There is definitely something about this SF/Fantasy smash ‘n’ grab that is very appealing
Krull Blu-ray Review
The early 80s were a boom-time for fantasy flicks, and despite the fact that nobody really bothered to see them, most offerings have gone on to attain a devoted following.With 1983’s Krull, Peter (Bullitt) Yates tackled an epic quest saga that boasted it could marry up the pyrotechnics of Star Wars with the rousing appeal of the classic swashbuckler. Rarely, however, does the gamble pay off. Lavishly mounted with terrific sets, colourful valour and a fine roster of stalwart British thesps, including Liam Neeson, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Alun Armstrong and Robbie Coltrane, Krull sees floppy-haired Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) leading a motley crew of D&D recruits on a rescue mission to wrestle back his new bride (Lysette Anthony) from the big bad Beast, a super-powerful, world-conquering entity who is typically wicked to the core and backed-up by an army of lumbering, medieval Cylon-like Slayers.There is the trademark mystical weapon in the form of the Glaive, a spinning-star that, whilst no lightsabre, is still pretty cool. Many challenges must be overcome, but the conclusion is never in doubt. Whilst the leads are shockingly wooden, the supporting cast provide the heart and soul and, with a couple of woeful exceptions, steal the show. The action is a mixed-bag. Inspired stunts are derailed by clunky choreography and the combination of laser-beams and swords is not a comfortable fit. James Horner’s score is phenomenal however, and you’d have to be a total misery not to be entertained by Yates’ exuberant adventure.
Krull Blu-ray Picture QualityMill Creek/Columbia’s US Blu rewards fans with a fine transfer. Encoded via AVC, the image comes in at 2.40:1 and looks very nice indeed. The film is painted against a rich canvas of gorgeous landscapes, intricate sets and lavish matte-paintings. It is comic-book and heightened in visual tone, so expect a lot of innate theatricality to the aesthetic. With this in mind, Krull’s hi-def appearance is very cinematic indeed.
Grain is evenly textured, light and natural. No DNR mars this image. No sharpening or colour boosting. There is a softness to the print, which looks pretty much undamaged, clean and blemish-free, but this is down to the source. The film has never looked pin-sharp and super-spangly. But detail and definition is far greater than any previous version found on home video. So you can admire (or mock) some of the prosthetic makeup and the less-than-seamless combination of location and matte-enhancement. There are some very slight wobbles here and there, and the usual contrast fluctuations. None of these draw attention to themselves.
Very impressive black levels provide fine shadow-play, particularly during the terrific Widow of the Web sequence – the only truly effective passage in the film – in which they help provide excellent contrast to the crystal spider and its cavern-spanning web. Elsewhere, darker elements can occasionally seem a little washed-out but, once again, I would put this down to the original source. They are great for the most part, and I wouldn’t say there was any crushing going on within them. Contrast, across the board, is spot-on, the image nicely delineated between light and dark and catering well for the myriad shades in-between.
Very impressive black levels provide fine shadow-play, particularly during the terrific Widow of the Web sequence
Colours won’t leap out at you, but the palette is still very faithful and natural-looking. There are lots of different hues and shades at work, from the greens and blues of the high meadows to the browns and yellows of the turgid swamp. All look fine. No smearing, and no banding. Brighter elements such as blood, laser-sparks and the red electrical inferno that engulfs Slayers’ heads when they, themselves, are slain are suitably garish and vivid, but this isn’t a film that has been designed to seduce the retina with opulence, so nothing here will blow you away. The white of the crystal spider and its little black eyes and mandibles stand out well. The red-tinged sands of time from the hourglass are also picked out nicely. Despite being punctuated with SF flashes now and again, the image, in the main, is quite earthy.
Even with such impressive backdrops as the mountains of Italy, and ten colossal soundstages at Pinewood, I didn’t really perceive much in the way of depth or three-dimensionality. This isn’t a problem, though. The frame is filled with points of interest and always provides ample reason to let your eyes rove around. But asides from the proudly etched sight of figures moving across mountain ridges and the like, there isn’t a whole lot of visual immersion. I have seen remarks made about some strange digital noise occurring, but I have to say that I did not encounter anything of the sort. All round solid transfer. Nothing spectacular, but certainly nothing detrimental. Rewarding, overall.
Incidentally, this disc is encoded for region A, but I managed to get it to play on a region B Panasonic.
Krull Blu-ray Sound QualityAll the laser-beam impacts, sword-clashes and Glaive-spinning are brought to life with a gloriously vibrant DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks that adeptly manages to keep them from being swamped by James Horner’s magnificently rousing score. Although this is not the most immersive of tracks, it is bright and energetic with some attempt at movement around the channels, most notably during the film’s intro which zaps the Glaive from speaker to speaker. I am not all that convinced with the rear elements, which sounded a little bogus and tacked-on to me, but there is width across the front that allows a fair degree of punch and dynamism, and opens things up quite eagerly.
Yates and Horner went for a real old fashioned musical approach, so the film has virtually wall-to-wall score
Bass levels aren’t problematic, but they aren’t overtaxed either. This said, there is agreeable oomph to the battles and some strident depth afforded the resounding and ominous components of James Horner’s ebullient score. The sizzle of those daft laser-beams is delightfully retro, with a very Space 1999 vibe to them. They come across well, although directionality is not high on the sound-designer’s agenda. Dialogue is firmly rooted to the centre speaker and always nice and clear.
Yates and Horner went for a real old fashioned musical approach, so the film has virtually wall-to-wall score. I have reviewed the outstanding CD release of Horner’s complete score already, and it is a distinct pleasure to hear it reproduced so thrillingly on this disc. As is so customary when studying these lossless audio transfers of older films, it is the music that shines the brightest. The track very ably handles the high strings and the eerie siren call, as well as the bombastic and forceful elements. All things considered, the mix delivers on the lush qualities of Horner’s stirring swashbuckler with clarity and precision!
Krull Blu-ray ExtrasSadly… we get nothing. After a features-packed DVD, this is simply an insult.
Krull Blu-ray VerdictKrull is a frustrating experience that only manages to get by on sheer good will. The concept had well and truly missed the boat by the time of its theatrical debut, and although this hardly seems relevant when viewed today, post-LOTR, there is still an undeniable sense of fatigue and futility about the whole affair. The potential was huge, and there had indeed been incredibly high hopes for the British-led and unmistakably pedigree production, but such noble aspirations and genre expectations were sadly squandered by a screenplay and characters that were, ultimately, tired and clichéd, and, despite the whole shebang being pretty enjoyable, audiences knew that they had seen this sort of thing done many times before, and done much better. Thus, Yates’ fantasy romp feels like a noisy, and frequently shoddy also-ran blundering haphazardly along in the wake of far superior stallions.
A stilted turn from the blank-faced Marshall, terrible comedy support from the appalling David Battley as a sidekick sorcerer, an embarrassing performance from Carry On’s Bernard Bresslaw under pitiful prosthetics as a melancholic Cyclops, very hit ‘n’ miss visual effects and a rather clumsy collision of fairytale and violence hardly provide Krull with the ingredients to win over legions of spectacle-craving youngsters. But then Yates (who initially rejected the project and was only coerced into doing it by his wife) and writer Stanford Sherman weren’t exactly going for just the kids. To this end, there are hints of sophistication and surrealism at play here that provide a tantalising glimpse at a darker, more mature story. So it is all the more unfortunate that the overall show tends to engulf them with whimsy and increasingly lacklustre returns. Seemingly to reinforce this law of diminishing returns, each new action set-piece comes across as being determined to be less wowing than the last.
Krull is a frustrating experience that only manages to get by on sheer good will
However, right in the middle of this stands a fantastic mini-movie that totally dwarfs and mocks all that comes before and after. The glorious Widow of the Web sequence is the pure standout of the film, and testament to what could have been. Sadly now it just serves to show what a whopper of ineptitude the rest of Krull really is.
But, I have to say there is definitely something about this SF/Fantasy smash ‘n’ grab that is very appealing. For me, personally, it is great to see Freddie Jones impatiently grumbling of prophecies as his soothsayer dawdles about breezy mountaintops and grungy sets and the acutely classy Francesca Annis in the thrall of a huge crystal spider… but the single most impressive element in this smorgasbord of ripened panto silliness is the rip-roaring score from James Horner who, at this time, was knocking out gem after gem, and truly had the power the desire rescue any movie from mediocrity.
A bare-bones release from Columbia is obviously a big let-down, so fans should not chuck out their DVD. But the upgrade in AV quality is worthwhile. Lower-echelon fantasy through and through, Krull, by a war of likeable attrition, is able to bring a nostalgic smile… perhaps against all odds. Excalibur meets Star Wars? Erm. Nope. Think Hawk The Slayer, but with a HUGE budget, or The Dark Crystal with considerably less appealing characters. Hardly a genre milestone, more of a loose pebble, Krull’s BD release looks and sounds just fine, but has been sorely neglected with regards to supplements.
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