review for Dragonslayer on AllMovie

Dragonslayer (1981)
by Derek Armstrong review

Those who know Peter MacNicol as stuttering John Cage on Ally McBeal will be surprised to learn that he was once considered a logical choice to play the hero in a dragon epic. That isn't the only unusual decision in Matthew Robbins' Dragonslayer, which takes pains to create a lived-in, grubby medieval milieu, smartly free from gloss even with all its visual sophistication. Another intelligent choice was not blowing those visuals early on, and instead giving only ominous hints of the dragon for much of the movie, hence building its mystique. However, noticeably detracting is the intense violence, at least suggested if not always shown, which would have made Dragonslayer a sure candidate for a PG-13 if that rating had existed at the time. The very concept of sacrificing virgins to the hungry creature is enough to give a child nightmares, and Robbins doesn't always leave this entirely up to the imagination. Overall, however, Dragonslayer is a good thinking person's adventure, elevated almost to Masterpiece Theatre territory with the presence of thespian Ralph Richardson, in one of his final roles of an illustrious career. Too dark to be fully appreciated at the time, Dragonslayer has gained some in the passing years. It's doubtful that such an artsy would-be blockbuster would still get green-lighted today.