Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Rewind: Krull (1983)

 About as enjoyable as a naked donkey ride to hell - in a sandpaper saddle...

Krull (1983, Peter Yates)

Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Liam Neeson, Todd Carty, Bronco McLoughlin, Nosher Powell.

Box Notables: Classic red RCA box.

Tagline: ‘A world light years beyond your imagination.’

Trailers: Space Hunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, The Ballad of Shameface, Can Drive

Cherrypick: “Odd's bodkins! That man has raisins in his braincase!”

In his book ‘The Mask Has a Billion Faces’, comparative fabulist Ken Campbell attempted to divine the fundamental structure of the archetypal hero’s journey by drawing together various mythologies from around the world to construe a monomyth or all-encompassing ‘ur-caper’: Once straddled atop the uncontrollable stallion of adventure, Campbell asserts, our boy must travel a road of trials, achieve his goal and return to bestow his prize upon his fellow man. Toss in a few orcs, robots, sundry princesses, the odd noble truth, some fiery foliage and three rusty nails and you have the narrative mould for everything from the awakening of the Buddha to the Return of the King. It is a storytelling template so ironclad that it could have been forged in the mines of Moria, and - ropey production values aside (cf. Moses) - there's almost nothing one can do to make a dragon’s breakfast of it. All of which high-minded balloon-juice brings us to Krull
Blancmange = Bad
With the fanfare of James Horner’s furiously back-peddling 'Star Trek' theme still ringing in our ears we are announced to the last minute wedding preparations taking place in Castle Forcedperspective upon the friscalating plains of the aforementioned planet of Krull. Here, Ken Marshall’s Prince Colwyn - an eminently dislikeable, deep-space Dexter St. Jock type - is to be hitched to dubbed mannequin Lysette Anthony’s equally unappealing Princess Lyssa in a ceremony that oscillates between the high comedy and low, low camp that only declaiming self-penned, cod Shakespearian wedding vows in second-hand fetish-wear can ever hope to produce.

Luckily for all concerned, this rhapsodic mare’s nest is interrupted by a similarly dung-ho display of farty bombast surrounding the uninvited arrival of the mighty Berwhale the Avenger - a bipolar demigod who flies around the galaxy in a big stone head very much like the one in softcore Sean Connery nappy riot Zardoz. The ghastly nouveau riche offspring of the Rancor Monster and the Toxic Avenger, Berwhale, for all his vaunted omnipotence, seems unable (or unwilling) to conquer a planet without first marrying into money and so smashes the place up, kidnaps the bride-to-be and imprisons her in the Vaseline-lensed brainwrong of Stevie Nicks’ dream archive until such time as she succumbs to his swampy charms.
Berwhale, yesterday
After a failed attempt to cop off with the few bridesmaids still in one piece and the heartrending discovery that his deposit for the Honeymoon Suite is non-refundable, Colwyn glumly amasses a stock band of starving British character actors and sets out to rescue his immortal beloved. The (horny) hero has thus been called to adventure…

Cannily identifying the need for a weapon gimmicky enough to compete in the audiences minds with Beastmaster’s ferret army and Hawk the Slayer’s baddie-bewildering disco inferno soundtrack, Colwyn now enters the dark, eerie, forbidden depths of The Pine Wood (read: a Pinewood Studios soundstage, after hours) to seeketh/steal the mythical ‘Glaive’ – a flying five-pronged swastika made out of sharpened shoehorns that performs as Berwhale’s Kryptonite. Totally preposterous and seemingly designed with both eyes on the Commodore 64 spin-off game, the Glaive does however obviate the need for yet more bloody sword fighting and did, to be fair, go on to spawn that short lived weak sister of fantasy sub-genres – ‘Swastikas and Sorcery’ (RIP).
The family that Glaives together...
The rest of the film is about as enjoyable as a naked donkey ride to hell - in a sandpaper saddle. There’s some protracted, dialogue-free business with a giant crystal spider over which noise baron James Horner goes totally loco with a Theremin/jackhammer duel that leaves the viewer feeling like they’ve been listening to long-wave radio with an ice cream headache for a whole weekend; we suffer the most insulting deus ex machina since the Theory of Evolution (rapidly acquired, hitherto unmentioned flying (Shire!) horses); and witness the worst Glaive fight… well, ever. Otherwise it’s Star of the War Rings executed with every bit of the precision and delicacy you would imagine from the director of Mother, Jugs and Speed.

Harsh? Yes.

Produced by hallowed film titans Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance, Krull (aka Internal ComDev Equity B-M671/K), though fondly remembered as one of the decade’s nobler failures, is merely an example of a badly plucked turkey living way high on the tax-deductible hog. Whereas the previous year’s Tron was a brain-jacking acid-catapult into a viable futurama and ‘81’s Dragonslayer did exactly what it said on the box, the unique fantasy selling point of Krull is an incident free, ninety minute stroll from Point A (Castle Forcedperspective) to Point B (Berwhale Towers) with an unutterably smug TV Movie actor in a blow-dried codpiece. They've thrown a bit of folding money at it, sure, but the overriding feeling is that - like so many of it’s poorer cousins - Krull was crudding up video shelves purely because it existed, and owed its existence solely to the fact that those endless shelves were there...

Originally published in Little White Lies #12

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