“A world light years beyond your imagination.”
Directed by Peter Yates
Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis, plus just about every British character actor who went on to make the Hollywood second-string or higher in the next twenty years.
Historical note: This was the first film to be titled (or rather, subtitled) Dungeons & Dragons, despite a complete absence of dragons and precious few dungeons.
The terrible Beast arrives on the world of Krull in his big, flying rock, and unleashes his army of inhuman Slayers upon the population. To unite two kingdoms against the Beast, Prince Colwyn (Marshall, sporting a dodgy beard), and Princess Lyssa (Anthony) are to be married. Luckily, they fall in love, but unluckily the Slayers crash the wedding, abducting the princess and slaughtering all and sundry. Saved by the wise man, Ymyr (Jones), Colwyn climbs a mountain to find the Glaive, and ancient symbol and a powerful weapon, then sets out in pursuit of the Beast.
Trust me. It makes no more sense than this in the film.
Gathering a ragtag band of British character actors (including Liam Neeson, Alun Armstrong, Robbie Coltrane and Bernard Bresslaw as a cyclops), Colwyn tries to find out where the Beast’s teleporting fortress will be at the next sunrise. A seer is killed before he can help them, and so Ymyr must sacrifice himself to learn the secret from old flame, the Widow of the Web (Annis). Dodging Slayers and Changelings (shapeshifting assassins), Colwyn’s band travel by fire (or should it be shire) horse to the fortress, where Colwyn and Lyssa destroy the Beast with the power of their love; the Glaive proving rather less butch than advertised.
What’s wrong with it?
Well, it was made in the 80s, so for starters, there’s the hair. Also however, Marshall is a turgid hero, the whole premise is immensely silly, and the dialogue is rather trite. It also has too much material, such that it all seems rushed. The fact that the Cyclops race was tricked by the Beast and given the curse of knowing the time of their death is introduced in one sentence, crops up in a second, and is defied in a final, brief scene.
What’s right with it?
Some of those ideas are quite good, and – hairstyling aside – the production values are fairly high. The Slayers are also genuinely creepy, or at least were when I was twelve. It’s also fun seeing all those British character actors as an outlaw band.
How bad is it really?
Not as bad as all that, but really rather dated.
The opening credits; they really are rather flash.
What’s up with…?
- The little bug-things that skitter out of the dead Slayers and bury themselves?
- The ancient and powerful glaive actually sucking somewhat?
Production Values – Pretty good for the time, although terribly, terribly dated now. 6
Dialogue and Performances – This film is a major offender in the field of ‘this is fantasy, so everything must be stilted and pretentious’. The dialogue is self-important drivel, even the conversation. The support playing, by the gang of outlaw character actors, is pretty solid, but the leads are fairly bloodless. 14
Plot and Execution – The majority of the plot involves the hero trying to find his way to the magically teleporting Fortress of the Beast, itself basically an excuse for the film to be more than just a hike across hostile country. The film is sometimes jumpy and confusing, and there is a feeling that there is more going on than you see in the film; and not in a good way. In addition, Krull is never entirely sure whether it’s a fantasy or a sci-fi movie. 15
Randomness – Within a fantasy context, there isn’t too much randomness, but by any other lights it’s all over the place. The flying horses just happening to be in the right place; allies and enemies popping up out of nowhere; the Beast shmoozing with the Princess for no readily apparent reason. 10
Waste of Potential – With a better lead and a little more work, Krull could have been a pretty decent film. as it is, it’s just a bit of a mess. Also, in retrospect, I think it was better than Dungeons & Dragons. 8