It s an era that only Conan the Barbarian could love! Or, if not love . . . survive! It's the beginning of the Sixth century, a time when Celts, Angles, and Saxons are warring for the land that is now England. It's a time of peril! Of magic! Of . . . monsters! unlanders' plight A ragtag band of travellers led by a youth named Valerian (Caitlin Clarke) comes to the gate of the castle of the old enchanter Ulrich (Sir Ralph Richardson). Ulrich is the last sorcerer on earth, the only man who can still command the elements, cast spells, summon or exile spirits, transmute one object into another. He can also levitate things and see into the future. The Urlanders have come to beg Ulrich for his help in a problem most dire: "Our homes and our families are being ravaged by a terrible dragon," says Valerian. "No one has the skill or courage to fight him." Valerian finds it almost as difficult to pronounce the monster's name: Vermithrax Pejorative! Reluctantly, Ulrich consents to help the Urlanders. But the best laid plans of mice and sorcerers are worthless if the sorcerer dies . . . and that's just what happens before the band is able to return to Urland. Instead, the travellers are forced to return with only the untried . . . inexperienced . . . but bold sorcerer's apprentice Galen (Peter MacNicol). we're off to see the dragon! Galen (no relation to the simian star of the TV series PLANET OF THE APES) is not quite alone in this matter of dragonslaying. He has the magic amulet of his mentor! And Galen's first feat of magic, upon setting foot in Urland, is to summon forth a colossal landslide, which buries the dragon inside its lair dee within a cavern. But — there's a problem. By turns, the dragon works its way from Galen's trap. With a vengeance, Vermithrax Pejorative smashes through the countryside, razing village after village. Galen knows that he has blown it. What's worse, the Princess Elspeth (Chloe Salaman) is selected by lottery to be sacrificed to the monster, to appease it. Using his magic powers, and the strong arm of the blacksmith Simon (Emrys James), Galen forges a mighty lance! Valerian, in the meanwhile, helps construct a fireproof shield using dragon scales. With these two mighty weapons in-hand, the sorcerer's apprentice sets out for a duel to the death with Vermithrax Pejorative. where there's smoke, there's vermithrax But the task is going to prove far more complex than the stalwart Galen imagined! For one thing, Vermithrax is but one of several dragons. Its children dwell in a lake of fire, which Galen must cross to reach the monster supreme! For another, there are people who would just as soon see Galen fail as succeed! However — there is one power, one incredible force which the youth will find at his disposal! A power so great as to defy mortal or serpentine understanding! And Galen will encounter it when he least expects it . . . The last time Walt Disney Productions gave us a sorcerer's apprentice was in 1940, when Mickey Mouse unsuccessfully tackled an army of rampaging brooms. Now, in conjunction with Paramount Pictures — their second co-production since last year's POPEYE — Walt Disney Productions presents — DRAGONSLAYER! Just to tease and arouse your curiosity a bit further, it should be pointed out that Dragonslayer is not young Galen! working for scale(s) The man who plays the pivotal role of Ulrich in DRAGONSLAYER is one of the most respected actors in the world. Sir Ralph Richardson (who starred in the long-ago H.G.Wells SF classic THINGS TO COME) has been actin professionally for sixty years, though this is the first time he has starred in a monster movie! The eighty-year-old actor was, fittingly, dubbed a knight in 1974. Young Peter MacNicol appears as Galen Bradwardyn, who must battle Vermithrax Pejorative. It is no help to Galen that Peter’s real father is a member of the clergy, or that before he became an actor, Peter wanted to be a paleontologist and study dinosaurs. This film gave him the chance to study a giant lizard close-up. Actually, Peter admits that facing the dragon was not the most difficult part of his role in the picture. As an aprentice sorcerer, he had to master sleight-of-hand tricks to perform in the film. “I hated magic when I was a kid," he admits, “because it's so frustrating not being able to follow something that is obviously happening in front of your eyes." Now that he knows how it all works, thanks to tutoring by magician Harold Taylor, he finds it a most fascinating art. clash of the titans? It's unusual that two big-budget ($14 million) films will appear in the same month with virtually the same plot. That's what happened here. CLASH OF THE TITANS . . . DRAGON-SLAYER. A princess in distress! A young hero with magic weapons! A marauding monster! An ancient setting! And one thing more: stop motion monsters! Whereas the incredible creatures in CLASH OF THE TITANS were animated by the brilliant Ray Harryhausen, the demonic Vermithrax Pejorative was brought to frame-at-a-time life by up-and-coming stop motion stars Phil Tippett and Dave Bonnet, who work for George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic Inc. The miniature model was melded in the film with footage of a life-size mockup of the dragon, built the same size as the "real" monster: forty feet long with a ninety foot wingspan! Ironically, DRAGONSLAYER was shot at the Pinewood Studios in London, at the same time CLASH OF THE TITANS was filming there as well! In fact, Harryhausen paid a visit to the Disney/Paramount set on one of the days when the giant dragon model was being used. Thus, he was present to witness the technicians turn on the gas for the beast to spit flame — and saw the intense heat incinerate the metal and plastic head! But the special effects setback was overcome and DRAGONSLAYER has emerged quite a remarkable film. The miniature, baby dragons were all Yoda-like puppets operated by the talented people of the Lucas studio, with help from the Disney special effects team. draggin' out dragons So ... in the tradition of such classic dragon films as — SIEGFRIED THE MAGIC SWORD THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Harryhausen) THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON And THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (where a stop motion serpent menaced Buddy Hackett, who grabbed a sword and hacked it) — we now have DRAGONSLAYER ... a modern-day ancient classic!