Digital video discs (DVDs) are now a part of our entertainment. All recent popular movies are on DVD, and so is a growing number of classic movies. And so is a lot of cruft: Even Plan 9 from Outer Space—the worse movie ever made—is available on DVD.
Brian Michael Bendis' search for a Hollywood studio to make his graphic novel Goldfish into a film led him to a Sony executive, who tells him about the fate of the 1996 film Mrs. Winterbourne. Its executive producer hoped it would be a megahit; instead, it wound up laying a T-rex egg. The executive concludes,
And no one has ever spoken of the film here again. I still don't know how it got on video.
Guess what, folks? Mrs. Winterbourne, too, is out on DVD!
That tale of Hollywood illogic is meant to give you some idea of why, with the DVD release of all these films—the good, the bad and the gag-inducing—Dragonslayer had not been released until 2003.
Dual ownership of the film—it was cofinanced by Paramount and Disney—was not a problem in North America, where Paramount has distribution rights. This, however, is why the release is confined to DVD Region One, covering the USA and Canada. Beyond there Disney, not Paramount, holds the distribution rights.
It is still possible that Disney will later announce Dragonslayer's release to all other DVD regions. Indeed the sooner it does so the better, lest Dragonslayer DVDs leak into the other regions and erode Disney's potential market.
Surely the violent scenes in the film ought no longer be a problem for Disney, as they were when the film was released in 1981. Disney now releases more pungent material through Touchstone and Miramax. And with the popularity of The Lord of the Rings, and the reasonable success of Reign of Fire in late 2002 (from Touchstone, ironically), both studios have more than enough reason to release Dragonslayer on DVD to cash in on the new fantasy fad.
The long wait has brought about speculation about
value-added features on the DVD.
Except maybe for a commentary track from the film's co-writers, producer Hal Barwood and director Matthew Robbins, I could not think about where they would get such material. Many of the cast, including Sir Ralph Richardson (Ulrich), are dead. Peter MacNichol (Galen) has long disassociated himself from the film. And Ms. Clarke herself (Valerian) is so busy with her university teaching job that she rarely leaves the Metro Pittsburgh area.
This is why I was not surprised when I read that there will be no extras outside the widescreen format with Dolby and DD5.1 (SoundBlaster) sound. In other words, the DVD will be the old laserdisk version with enhanced sound. Extra features would have been nice, but I'm sure the coming DVD will be all good.
A recent visit to the British Web site DVD Debate, where I learned of the DVD release, revealed an anonymous visitor who wished that some deleted scenes be included in a future release. Those scenes (like Ulrich making a tree explode for Galen's benefit) were preserved in the Marvel Comic version of the movie.
Dragonslayer could do with some of the deletions restored; as it
is the flow of the movie tends to jerk in a couple of places. There is, however,
one scene which I hope never again sees the light of day. The scene, which appeared in
the trailer I saw on HBO, was part of Valerian's conversation with Ulrich at the start
of the movie. I remember it too well—
an unnatural creature of fire and stench.
It is evil!. It made Valerian sound like a master of the obvious. I think I laughed
when I first heard that line. It had to be the worse thing that even came out of poor
Ms. Clarke's mouth in all her long career. I hope it's never restored!
The DVD is now out. As announced Dragonslayer comes with widescreen format, Dolby and DD5.1 (SoundBlaster) sound, and nothing else.
I learned an ongoing project of Paramount to convert all its titles to DVD is the only reason Dragonslayer is on DVD at all. The studio rushed it out without even making corrections for the age of the master source tape. The DVD is remarkably clear compared to the tape version, but it makes the defects all the more visible.
Nonetheless, I'm glad Dragonslayer is now on DVD. I'm also glad that the embarrasing scene I mentioned in the first addendum did not make it on there.
Disney released Dragonslayer on 26 July 2004 to the British Isles. The film had already been released in France on 2 July 2003 (as Le Dragon du lac de feu), even though both countries are in the same DVD region (2). Like the North American release, the two have no extra features, which was probably why DVD Debate never reviewed the UK release.
I mentioned earlier that "Ms. Clarke herself (Valerian) is so busy with her university teaching job that she rarely leaves the Metro Pittsburgh area". That was a half-truth: But at the time I couldn't reveal that she was fighting the cancer that finally took her life, and wanted to impart her acting craft and experience to a new generation of actors in the years she had left.