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Krull (1983)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

KRULL (1983)

Starring: Ken Marshall, Freddie Jones, Lysette Anthony, Alun Armstrong, Francesca Annis

Written By: Stanford Sherman Directed By: Peter Yates

The Short Version

Ah, the early 80s!

Sci fi!  Fantasy!  Formula!  What could go wrong?

As it turns out… very nearly everything.

But gosh darn it, everybody means so well!

Krull is incredibly cheesy, but if you accept that going in, it can be fun cheese. Sincerely fun cheese.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEEZ WHIZ.

High quality it’s not, but it means well, and it’s just so darned tasty in spite of itself.


Pairs Well With...

MILLER LITE.

Less Filling!  You’ve Tasted Worse!

“I should have stuck to puppies.”


Gather round, my friends, and marvel at the amazing adventure that is Krull!

It’s the story of an evil alien warlord so awful that he’s known simply as The Beast, come to take over the lush fantasy world of Krull, a land of grand vistas and vast, echoing sound stages!  It’s the story of a Prince and a Princess, torn away from each other when the Beast interrupts their wedding, stealing the pure hearted maiden away in an attempt to make her his own!  It’s the story of a wise old man with every answer the plot will ever require, leading the King – did I mention that the act of marrying the Princess turned the Prince into a King? – on a quest to find the constantly-moving Black Fortress that is the Beast’s lair, with a little help from a silly magician, a group of escaped convicts, and a tall guy with one eye and way too much pancake makeup!  And it’s got flying horses!  And insectoid soldiers who carry pikes that happen to shoot laser beams!  And this really cool looking super shiruken that the King controls with his mind!

And yet, despite all of this on-paper awesomeness, back in 1983, Krull was a box office flop, and was even heralded by some as the Worst Picture of the Year.

Thirty years and change later, people who recognize the title – at least those people who aren’t predisposed against sci fi/fantasy flicks to begin with – are much more likely to say “Hey, wasn’t that the flick with that cool throwing weapon?”

It’s amazing what time and nostalgia can do for a film’s reputation.

Krull rides the wave of science fiction and fantasy made popular in the early 80s by the likes of Darth Vader and Conan the Barbarian, and as you may have noticed, it does so with a devotion to standard fantasy and mythological formula that even manages exceeded the lavishness of its budget, which is saying something.  Alas, the willingness and ability to follow a formula doesn’t necessarily imply any real understanding of how and why said formula is supposed to work… rather like a willingness to spend money doesn’t necessarily imply any real understanding of how to spend it properly.  And so it is with Krull, for what audiences end up with here is an exceptionally awful movie…

…or, even better put, a sincerely awful movie.  We’re talking Care Bear levels of sincerity here, folks.  Yes, Krull is very bad on the critical front from start to finish, but by golly, everyone just means so gosh darned well!

Let’s start with Our Hero, Colwyn, played by Ken Marshall, who had just come away from network miniseries success and wouldn’t really find it again until being embraced by the open arms of “Deep Space Nine” fans over a decade later.  It’s obvious that the script and everyone filming it would like him to be a cross between Luke Skywalker and King Arthur, but alas, in this film, he displays all of the acting range of a plush puppy… including the never-changing facial expression that’s just so darned cute that you want to hug the guy no matter how many times he wets the carpet.  Battle, mountain climbing, walking through the woods, doesn’t matter; that endearing grin is always there.  Colwyn is a clueless wonder, and Marshall’s performance only magnifies the cluelessness… but for those who have heart strings, that’s exactly why this silly movie works.

Seriously.  That grin is like a Care Bear Stare magnified to a zillion candle power.  Intellectually, I know I should be shredding Krull like a block of taco cheese, but I just can’t. 

I should be appalled that the Princess/Queen is reduced to the worst kind of doormat damsel in distress who does nothing but constantly whine out her sweetheart’s name – okay, so I am appalled by that – and I should be even more appalled that the producers decided to overdub Lysette Anthony’s voice with that of Lindsay Crouse because the brusque sound of an American would allegedly sell better in the US than the lusciousness of a Brit – okay, so I’m appalled by that, too – but she and Mr. Happy Grin just make such a darn cute couple!

I should be groaning at the overpriced special effects that were at least ten years out of date even in 1983 – though the characters frequently take long pauses in the middle of things they should be rushing through, like combat and crumbling fortresses and such, to stop and admire said effects since someone did overpay for them so darn it they’d better notice – but oh look that silly magician just turned himself into a tiger to save a little boy!

I should be yawning over the fact that Krull moves at a glacier’s pace and is at least thirty minutes longer than it needs to be – I note again the frequent pauses that everyone takes – but wait a minute is that Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane playing tertiary parts as escaped convicts/Merry Men?  Why, yes; yes it is!

All right, so the music is way too brash and utterly out of place – James Horner didn’t really have a lot of time, so he just recycled some stuff he’d done for Star Trek II and cranked up the brass even louder – and the grand vistas and vast sound stages that the producers paid a ton of money for are noticeably empty – the audience only ever sees the exterior of one decent sized building, and the interiors take the concept of minimalist decoration to the extreme – but gee whiz, Freddie Jones sure is charismatic as wise old Obi-Gandalf Merlin, isn’t he?

And sure, the story of the Glaive – which isn’t really a glaive, as that would make it a poleaxe – is a shameless ripoff of the Excalibur legend and Colwyn’s retrieval of it is anticlimactically dull and looks unbelievably ridiculous even for a fantasy thing, and come to think of it Our Hero doesn’t really use it much and when he does it comes off as kinda dumb – as opposed to when the Predator would make much better use of a similar weapon a few years down the road – but hey big magic shiruken!

So, yeah; I get it.  There’s a whole lot wrong with Krull.  Critically, it’s bad from start to finish, and there’s way too much space between the opening credits and the closing ones.  But Care Bear Stare everyone involved, whether in front of the camera or behind it, is just so darned sincere about putting this perfect formula science fiction fantasy adventure in front of us that to dwell on the bad feels like booing a (particularly expensive) grade school play, which Krull kinda looks like sometimes.

But heart can count for a lot, and in the case of Krull, it does.  That’s why I sprung for the blu ray; I know I’ll end up watching it over and over again, even as I recognize this flick for the silly cheese it is.  By the time the end credits roll, I’m smiling at the screen in spite of myself, and really, what better outcome could I have asked for?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2015


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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