Dark Kingdom - The Dragon King (2006)

Starring: Benno Furmann, Kristanna Loken
Uli Edel
AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Available Subtitles: English, French
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)

DVD Features:

  • 5 "Making of" featurettes
  • Interviews with the cast
  • 5 "Making of" featurettes
  • Interviews with the cast
  • 5 "Making of" featurettes
  • Interviews with the cast



This straight-to-DVD release is actually a German/Italian/South African TV co-production that has been edited down from three hours to two hours, which explains the film's rather meandering and unfocused first hour's running time.

Released as the rather generic sounding Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King in the States, the movie in known under quite a few titles across the globe such as Kingdom in Twilight in Germany, The Sword of Xanten in the UK and The Curse of the Ring right here in South Africa.

The Curse of the Ring may sound like it's a Lord of the Rings rip-off, but it is probably the most accurate title for the movie. Dark Kingdom is a re-telling of the centuries-old Nordic legend that inspired both Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen about a sword-smith named Siegfried who comes across a treasure after slaying a dragon. The treasure, and in particular a golden ring, is however cursed and brings its bearer, in this case, Siegfried misfortune.

If you don't have your facts straight then you'd easily think Dark Kingdom to be a Lord of the Rings rip-off, but it is actually the other way round: it was one of the many myths and legends that inspired Tolkien in writing his Lord of the Rings books. (Although I'm sure that the huge success of the Lord of the Rings movies played more than an incidental part in green-lighting Dark Kingdom.)

Dark Kingdom was filmed in South Africa, though you wouldn't guess it: very European-looking alpine mountains have been cleverly digitally inserted as backgrounds. It helps, I suppose, when your movie is directed by a special effects guy, in this case, German national Uli Edel who blew up the White House for director Roland Emmerich in Independence Day.

The movie stars Christopher Lambert wannabe Benno Furmann and Kristanna Loken, the female Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. You'd be surprised to find Julian Sands and Max von Sydow also in the cast, both who have had better days but who were probably enticed into the project by the prospect of a working holiday in South Africa.

THE DISCS: The 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio gives it a bit of an epic feel and makes it feel less like the television production it is. Some making ?of features and short interviews with the cast. No one mentions that the film was filmed in South Africa though.

WORTH IT? The first hour of the movie is rather silly and the plot lacks focus, but things actually improve in the second half. Unfortunately the soundtrack has no Siegfried's Funeral March (a rather grand piece of public domain music which was used to great effect in Excalibur) or any other Wagner pieces. Instead we have to settle for a rather bland pop ballad playing over the end titles.

Better than one would expect - after all we've all done worse when it comes to straight-to-DVD Sword & Sorcery offerings (see: Blood of Beasts) - but still not everything it could have been.

RECOMMENDATION: Worth a rental if you're really tired of endlessly re-watching Lord of the Rings . . .



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