Facts and Figures
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 26th June 1981
Box Office Worldwide: $6M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
The story involves a fantasy kingdom which sacrifices a young woman every year to the mean old dragon on the hill, lest it burn up all the crops, and so on. Peter MacNicol plays a young magician who is bent on destroying the dragon, even though he's a bit of a schlub... you know, like Peter MacNicol. Caitlin Clarke plays a young boy who turns out to be a young woman in disguise, designed to evade the lottery used to pick the woman for sacrifice.
Well the magician and his cronies block off the dragon's lair, and everyone rejoices. Then Valerian (Clarke) reveals herself to be a woman after all (seeing as she's been out of the lottery for 18 years or so), wearing a blue dress and doing the whole village dance thing, much to the amazement of the locals.
And then the dragon comes back. (D'oh!) And they hustle together another lottery, this time with a chagrined Valerian's name in the pot. They stir the tiles in the pot and draw the name. It's the princess! The princess has discovered her name has been unfairly withheld from the lottery and has engineered the lottery so that her name is drawn. But the king refuses, saying that the name is illegible and draws another name. And then this is the part that bugs me to hell: Caitlin starts to scream "Let it stand! Let it stand!"
The little brat has been out of the lottery herself, just like the princess, for all these years. And she has the nerve to be the ringleader of people complaining about the re-draw?
It's a little thing, but it's always bugged me.
The rest of Dragonslayer is hit and miss, with a mopey beginning as the heroes plod their way to the dragon's lair. It's an hour before we get any good magic or any good dragon attacks, for that matter. The plot is confusing as hell, eventually involving a resurrected sorcerer (Ralph Richardson, we love ya!), a magic amulet, and an eclipse. Of course, it all comes down to a big dragon-duel in the end... why wreck it with a bunch of metaphysical nonsense that doesn't even make sense in a fantasy kingdom. It's a problem that would plague many of its contemporaries.
Still, after Willow, I'd say Dragonslayer is the best film of its genre from a crush of fantasy movies in the 1980s. The effects are particularly good for the era, but let's face it -- nothing short of a gorilla suit can make Peter MacNicol not look like a weenie.