Movies That Ruined My Childhood: Krull (1983.)
Krull is a science fiction/fantasy story full of terrifying characters and utter nonsense that threw its spinning glaive into my impressionable mind.
Growing up, I was a big fan of sword and sorcery flicks. Maybe a steady diet of He-Man and Dungeon & Dragons on Saturday Morning cartoons primed me to cheer for buff dudes with flowing locks swinging giant swords at fake-ass monsters. God knows we’ve covered enough of those flicks on this site to prove my devotion to the genre, if not my troubling fascination with loin cloths and cocoa butter.
When I was a child and TBS stood for “The Beastmaster Station” there was no shortage to choose from. Good old Dar the Beastmaster was on so often his tiger should have received overtime, Conan cursed out Krom and James Earl Jones on the regular, and even Clash of the Titans released the Kraken at least once a week. At the rental store, more risque titles like Deathstalker, The Barbarians, and The Sword and the Sorcerer were easily available. For all this, there was one movie I never rented twice: Krull. Peter Yates’ muddled monster fest was filled with darkness and idiocy that put me off wanting a second serving.
On the planet Krull, Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa are about to be wed. Their union will create peace between the largest kingdoms in the realm. Just as they prepare to
tie the knot pass the fireball, The Beast descends from space in his evil fortress, wipes out the royal guard and the royal royals, then takes Princess Lyssa. Colwyn, his wizard mentor, and a rag-tag band of scoundrels must find Lyssa and defeat The Beast before he destroys the entire world.
The first bit of nightmare fuel in this little gem is all of the monster designs. The baddies look like beetles crossed with storm troopers, and they’re not shy about killing. There’s a scene involving a giant translucent spider that the magician has to outwit in order to find the location of The Beast’s magic castle. I’m not a big fan of bugs, so that’s two strikes in the creepy crawly category. And lastly, we have The Beast himself. Yeah, that thing is scarier than 9/10ths of the things you would see in a horror movie made in 1983, and this movie had a PG rating!
Things don’t get much better when you look at our heroes. Colwyn is a dandy who never gets mud on him, but his crew looks like they’ve booked passage on the HMS Scurvy their entire lives. Luckily, they all look like beauty pageant contestants next to the helpful cyclops who joins the party. I was terrified of that guy and his plastic eyeball. To the movie’s credit, he’s the best character and you really get attached to him…and then they crush him to death in the final act. Thanks, Krull.
Magic Flying Fire Horses…Say What Now?
Even as a kid, I knew there was something wrong with Krull’s story. In fantasy stories nonsense things happen all the time, but they have to be set up. A magic shoe and pumpkin carriage is crazy town if you don’t get the scene where the fairy godmother explains the rules. Krull is just one pumpkin carriage after another, and no explanation. Why do Colwyn and Lyssa shoot fire from their hands when they’re getting hitched? No reason. Why does a spider witch know where the castle is? No reason. Why do you need a crazy boomerang to kill the baddie? No reason.
It all comes to a head when they’ve botched all of their attempts at finding the castle. After making absurd leaps of deduction, they still aren’t close to getting Lyssa back…so suddenly they remember they have magic fire horses that can get them anywhere they want. It’s like the eagles in LoTR: if you have this easy form of transportation, why were you traipsing all over hell’s half acre on foot?
The Glaive, AKA The Worst Magic Weapon Ever.
Sword and sorcery movies usually feature ludicrous magical weapons. The Beastmaster had a floppy bladed boomerang that looked like it was more trouble than it was worth, but at least he hardly used it. The Sword and the Sorcerer has an absolutely bonkers triple bladed sword that shot its blades out like rockets. Sure, having a sword and a projectile is cool, but that sword has to weigh 50 pounds! What do you do after you shoot it? Walk around the battlefield pulling sword bits out of guys faces and try to reload?
For all of the cockamamie ways these films try to get more creative than “the hero has a sword”, Krull’s is the worse. The Glaive is a five tipped throwing star/boomerang that is mostly blades. It marries all of the worst elements of the other weapons. You have to throw away your magic item for it to work, and then you have two possibilities: it sticks in your target and you’re defenseless until you schlep over and retrieve it, or it comes whizzing back to your hand and takes off all of your fingers. Just look at how Colwyn has to hold it! That’s an OSHA violation waiting to happen, not a heroic weapon.
There’s a lot about Krull that improves with age. The effects are mostly pretty cool, and the costumes and settings are great (except for the murder swamp. What is with fantasy movies and murder swamps?) The acting is fair to middling, though they do criminally under utilize a young Liam Neeson. As an older viewer, I think the design for the baddies was bold and daring. You don’t get heavy metal looking villains like that any more. For all of the faults with it’s story and weapon design, the biggest flaw with Krull is whatever ratings board put this movie into the PG category. This is no merry traipse through a magic kingdom. I guess the rules were different back then. Hell, Ridley Scott’s Legend had Tim Curry as a devil who hacks the horns off of unicorns, and that one was PG too! I guess one squashed cyclops and The Beast are pretty tame in comparison.