Retro Cinema: Krull (1983)

The Movie Sleuth continues the Retro Cinema series with Krull!

Beware my mystical throwing star. 
Distinguished and respected British director Peter Yates of The Deep, Breaking Away and Eleni couldn't have been a more mismatched choice to helm this Dungeons & Dragons inspired swashbuckling fantasy adventure flick, Krull.  Considered to be one of the most expensive films of the early 1980s with massive sets covering ten sound stages of London's world famous Pinewood Studios, the film was a sadly a box office flop and won the Stinkers Bad Movie Award for Worst Picture.  A shame as what's here, though derivative and recycled, is a bundle of cheesy and often beautiful looking fun.  

Critics and detractors of the recently released Alex Proyas trainwreck Gods of Egypt inevitably drew comparisons to the freeform gonzo silliness of Krull but where Proyas' film is tough to sit through, Yates' misfire is an absolute nostalgiac blast with early performances by Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane!  As a fantasy adventure film somewhere in between The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride, there's a wealth of imagination onscreen.  Although nearly all of the blue screen effects and latex rubber puppets rung high on the silly meter which drew audience wide laughter at the 70mm screening I saw in Chicago last month, there's an undeniable charm to Krull which makes it a fun and rewarding revisit and worthy of a place of honor on anyone's home video media shelf.

Don't be such a loser. Share this review. 
Pinterest Google+ StumbleUpon Twitter Reddit Facebook

We are not stormtroopers
 but our aim is as bad. 
For all of the high camp contained therein, Krull has a lot of big industry names attached to it.  The lush and scenic widescreen cinematography by eventual David Cronenberg ally Peter Suschitzky looks splendid and coming off of The Empire Strikes Back there's a subtle coolness to the visuals.  Even more surprising is the inclusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey editor Ray Lovejoy who must have wondered how he went from working with Stanley Kubrick to editing Krull but no matter.  Where it falters somewhat is with the rousing James Horner score due to the astronomical amount of cues which can be traced directly back to his previous picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Horner's score more or less cuts and pastes cues from Khan to Krull and having heard it I understand now why the late composer often drew ire from detractors who claimed he recycled his own work with minor variations.  Ken Marshall, God bless him for his months of training for the role, simply doesn't have the charisma and screen presence to carry a major motion picture and there were more than a few times where his earnest acting induced chuckles from the crowd.  Otherwise the cast is a solid lineup of British actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and for yours truly, it was a little odd seeing Freddie Jones who was once the antagonist in David Lynch's The Elephant Man as one of our heroes.  Incidentally, one of the special effects props which was designed but never used in the finished film wound up finding a home on the set of Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce and while Krull is nowhere near the level of crazy that Lifeforce was, they're eerily similar in tone.

Beware the monstrous
 hemorrhoids beast.
Despite the critical and commercial failure of Krull and just how many elements from vastly different genres are crammed into this fantasy adventure, the film remains a hilariously fun and expensive looking ride which treads a fine line between being charmingly bad and possessing bona fide spectacle not found in other like minded movies coming out at the time.  When compared to The Neverending Story, visually Krull is far more refined and at times a more entertaining family adventure film.  Sure mixing the world of Excalibur with Star Wars was inevitably going to wind up with an ill advised marriage of elements but as such it is far more enchanting and full of life than Return to Oz or Willow.  No it isn't regarded as one of Yates' better works and in a way falls in line with Robert Altman's failed Popeye outing in terms of the finished product being a mere shadow of either director's caliber.  Still, like Zardoz, the film is so well shot and the sets are so well designed that you almost forgive the lunacy running amok.  Over the years Krull's cult reputation as a product of the 1980s fantasy epic machine has only grown in stature, with references to the film by everyone from Family Guy to the videogame World of Warcraft.  As it stands today, with how many aggressively dark, oppressive and self-serious fantasy films adorn the marketplace, it's refreshing to find one back in the day with a real sense of fun, excitement and just enough silliness to balance the package out.  I had an absolute blast watching this and can't wait to rewatch it again!


- Andrew Kotwicki