by Mark Greig
Krull is a work of pure cinematic cheddar. I used to adore Krull when I was younger. It was one of those films that made those rainy Sunday afternoons stuck inside just that little bit more bearable. I still have some leftover childhood affection for it, despite all its flaws.
Everything kicks off with the most disastrous wedding since Amanda Carrington wed Prince Michael of Moldavia. The beautiful (but bland) princess Lysa is about to marry the handsome (but bland) prince Colwyn when the wedding is crashed by the Slayers, a group wannabe Stormtroopers with equally dire marksman skills. In next to no time the guests are mascaraed, the bride abducted, the groom is mortally wounded and the band they booked for the reception is still late.
The Slayers take her back to the Black Fortress, a massive, err, fortress that changes location every morning (which must make ordering stuff off Amazon tricky). You see, their master, the unimaginatively named 'The Beast', has decided to marry this beautiful (but bland) princess. Why? I'm not sure. Best I could come up with is because she's played by Lysette Anthony. I don't know about anyone else but that's a good enough reason for me. Even if she has been dubbed by another actress.
Luckily for Lysa, her handsome (but bland) husband to be is nursed back to health by a wise old sage, who eventually sacrifices himself so that the hero can complete his quest (as you do). Soon enough they are setting off on said episodic quest to rescue the beautiful (but bland) princess from the Black Fortress. Assuming, that is, they can find it. Neither of them thinks of checking Google Maps before they leave. First stop, pick up cool super weapon. All questing heroes need a cool super weapons. Since Lightsabers are copyrighted, he'll have to settle for the Glaive. A really fancy shooting star that, for some foolish reason, will only be used once and then discarded.
Next, they need to get themselves a gang together. Questing is no fun if it is just you and some old bloke. People will assume you're a delightful gay couple on holiday for the summer. So along the way they teams up with a comedy wizard, a Cyclops (who, also, eventually sacrifices himself) and a ragtag team of bandits including Thénardier, Osker Schindler, Hagrid, Tucker Jenkins and additional canon fodder. As badass fantasy teams go, the Fellowship of the Ring have got nothing to worry about. Most of this lot will be dead by the end.
Krull suffers from the same problem as all 80s fantasy films; predictable plotting, bland characters, cheesy monsters, corny dialogue, cheap special effects, and acting that just screams 'I really fancy getting a new conservatory'. It's a film that aims big, regardless of how small its budget is. It wants to do for sword and sorcery what Star Wars did for science fiction. Obviously the filmmakers thought the best way to go about this was blatantly copying that film’s plot (Lucas can't exactly complain, he'd already swiped it off Kurasowa).
Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy in Krull. For starters, there's the sequence with Francesca Annis and the giant spider that still gives me the creeps, despite the dated effects. James Horner provides a robust, swashbuckling score. Just try and ignore how much it recycles his work on Wrath of Khan. The Glaive is an awesome weapon that the film doesn't make enough use of. And I just can't help but love any that casts someone like Alun Armstrong as its Han Solo figure. Wonderful actor through he is, Harrison Ford he ain't.
Notes and Quotes
--Lysette Anthony wasn't the only one to have their vocals replaced. Robbie Coltrane was dubbed by actor Michael Elphick.
--If I were in Colwyn's shoes, I'd just tell Liam Neeson that the Slayers took his daughter too and send him to the Black Fortress alone. The poor bastards wouldn't stand a chance.
-- Going by the surrealist interiors of the Black Fortress, the Beast must be something of a Dali fan. Could do with some comfy chairs, though.
Colwyn: "The forest is not safe. You best travel with us."
Ergo: "Me travel with you? Do you know who I am?"
Ergo: "I am Ergo the magnificent. Short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose and wide of vision. And I do not travel with peasants and beggars. Goodbye!"
Ynyr: "There are kingly virtues other than bravery. Courtesy is one of them."
Colwyn: "The reward is freedom... and fame!"
Torquil: "Freedom? We have it! And fame? Nah. It's an empty purse. Count it, go broke. Eat it, go hungry. Seek it, go mad!"
Colwyn: "Would you follow a king to the black fortress?"
Torquil: "Now I know you're a lunatic. I wouldn't follow me own father to the black fortress."
Two and a half out of four Downton Abbey dvds the Beast ordered off Amazon.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.