Krull (1983)

Krull should have been a blockbuster. But seriously, it’s a mess. A glorious mess. It’s like the craziest game of Dungeons & Dragons you ever played, filled with info about magic and strange lands. It has the most awesome weapon ever seen in probably any movie ever, the Glaive. It has monsters that look amazing. But it also has a somewhat boring hero and heroine surrounded by much more interesting friends. And it’s long and nonsensical.

Yet I love it. I’ve watched it so many times and every single viewing, I love it more and more while being fully aware of its faults. It’s that kind of movie, I guess.

Director Peter Yates (BullitMother, Jugs and Speed; The DeepBreaking AwayThe Dresser) described making Krull as “complicated” and “enormous”. Special effects artist Brian Johnson took that even further, saying that Yates hated working on the film so much that in the middle of shooting, he took a vacation to the Caribbean for three weeks. Yet when he took on the project, he was excited. His previous films were all realistic and he considered Krull a challenge since he would have to rely on imagination and experimentation.

The movie begins with a narrator (Freddie Jones, Goodbye GeminiSon of Dracula) telling of a prophecy:

“This, it was given to me to know…that many worlds have been enslaved by the Beast and his army, the Slayers. And this, too, was given me to know…that the Beast would come to our world, the world of Krull, and his Black Fortress would be seen in the land. That the smoke of burning villages would darken the sky, and the cries of the dying echo through deserted valleys. But one thing I cannot know, whether the prophecy be true, that a girl of ancient name shall become queen, that she shall choose a king, and that together they shall rule our world, and that their son shall rule the galaxy.”

On the day of Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa’s wedding that will unite the warring kingdoms of Krull, the Beast and his army of demonic Slayers arrive in the Black Fortress, a mountain of a spacecraft. They kill both kings, destroy both armies and leave with the princess.

The injured Prince Colwyn is brought back by Ynyr, the Old One (also played by Freddie Jones) who tells him of the legend of the Glaive, a legendary weapon that can kill the Beast. Colwyn and Ynry form a party with the magician Ergo (David Battley, Mr. Turkentine from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) and nine criminals who are undertaking the mission to clear their names: the multi-married axe-wielding Kegan (a super young Liam Neeson), Torquil, Rhun (Robbie Coltrane), dagger-loving Bardolph, bo staff user Oswyn, Menno and Darro the whip users, net throwing Nennog (stuntman Bronco McLoughlin) and Quain the archer. They’re soon joined by Rell the cyclops (Bernard Bresslaw, who is also in Hawk the Slayer) and set off to the home of the Emerald Seer and his assistant Titch to see where the Black Fortress will rise.

No sooner than the Emerald Seer finds it, the Beast’s hand rises and crushes his crystal. The Beast and his Slayers are tenacious, killing everyone they can, including Darro, Menno and the Seer, even taking on the scryer’s form before he’s uncovered. That evil Beast even tries to get a woman to seduce Colwyn, but our hero is a little too smart for that.

Meanwhile, Ynyr goes to meet the Widow of the Web, who was an enchantress who had a kid with the magician before she killed their only child. She tells him where the Black Fortress will be and enough enchanted sand to make it back to tell our heroes. She’s killed by a Crystal Spider — the sand had been protecting her — just as he dies telling the band of adventurers.

Honestly, this movie is exactly like playing D&D. There’s a world of adventure and yet people keep getting killed left and right as they stumble around. That said, they do get to ride Fire Mares, which is nice. And Ergo even transforms into a tiger at one point.

Finally, Colwyn does what we wanted all along: he throws the Glaive into the Beast and then to destroy its counterattack, he and Lyssa get married and shoot fire at the monster, sending the Black Fortress into space.

Only Colwyn, Lyssa, Torquil, Oswyn, Ergo and Titch survive. The newly married couple become king and queen with Torquil being named Lord Marshal of their newly combined kingdom. As the survivors run through a field, the narrator repeats the prophecy that the son of the queen and her chosen king shall rule the galaxy.

Krull was shot on 23 sets, ten of them at Pinewood Studios including the monstrous 007 Stage. 16 Clydesdales were trained for months to be Fire Mares. Hundreds of costumes were sewn. 40 stuntmen were on hand. You’ll marvel at just how much money was thrown at a movie that has a completely incomprehensible story. It’s like a teenager got ridiculously high with all of his friends and attempted to be the dungeon master before having the giggles and passing out.

The posters said, “Beyond our time, beyond our universe . . . there is a planet besieged by alien invaders, where a young king must rescue his love from the clutches of the Beast. Or risk the death of his world. KRULL. A world light-years beyond your imagination.” I agree. I love this movie in spite of itself. It’s not afraid to be big and dumb and rambling and for that, I salute it.

You should grab the Mill Creek video store reissue of this on blu ray. The packaging is amazing and it’s a great way to get the movie cheaply. You can get it at most Walmart stores or visit their site.

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