While we’re still outside of the Top Five—where the rubber really hits the road, and the picks have to correspond to actual, objective quality, and not just the passing whims of two amateur film reviewers—I’ve got to squeeze in another personal favorite. To say this week’s pick is one of the “best” films is, perhaps, a stretch.
Really, no “perhaps” about it—it was a box office bomb and, while it has attained a certain cult status, it has not risen to the heights of many films with that dubious distinction. Many “cult classics” are viewed overly fondly, as if to counteract the overly negative reviews at the time of the film’s release. My #7 pick has enjoyed a bit of an improved reputation since its release, but its reviews are still mixed.
But for me, it’s a great film—a bit of swashbuckling, sci-fi/fantasy fun that bends and blends genres like a wet noodle in a food processor: somehow, the finished product comes out tasting pretty good, even if it doesn’t make any sense.
Should 1983’s adventure Krull go on my honorable mentions post? Probably. Am I placing it higher on my list than the (objectively better) films behind it? You bet.
Krull is the story of Prince Colwyn’s quest to save his betrothed, Princess Lyssa, from The Beast, a powerful alien presence that flies around in a fortress that looks like a castle. Each dawn, the flying fortress rematerialized somewhere else on the surface of the planet—the planet that the marriage of Colwyn and Lyssa was intended to unite.
Unfortunately, the Beast’s elite Slayers break up the wedding and run off with Princess Lyssa. In the process, they slay the kings of the two rival kingdoms, and largely destroy their respective armies. It is left up to Colwyn to win back his beloved and to save his planet from the invaders.
The early 1980s were awash in these sci-fi/fantasy swashbucklers, thanks in large part to the success of Star Wars (1977). Suddenly, ever studio was trying to cash in on the craze for unlikely, naïve heroes overcoming overwhelming odds to save the galaxy and to save the girl. Krull, though, feels more like Lord of the Rings than Star Wars, combining as it does science, magic, and the tropes of medieval fantasy.
For example: how does one solve the problem of tracing down a fortress than teleports to a different spot on the planet every morning? The people of Colwyn’s planet don’t appear to have cars, much less spacefaring technology, so crossing the surface of a planet is difficult.
The solution: Colwyn and a band of bandits capture and tame the Fire Mares, magical horses than can travel fast enough to make the journey. How the figure out where the fortress reappears each morning is another matter: they must rely upon a scorned, spurned, and jilted oracle to overcome her past hurt, which she does by sacrificing herself to the Crystal Spider.
If all of that doesn’t get your fantasy glands juiced with ecstasy, there’s also an incredible weapon—naturally—that Colwyn must secure to defeat The Beast: the Glaive. It’s a throwing star of sorts that fires lasers from its tips. It’s no lightsaber, but it’s a memorable and unique fantasy weapon.
The main villain, The Beast, is also a terrifying, god-like being, one that seems to exist not entirely in the world of the story. It takes the Glaive and a hasty marriage—one predicted in ancient prophecy—to defeat him.
The film is also notable for featuring a young Liam Neeson as the ax-wielding bandit and polygamist Kegan, easily one of the best characters in the flick. I’m an unapologetic Liam Neeson fan—he’s second in my esteem only after Nicolas Cage—and it’s already apparent in Krull that he has great screen presence and charisma.
All in all, Krull is a fun adventure—a romp through a lush fantasy world knights, brigands, princesses, and intergalactic space demons.