it. You won't be sorry.

It is just as good as you remember.
Thanks for reading my ranting,



  1. I've never seen that movie, but I'll have to look for it now.

    I remember reading the Prydain and Tripods books, fantastic stuff. Lloyd Alexander also did a great 3 or 4 book series in another setting. I forget the series name but two of the books were The Kestral and Westmark. Probably the first politically minded fantasy I'd read.

  2. One of my favorite movies of all time is "Dragonheart". It's another old one. I used to watch it with my dad when I was little, although I'm not really sure when it came out... :)

  3. @Jaleh--I cannot recommend Dragonslayer highly enough to anyone who loves good fantasy in general and dragons in particular.

    @Star-Dreamer--Dragonheart. Old. Hmm, let's see--I was 25 when that came out, so that makes me...

    ...oh, yeah: old.;)

    I liked Dragonheart well enough, though I can't say I loved it. Maybe I need to see it again.