Sunday, December 6, 2015

KRULL (1983)

Rated PG
Running Time: 121 min.

Directed by Peter Yates: credits include The Deep; Mother, Jugs & Speed; Bullitt. 
Written by Stanford Sherman: credits include The Ice Pirates; several episodes of Batman (the TV series starring Adam West)
Ken Marshall as Colwyn; credits include Tilt (1979); The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1989)
Lysette Anthony as Lyssa; credits include Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Freddie Jones as Ynyr; credits include Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969); The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

What happens when you create a mish-mash of the fantasy quest adventure film and a sci-film? You get Krull, released in 1983 to a pretty tepid reception. This is during the peak of the sword and sorcery madness inspired by Conan The Barbarian. Critic did not receive it very well, and nobody went to see it. With a reported budget of around $50 million and a total gross of $16.5 million, Krull was a financial and critical failure. It's possible that audiences were confused by the mixed genres, but ultimately it winds up with a decent cult following. We're going to take a look at it from that perspective. It's not a "b-movie" in the traditional sense of the term, but cult films can be reviewed under this forum also.

The film begins with a prophecy that a girl of ancient name shall become queen, that she shall choose a king, and their son will rule the galaxy. Suddenly, a mountain-like vessel called the Black Fortress arrives on the planet Krull, signalling the arrival of The Beast and his army of Slayers. Lyssa and Colwyn prepare for their wedding day, as a way to unite their two feuding kingdoms, in order to combine their efforts in a battle against The Beast and his army. Before they can complete the ritual, Slayers attack the palace, killing the father kings of each kingdom, and taking Lyssa captive. Colwyn is injured during the attack and is helpless to defend his bride.

Colwyn is nursed back to health by Ynyr, who tells him that The Beast can be killed with a device called the Glaive, which is a star-shaped blade. It is housed in a mountain, where it is retrieved by Colwyn. All he needs now is to know the location of the Black Fortress, which changes locations every day at sunrise as a defense. Colwyn and Ynyr are joined by a band of thieves, as Colwyn promises to purge their criminal records in exchange for their help in this quest. Notable amongst this group are Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, relatively early in their acting careers. They find the Emerald Seeker, who can tell them where the Black Fortress is going to wind up next, but The Beast destroys the Seer's crystal just by magically sending his hand to crush it. We meet the cyclops Rell here as well, played by Bernard Bresslaw of Carry On fame. The Seer states that there is a swamp where The Beast has no power, and they make their way there. Unfortunately, Slayers attack, and the Seer is killed by a doppelganger who attempts to kill Colwyn as well.

With the Seer dead, Colwyn laments that they will never find the Black Fortress. Ynyr suggests that they visit the Widow of the Web, who turns out to be a woman he once loved, but she banished herself as punishment for the death of their child. This is where we come across another neat creation, the Crystal Spider, who is only fended off by the sands of an hourglass possessed by the Widow. She tells Ynyr where the Black Fortress will be, then provides him with the hourglass sand to protect him from the Spider, sacrificing herself for him. Ynyr provides the location to Colwyn, then dies when the sands run out.

Finally, with the location of the Fortress known, Colwyn and his team hijack some firemares, which are horses that run so fast, they shoot fire from their feet, and apparently they can fly. They make their way to the Fortress and climb up into a fierce life and death struggle to save the princess and destroy The Beast with the Glaive.

Breaking this film down, we start with the plot, which is a good fantasy story. A princess, a prince, an evil villain, insurmountable odds to overcome and many traps along the way. There are also sci-fi elements at work here, as the Slayers carry laser rifles, while swords clang in red and blue sparks; a combination of fantasy sword play and futuristic sci-fi action. For the script, the dialogue here is more to the point, rather than filled with monologues and exposition. There isn't much for verbal asides between cast members, and the dialogue is meant to help move the story along. Director Peter Yates isn't exactly known for making this type of film, but I believe he did an admirable job with the action scenes and the sets, some of which appeared to be culled from Salvador Dali's work, especially in regards to the inside of The Black Fortress. The villain, The Beast, is not fully formed in terms of character motivations. He is cool to look at, but he is also not very mobile in his form. It's almost as if he is standing still for his big fight scene with Colwyn. This is probably the most glaring flaw with the film. The supporting cast makes up for the lack of personality that Ken Marshall emits as Colwyn.

A fun romp through different types of genres. I can see where critics may judge it to be inferior, especially when better films like Star Wars and Conan The Barbarian were more successful in capturing imaginations. Still, Krull does the job of entertaining the viewer is actually looking for a good time, rather than a good film.

Score: 3/5

It's impolite to stare.

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