Dragonslayer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD disc. Despite some photography that could render the Dolby Vision transfer complicated, Dragonslayer mostly looked solid.
Overall, sharpness seemed very good. Dimly-lit interiors could appear a little soft, largely due to the nature of the photography, but general delineation seemed appealing.
No issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering popped up, and edge haloes remained absent. A little grain reduction may have occurred, but if so, this felt modest, and I saw no print flaws.
Given the darkness that covered much of the movie, colors remained subdued. Nonetheless, the transfer replicated the hues nicely.
The tones always looked accurate and true, and on those rare occasions when brighter colors appeared, they were vivid and distinctive. HDR added range and impact to the hues.
Black levels felt deep and dark, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. HDR gave whites and contrast extra power. This became a highly appealing presentation for a challenging source.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Dragonslayer worked well. In the forward domains, music showed nice stereo imaging, and effects created a good sense of place. Elements panned smoothly from side to side, and the various effects were appropriately delineated and located.
Surround activity brought a lot to the table, as the soundfield became immersive much of the time. This mostly occurred for action scenes, but even quieter sequences used the other channels for good reinforcement.
Audio quality occasionally showed its age but mostly sounded good. Speech was consistently natural and well delineated, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility.
Some effects demonstrated mild distortion, but they mainly came across as clean, and the remix boasted strong low-end. Music also offered nice range and dimensionality. This became an involving and impressive remix.
Normally I would compare the 4K UHD to the Blu-ray, but 2023 marks the movie’s debut on both formats. Unfortunately, this package includes only the 4K so I can’t judge the 2023 Blu-ray as well.
I did watch the DVD version back in 2003 and thought it impressed. However, I no longer possess it, so I can’t formally contrast it with the 4K. I suspect it’s safe to say that the 4K easily tops a nearly 20 year old DVD, though.
I will note that the 4K only includes the new Atmos remix and not the original audio on the 2003 DVD. Though I like the Atmos track, the disc should’ve provided the 1981 audio as well.
Also note that the 2023 4K “updated” some effects. These changes remained minor, though, as they simply corrected some problems with the source.
As such, the alterations feel subtle. Most viewers won’t notice the new work, so don’t fear that we get anything jarring.
Although that 2003 DVD included zero extras, the 4K comes with a few, and we open with an audio commentary from co-writer/director Matthew Robbins and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.
Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the film’s origins/development and screenplay, cast and performances, production, creature and costume design, various effects, influences/inspirations,
Why does del Toro appear here? In addition to the fact he loved the movie as a teen, he and Robbins also collaborate occasionally, so the two share a connection.
To some degree, del Toro acts as moderator to prompt notes from Robbins, but he also offers plenty of his own notes. Given his experience in films, he provides valuable perspective.
Robbins gives us a solid view of his film as well. He delves into a lot of useful categories, so this turns into an engaging and effective discussion.
A new documentary called The Slayer of All Dragons runs one hour, three minutes, 24 seconds. It offers notes from Robbins, dragon supervisor Phil Tippett, and visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren.
“Slayer” looks at aspects of Robbins’ career and the development of the movie, cast and performances, creature design/creation and various effects, production design, photography and costumes, editing, sound, music, props, and the movie’s release/legacy.
Inevitably, some of the commentary’s material repeats here. However, we get enough new info to make the show worth a look, especially because it includes archival elements like concept art, behind the scenes photos and production footage.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with a collection of screen tests. These fill a total of 15 minutes, 42 seconds.
We find clips that feature Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke and Maureen Teefy. Since she also tried out to be Valerian, Teefy’s segments offer the most intrigue, but all become fun to see.
Dragonslayer seems lithe and creative, and it provides a good take on the fantasy genre. It takes itself just seriously enough but manages to provide some lightness to keep the flick from dragging. The 4K UHD provides solid picture and audio along with a mix of bonus materials. This turns into a fine treatment for an engaging movie.
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