KRULL / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: PETER YATES / SCREENPLAY: STANFORD SHERMAN / STARRING: KEN MARSHALL, LYSETTE ANTHONY, FREDDIE JONES, FRANCESCA ANNIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUS)
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. Krull is one of those films from the youth of those of a certain age - a certain age that is the key demographic for genre re-releases. In the thirty-six years since its release, and subsequent proliferation through the VHS boom of the mid-1980s, a warm glow has surrounded this and other films of its type. But let’s cut through the nostalgic fog: Krull is an awful movie.
At least until the emergence of The Asylum, Hollywood has always been slow to pick up on popular culture trends. So it is that the craze for sword and sorcery novels and comic books of the 1970s didn’t translate to the big screen until 1980’s Hawk the Slayer, which opened the floodgates for a slew of similar pictures, with Conan the Barbarian, Beastmaster and Deathstalker following quickly behind.
Krull was something of an oddity. Sold to Columbia pictures by the presumably artistically-focused Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance production company, it featured an almost wholly British cast, and was shot at Pinewood Studios as well as on location in Italy. The production was fraught with issues – director Peter Yates apparently hated working on the film so much that he took a three week holiday in the Caribbean during filming – and it racked up a huge (for the time) cost of $30 million (the same year’s Return of the Jedi cost just $2.5 million more). On release, the movie took just $16.5 million, and was panned by the critics, with Siskel and Ebert giving it the much-unwanted two thumbs down.
Krull is the story of a prince and a princess who are to be married to unite the planet Krull against the alien invaders of the Beast. The Beast, however, has other plans, and uses his army of reptilian and insectoid Slayers to abduct the princess, leaving the prince gravely wounded. The appearance of Ynyr, the forgotten one, saves the prince and kicks off the search for the princess and the battle to rid Krull of the Beast.
This entails the protagonists being put through a number of action set-ups (including that old childhood fear, quicksand!) as they gather a merry band of ne’er-do-wells to take the fight to evil. Amongst the cast of heroes are veteran British actors Freddie Jones, John Welsh, David Battley, and Bernard Bresslaw, who can be relied on for performances that are at once both uninterested and overacted. The younger cast – with a pair of notable exceptions – are much better value, with Alun Armstrong’s Torquil one of the film’s few sympathetic characters, as the leader of a gang which also includes Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, and Todd Carty.
With so much weight in the supporting cast, Ken Marshall’s Prince Colwyn and Lisette Anthony’s Princess Lyssa shouldn’t have too much to do to win the audience over, yet they fail even at that, although Anthony suffered the indignity of being dubbed in post-production and can’t be held entirely to blame. Marshall, however, whose post-Krull highlight was a short run in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is rotten on his own terms, with no-one else to blame.
Krull is fondly remembered among people of a certain age, but the memory can play cruel tricks. Re-watching the movie, however lovely the transfer to Blu-ray may be, reveals a flimsy quest pic, full of wooden acting, laughable effects, and an almost complete lack of drama, both from the absence of peril and from a lack of sympathetic characters. It’s not a total waste of time, but that time could be spent much better in a thousand other places on a thousand other worlds.
EXTRAS: Journey To Krull featurette / Marvel Comics adaptation