There are dragons and monsters galore in the next film in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book as I delve deeper into the chapter called Dragons & Dinosaurs, and while the stop-motion effects aren’t quite up to Harryhausen standards, this fantasy adventure, suitable for family fun, is pretty fun to behold.
A farmboy, Jack (Kerwin Matthews who was also playing Sinbad in the same era) gets a new name when he saves a princess, Elaine (Judi Meredith) from an attacking giant. This is only the opening move in an attempt by an evil wizard, Pendragon (Torin Thatcher) to seize the throne from the king (Dayton Lummis).
As the new protector for the princess, romance develops, and Jack the Giant Killer finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime, as Pendragon turns all his focus on the throne, and those who stand in his way. And once he kidnaps Elaine right out from under Jack (not literally, this is a family movie), the farmboy turned knight must rescue the princess, and ave the day.
My big problem, as with all fantasy films of the time, is that none of the costumes, or sets looked lived in, and therefore, lack a reality, something you definitely need if you are going to buy into the story. That being said, some of the special effects, matte paintings, makeup and creature work is pretty enjoyable.
There’s a journey on a sailing ship, mutinies, witches, heroics, leprechauns, and villainy. It’s pretty well-packed for a family fantasy film, though not quite in the same league as the Sinbad movies that were coming out at the same time.
That being said, the inhabitants of Pendragon’s court are all pretty nightmare inspiring, and definitely make the baddie that much more threatening, though some of his behaviours border on camp.
There is a lot of fantasy and film magic at work in this film, and while not all of it works, there is a bold sense of fun to the film, especially is you can watch this one with a child’s eyes.
And of course, there must be a dragon. Towards the climax, Pendragon, and the special effects creators pull out all the stops, and toss everything at poor Jack, and I have to say, of all the monsters in the film, the dragon is probably the poorest one. It’s almost comical in the way it looks compared to the other creatures, which are obviously fake, but are still better realised.
In the end, this one is a fun film, and shows how other special effects people made their work come to life, even as Ray Harryhausen was influencing countless viewers, and co-workers. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters n the Movies and find something packed with stop-motion creatures to watch tonight!