In a previous post I mentioned that the “guilt” in guilty pleasures comes from worrying about what others might think about one’s tastes, maybe seeing you as a real lowbrow, or an eccentric. In the case of the 1983 sword & planet movie, Krull, that actually happened. I recall someone on hand while I watched the film a long time ago saying how stupid it was—just one of a few remarks she made during its two-hour run time. Okay, I might have felt guilty then, but as I’ve said in recent years, I’m too old and too ornery to give a rat’s ass anymore. So let’s hear it for Krull, a great guilty pleasure.
Sure, Krull might’ve been a big box-office flop in 1983, though it would have to go a long way to even come close to the 2012 mega-disaster that was John Carter. For starters, let’s look at the cast. How about Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in all of the Harry Potter movies)? Okay, they’re in minor supporting roles and have about twenty words between them. The stars? How about Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony? Wait, who? Yeah, exactly. Not your Hollywood household names—though they made for quite an attractive couple. They even dubbed all of Anthony’s lines, for crying out loud. What, she could only speak Quechuan or something?
Special effects: not bad for pre-CGI. Soundtrack: awesome! One of James Horner’s early efforts. (He did my all-time favorite score for Field of Dreams.) Acting? Um, like I said, Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane uttered few words.
The plot: fairly basic for the genre. Something called the Black Fortress lands on a world called Krull. Head honcho is The Beast. His minions are the Slayers, disgusting slug-things that occupy shells resembling storm troopers from the Empire. Their mission, of course, is to rule Krull and kill or enslave all of its people. Two kingdoms long at war decide to join forces in an attempt to fight The Beast. They plan to marry off Prince Colwyn (Marshall) and Princess Lyssa (Anthony) to seal the deal. (Since these two already love each other, there is no tension here.) But before their marriage can be consummated, Lyssa is taken by the Slayers and Colwyn is left for dead. He’s saved by the wise old Ynyr, who accompanies Colwyn on a quest to—what else?—rescue the princess and kill The Beast.
Here is where the fun begins. They first must find a weapon called the Glaive, a nasty five-bladed thing that looks like a nunchuk on steroids. Then, they’re joined by a band of brigands (including Neeson and Coltrane), a bumbling magician named Ergo, a kid, a Cyclops, and a blind Seer. As they battle their way across Krull, we get occasional glimpses of Lyssa as she runs through the weird corridors of the Black Fortress—in a wedding dress and heels, no less—and fends off the advances of The Beast, who apparently wants to marry her! Okay, I didn’t write it.
The quest of Colwyn and the others includes combat with the Slayers, a deadly swamp, a giant spider, and a few more obstacles before they mount the Fire Mares, a herd of horses with seriously flaming hooves, and race toward the Black Fortress. My favorite scene is contained in this quest, a major reason why Krull has long endeared itself to me. The kid, a boy named Titch, has led a life of hardship, and his greatest wish is to have a puppy. He has attached himself to Ergo, the incompetent magician, who is full of himself and kind of obnoxious. Knowing the boy’s wish, he gets his act together and turns himself into a puppy so that Titch can have a few hours of enjoyment playing with it. Ergo gets great karma points for that.
The final confrontation scene is—well, like the rest of the movie it is hokey, but a lot of fun, and just in case you haven’t seen Krull, I’ll leave that part out. Take a look for yourself. Definitely a guilty pleasure—but what’s wrong with that!
SWORDS AND SPECTERS: my sword & sorcery novel, The Sons of Ornon, can be downloaded for FREE on Amazon Kindle beginning Thursday, May 10th, for three days. Enjoy.