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Dragonslayer (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A young wizard's apprentice becomes the unlikely hero chosen to go slay a dragon in a nearby village which has been terrorizing a kingdom and its women for generations.

Dragonslayer is the 1981 sword and sorcery film directed by Matthew Robbins and starring Peter MacNicol. It follows a young wizard’s apprentice (Galen) who must defeat a vicious dragon that has been terrorizing a kingdom and its women for generations.

Galen has been training under the tutelage of the powerful wizard Ulrich (Ralph Richardson) and honing his skills, but when a nearby village turns to the pair for help in slaying a dragon they have been offering their young virginal woman to as a sacrifice for protection, Ulrich is killed by the king’s henchman, Tyrian (John Hallam). The king wants the sacrifices to continue to protect the entire kingdom, fearing the dragon’s retaliation. Now it is left to Galen, who inherits the wizard’s powers through a magical amulet, to defeat the dragon and save a young maiden he has fallen in love with.

Dragsonslayer is deceptively simplistic – it is good versus evil, a hero versus a dragon, a maiden saved by the brave knight, if you will. Beyond all of that, it does also weave into its tapestry the very real issue of women, daughters, being sacrificed in medieval society, feudalism, and fear of the unknown. Not that this is a political film; it is not that at all. In fact, Robbins makes sure to keep the film mostly light and breezy with some hints of darkness.

The focus on the visual effects (keep in mind this is from 1981) elevates the film as well. The lake of fire in the dragon’s lair, the dragon itself, and some gore when the dragon’s young feed – these all make it a visually fascinating film that help to set it apart from many of the other films in the genre from the era, like Red Sonja or Deathstalker.

  • Peter MacNicol in Dragonslayer (1981)
  • Peter MacNicol and Caitlin Clarke in Dragonslayer (1981)
  • Caitlin Clarke in Dragonslayer (1981)
  • Peter MacNicol and Ralph Richardson in Dragonslayer (1981)
  • Dragonslayer 4K Ultra HD + Digital SteelBook (Paramount)
  • Dragonslayer 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Paramount)
  • Dragonslayer 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Paramount)
  • Dragonslayer 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Paramount)
  • Dragonslayer 4K Ultra HD + Digital (Paramount)

The Video

Dragonslayer has been restored and approved by director Matthew Robbins and brought to 4K Ultra HD in a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement. HDR10 metadata reads a MaxLL of 1000 nits and a MaxFALL of 503 nits. From beginning to end, this is a nearly flawless restoration and transfer of this 1981 vintage film.

Apart from some darker scenes where the shadows look to my eyes on my OLED to have black levels to be just a little elevated, I cannot complain about this at all. There are mostly inky black levels and superb white levels that do not clip. Excellent overall contrast and detail with an exceptional depth of field. The granularity is even, thinly layered, and filmic throughout, with only slight elevation in darker areas. The application of Dolby Vision is also excellent, extending the colors in some greenery and the shocking orange of flames. There is a three-dimensionality in fires, candles, and the specular highlights, particularly against dark backgrounds.

The Audio

Dragonslayer ran in theaters with a Dolby Stereo and, for its 70mm blowup, a 70mm 6-track mix. It arrives on 4K Ultra HD with a Dolby Atmos mix that I assume builds upon that 6-track mix with more discrete and surprisingly adept use of the expanded channels. The height channels carry plenty of atmosphere and discrete effects. Check out, just as an example, chapter 7. There is extended low end that really helps underpin the effect of the dragon’s fiery breath, footsteps, and flapping wings.

The Supplements

The audio commentary with the director and Guillermo Del Toro is the star attraction here and will be one cinephiles will want to listen to. The rest of the inclusions are previously available port-overs, including a multi-part ‘making-of.’

  • Digital Code
  • Commentary with Matthew Robbins and Guillermo Del Toro
  • The Slayer of All Dragons (1080p; DV; 01:03:24):
    • Welcome to Cragganmore
    • A Long Way to Urland
    • Vermithrax Pejorative
    • Into the Lake of Fire
    • The Final Battle
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (1080p; DV; 00:01:58)
  • Screen Tests (1080p; DV; 00:15:42)

The Final Assessment

A fun and visually compelling sword and sorcery film that gets a beautiful new director-approved 4K restoration from Paramount. This is one that cinephiles, genre fans, and anyone feeling nostalgic is sure to love. Highly recommended.

Dragonslayer is out on 4K Ultra HD + Digital & 4K Ultra HD + Digital SteelBook March 21, 2023, from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment.

  • Rating Certificate: PG
  • Studios & Distributors: Paramount Pictures | Walt Disney Productions | Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Director: Matthew Robbins
  • Written By: Hal Barwood | Matthew Robbins
  • Run Time: 109 Mins.
  • Street Date: 21 March 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 1000 nits
    • MaxFALL: 503 nits
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible)
  • Secondary Audio: French DD 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English | English SDH | French

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A young wizard's apprentice becomes the unlikely hero chosen to go slay a dragon in a nearby village which has been terrorizing a kingdom and its women for generations.Dragonslayer (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)