From the Archive – Kull the Conqueror (1997)


“Kull reigns. Kull rules. Kull rocks.”

Directed by John Nicoletta
Starring Kevin Sorbo and Tia Carrere

Kull of Atlantis (Sorbo) is a mighty warrior, but being of common blood is snubbed by the Dragon Legion, who also mock his giant axe, causing him to throw it away and switch to the sword instead. But the joke is on the princely leader of the legion when his dying father makes Kull king in his place. This reluctant monarch is appalled to find that the country’s constitution – written on a huge stone slab that you could smash up nicely given a really big axe – forbids him freeing the country’s slaves, thus preventing him copping off with Zareta, a lovely but resentful slave girl with a talent for fortune telling.

As if the lack of action weren’t bad enough, the old king’s sons – having failed to hire any decent assassins – have turned to demonology in the search for revenge and their rightful throne. with the aid of a dodgy priest (Ed Tudor Pole, y’know, off the Crystal Maze), they call up the ancient and trampy demoness, Akivasha (Carrere) to bring Kull down and then, you know, calmly step aside and let them take power.

Akivasha seduces Kull, then puts him into an enchanted sleep o’ death on their wedding night. Kull is saved from the pyre and takes up with the slave girl – actually an undercover priestess – and her brother, a kung fu monk with a vow against taking human life, setting out to find the Breath of Valios, the only thing that can defeat Akivasha. Taking ship with a group of Kull’s old pirate buddies, the heroic trio are pursued by the evil prince, who catches them just as they find the Breath, which passes into the girl, making her go all cold and shivery. The monk is killed, and Kull left for dead, but he turns up just in time to save the day by taking the Breath from the girl and passing it to Akivasha – now in scary demon form – in a kiss.

He then declares the slaves free, and smashes the constitution with a big axe.

What’s wrong with it?

Kull is a very silly film, basically designed as a movie platform for Kevin ‘Hercules’ Sorbo. As a result, he is required to spend almost every moment of the film flexing his not considerable acting muscles. The plot rambles along, with exposition coming at you in dribs and drabs from a variety of minor characters with entirely unconvincing names. It is also pretty obvious how things will end up. The scary demon isn’t very scary, nor terribly convincing. On the other hand, Tia Carrere’s bright orange fright wig is truly disturbing in all the wrong ways.

What’s right with it?

Kull the Conqueror is entirely undemanding mind – and between Sorbo’s repeated shirtlessness, and the undercover priestess’s flimsy outfits, also eye – candy, and can be really rather fun. Also, while the acting won’t win any Oscars, it isn’t as bad as – say – Red Sonja. Sorbo is an affable enough lead – and while no Olivier he is certainly a far better actor than Schwarzenegger – especially playing the not terribly cerebral Kull.

How bad is it, really?

Kull the Conqueror is cheese, but it’s honest and watchable cheese. Between Kevin Sorbo and the undercover priestess, both kinds of eye candy are catered for, and the undemanding plot bounces along at a decent place, never leaving too much time between fight scenes for us to say: But hang on…

Best bit (if such there is)

Ascalante: Your bride is over three thousand years old.
Kull: She said she was nineteen.

What’s up with…?

  • Tia Carrere’s wig? It’s this immense, orange thing. Truly terrifying.
  • the overall message of the film, that benevolent dictatorship is preferable to a constitutional government?


Production Values – Although overall, not too bad, the production values are let down by the Akivasha demon at the end, which is rather plastic. Props and costumes are pretty good, making everyone look like rejects from Conan the Barbarian, rather than Conan the Destroyer. 12

Dialogue and Performances – While the dialogue occasionally sparkles with stuff like the ‘she said she was nineteen’ line, for the most part it is an uninspired parade of necessary backstory and convoluted prophecies. The performances are nothing special, but there is nothing truly appalling. 10

Plot and Execution – This film really has more plot than it knows what to do with, with the result that it all gets terribly confused. For once, the film would probably have been made better by abandoning some backstory and making the whole thing simpler. However, the director does manage to keep the pace up, and not dwell on the details. 15

Randomness – Not too high. While the plot only really makes sense in the fantasy genre, it does kind of make sense, and while jumbled, the exposition is pretty much there. 8

Waste of Potential – This was never going to be art. 5

Overall 50%


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