Krull (1983)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 5, 2009  | 
Columbia Pictures (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0, French DD 2.0, Spanish DD 2.0, Portuguese DD 2.0. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai Subtitles. 121 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Peter Yates
Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Liam Neeson
Screenplay: Stanford Sherman
Country: UK
External Links
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"This, it was given me to know – that many worlds have been enslaved by The Beas,t and his army, the Slayers. And this too was given me to know, that The Beast would come to our world, the world of Krull, and his Black Fortress would be seen in the land, that the smoke of burning villages would darken the sky, and the cries of the dying echo through deserted valleys. But one thing I cannot know, whether the prophecy be true- that a girl of ancient name shall become queen, that she shall choose a king, and that together they shall rule our world, and that their son shall rule the galaxy…"

What a tremendously epic piece of sword and sorcery and science fiction horror fantasy this movie is. Whenever I see Krull, it takes me back to when I saw it as part of a double-bill with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, as a young tacker. I walked out of the cinema that night thinking I'd seen the two best films of all time, and both films even now put a big old smile on my face whenever I see them. This movie is, if I can get all self-reflexive for a moment, one of the reasons why you're reading this review – it, along with Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars, is one of the reasons why I love film, and why I write for this fine website. Seeing something like this at such an impressionable age really hit me big time – a bloke I know told me recently that Paul Verhoeven (who certainly should know) once said that the films that make the most impression on you are the ones you see between the ages of 6 and 16. That is so incredibly astute and true, when you think about it, it hurts. That's probably why RoboCop still elicits the same feeling in me that it did when I first saw it all those years ago.

Anyway – to Krull. Prince Colwyn is to marry the lovely (and dubbed over by some wench with a bad trans-Atlantic accent) Princess Lyssa, thus ending the feud between their kingdoms. This sounds like a fine idea, except this being of ultimate evil, The Beast, has other ideas, wanting Lyssa for his own, and sends his troops, the horrific, inhuman, merciless Slayers out to kill everyone and take his bride-to-be. Colwyn is injured, everyone else is slaughtered, and Colwyn sets out to regain his bit of tottie, before The Beast fucks off back into outer space in his teleporting fortress. I know how that sounds, but that's the story, honest!

Fuck, I'm getting ahead of myself. Right: The Beast comes from outer space in the Black Fortress, kind of fort-cum-palace-cum-spaceship. He is a Bad Dude, extremely powerful, almost to the point of omnipotence. He wants a wife – Lord knows why, you think he'd be out on the pull, being a swinging bachelor with all that fat cash, but anyway… He comes to the land of Krull, and he's been here before, sending out the Slayers to ravage and kill for no better reason than ravaging and killing. The amassing of power or riches seems to be of no importance to It – destruction solely for it's own sake.

The wedding ceremony commences, and the Slayers attack the castle of Lyssa's father, slaughtering everyone in their path, before riding off with Lyssa. The costume design of the Slayers is highly impressive (and the headpieces look oddly like the Black Fortress – I'm assuming that was on purpose), the characterisation of them equally impressive – their implacable cold-blooded murderous approach; their weaponry is quite original, too: it fires a spear out of one end, and the other is a jagged-edged sword – and when you kill 'em there's this R2-D2 on-the-fritz red static, their heads fucking explode and their brains burrow into the ground! No fucking shit! It's soooooo cool…

Now, you're probably thinking, "Wedding ceremony? Bollocks." But pay attention, because the words and actions of the ceremony are totally vital to the climactic scene of the film. If nothing else, it's showing you that it pays to be faithful,

The morning after, Colwyn is found by this film's low-rent Gandalf/Obi-Wan figure, Ynyr, played by stalwart British genre character actor Freddie Jones, who should have been a bigger star and got more work than he ever did. Ynyr patches Colwyn up, then words him up as to what he needs to do to get his wife back. He's grumpy and easily irritated, but then Colwyn, in his rather effeminate stripy trousers needs serious taking in hand, and Ynyr's the fella to do it. As a mentor character, he's easy to take seriously, having no time for fools. He sends Colwyn off to find the Glaive (no, not a pole-arm), a mythical weapon Colwyn will need to face The Beast. It's a five bladed throwing weapon – kind of like an uber-shuriken – with magical powers, inconveniently located at the top of a rather inaccessible mountain. Guess who gets to climb it? The camera work at this point reinforces the epic majesty of this film, the vastness of scale.

Glaive retrieved, Colwyn needs to find some followers to help him on his quest. Sure, it's the predictable rag-tag motley crew, but if they were all Galahad-types like Colwyn, it'd make for a rather dull film. Colwyn and Ynyr head off to find the blind Emerald Seer, who will let them know where the Black Fortress can be found – the damn thing teleports every morning. Speaking of which, we see that Lyssa is alive and well in the Fortress, and we also get to see one of the other great things about this film, and one it was well-lauded for, the interior of the Black Fortress. This is some seriously fucking good design, quite surreal (and I don't use that word lightly) and unnerving. We also kind of see The Beast (you never actually see the entirety of The Beast, which is another strength of the film – you see bits, and even at the end, he's kind of obscure – I like that), but not quite. What you do see is disturbing enough. I wouldn't want to be Lyssa – imagine the wedding night! Yeeesh…

Colwyn's first recruit is the rather inept magician Ergo the Magnificent ("short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose and wide of vision") – comic relief, basically, which is necessary, given the rather dark tone of the film – something that I think added to it not having as great a following today as, say, Star Wars. Krull has a high mortality rate for its heroes, which certainly keeps it realistic – bravery will do that – but also darkens it and gives it ultimately a sense of tragedy. No, seriously, there are a couple of quite heart-breaking moments when some of the characters die, usually in a self-sacrificing way.

Next up, Colwyn meets a band of robbers, led by Torquil, and featuring both Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in some early screen appearances. Ambushed at first, he talks them into accompanying them on his quest. The boys (who have somehow spontaneously generated horses) have been shadowed on their quest by Rell (Bernard Bresslaw – who I just watched in the UK fantasy flick Hawk The Slayer, playing a giant), a Cyclops, creatures who despise the Slayers and their master The Beast, with whom they traded one of their eyes for the ability to see into the future – they can do so, but only the moment of their own death. Not much of an ability, really – it's not like you can pick next week's lotto numbers… They are, as Ynyr tells us, sad and solitary figures, much like DVD reviewers, really…

The fellas find the Emerald Seer, and his manservant, the boy Titch, seeking the whereabouts of the Black Fortress, but The Beast isn't too keen on that information being known. Not only does he fuck up the reception on the Seer's divining device, he sends out some Slayers and a Doppelganger (spot the Dungeons and Dragons players out there) to really rain on Colwyn's parade. Cue: the swamp scene. This is something I have never forgotten from the first time I saw this film. This scene, like the opening 5 minutes of Star Wars (Vader strangling that dude after the stormtroopers fuck all the rebels up – oh yes), is burnt into my cerebral cortex. Here it's…no. You know what? Fuck that. Watch it, it's awesome.

The Emerald Temple is unavailable due to… technical difficulties, so to find out the whereabouts of the Black Fortress, our heroes are having to seek out The Widow of the Web (who doesn't have the best reputation in the world), a woman diviner set in the middle of a web spun by a great spider (seriously, it's fucking massive), and a former flame of Ynyr's. The knowledge they buy there is bought at a very high price indeed, and Colwyn feels it keenly.

The spider is pretty impressive, nevertheless (although part of me kept thinking of David Bowie's "Glass Spider" tour from the 80s…), being an authentic special effect, rather than a CG one. The fellas have to move soon, as they learn that the Black Fortress will be in the Desert of Iron in a day's time, and that's where I leave you, free to watch the rest of the movie, and see how all the action pans out. It's definitely worth your while doing so, because it's a fucking top notch film, even if the climax might seem a little hokey by today's standards.

"A girl of ancient t name shall become Queen and she shall choose a king, and together they shall rule our world, and their son shall rule the galaxy."
The print is pristine –clear and anamorphically enhanced in its original aspect ratio; I love cinemascope. The visual effects are top notch for its time, too. You're in for a wild ride, my friends.
Also a top-drawer presentation. The re-mastering team used on this film should get around a fair bit more. Some transfers I've seen recently definitely need them… The score for this film brought back a lot of memories, and basically had me wanting to leap over the sofa, sword in hand wanting to carve up bad guys.
Extra Features
There are plenty of them. There are two commentary tracks, one with the cast and crew, the other a "behind the scenes" one – bearing in mind that the film goes for 2 hours, this is some watching indeed – 6 hours of Krull probably should not be undertaken in one sitting. It may kill the love for you. There's also a featurette from back in the day called "Journey to Krull", which, if nothing else certainly proves that re-mastering movies is a good thing, and that Lysette Anthony has a nicer voice than the woman who over-dubbed her. I don't like watching these "making of" featurettes; it takes away from the magic of the movie for me (for instance, in one climactic scene while the setting is disintegrating, I don't need to know it's a bunch of sweaty blokes in track suits dropping Styrofoam blocks on the actors). Tom Bosley's (yes, Mr Cunningham from Happy Days) narration is as annoying as all get out – it sounds like he's talking to the retarded.

There's a run through of the Marvel comics adaptation, a kind of animated slideshow, but it's not all that much chop, and the artwork is definitely not Marvel's best artists at work. I will freely admit I didn't sit through all of this – it became rapidly annoying, even for an avowed lover of the film such as myself. I love comics, too, but this is not good comic work – it cheapens the film.

Besides that, we get photo galleries, and then text talent files for Peter Yates (I did not know that the director of this film also directed Bullitt – THAT was certainly a revelation), Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony and Freddie Jones. We also get theatrical trailers for Krull, Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. These last two are rather mystifying by their inclusion – there are links genre-wise, obviously, but otherwise? They're at least ten years older than the feature film and have nothing at all to do with it via cast OR crew. Are Columbia Tri-Star trying to shift units?
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If you're going to do fantasy, make it epic, and Krull certainly is a blueprint for doing so. This is not high art (thank God), this is a fast-paced swashbuckling fantasy adventure film. Granted, I'm looking at this with some pretty rosy-tinted glasses, but my inner twelve year old relished watching this film today just as much as when I was a kid. Mindless escapism? You bet, and thank god for it. This film reminds me of a time in your life when you could still aspire to noble things, and make something of yourself, before you grew up and had to settle for the mediocrity of the mundane world of adulthood. There should be more films like Krull.

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