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Robert Harris

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This is one of those cases for which I may seem to be going against past thoughts, but I'll make my point clear.

Dragonslayer, directed by Matthew Robbins, is a forty year-old effects-heavy film that was produced on a budget not huge for the time. Every penny is on screen.

Thus, four decades later, it seems neither improper nor inappropriate to allow the filmmaker to update certain effects, taking care of mattes and other niceties to be a more cohesive experience for a modern audience.


Huge point here: Nothing is being changed. No cigarettes are being removed. No guns are being replaced with other items. This is strictly a technical upgrade.

Also, this isn't an Academy Award-winning Best Picture, which I feel
should be preserved as it was original seen. I'm all for making Dragonslayer as good as it can possibly be to enable better sales to cover the restorative costs borne by the studio, and given more pleasure to modern viewers.

And as such, I believe Paramount has done a beautiful job. I'm certain that grain has been massaged along with effects on a shot by shot basis, but in this case it's how the film is viewed and perceived that comes to the fore.

Likewise, when it comes to audio, I applaud the addition of Dolby Atmos to create a more cohesive (and proscenium enlarging) experience.

Color and densities all work nicely. Grain, from a nominal seating distance does not come into play. Black levels are nicely handled.

Image – 5 (Dolby Vision)

Audio – 5 (Dolby Atmos)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors - Yes

Makes use of and works well in 4k - 4

Upgrade from Blu-ray - Yes

Recommended

RAH


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dpippel

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Thank you for your review, although I'm one to disagree.
I personally think that every movie that is released in a certain format, should be released as is in that format, without any updating of effects, for us to see the limitations of its era.
The thing is though, when modern image harvesting techniques are combined with 4K releases like this, the added resolution and detail allow us to see warts, matte lines, wires, and all manner of other "limitations of the era" in many cases. These issues wouldn't necessarily have been visible to movie audiences of the time. A great case in point is War of the Worlds (1953), where the wires supporting the Martian machines were not visible in the theatrical presentation, and have been removed in the latest Blu-ray/4K releases to try and preserve the moviegoing experience. It IS a slippery slope though, to be sure.
 
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Robert Crawford

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Thank you for your review, although I'm one to disagree.
I personally think that every movie that is released in a certain format, should be released as is in that format, without any updating of effects (however small), for us to see the limitations of its era.
Well, I guess you’re not going to purchase this release which is fine with us.
 

Robert Harris

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Thank you for your review, although I'm one to disagree.
I personally think that every movie that is released in a certain format, should be released as is in that format, without any updating of effects (however small), for us to see the limitations of its era.
If one were to do otherwise, Dragonslayer should never be seen above 2k, which is probably more highly resolved than a projected release print.
 

Chewbabka

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If one were to do otherwise, Dragonslayer should never be seen above 2k, which is probably more highly resolved than a projected release print.
I think what has been done (and continues to be done) to the likes of the Star Wars Trilogy has led many to a very hard-and-fast zero-tolerance attitude on this issue, for fear of the slippery slope, that may very well have been more tolerant of technical fixes had GL been more conservative in the 90s.
 

Chewbabka

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Huge point here: Nothing is being changed. No cigarettes are being removed. No guns are being replaced with other items. This is strictly a technical upgrade.
I’m curious, were all upgrades made on the original composites… I,e, digital matte line removal, grain management, etc… or were were effects digitally recomposited from original stems?
 

Robert Harris

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I think what has been done (and continues to be done) to the likes of the Star Wars Trilogy has led many to a very hard-and-fast zero-tolerance attitude on this issue, for fear of the slippery slope, that may very well have been more tolerant of technical fixes had GL been more conservative in the 90s.
This is far different from the trilogy. One of the charming things about the first were the cardboard cut-outs in the closing. I don’t mind changes being made, as long as the original versions are available.
 

Robert Harris

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I’m curious, were all upgrades made on the original composites… I,e, digital matte line removal, grain management, etc… or were were effects digitally recomposited from original stems?
No idea.
 

Konstantinos

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I wonder if the Amazon HD version which was available long before the 4k, is manipulated in any way too or is it before the "restoration". Does anyone know?

edit: I answered my own question. It's the old DVD master in HD!
 

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sbjork

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I’m curious, were all upgrades made on the original composites… I,e, digital matte line removal, grain management, etc… or were were effects digitally recomposited from original stems?
My money is on the former, not the latter, but I don't have the disc in hand yet. I would also assume that Paramount wouldn't fess up one way or the other, so all anyone can do is guess anyway.
 

Dick

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Since I have been lobbying for this release for many years, I probably ought to drop a note in this thread.
THIS RELEASE IS AWESOME! Let me tell you about my prior exposures to DRAGONSLAYER:

1. Saw the film in 1981 at a duplex (now gone) in Portland, Maine. The PQ was pretty decent, but one of the woofers behind the screen was apparently torn or loose, and was vibrating loudly when there was any appreciable low-end sound.

2. Second time was at a lovely old theater (since gone) in Bangor, Maine. Brought friends, telling them what an awesome film this was, and looking forward to hearing the soundtrack without distortion. The sound was good...but the entire dragon's lair sequence (my favorite in the film) had apparently been surgically removed by some asshole projectionist. I complained = had no effect.

3. Third go-around was at a tiny four-screen cinema (now gone, too) in Augusta, Maine. Could I maybe at least see and hear the film properly this time? Not a chance. The bulb in their projector was running at a very compromised luminance. The darker sequences, in particular that wonderful confrontation between Galen and the dragon, were almost unviewable. I squinted through them, and still saw almost nothing. Complaint filed, zero action taken.

4A. The VHS pan-and-scan edition. 4B. Then a pan-and-scan laser disc. 'Nuff said.

5. The letterboxed laser disc. This release of the film, believe it or not (after having experienced three theatrical showings), looked better than I'd yet seen it.

6. The DVD. Widescreen? Check. Anamorphic? Check. Sound? Good. Check. PQ? Still not there yet. Disappointing, but the best available to that point.

No Blu-ray surfaced between that DVD and the new 4K/Blu.

7. Finally, after sending multiple petitions from various platforms to Paramount over the course of a decade, as I am sure many other fans had done, Paramount finally announced what sounded to be the definitive DRAGONSLAYER on video.

It is.

Some shots are softer than I'd remembered, but most of it is quite sharp. With minor color adjustments, the flesh tones looked excellent. The greens, oddly, looked dull compared to those in the DVD. The scenes in the woods in which Tyrian pursues Galen and company from the castle just don't have that lush natural look in the foliage that I'd always seen before. When I turn off the HDR on my OLED 4K unit, the color actually improves, though of course the contrast is lessened. The dragon's lair and other darker sequences look fine, although I'd love to be able to see more detail in the shadows. I do not have an Atmos theater, but the 5.1 worked just fine. Some directional effects, and the score by Alex North sounds rather stunning. Kept the sub-woofer active for sure.

That's not all. Paramount has added nice new bonus features for the first time. The audio commentary by director Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro is casual but informative, though only sporadically screen-specific. There are a few fun screen tests with Caitlin Clarke and Peter MacNicol. A theatrical trailer (low-res, pan-and-scan) is included. Best, though, is a five-part documentary (63m total) on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with Phil Tippett and Dennis Muran, plus examples of their sketches and models and some backstage footage. This is what I'd hoped for, and this is what we get.

Re: Tweaked effects for this release: Well, matte lines have been mostly removed, explosions and lightning bolts look more dynamic, but best of all is the scene in which Ralph Richardson's sorceror is standing atop a mountain peak directing a storm to move in. All previous iterations of the film (including the theatrical) show a massive carpet of roiling white clouds forming over his head, but the clouds are marred by (I would surmise) unfinished effects work. It was the most distracting of all the effects in the movie, and, like a thorn in my side that no video release ever pulled out of me, it wasn't ever fixed. Until now. A beautiful, newly-composited shot has finally replaced it. Personally, I do not find any of the subtle changes made to this film, including grain reduction (though not elimination) by Paramount to be bothersome.

Bonanza! Thanks Paramount. "Better late than never" was never so true.
 
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octobercountry

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I'm really looking forward to watching the new transfer! This film stands out in my mind, not only as one of the best of the 1980s fantasy films, but because it was the first film I ever saw by myself in a theatre. (Before that time, all movie-going excursions were a family affair with both younger and older brothers in the group.) Saw it in my local downtown theatre which dated from the 1920s---it closed just a couple of years later. Sigh......
 

Jonathan Perregaux

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The best that Dragonslayer has ever looked until now was the 1981 novelization. I still have it (not my copy shown below).

For the younger set, a “novelization” was a rectangular construction with cleverly-positioned black glyphs appearing across multiple layers of a material that used to be a tree. It worked by generating imagery straight out of the spectacular motion picture (presumably still playing in your neighborhood) that appeared in your brain not by using animated pixels, but by stimulating the imagination. The wonder!

And all for $2.75…
il_1140xN.2835153968_qdxh.jpg
 

jayembee

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Just received the steelbook version of the 4K....and no digital code was included. Anyone else running into this issue?

Bought my copy at Bull Moose yesterday. I just checked, and the digital code isn't in it. Quite frankly, I never use them, so I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't asked.

I was surprised to discover that my wife has never seen this, so I'm waiting for a good time for the two of us to watch it together. But I did do a chapter-skip check and it looks terrific.

And while I'm not one to get all worked up about cover art, I'm really really happy that the sleeve that comes with the SteelBook has the painting by the late, great Jeff Jones.
 

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