Krull (1983 Britain)

krull3I think this was filmed for the fun of it, and no one expected riches or cheap gold awards. After all, the early 80s produced many tacky, escapist adventures. As the years pass I find Star Wars more of an overblown embarrassment, but this overlooked effort from director Peter Yates is still growing on me. There is something honest and spirited about this film.

Krull is the name of the fantasy land where this story is set. In this land, two kingdoms are about to unite with the marriage of their kings’ children, Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa. Unlike most arranged marriages these two are genuinely in love. On the night of the wedding however, a hoard of enemy warriors called ‘slayers’ who serve ‘the Beast’ storm the castle and take the princess away. The Beast wants her to be his bride too. So Prince Colwyn, with the help of a wise man, a cyclops and a young magician set out to rescue the girl, kill the bad guy and save the world. The problem is location: the Beast’s fortress is always magically changing locations. This is quite a hurdle for our heroes to overcome.

krull-glaive-Lyssa-ColwinIt contains some memorable ideas. Horses which gallop fast enough to leave a trail of fire, quick sand which covers an acre of forest, a flying fortress in the shape of a mountain, spears which fire laser blasts, and a magical weapon in the shape of a golden, spiky starfish. It is all hokey but fun. I can think of few other films in which the score so perfectly matches the images and the screenplay. Another commentator I read somewhere online has said that the score may be the best, ever–and it might be. It certain bears comparison with the best of Bernard Herrmann and the best of John Williams.

Then there’s the look. Krull is visually ravishing; the main exteriors in the Italian Dolomites create a familiar yet otherworldly atmosphere. The studio sequences do not fit terrible well, but they are right for what they want to do. The effects are fine–they support, not dominate, the first. The actors are fine. Some, like Liam Neeson and Alun Armstrong, are well know actors in relatively small supporting parts. Freddie Jones is a great character actor and Francesca Annis could not be better. Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony make a splendid hero and heroine. In particular, Lysette Anthony is a refreshingly vital heroine. Bernard Bresslaw is moving as Cyclops while David Battley is amusing as Ergo.

krull7What makes Krull a particularly exceptional film is its psychological structure. We have a straightforward opposition of Good and Evil. We have the classic hero’s journey, and the hero’s magical companion. We have an integrated view of all four alchemical elements–Fire, Water, Air (the mountain peaks, the flying horses), and Water. We have two remarkable psychological and symbolic patterns. The first forms the spring of the plot–Man has Fire, Fire to Water, Water to Fire, Fire to Woman, Woman gives Fire to Man – a neat sequence of uniting man and female elements to one, with mutual consent–a mysterious ritual with clear psychological intent. The interruption, then completion, of this ritual, first separates Lyssa from Corwin then reunites them with the power to kill the Beast–evil and disorder.

The second pattern is no less interesting–the failed joining of Ynyr and Lyssa (the Widow), which leads to unhappiness and the death of both, but produces the information that can unite Corwin and Lyssa–life, redemption, and happiness. There are other themes of separation and unification, mixing up with other patterns as well. It’s a literary analyst’s delight. Finally, for all these reasons, I just really like this film. It’s a fantasy for adults and thinkers. It’s beautiful, with something to satisfy the viewers intellect and emotions. OK, maybe I am being too generous with a motion picture that many others condemn as cheesy and unoriginal. Just remember there was no CGI to fall back on in those days so options were more limited in putting together a grandiose escapist fantasy like this.




  1. I can’t recall ever having heard about this movie, but your excellent review does make me curious to correct that. I love SciFi in all shapes and forms, and this story seems to be right up my alley. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! The acting in this one is quite charming.


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