We don’t deserve The Glaive, but we need it right now
The Travis family actually owned Krull on betamax… and in the 1980s, I wore that tape out. It’s not every film that you watched countless times as a kid, however, that turns out to be any good upon adult reflection. Thankfully, enjoying Krull on its latest Blu-ray iteration for the first time in probably decades was like wrapping up in a warm blanket, and just as thrilling and magical as I’d always remembered it to be.
Written by Stanford Sherman (The Ice Pirates, and 18 eps of Adam West’s Batman series) and directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt, The Deep), Krull is a fantasy epic that feels equal parts JRR Tolkien and George Lucas. The planet Krull is ruled by an intergalactic evil known only as The Beast, who travels in a Castlevania-esque tower which disappears and reappears in a new location every day. The Beast sets his eyes on the Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) to be his Queen of the Galaxy and kidnaps her upon her wedding day. Her betrothed, the young Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) must set out on a rescue quest against all odds. You can’t get much more traditional than that archetypal plot, but then again… certain tales become archetypes for a reason.
As Colwyn embarks on his quest, he’s mentored by Ynyr The Old One (Freddie Jones), a sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi type of character who has trod a similar path to Colwyn’s years before with tragic results. It is Ynyr who insists that Colwyn must harness the power of The Glaive is he’s ever going to defeat The Beast. And on the journey Colwyn will assemble a team of misfits and outlaws who will become just the right assemblage of heroes to challenge the ruler of the universe.
Mixing sci-fi elements like awesome looking evil foot soldiers who shoot laser beams from their staffs with ancient prophecies and magic, Krull truly melds a couple of the geekiest genres into something that feels fresh and familiar all at the same time. Sherman’s screenplay is loaded to the gills with entertaining action set pieces and cool new ideas that make the world of Krull feel like a place unlike Middle Earth or a galaxy far, far away while still playing in the same sandbox as those tales.
Each new quest or challenge or battle thrills in some kind of unique way. Instead of a lightsaber or The One Ring, Colwyn is granted the awesome power of The Glaive, an iconic magical throwing star/blade that must only be used when the time is right. Just this year the eternally cool Glaive was referenced in Spielberg’s Ready Player One, and it even appears in the title treatment for the film in a most epic fashion. It’s the iconic symbol of the film, and it remains one of the coolest magical weapons in all of cinematic fantasy. On top of the Glaive you’ve got other fantastical elements like a den with a giant killer spider, wild horses called Fire Mares that scorch the earth with their magical speed, and a massive castle siege. To name just a few set pieces and iconic moments.
Then you’ve got the band of heroes themselves. Scattered with such future household names as Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from Harry Potter), we’ve got a band of merry outlaws who prove themselves worthy heroes. There’s also a comic relief magician, an ancient Seer, a gigantic cyclops, and a valiant young boy. The characters get their own time to shine, and Krull is littered with instances of heroic sacrifice, displays of true loyalty, and genuine goodness in the face of great danger. It’s well documented that I’m a total softy, but dammit, watching Krull in the midst of the political climate of 2018 with all its self-congratulatory nationalism in the face of grave planet-wide threats made the old school heroism and personal sacrifices of Krull really resonate.
Krull’s depiction of the Cyclops is a perfect case study for the potentially cheesy, but ultimately innate goodness of this swashbuckling adventure. For one thing, the Cyclops is pulled off visually with great care. He’s always shown to be massive in size next to his human companions, gets multiple close-ups to display a functioning, blinking eye mechanism made by special effects wizards, and the character is imbued with all kinds of pathos. In the lore of Krull, Cyclops’ are cursed to know the day of their death. They are solitary and must accept their fate or endure great pain. Our cyclops gets introduced mysteriously, proves to be the bravest of warriors in countless awesome action sequences, and even rages against his fate to save his friends in the movie’s most rousing act of heroism.
Krull swings for the fences and may come across as earnest or cheesy to some, but absolutely hit the spot for me countless times in the 1980s and right on up into 2018. It probably doesn’t rise to the level of the properties from which it draws its inspiration most heavily, but it does stand on its own two feet as an iconic contemporary and companion piece. And on top of the aforementioned qualities, it’s also got a rousing score, some great visual effects, killer production design, and even great costuming. To be honest, Krull seems ripe for a Netflix series or lega-sequel reboot, and I’m somewhat shocked that has never happened.
Mill Creek Entertainment has previously released Krull on Blu-ray, and this review is covering a re-packaged disc featuring retro VHS artwork on the slip cover and… literally nothing else. That said, the movie really does look pretty fantastic, with plenty of grain and clarity. I never knew Krull could look so good after experiencing it in Betamax for most of my life. I’ll be extremely pleased to own Krull on Blu-ray and I imagine most fans will as well. There are zero bonus features on either Mill Creek release of the title, so fans will just need to pick between which artwork they care about the most. As a former betamax owner, I personally enjoy the VHS art and am overall thrilled with this otherwise barebones release.
And I’m Out.
Krull hits Blu-ray in retro-VHS packaging 1/15/2019 from Mill Creek Entertainment