The Original DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Movie Wasn’t DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

Once there was a script called DRAGONS OF KRULL. It had no dragons, and no dungeons, but it was the D&D movie.

Your Highness brings old fashioned sword & sorcery filmmaking back into theaters this week, so we thought we would look back at some of the classic fantasy films that might have inspired Danny McBride and David Gordon Green.

Courtney Solomon’s Dungeons & Dragons is one of the most abject motion pictures ever made; a true endurance test for any viewer, the movie keeps piling on travesty after travesty, and that’s just the scenes with Marlon Wayans.

But Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t the original Dungeons & Dragons movie. Way back in 1980 there was a script that was being written for the official tie-in film to the role playing game, and it was called Dragons of Krull. There are no dragons in Dragons of Krull, just as there are no dragons in the actual Krull film - which is actually pretty close to this script.

At some point in the production of the movie, the producers lost the license to Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve not been able to penetrate to the heart of why - I know that at the time Gary Gygax had been tasked to head to California and head up Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment, where he was in charge of film and television tie-ins. That was when he spearheaded the popular D&D cartoon, and I’m assuming when Dragons of Krull was gestating.

I know that at the time TSR, Inc, the company that owned Dungeons & Dragons, was going through some fiscal problems and personnel upheavals; these would culminate in Gygax leaving the company - and the game he created - a few years later. Maybe those issues made TSR pull out. Or maybe they realized that Krull was going to end up a well-meaning but incredibly boring film.

There are some who say that you can still see the Dungeons & Dragons in Krull, especially in the way the film hinges on a series of encounters during Prince Colwyn’s journey, but I’m not sure that’s special to the D&D game. Even the Dragons of Krull script, written when the movie was a D&D tie-in, feels like a D&D movie only in as much that it’s fantasy. There don’t even seem to be any references to elements of Greyhawk, the campaign world in which early D&D was set - Dragons of Krull is completely its own universe.

UPDATE! Thanks to Twitter user @doctoratlantis for forwarding a link to Gary Gygax answering questions on a message board way back in ‘02 (ie, before he lost all his hit points). Here’s what Gary has to say about Krull as a D&D movie:

To the best of my knowledge and belief the producres of Krull never approached TSR for a license to enable their film to use the D&D game IP.

What’s interesting is that the Krull license would have come at a time when Gary would have been in charge of that stuff… except that histories of TSR, Inc. indicate that there was a lot of double dealing going on at the home office, including extravagant expenditures Gygax didn’t even know about. It’s plausible that someone at TSR, Inc made promises to the producers. Or is it possible that Dragons of Krull was written with the intention of getting the license and the producers ended up unable to procure it?

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