Peter Yates, 1983
Starring: Ken Marhsall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annia, Alun Armstrong, Bernard Bresslaw, Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane
On the planet Krull, rival forces are brought together when a princess from one kingdom, Lyssa, agrees to marry the prince from another kingdom, Colwyn. They are attempting to combine their powers to fight off the Beast and his army, known as Slayers, who have invaded their planet. During Lyssa and Colwyn’s wedding, the Beast attacks and kidnaps Lyssa. According to a prophecy, she is destined to mother a child that will rule the galaxy, so the Beast tries to persuade her to marry him. Colwyn survives and joins up with Ynyr, a wise old man who will lead him on his course to rescue Lyssa. He must locate the Glaive, a powerful weapon, and then track down the Black Fortress, the Beast’s constantly moving, spaceship stronghold. Colwyn and Ynyr are joined by a number of others, including a whimsical wizard, a wise and powerful cyclops, and a band of fugitive soldiers. Ynyr must risk everything to visit the dreaded Widow of the Web, the only one who can tell them the location of the Black Fortress and lead them to their final showdown with the Beast.
Initially a box office failure and hated by critics, Krull has since gained a much deserved cult following. I love Krull and genuinely don’t understand why it’s so reviled. It’s one of my favorite films and even if it lacks some originality in terms of plot, the style and energy more than make up for this. Like Dune (1984), it is a strange blend of fantasy and science fiction and includes more than a few hints of Star Wars. In terms of tone, this has a lot in common with Dune and films like Flash Gordon (1980), so if you enjoy those, immediately seek out Krull.
There are some great aesthetics, from the set design and wardrobe to the impressive special effects, though they may seem dated now. A lot of the creature effects are still great, particularly for the Beast, who is almost never seen head on. These were provided by Derek Meddings, who worked on a few James Bond films, including Moonraker (1979), as the first two Superman films. And don't forget the Glaive - everyone's dream weapon, or at least mine - a telepathically controlled shuriken that looks like it was designed by H.R. Giger. There’s also a really enjoyable score from James Horner, though it does rip off his own amazing work on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Director Peter Yates (best known for the Steve McQueen vehicle Bullitt, 1968) didn’t do any other sci-fi or fantasy films, but does a fair job here. Some may find the film slow, but I just think it’s carefully paced. After all, it is an epic journey.
Krull’s only major weakness lies in its lack of strong leads. Kenneth Marshall and Lysette Anthony are both serviceable as the prince and princess, but lack charisma or chemistry. Part of Anthony’s problem is that her voice was dubbed over because of her British accent. Generally, though, there is a great cast that includes then newcomers Robbie Coltrane and Liam Neeson, as well as seasoned actors like Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis, both of whom appear in Dune (1984). The characters are likable, even if they are playing to certain fantasy types.
I can’t recommend Krull strongly enough. It was released on DVD from Sony. There are a surprising amount of good special features, including one commentary track, edited together from interviews with Peter Yates, Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, and Ray Lovejoy, and a second, which is a narrated version of an article from Cinemafantastique with added information about the film. There are a few other extras, including Journey to Krull, a behind-the-scenes look at the film.