Dragonslayer has raised its profile considerably since its 1981. One of its most prominent fans is included in this edition, but more on him later. The growing popularity of Dragonslayer has warranted a 4K UHD release.
The 1981 35mm film look holds up in dark candlelit castles and caverns. The practical dragon looks more tangible than its CGI counterparts, and the third act of the film reveals it in all its glory.
Daytime exteriors look appropriately cold and foggy, with mists over the hills and forests. Embers in the air add color and the green fire looks astonishing at the end. The visual effects hold up. Besides the dragon, when Galen (Peter MacNicol) makes an egg float, you see no wires.
The soundtrack certainly wasn’t in 5.1 in 1981, but now the score fills the room. The crackling of magic spells and rockslides rumble in the background. When the dragon arises, the earth crumbles beneath it all around. His wings swoop in flight and flames ignite immersively.
The commentary with director Matthew Robbins is moderated by Guillermo del Toro. I know how much del Toro loves this movie because he presented it at a SXSW screening. So he gets a lot out of Robbins who appreciates del Toro’s technical and thematic questions.
An hour-long documentary is thorough, the kind you could rely on in the old days of DVD and laserdisc. Robbins repeats a little bit of what he said on the commentary, but the documentary includes design sketches, behind the scenes stills and footage of handling the stop motion models. Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett are also included.
Screen tests not only show how Peter MacNicol and Caitlin Clarke already nailed the roles, but also that Maureen Teefy could’ve been just as good as Valerian, and William Squires as Ulrich. The screen tests are on film and already look like the movie, albeit not widescreen. They also tried two different feminized looks for Clarke, but fortunately found the right one for the finished film.