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Films: D is for...

Dragonslayer

That most benighted (and, indeed, be-knighted) of genres, fantasy may be all the rage for now but ’twas not always the way of things. The likes of Time Bandits (mentioned below) and Willow ploughed a lonely furrow for many years and other films of the genre came and went without much fanfare only to fade from memory. At least that can be the only reason why a film as great as Dragonslayer has been allowed to slip out of view with only the odd Christmas television outing to remind us of its dark brilliance. No twee tale of talking dragons befriending knights or gentle creatures misunderstood, in this story of a quest to free a land from the clutches of a dragon the beast in question is a vicious, fire breathing monster. As bad – or worse – are the feckless, pompous king and his bloodthirsty lieutenant and the fanatical Christian missionary preaching in the village to the hapless inhabitants who only want to lead quiet lives. In the blue corner are Peter Macnicol as the sorcerer’s apprentice and Sir Rich Ralphardson in a magisterial final role as the wizard Ulrich. Star of the show is the dragon of course – he even has a great name, Vermithrax Pejorative – created for the screen before the arrival of CGI etc and therefore probably making this the last great stop-animated classic. It is easily the best dragon ever created for cinema. This may be a film for children but it doesn’t compromise its themes and like Time Bandits doesn’t dodge the darkness that lies at the heart of the best fantasy tales. Mind you, when Caitlin Clarke constantly complains to Peter Macnicol that she may be sacrificed to the dragon as she is a virgin, one can’t help thinking that there’s a relatively east way out of *that* particular dilemma.

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