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Peter’s Retro Reviews: Krull (1983)

Krull posterby Peter Nielsen

”This, it was given 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.”

I seem to remember thinking this movie was a bit slow and boring the first time I watched it. I don’t know why, but it might be because I expected something else… I honestly can’t remember. Looking at it from a gaming perspective it should actually be right up our alley, because it was very similar to the role-playing game “Dungeons and Dragons” and also others and, Holy Crap, did we play a lot of those! In case you didn’t know… I’m an old gamer and have been since the early 80s.

Attacking Slayers

Attacking Slayers

I was about 14-to-15 years old when I started playing, and I STILL meet up from time to time for some game-action… with the same bunch of friends! And you know what? We still have as good a time playing now as we did back then, maybe even more so, because we’ve known each other for so long. Some of us go back more than 35 years, so we know each other pretty well by now.

But… maybe it’s time to talk about the movie now, right?

The planet Krull has been invaded by an alien force led by the Beast. His army is called Slayers, and they’re a ruthless race that travels through space in a mountain-like spaceship called the Black Fortress. The two rival kings, Eirig and Turold, have decided to unite against their common enemy and merge their two kingdoms into one. As a kind of celebration and token of the union, their children, Princess Lyssa and Prince Colwyn, are to be wed. This is done of the children’s own free will, mind you, because the kings don’t really want them to marry, nor do they feel it’s necessary for the uniting of their kingdoms. But you know how it is with young love… nothing can stand in its way!

Princess Lyssa and Prince Colwyn are played by Lysette Anthony (Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Switch) and Ken Marshall from the TV miniseries Marco Polo and he was also in a couple of episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The "merry" men

The “merry” men

They go ahead with the wedding, but just as the ceremony is nearing its end, the Slayers attack the castle. The two kings are slain along with their men. Colwyn is wounded and Lyssa is kidnapped and taken to the Black Fortress to be the bride of the Beast instead. Colwyn is found by “the Old One”, Ynyr, and together they set out to save Lyssa and, ultimately, the planet too. On their way, they join forces with a group of rogue bandits, a magician (not a very good one), and a giant cyclops. And like Robin Hood and his merry men, they’re all honorable men with their hearts in the right place, so to speak.

There are some recognizable faces among the bandits… the leader, Torquil, is played by Alun Armstrong (Sleepy Hollow, Braveheart, The Duellists) and two of his men are played by Liam Neeson (Rob Roy, Schindler’s List) and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies). Other noticeable names in Krull are Freddie Jones (The Elephant Man, Young Sherlock Holmes) as Ynyr, the Old One and Francesca Annis (Dune) who plays the Widow of the Web.

Cavern of the crystal spider

Cavern of the crystal spider

That’s a memorable scene by the way. To find the Black Fortress, which teleports to a new location each dawn, the men have to seek the wisdom of the Widow of the Web. She dwells in the cavern of a huge crystal spider which Ynyr has to brave to get to the enchantress.

Krull is a classic Hero’s Journey-type story. To reach their final goal to free Princess Lyssa and defeat the Beast, the heroes have to undertake different mini-tasks during their quest.

Prince Colwyn, for instance, must find and obtain a powerful weapon known as the Glaive. He needs the Glaive to fight the Beast, if he stands a chance of winning. The “adventurers” then have to seek help from the blind Emerald Seer, and the aforementioned Widow of the Web to locate the Black Fortress. Then, to reach the fortress in time, they have to catch Fire Mares, which are large horses that travel at incredible speeds. However, once they finally reach their destination their hardship doesn’t end there… it’s more or less just begun!

Prince Colwyn with the Glaive

Prince Colwyn with the Glaive

As I mentioned earlier, Krull is very reminiscent of many of the games we used to play. The difference being that Krull is a blend between fantasy and science fiction. It works very well, although I think that might have been what put me off the first time I saw it. I have seen it several times since then, and I actually like it more and more with each viewing. Also, the Glaive is a cool-looking weapon! I seem to remember us wanting to incorporate it into the weaponry of our games too!

At the time (1983), Krull was one of the most expensive movies made. Its sets covered 10 soundstages at the famous Pinewood Studios in London. The effects don’t actually look that bad, and some of the sets are quite impressive. It was directed by Peter Yates who also made Bullitt and The Deep. The score was done by James Horner (Willow, Aliens, 48 Hrs, Titanic, Apollo 13) and is very fitting for this type of movie. It’s also a damn good score!

Unfortunately, Krull didn’t do too well at the box office, but has over the years succeeded in gaining a bit of cult status. And it DOES improve with each viewing!

One thing I will hold against it is, for some reason, they decided to dub over the voices of Lysette Anthony and Robbie Coltrane using other actors. That’s not the movie’s fault, but most likely the weird decision of some big shot studio executive, I suppose. Apart from that little nuisance, Krull is an okay little sci-fi/fantasy adventure well worth at least one viewing! Oh, and did I mention the Glaive?

So, my friends, that’s it for me this week! Please leave any thoughts you might have on this movie in the comment section below.

Until next time…


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

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