80's Attack!: Krull Film Review

I know this is the soundtrack cover, but I think it looks better than the poster.
This is a film that has been on my radar forever now, mainly because I've been after the original RCA VHS release of this for a little while and I can't seem to find it at a decent price, and I suppose that because of that, it's been on my mind a lot lately. Not to mention I've been on a huge 80's kick these past few months, devouring a ton of 80's films, some of which I've never seen, and some I'm re-discovering all over again. With Krull, I do remember seeing it when I was a kid, but it's literally been several decades, like a good 30 years at least, since I've last seen it. And being as it's not a film that's rarely ever mentioned, I guess you could say I went in with some reservations. When I found a 2-Pk DVD set of this along with Spacehunter for just $5 at Target, I just couldn't pass it up. So let's dig in.

I absolutely LOVED this film. I loved it so much in fact that I'm pissed at myself for having waited so long to revisit it. To me Krull felt like a perfect blend of Star Wars, Excalibur and The Princess Bride all rolled into a single film. It's pure fantasy at it's absolute best and I'm shocked that it doesn't get more love or recognition, because it totally deserves it.

I think for me, the thing that really blew my mind (of which there were many), was it's oddly eccentric, yet fascinatingly beautiful set design. I don't even know how to describe it. It's dark, with touches of H.R. Giger, but more streamlined and fantastical. It's honestly breathtaking in it's design and I've never seen a film that utilized it in such a grande scale practically. I mean, if you haven't seen this in a while, the sets will blow your mind. And while there are a lot of practical effects work like composite shots, the sets themselves are real, and they're big. It wasn't until after I saw this that I did some digging and learned that for it's time, it was the most expensive film ever made, with 23 sets built just for this film.

Then you have an impressive cast that while the majority of them are a bit unknown to me, especially the lead, Ken Marshall, who did a great job as the prince, but would take a 5 year break from acting after this film until appearing in the comedy Feds in 1988, there were a few that surprised me, like a young Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane for starters. And I have no problem admitting that I fell completely in love with Lysette Anthony as princess Lyssa. Gorgeous and redhead, she captivated me from the very first moment she appeared on screen. It's just, I don't know. This film was just a series of constant surprises, right down to the casting, and I loved every second of it.

Essentially a story about a newly crowned prince who sets off on a journey, with the help of a band of men he meets along the way, to rescue his kidnapped bride from the clutches of an alien being that has kidnapped her, Krull throws in so many other elements and genre's, some of them dark, that even though it's Rated PG, it doesn't take away from the experience at all. You're so engrossed into this fantastical world of lasers, swords, sorcery, cyclops, and an evil alien that though the film is filled with violence, rarely is blood shown on screen, which isn't a bad thing. Blood would just seem weird in this world since so much of it is pure fantasy. But every detail from the costume design, the production design, the special effects and Peter Yates direction all work so well in complimenting each other in a very slick and stylized way.

If there was anything I would complain about, it would be the design and execution of the villain. He just didn't work and came off as too weird to make any real sense. Though I like the idea behind him, in a practical sense, he never comes off as threatening, instead just being too......silly. Is he a giant? Does he always just stand in a mysterious room alone 24 hours a day? And while his design is clearly inspired by Giger, the main issues come from his head design. I won't get too into it, but you'll know what I mean when you see him. But really, that's my one and only complaint.

So much of this film is a mish-mash of the bizarre, but it works! I can't explain it, and it boggles the mind to think that this wasn't a hit, and that it hasn't endured a successful cult status. I don't get it. It has everything you'd want in a fantasy film, and the fact that it was made in 1983 only makes it all the more special. The effects work, for the most part, are breathtakingly impressive in their execution and scale. I watch a film like this, and then I think about films like LotR and wonder why films look cheaper today than they did over 30 years ago. Krull defied my expectations to the point that it exceeded them and I'm so happy I revisited this grossly underrated classic. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and get on it ASAP. If you have but it's been a while, again, what are you waiting for???

How to see it:
Luckily, it's a very easy film to get on the cheap from a number of different formats. The easiest and quickest one to get would be the Double Feature from Mill Creek of Krull and Spacehunter, which I found at Target for $5, and which is how I ultimately watched it. I've also seen it at Walmart and Kmart for the same price. Now I was skeptical going in since Mill Creek doesn't have the best track record, but I was pleasantly surprised by a very clear and strong transfer. In fact, I was so impressed by this DVD that I won't bother upgrading to the Blu Ray, also available from Mill Creek as a bare bones disc for about $7.50, also found at every major department store. While this Double Feature is absent of any special features, commentaries and trailers, it is thankfully in widescreen, which is really the only way to see this lavish production. If you're a "dead format" collector like myself, you can also find it on Laserdisc and VHS for around $15-$20, but you wont' see it in widescreen though, which is  shame. Just grab this Double Feature, because it's a great transfer and you get another lost gem with Spacehunter, one that I will get to very soon.

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