I suppose at the time of its release KRULL was a kid’s dream or fantasy come true, a real swashbuckler which had definite influences from the story of THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE and heavily influenced by Greek mythology and tales of a galaxy far far away. There are also borrowed themes and scenarios that we all know are the work of Tolkien, but hey, did we or do we really care, did we embrace it, believe it and love it, yep we did. Ok let’s go back 35 years now remember this is pre-internet, in fact pre-almost everything that we today take for granted. I know as well as you all do that KRULL was probably not the best movie ever made, but it had its moments of excitement, magic and romance, at the centre of the story there was the love and romance between a prince and princess, who were being kept apart by an evil and what we thought was an unstoppable evil.
The similarities between it and STAR WARS is today even more evident, simply because we as a cinema going public are all familiar with the themes that are within the STAR WARS saga. KRULL begins in a similar way to the original STAR WARS movie, with what could be a gigantic space ship floating through the darkness of space, this ominous looking sight sets the scene for what is to follow and the movie which is filled with Knights, Slayers, Heroes, Villains, Large Spiders and Evil Tyrants. Yes, there were several films made after the success of STAR WARS that attempted to cash in on the popularity of the movie, STARCRASH for example, (a bad example, but nevertheless an example). The reason KRULL was just a little bit more impressive was partly due to the director Peter Yates, he after all was a seasoned filmmaker and in the hands of anyone less KRULL probably would have sunk without trace.
But, it was not just STAR WARS that KRULL borrowed from, the story was a combination of many storylines, tales and movies that had gone before. It not only included the age-old battle between good and evil, but there was the mystical and the mythology, the movie including FIRE MARES and a CYCLOPS. The opening which shows the approach of what we at first think is a space ship, is in fact a Black and powerful tower, a castle of sorts where an evil beast like ruler resides with his army of slayers, who are not a million miles away from storm troopers when you think about it.
The black tower settles on the planet of KRULL, and this is when the battle between light and darkness commences. The lead in the movie is played by Ken Marshall who portrays Colwyn, he is a hero in the true style of Hollywood, by this I mean if the movie had been made back in the 1940’s this would have been role for the likes of Tyrone Power or even Errol Flynn. Colwyn is about to become the husband of the beautiful Princess Lyssa played by Lysette Anthony, but the Beast sends his army of slayers to attack the castle where the wedding is to take place and after some resistance the slayers capture the Princess and whisk her off to the black tower where she is held captive by the Beast. Colwyn vows to rescue his love and thus the quest and the action begins. Colwyn is joined by a wise man Ynvr played by the excellent Freddie Jones, together they set off to rescue the Princess and hopefully to rid KRULL of the Beast and his black Slayers.
Along the way they begin to collect a rag bag collection of friends and mercenaries who are willing to follow them. Among these are, a magician who struggles to get his tricks right and even manages to turn himself into a goose at one point, Ergo the Magnificent is wonderfully portrayed by David Battley. Then we have the Cyclops, who is gentle and laid back played by veteran actor Bernard Bresslaw in some convincing make up and a million miles away from his performances in the Carry-on movies where he would normally play a somewhat dim individual. Also joining the good guys is Liam Neeson, a very fresh-faced Liam plays one of the criminals that Colwyn convinces to join him, KRULL was Neeson’s third movie, and this was a very small part for the actor, but as they say the mighty oak from tiny acorns does grow. Two more familiar faces in the line up are Todd Carty of East Enders fame, but Carty had been selected for his popular role of Tucker in Grange Hill by the producers of KRULL, maybe as a way of getting a younger audience interested in the movie.
Robbie Coltrane also appears, but his Scottish accent proved to be a problem so for KRULL his voice was dubbed by actor Michael Elphick. Another star of the film was not a human but an armament, in the form of a Glaive weapon, which Colwyn plucks from the hot and fiery lava. The Slayers laser spears too are impressive as were the slayers themselves, the ominous looking armour being enough to strike terror into the hearts and souls of anyone that they were hunting. They were even more threatening and unsettling because they were mute and made no sound unless they were dying, when they let out an ear-piercing scream as a snake like form is spewed from their body.
In fact when you look at it, there are a number of harrowing and impressive moments of horror within the movie, the giant spider sequence for example, and the scene where a seer is possessed by an evil shape shifting entity which has black eyes. The set designs on the movie were also impressive, especially the interiors of the Black Tower, complete with moving walls, floors that swallow up people and walls that also suddenly become filled with spikes.
Inside the Black Tower we see our band of brave hero’s falling one by one as they strive to rescue the Princess in distress, and maybe we see too many of the good guys fall, it is a harsh and surprising end to a tale of heroism as many of the band of brave mercenaries are dispatched by the forces of evil. It all ends well, and normality and light are restored as Colwyn and his love are re-united.
One of the movies most outstanding attributes was the rousing score composed by James Horner, he was just 30 years of age when he scored the movie, and his score is magnificent, the cue the RIDING OF THE FIRE MARES is outstanding as is his LOVE THEME for the movie, and when you think that he scored this as well as BRAINSTORM and GORKY PARK in the same year it something of a major feat for a composer who was so young. At the start of his career Horner would score low budget movies with large symphonic soundtracks and this practise put him good stead for films such as KRULL, WILLOW and The STAR TREK films he scored. His first big break came in 1980 when he wrote a stirring score for Roger Cormans BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, which was the soundtrack that made collectors, critics and producers sit up and take notice. He followed this with THE HAND and WOLFEN his atmospheric score for the latter replacing music that had already been submitted by composer Craig Safan.
Horner was in my opinion a rare talent and was involved with many of the big blockbusters that hit the screens during the 1980’s at times his music being more memorable than the films it was intended to support. The soundtrack album for KRULL was initially released on a French label which also contained dialogue from the movie in French, the soundtrack was then issued on a long-playing album, and eventually made onto CD and later was released in its full score form by LA LA LAND records in the United States.
It is without a doubt one of the composers most popular works and in many ways one of his most complex, and to this day remains a firm favourite with film music devotees around the world.