Worth A Look: 38.89%
Pretty Bad: 16.67%
Total Crap: 2.78%
1 review, 30 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
Ah, yes. Let's journey back to the land of KRULL, the mystical and magical place that holds all sorts of colorful cinematic clichés, plot devices and sidekicks. Let's not dwell on how much MONEY this movie lost for Columbia Pictures back in 1983, nor should we concentrate on the all-knowing naysayers who often describe the film thusly: "overly familiar story elements and plodding treatment keep this traditional fantasy quest from going anywhere"*Because what everyone who doesn't dig Krull is forgetting (as is often the case in overlooked cult movies like this) is that it's just cool! Are there plot threads and characters lifted entirely from Joseph Campbell, Star Wars and the classic adventures of yesteryear? Yes. Are there a handful of truly awful acting performances and a few lines of dialogue that cause involuntary eye-rolling on the part of the viewer? Sure.
But as I stated earlier, Krull is just...cool. It's the umpteenth take on the good old "quest" movie. Take one righteous and (allegedly) charming hero, briefly add one beautiful princess and then have her get kidnapped and throw in a wizened old coot who knows what's up in fantastical worlds such as these. Have there be a big battle/massacre to start the quest rolling, and let the hero grab a whole gaggle of colorful compatriots on the way to his destination. There should be some crazy action scenes every 20 minutes, and a creepy creature every 15. You should expect some randomly placed scenes in which the imprisoned D.I.D.** is shown struggling, screeching and ultimately trying to avoid a wedding.
If you're fortunate enough to have a major movie studio behind you (which Krull certainly did), you should expect some fantastic special effects and impressive set design. If there were some money left over (there wasn't), maybe you'd be able to hire some stars for the leads. (They didn't.) Then comes the marketing, and based on the Extra Features included on this DVD, Krull had some serious marketing behind it.
So...what...happened? Why did Krull make such an audible thud when it hit theaters in the summer of '83? Some could blame the lead actor, Ken Marshall. It's not that Ken's a really bad actor. Let's just say that Ken's a really bad actor in this movie. But I doubt that a stale performance by the lead actor would ever guarantee a box office flop. (Case in point: The Karate Kid made lots of money.) Maybe Krull was doomed due to its somewhat ungainly combination of old-time medieval heroics, sci-fi mysticism and storybook framework. In the early eighties, moviegoers didn't exactly go nuts for movies like The Beastmaster, Dragonslayer or The Sword and the Sorcerer either. (Out of respect for delicate constitutions everywhere, I'll not mention Yor: The Hunter from the Future.)
I say it was a simple matter of a bad release date. Since this is a movie I obviously dig, I did some snooping around on this Internet thing and here's what I came up with:
Budget: $45 - $50 million
Domestic Gross: $15 million
Release date: July 29, 1983
Movies competing against Krull at the multiplex:
Don't giggle. All of these movies turned a hefty profit. Plus there was another little movie out at the time called Return of the Jedi and Krull also was released the same day as Risky Business and National Lampoon's Vacation.
Needless to say, moviegoers had more on their minds than something they couldn't even pronounce correctly. So I hope that helps explain the Underrated portion of Krull.
The "cult" part? In the world of movie freaks, "cult" is best described as an exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest***. I don't know what that means at all, but cult movies are freaky flicks for frazzled chicks. Basically. Oh, and if you ever see one piece of movie memorabilia at a comic convention, then that movie definitely falls under the "cult" category. Krull meets that criterion.
So everything you've read so far tells you basically nothing about the actual movie. Pretty neat how I did that, huh? Here's some plot: Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) is planning to wed the lusciously lovely Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony). Unfortunately their nuptials are interrupted in a predictably violent fashion by a horde of "Slayers". The Slayers work for The Beast, and The Beast is evil. Obviously this is a race of creatures that have long since phased out the need for proper nouns.
When Colwyn awakens from a solid thud on his noggin, he finds his fiancée has been foisted and his father has been...flayed. Luckily, one of those wise old movie men shows up and tells Colwyn of his destiny and his fate and just basically to get up off the floor (weeping) and go find the damn girl. The wise old man's name is Ynyr and if you can pronounce this guy's name correctly, then you like this movie even more than I do. Freak.
Colwyn's first goal is to attain a mystical and all-powerful weapon known as The Glaive. Considering all the dangerous mountain climbing and lava avoidance that Colwyn must withstand to attain the damn thing, you think he'd at least use it once or twice. The weapon makes a cameo appearance towards the end, and even then it's just to cut a hole in a piece of canvas.
After acquiring the pointy toy, Colwyn and Ynyr head off on an unconscious quest to find...sidekicks, rogues and henchmen! (Wait, do henchmen always have to be bad guys?) And what a turnout they get. Look at this ensemble of scruffy fighters: Liam Neeson! Robbie Coltrane! Wow, a giant, friendly Cyclops! Ah, the requisite "little kid" sidekick! And a wacky magician who keeps turning himself into a goose. (I'm starting to think that a $15 million B.O. gross wasn't such a bad haul, after all!)
If you've seen even one well-known adventure epic, then you're probably familiar with most of what transpires throughout Krull. But what the movie lacks in originality, it makes up for in style. And by that I mean a solid and adventurous, comic-bookish-and-not-ashamed, anti-cynic style. There are no knowing winks or self-referential jibes. Krull is an honest and noble little adventure, aside from some truly rough spots.
I mentioned Ken Marshall earlier. Did I mention that his performance in this movie would make a tree jealous? ('Cuz it's...that...wooden. Never mind.) Lysette Anthony's performance isn't a real leap forward either, but it's not really her fault since they deleted her voice from the entire film and had Lindsay Crouse (The Insider, Places in the Heart) dub it back in! I could pretend to somehow just KNOW this, but it's something that I was told in the DVD commentary, so don't be too impressed.
Obviously under the joyously mistaken impression that the average DVD buyer would ever purchase this movie, Columbia has done a bang-up job on the DVD Special Edition. Just take a look at what you get here:
Cast and Crew Audio Commentary by Director Peter Yates, Editor Ray Lovejoy, Actor Ken Marshall and Actress Lysette Anthony - This is where Ken Marshall pretends he's a real actor and Lysette Anthony whines about her voice being dubbed over. (That probably would be pretty humiliating for most actors.)
Original Featurette: "Journey to Krull" Narrated by Tom Bosley - Tom Bosley! But there aren't any Glad Trash Bags in Krull!
Behind-the-Scenes Audio Commentary/Cinefantastique Article - This feature is for the truly hardcore Krullaholics. I'll get to it soon enough.
Marvel Comics Video Adaptation - That's right. Invest $2,009 bucks into a home theater...and then use the technology to read a comic book. I love my generation.
Photo galleries, cast portraits, theatrical trailers, behind-the-scenes stills, design & concept artwork, vintage advertising and marketing shots, etc. - I'm surprised that each DVD didn't come with its own mystical Glaive and a lock of Lysette Anthony's hair. All kidding aside, if you're a fan of this movie, you will simply love this DVD presentation.
Full of crazy monsters, big battles, entertaining "subplot" adventures, a bunch of cool death scenes, a sincerely impressive set design and a truly rousing musical score by James Horner, Krull deserved a better fate than to languish on a shelf somewhere, and the somewhat impressive sales of the recent DVD Edition were reassuring to my freakish heart. It's not the finest movie ever made, but Krull is an earnest, campy and all-around fun example of early-80's cinematic cheese. My favorite kind of cheese.
*taken from the original king of blurbs, Leonard Maltin. Go Len.
**damsel in distress, doofy
***I love Dictionary.comAnd remember...just say Krull.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2587&reviewer=128
originally posted: 10/10/01 11:25:51