Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Yates|
|Produced by||Ron Silverman|
|Written by||Stanford Sherman|
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Ray Lovejoy|
Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Krull is a 1983 British-American science fantasy film directed by Peter Yates and starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, David Battley and Freddie Jones. It was produced by Ron Silverman and released by Columbia Pictures.
Krull's distinctive features include an unlikely union between the science fiction and fantasy genres, a robust score by James Horner, early screen roles for actors Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, and its surrealistic set design within the castle presented as the "Black Fortress". Although it was a critical and commercial failure when released, it has since achieved status of a cult film.
A narrator describes a prophecy regarding "a girl of ancient name that shall become queen", which says "that she shall choose a king, and that together they shall rule their world, and that their son shall rule the galaxy".
The planet Krull is invaded by an entity known as the "Beast" and his army of futuristic "Slayers", who travel the galaxy in a mountain-like spaceship called the Black Fortress. In a ceremony involving exchanging a handful of flame between the newlyweds, Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa plan to marry and form an alliance between their rival kingdoms in the hope that their combined forces can defeat the Beast's army. The Slayers attack the wedding before it is completed, killing the two kings, devastating both armies and kidnapping the princess.
Prince Colwyn is found and nursed by Ynyr, the Old One. Ynyr tells him the Beast can be defeated with the "Glaive", an ancient, magical, five-pointed throwing weapon. Colwyn retrieves the Glaive from a high mountain cave before setting out to track down the Black Fortress, which teleports to a new location every day at sunrise. As they travel, Colwyn and Ynyr are joined by magician Ergo "the Magnificent" and a band of nine thieves, fighters, bandits and brawlers. Colwyn offers to clear their criminal records, successfully enlisting Torquil, Kegan, Rhun, Oswyn, Bardolph, Menno, Darro, Nennog, and Quain. The cyclops Rell later joins the group.
Colwyn's group travels to the home of the Emerald Seer, and his apprentice Titch. The Emerald Seer uses his crystal to view where the Fortress will rise, but the Beast's hand magically appears and crushes the crystal. The group travels to a swamp that cannot be penetrated by the Beast's magic, but Slayers attack, killing Darro and Menno, and also the Emerald Seer, before he can confirm the next location of the Fortress.
While the group rests in a forest, Kegan goes to a nearby village and gets Merith, one of his wives, to bring food. The Beast exerts remote command of Merith's helper, who attempts to seduce then kill Colwyn, but fails. Ynyr leaves the resting group to journey to the "Widow of the Web", an enchantress who loved Ynyr long ago and was exiled to the lair of the Crystal Spider for murdering their only child. The Widow reveals where the Black Fortress will be at sunrise. She also gives Ynyr the sand from the enchanted hourglass that kept the Crystal Spider from attacking her and will keep a badly injured Ynyr alive on his journey back to the group. As the Crystal Spider attacks the Widow, Ynyr flees the web and returns to the group to reveal the location of the Black Fortress; as he speaks, he loses the last of the sand and expires.
The group capture and ride magical Fire Mares to reach the Black Fortress before it teleports again. Slayers at the Fortress kill Rhun, while Rell sacrifices himself to hold open the crushing spaceship doors long enough to allow the others to enter. Slayers inside kill Quain and Nennog, and Kegan sacrifices his life to save Torquil as they journey through the Fortress. When Ergo and Titch get separated from the others and are attacked by Slayers, Ergo magically transforms into a tiger to kill the Slayers and save Titch's life.
Colwyn, Torquil, Bardolph, and Oswyn are trapped inside a large dome. Colwyn attempts to open a hole in the dome with the Glaive, while the other three search for any other passageway. The three fall through an opening and are trapped between slowly closing walls studded with huge spikes, which kill Bardolph.
Colwyn breaches the dome and finds Lyssa. He attacks the Beast, injuring it with the Glaive, which becomes embedded in the Beast's body. With nothing to defend themselves against the Beast's counterattack, Lyssa realizes that they must quickly finish the wedding ritual, giving them the linked power to shoot flame, with which they finally slay the Beast. Its death frees Torquil and Oswyn from the spike room and they rejoin Colwyn and Lyssa, then Ergo and Titch, as they make their way out the self-destructing Fortress.
Colwyn and Lyssa, now king and queen of the combined kingdom, name Torquil as Lord Marshal. As the surviving heroes depart across a field, the narrator (Ynyr) repeats the opening prophecy that the son of the queen and her chosen king shall rule the galaxy.
- Ken Marshall as Colwyn; favours a sword and the Glaive
- Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa
- Freddie Jones as Ynyr, the Old One
- David Battley as Ergo the Magnificent, "short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose and wide of vision"; favours magic
- Bernard Bresslaw as Rell the Cyclops (credited as Cyclops); favours a large trident
- Alun Armstrong as Torquil, leader of the bandits; favours an axe
- Liam Neeson as Kegan, a bandit and polygamist; favours an axe
- Robbie Coltrane as Rhun, a bandit; favours a spear
- Dicken Ashworth as Bardolph, a bandit; favours daggers
- Todd Carty as Oswyn, a bandit; favours a bō staff
- Bronco McLoughlin as Nennog, a bandit; favours a net
- Gerard Naprous as Quain, a bandit; favours a bow and arrows
- Andy Bradford as Darro, a bandit; favours a whip
- Bill Weston as Menno, a bandit; favours a whip
- John Welsh as The Emerald Seer
- Graham McGrath as Titch, the Seer's young apprentice
- Trevor Martin as the voice of the Beast
- Francesca Annis as The Widow of the Web
- Tony Church as King Turold, Colwyn's father
- Bernard Archard as King Eirig, Lyssa's father
- Clare McIntyre as Merith, one of Kegan's many wives
- Belinda Mayne as Vella, Merith's assistant
The film was one of the most expensive of its time. Twenty-three sets were built for the film, covering 10 sound stages at Pinewood Studios, London. Other filming locations were Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, as well as Cortina d'Ampezzo and Campo Imperatore, Italy.
The dub for the death screams of the Slayers and the demise of the Emerald Seer imposter was taken from the Mahar shrieks in At The Earth's Core. The Fire Mares, steeds that travel so fast they leave a trail of flame and can effectively fly, are played by Clydesdale horses.
Despite persistent rumours that the film was meant to tie-in with the game Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax stated that "To the best of my knowledge and belief the producres [sic] of Krull never approached TSR for a license to enable their film to use the D&D game IP."
The film score was composed by James Horner and performed by The London Symphony Orchestra and the Ambrosian Singers. It has been commended as part of the composer's best early efforts before his more famous post-1990 era works.
The score features traditional swashbuckling fanfares, an overtly rapturous love theme and other musical elements that were characteristic of fantasy/adventure films of the 1980s, along with incorporating avant-garde techniques with string instruments to represent some of the monstrous creatures in the story. Additionally, to accompany the main antagonists, the Beast and its army of Slayers, Horner utilised Holst-like rhythms and groaning and moaning vocals from the choir. Also of note is a recurring "siren call" performed by female voices that starts and bookends the score, and appears numerous times in the story to represent the legacy of the ancient world of Krull.
Horner's score is reminiscent of earlier works, particularly Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Some pieces of the music were reused for the area atmosphere nearby: Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon (1995–2005)—now Space Mountain: Mission 2—at Disneyland Paris.
The score has been released numerous times on album by various labels. The first was a 45-minute condensed edition, which was released by Southern Cross Records in 1987, featuring most of the major action cues, three renditions of the love theme, and the music from the end credits; however, music from the main title sequence was omitted. Southern Cross Records later released special editions in 1992 and 1994 (the latter a Gold disc) with a running time of over 78 minutes, expanding on all of the previously released tracks, featuring the main title music and other action cues.
In 1998, SuperTracks released the complete recorded score in a two-CD set with elaborate and attractive packaging and extensive liner notes by David Hirsch; this release, and the 1992 and 1994 releases, have become rare and very expensive collectible items. In 2010, La-La Land Records re-issued the SuperTracks album, with two bonus cues and new liner notes by Jeff Bond in a limited edition of 3,000 copies, which sold out within less than a year. La-La Land reissued an additional 2,000 copies of the album in 2015.
Krull currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 24 reviews. The film made over $16.5 million in the U.S., failing to bring back its reported budget of over $45–50 million. However, it has gained a cult following over the years since its release.
Some critics offered praise for the film. Janet Maslin, reviewing Krull for The New York Times, found the film to be "a gentle, pensive sci-fi adventure film that winds up a little too moody and melancholy for the Star Wars set"; she praised director Yates for "giving the film poise and sophistication, as well as a distinctly British air," as well as "bring[ing] understatement and dimension to the material". Baird Searles described Krull as "an unpretentious movie . . . with a lot of good things going for it", noting the film as "very beautiful, in fact, a neglected quality in these days when it seems to have been forgotten that film is a visual medium". The Aurum Film Encyclopedia called Krull "a likeable, if lightweight, mix of sword and sorcery and science fiction" and expressed admiration for the "engaging characters who surround the pallid hero and heroine...and some nicely judged action sequences".
- Nominee Best Fantasy Film — Saturn Awards
- Nominee Best Music (James Horner) — Saturn Awards
- Nominee Best Costumes (Anthony Mendleson) — Saturn Awards
- Nominee Grand Prize (Peter Yates) — Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival
A novelization was written by Alan Dean Foster. A comic book adaptation by writer David Michelinie and artists Bret Blevins and Vince Colletta was published by Marvel Comics, both as Marvel Super Special No. 28 with behind-the-scenes material from the film, and as a two-issue limited series.
In 1983, several games were developed with the Krull license:
- A Parker Brothers board game and card game
- An arcade game by D. Gottlieb & Co., who also designed a Krull pinball game that never went into production.
- A console game originally planned for the Atari 5200, but changed to the Atari 2600 because of poor sales of the former system.
- The Krull glaive was spoofed in South Park, season 11, episode 5 ("Fantastic Easter Special").
- In the American Dad episode "All About Steve" Snot holds up a fictional magazine which reads "500 reasons why Krull is better than sex!"
- Sean Phillips, the reclusive central character of John Darnielle's 2014 novel Wolf In White Van, buys an ex-rental VHS copy of the film and spends four pages musing on the film's story and themes.
- The Cyclops and fire mares from Krull are emulated in Gentlemen Broncos.
- The Krull glaive makes an appearance by intermittently floating up out of the lava in the tunnels preceding the Onyxia boss encounter in the MMO video game World of Warcraft.
- The 2001 PC role-playing game Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura features a powerful throwing weapon called Azram's Star, which is modeled directly after the glaive from the film.
- In the 2007 movie The Air I Breathe, Brendan Fraser's character (Pleasure) refers to Rell, the Cyclops, as both of them share the ability to see into the future - though significantly different for each.
- In the Family Guy episode "Baby Not on Board", Carl tells Chris that he shouldn't watch Krull after Chris expresses his view that the eagles are a major plot hole in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the same series' episode "Meet the Quagmires", when Peter travels back to 1984, he tells Lois he would rather see Krull than the film "Zapped!".
- In the 2008 game Dark Sector, Haden Tenno uses a triblade weapon called the Glaive.
The film was released on multiple formats: VHS, Betamax, CED, Laserdisc, and DVD. The film is available on DVD as a "Special Edition" in 2008. Also, the film was available for streaming through Starz and Netflix until June 2012. Mill Creek Entertainment, through a license from Sony, released Krull on Blu-ray for the first time on September 30, 2014.
- CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Krull (1983) John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV, 11-05-2010
- Krull DVD Cast and Crew Commentary
- Faraci, Devin (3 April 2001). "The Original DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Movie Wasn't DUNGEONS & DRAGONS". Badass Digest. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- "Krull (James Horner)". Filmtracks. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- Liner notes by Jeff Bond: "Slaying the Beast: The Music of Krull", from the 2010 La-La Land Release
- Included in press kit, but may not have been used in the attraction. "Disneyland Paris Discoveryland". Theme Park Audio Archives. 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- "La-La Land Records 2015 Krull Soundtrack Release". La-La Land Records. 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
- Krull at Rotten Tomatoes
- Krull at Box Office Mojo
- Heath, Paul (10 January 2011). "Bullitt and Krull director Peter Yates has died". The Hollywood News. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- "Krull', Adventure with Magic and a Beast". New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- "Films", F&SF, January 1984, p. 66-8.
- Phil Hardy, The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction London : Aurum, 1991. ISBN 1854101595 (p.346).
- "1983 6th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- "Marvel Super Special No. 28". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- "Krull". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- Darnielle, John. Wolf in White Van. pp. 48–54.
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