TNB Night Owl–Grendel Grendel Grendel

Maasdam Swiss cheese. Photo by Arz.

This movie traumatized me as a child. I was about eight or so, a latchkey kid. We had one of those early precursors to cable. I can’t remember whether it was Select or ON TV, but they would show movies 24 hours a day. One movie, if you liked it, you watched it. Well, I sat down, turned on that channel, and was thrilled to see a cartoon. It was a simply drawn cartoon, even for the 80s, but the main character, a dragon, was adorable. It had nice music. Then the carnage. The dragon started biting the heads off people. The blood was flowing. I turned it off but still had nightmares for the next couple years. Fast forward a couple decades and I’ve now read Beowolf, the epic that cartoon was based on. I remembered being scared by it so, I set out on a quest to find this movie that haunted my childhood dreams. GRENDEL GRENDEL GRENDEL (1981) is not nearly the horror movie my 8 year old self remembered, but it was a strange little movie.

GRENDEL GRENDEL GRENDEL was based on the novel “Grendel” by John Gardener, which in turn, was based on the epic “Beowolf”. This time, instead of being told from the hero’s perspective, we see the story through the dragon (or, as they call him in the movie “Great Boogey”). He’s a lonely dragon who only speaks to his offscreen mother. The humans and forest creatures he encounters shun him and run in terror. Through song and soliloquy he realizes his place in the world: heroes need a monster to fight, so he is destined to be that monster. It rings of hippie, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” a lot more than the homicidal creature of my memory. In fact, it purposefully went away from the scary monster trope, and went more for the existential navel-gazing that was popular for the time. It was a decent, if not self indulgent, movie and certainly not how I remembered it.

This was the second fully animated feature to come out of Australia. As I stated before, the animation style is simplistic. It uses single colors and blocky character design. There’s less detail than in a South Park episode. However, the characters were brought to life both by a good script. Excellent voice acting helped bring the story to live, especially Sir Peter Ustinov as the dragon. The music has a sweet, folksy feel of late 70s folk tunes. And the gore and bloodshed is not nearly as awful as I remember it.

I wish a better transfer was available but since this hasn’t been officially released on DVD anywhere in the world, this is the best we get so far: 

(For whatever reason, this video does not allow for embedding)

Question of the night: What movies traumatized you as a child?

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