DRAGONSLAYER was a ground-breaking film for the time, so much that it won Oscar nominations for best visual effects (losing to Raiders of the Lost Ark) and for best score (losing to Chariots of Fire). It was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, losing again to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This new release also contains a few treats, the most fun one for me being a commentary track featuring filmmaker Guillermo del Toro joining director Matthew Robbins. This remaster of both picture and sound was approved by the film’s director Matthew Robbins, and hearing him talk about the movie with del Toro in the new commentary track is a delight for film fans.
This is the type of bonus feature that should be on most remastered releases of classic films. But I’m a huge fan of hearing filmmakers dive into their process and their insights, so I’m eager when those show up on films and television shows I love and admire.
This was also remastered with Dolby Atmos sound, but I’m not sure I have a sound bar that can take full advantage of the new sound remastering, but with the hardware I have, both the foreground, background and dialogue are crystal clear and easy to understand, making it effortless to become fully immersed and engaged with the movie. That the entire audio and visual remastering was done with the approval of director Matthew Robbins says much about the care that went into restoring and enhancing the film.
This is also another recent 4K UHD remaster release I’ve seen where the Blu-ray is a separate product rather than an included item. This 4K UHD release only comes with a Digital Code, so if you need to, you can purchase the Blu-ray + Digital code separately. I can’t say for sure, but this seems to be the direction that Paramount is heading in for their new 4K UHD releases.
Overall, it is a delight to have this film restored and released for a modern audience to discover, and see special effects from a time long left behind (the practical special effects were done by the people who became the heart of the then-brand new Industrial Light & Magic). The differences between practical and digital effects can be profound, and seeing older films where the set design and model building that went into creating practical effects were indeed a separate art is something we need to keep alive. Having landmark films be fully restored and made available to a new generation of audiences is the best way, and I hope restoration releases like this one continue being the rule rather than the exception.
DRAGONSLAYER is available on Blu-ray, 4K UHD and a Limited Edition 4K UHD Steelbook on March 21, 2023 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Special features and a digital code are included with each of these remastered versions.
DRAGONSLAYER has been restored with exceptional picture and sound to bring the spectacular fantasy to life for a new generation. Legendary visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett (Star Wars, Jurassic Park) created the film’s special effects, pioneering a new technique called “go motion” that incorporates blurring into each frame for more realistic images. Vermithrax Pejorative, the fire-breathing creature at the center of the story, was created using a combination of go motion and 16 massive dragon puppets.
Bonus Features included are:
NEW Commentary by Director Matthew Robbins & Guillermo del Toro
NEW Screen Tests
Original Theatrical Trailer
Details for the Featurette THE SLAYER OF ALL DRAGONS
Step back in time with director/co-writer Matthew Robbins, dragon supervisor Phil Tippett, and ILM’s visual effects master Dennis Muren as they revisit DRAGONSLAYER. Their stories and memories take viewers deep into the dragon’s fiery lair as they recount the challenging journey from concept to screen.
WELCOME TO CRAGGANMORE
A look back at the impact of Star Wars and its visual effects on Hollywood, the origin of DRAGONSLAYER and its screenplay, and the film’s casting.
A LONG WAY TO URLAND
Pre-production begins in England as the film takes shape. The young filmmakers seek gritty medieval realism through the production design, cinematography, and costumes.
The filmmakers take on the daunting task of bringing a dragon to life like never before, utilizing every ounce of movie magic available including Phil Tippett’s breakthrough go-motion animation, cutting-edge practical animatronics, visual effects, and compositing.
INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE
Production woes at every turn, horrific baby dragons, and the challenge of creating Vermithrax’s iconic lair plague the filmmakers. Phil Tippett offers a mini-masterclass on crafting powerful creature performance through detailed animation.
THE FINAL BATTLE
The team faces the unique challenges of the film’s stage-bound climax, filmed entirely against a blue screen. Director Matthew Robbins looks back on the incredible work done in the final stages of film editing, the beautifully dense sound design, and Alex North’s amazing score, which utilized pieces from his legendary unused 2001: A Space Odyssey score.
Back in the days when everyone believed in magic, a horrifying fire-breathing dragon terrorized the sixth-century British countryside. The only hope for the beleaguered citizens is an aging sorcerer (Sir Ralph Richardson). But when he is killed before he can save the people, the task falls on his young apprentice, Galen (Peter MacNicol). Galen’s mission is complicated by resistance from the king – and by falling in love – but his biggest challenge comes when he is suddenly face to face with the dreaded monster. Is his magic enough to save him?
Starring Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam, Peter Eyre, Albert Salmi, Sydney Bromley, Chloe Salaman
Directed by Matthew Robbins
Written by Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins
"Dragonslayer" restores the best dragon menace
Overall, it is a delight to have this film restored and released for a modern audience to discover, and see special effects from a time long left behind (the practical special effects were done by the people who became the heart of the then-brand new Industrial Light & Magic). The differences between practical and digital effects can be profound, and seeing older films where the set design and model building that went into creating practical effects were indeed a separate art is something we need to keep alive.