Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dragonslayer - Dungeons, Dragons & Transgendered Damsels In Distress

Directed by Matthew Robbins
Written by Matthew Robbins & Hal Barwood
Starring - Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson & Ian McDiarmid



Its talons tear. Its breath burns. It is terror. And only sorcery can destroy it.

It was a magical time but darkness rule the land. A young apprentice sorcerer faces a terrifying quest - he must destroy the fire-breathing Vermithax. For he is the . . . 

When dragons were real.

In the Dark Ages, Magic was a weapon. Love was a mystery. Adventure was everywhere... And Dragons were real.

Alternate Titles:
El verdugo de dragones (The Executioner of Dragons) - Argentina/Mexico
Lovac na zmajeve (The Kite Runner) - Serbia
Der Drachentöter (The Dragonslayer) - West Germany
Dragedræberen - helten fra fortidens mørke (Dragon Slayer - Hero of the Dark Past) - Denmark
Drakdödaren (Dragonslayer) - Sweden
El dragón del lago de fuego (The Lake of Fire Dragon) - Spain
El verdugo del dragón (The Dragon Executioner) - Peru
Η επιδρομη του δρακου (The Raid of the Dragon) - Greece
Il drago del lago di fuoco (The Dragon of the Lake of Fire) - Italy
Le dragon du lac de feu (The Lake of Fire Dragon) - France
Lohikäärmeentappaja (Dragon Slayer) - Finland
O Dragão Eo Feiticeiro (Dragon and The Wizard) - Brazil
O Matador de Dragões (The Slayer of Dragons) - Brazil alternate title
O Dragão do Lago de Fogo (The Dragon Lake of Fire) - Portugal
Sárkányölő (Dragon) - Hungary
Te vuur en te zwaard (With Fire and Sword) - The Netherlands
Zabójca smoków (Killer Dragons) - Poland

Up until tonight, I hadn't seen Dragonslayer in about 20 years or so.  I remember watching it when I was a kid and I remember that I liked it, but I couldn't remember the actual plot or any specific scenes per was one of those almost forgotten films that had slipped into obscurity until EPIX decided to start showing it over the past month.  It's been sitting on my DVR for a few weeks and finally I sat down to revisit this campy fantasy flick.  This movie is a lot stranger than I remember!

Peter MacNicol (Janosz from Ghostbusters II!!!!!) stars as Galen, a young apprentice to the powerful sorcerer, Ulrich (Ralph Richardson......the man who played the Crypt Keeper in the 1977 version of Tales From The Crypt!).  Ulrich has been asked to slay the dragon that has kept the kingdom in fear for years.  See the king of the land has been sacrificing virgins to the dragon in an effort to keep it appeased and keep everything from getting barbecued.  The virgins are selected by a "lottery" in which all eligible girls (virgins) are put into the pot and one is selected.  The king, being a slime ball, keeps his own daughter out of it, as well as those daughters of well to do noble families with enough money to buy their way out.

Someday, Galen....this hat will be yours.....

Notice the old guy's got all the gear on......Galen is such a dick...

The love interest of Galen is a girl named Valerian.  Now here's the thing.  Valerian spends the first third of the film disguised (and I use that term VERY loosely) as a boy.  I assume that this is to avoid the lottery.  Too bad she looks nothing like a dude.....but apparently if you put on a man's clothes it's enough to fool everyone, so more power to her.  Anyway.....after Galen thinks he's defeated the dragon, she reveals herself to all to be a female.  I think Galen knew it all along, because he barely bats and eyelash and immediately starts to dance with her, while the rest of the village stands there slack jawed.  It's from this point forward that the odd comments start.  Such as a brief conversation between Valerian's father and another villager:

"The damndest thing is that she was twice the man of anyone in this village, and now she's twice the woman!"

What the hell?  That's a weird thing to say.  Especially for her father.  Plus, it just sounds wrong.  Just......wrong.  It doesn't end there, though....before Galen goes off to fight the Dragon, Valerian makes him a shield of dragon scales and she tries to play the "I don't actually care about you....but really I do" card.  The conversation is fucking bonkers:

"Listen to me, Galen Bradwarden, Sorcerer's Apprentice.  You'll be dead, the dragon will be worse than ever, there will be more lotteries....and I'm not a boy anymore.  I'm still a virgin."

Wwwhhaaa????????  Seriously?  I had to pause the movie at this point because I could not stop laughing.  I literally choked on my coke.  This very well may be the single greatest bit of dialog in any movie.  Ever made.  EVER.

Burn baby burn....Disco Dragon Inferno!!!!
Anyway, after that little snippet of amazing dialog, Galen admits to her that he is in love with her and they kiss.  And while they kiss, the words "I'm not a boy anymore" echo in my head.  Now clearly this is not the first time in a movie that a female has pretended to be a male.  It's a classic trope in film, literature....hell even video games.  Remember when you found out that Samus Aaron was a girl?  HOLY HELL!  My mind was blown.  I digress.....the constant reference to her previously being a man makes for some unintentionally hilarious dialog.  Such as when she accompanies Galen into the Dragon's cave.

Valerian:  I'm coming too!
Galen:  No you're not!
Valerian:  I'm not afraid....after all....I was a man.  Remember?

Gender issues aside, the rest of the film suffers from some terrible dialog and some rather poor acting.  The special effects are actually pretty nifty for the time and the dragon is quite fearsome looking, though it's too bad it didn't get a little more screen time.  The soundtrack was about what you'd expect from early 80's fantasy fare but works pretty well within the scope of the film.

You shall not pass.......what?  Oops...wrong flick.

Midnight Cinephile Totals:

Body Count:  There's about 6 or 7 deaths in the film....a couple taking place off screen.  There is one cool scene where we see baby dragons snacking on a dead that's fun.

Boob Count:  No boobs.  Just a woman who thinks she's a man.

Beast Count:  1 dragon and three baby dragons.  And a woman who thinks she's a man.....

Final Thoughts:
While Dragonslayer isn't a fantastic movie, it's still fun.  I was surprised by how many of the actors I favorite being Ian McDiarmid, who played Senator/Emporer Palpatine in the Star Wars films, as a priest that gets toasted by the Dragon.  The ongoing "I used to be a dude" dialog kept me giggling (yes, I am aware that I am immature....what's your point?) and the special effects were pretty groovy.  Add in a good ol' fashioned Wizard vs. Dragon finale and you've got yourself a fairly amusing 108 minutes.  If you are a fan of 80's fantasy films, then you'll want to see this one.

"I'm not a boy anymore......"

Final Score:

Two out of Five Pizza Rolls!

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