It’s difficult to review this movie in 2023 instead of 1997, knowing what I know about Kevin Sorbo today. Regardless, I’m going to try and be impartial and just discuss how this movie isn’t very good based on its own lack of merits and leave my politics out of it.
Originally intended to be the third Conan film, Conan the Conqueror, this movie made the switch to another Robert E. Howard character when Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped out and Sorbo came on. He didn’t want to be a character already played by someone else — I mean, there’s no way you would come out on top no matter who you are when compared to Arnold as Conan — so the character was changed to Kull, even though the story is based on the Conan story “The Phoenix on the Sword” and the novel The Hour of the Dragon, as well as the Kull story “By This Axe I Rule!” which was rewritten as “The Phoenix on the Sword.”
Screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue (Psycho III, Dragonheart, The Fly) told IGN, “Both Dragonheart and Kull the Conqueror fell far short of where I had originally intended them to go. Two lauded scripts that were diminished in the long process that it took to get them to the screen. Dragonheart is a disappointment. Kull is a disaster. Both lost their poetry, panache and power.”
Kull — as per “Shadows of the Skull” a direct descendent of Conan and an enemy of Thulsa Doom, who was the character played by James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian — fights several soldiers to prove himself and be given the ability to join Valusia’s elite Dragon Legion. Then, General Taligaro (Thomas Ian Griffith) informs him that because he’s just a simple barbarian from Atlantis, he can never join a noble legion. That said, seeing as how King Borna (if you can’t get Arnold, get one of his best friends, Sven-Ole Thorsen) is going mad and killing all of his heirs, Taligaro rides back home with Kull following. Instead of the long road from gladiator to mercenary and civil war in the books, the King is quickly killed by Kull and with his dying words, makes the outsider the king.
Kull has a whole harem of women now, including the fortuneteller Zareta (Karina Lombard), who once told him he would be king. He tries to win her over and sleep with her, but she reminds him that she’s a slave and he must command her to do that. This kind of disgusts Kull, who decides that he’s going to get rid of slaves and this ends up making all the nobles mad.
Meanwhile, Taligaro works with the necromancer Enaros (Edward Tudor-Pole) to bring back Sorceress Queen and demon goddess Akivasha (Tia Carrere) and have her place Kull into a coma, which is blamed on Zareta, then taking over the kingdom. Luckily, Kull is saved by Valkan priest Ascalante (Gary Davis), who just so happens to be Zareta’s brother. Taking the ship of slaver Juba (Harvey Fierstein, who shut my mind off being in this), he travels to find the Breath of Valka, the only thing that can stop this demon in the force of french kissing it into her mouth.
So yeah. That’s the movie.
At least it has a role for Pat Roach, who always shows up as henchmen, like the flying wing mechanic Indiana Jones punches into a propeller and General Kael in Willow. He also appeared as Lord Brytag in Red Sonja and Thoth-Amon in Conan the Destroyer, so he knows Howard movies.
John Nicolella mainly directed TV — nine episodes of Miami Vice — before coming on to this movie. It’s mind numbingly bad and this is coming from someone who savors Italian sword and sorcery films like The Throne of Fire and Ironmaster. Kull never does anything to let you know why you should care about him, literally stumbling into being king, instantly having it taken from him and having nearly his entire crew get killed around him. It’s, as they say, a mess.
The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes The Cowboy Way, The Jackal and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.