Monday, July 31, 2017

Old Movie

After several years I viewed DRAGONSLAYER again. This is a 1981 film that I saw during its initial release. It was also the first monster movie I watched that employed a primitive version of CGI that we have come to accept as the norm.

This movie is excellent in every way. Cast. Direction. Cinematography. FX. Art design. Etc.

This is also the film that famously made Ray Harryhausen retire. Over Go-Motion. Even though they used a stop-motion figure for the dragon, they enhanced it with inter-frame blurring. The FX guys gave Harryhausen a preview and he knew then that his days were done--that computers were going to do it all and that his career as an artisan were over.

I love this film. I can't really find anything at all to criticize when it comes to this movie. It's almost perfect. As such, I should hold it in higher esteem, but for some reason I don't list it among my favorite films. Perhaps there is something subconsciously bugging me about it that I'll have to find on a future viewing. Or maybe I'm just a critical curmudgeon.

I've seen it now probably five or six times (I don't keep count). But pretty much the casting is perfect. Ralph Richardson is spot-on as Ulrich, the last remaining wizard. I think the movie was Albert Salmi's final performance before he committed suicide. The fact is that I can't think of anyone in the movie who turned in a less than excellent performance and for which they were not effectively cast.

Also, the monster, Vermithrax pejorative, is the most perfectly designed dragon that I have ever seen for the movie screen. Anatomically the creature looks right and moves logically and remains both awe-inspiring and terrifying. When it attacks a village it looks like some kind of organic fighter jet spewing napalm. 

I'll probably give it a few more viewings before I get tired of seeing it. If there is a flaw that keeps me from placing the movie higher in my esteem, maybe I'll find it.

Ralph Richardson as Ulrich, the Wizard.

Peter MacNicol and Vermithrax pejorative.
The late Caitlin Clarke as Valerian.

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