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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Krull (1983)

"Power is fleeting, love is eternal!"
- Lyssa (Lysette Anthony)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: March 28, 2001

Stars: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong
Other Stars: Liam Neeson, Francesca Annis, Bernard Bresslaw, David Battley
Director: Peter Yates

Manufacturer: DVDI
MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, surreal imagery)
Run Time: 02h:00m:26s
Release Date: April 03, 2001
UPC: 043396058903
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-A- A

DVD Review

Ever since I first saw Krull in its theatrical release in 1983, I'm always surprised how low-key the film has seemed to remain. It didn't really "kill" at the box-office, and it got pretty lukewarm reviews. Even today, the film doesn't really have much high regard, except from the legion of "cult" followers. This has always confused me because I really don't see what's wrong with Krull. Director Peter Yates wanted to make a fantasy film that augmented traditional ideas with some creative touches and state-of-the-art effects (for the time). That's exactly what he delivered, with class, character, and charm.

Set on the planet of Krull, the story deals with the world being subjected to the tyranny of the mysterious space-traveller, The Beast. The Beast seemingly travels across the galaxy in his Black Fortress, finding planets that he can conquer and control. Using his army of soulless warriors, the Slayers, the Beast sets out to dominate Krull. The two great kingdoms of Krull, though once enemies, find themselves uniting in order to fight together against the Slayer army. Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) and Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) decide to marry, thus uniting their two kingdoms together under one rule. Unfortunately, the night of the wedding, the Slayers attack, destroy their castle, and kidnap Lyssa. Colwyn finds himself being helped by a legendary wise man, Ynir (Freddie Jones), who suggests that to find Lyssa and defeat the Beast, they must first locate the Glaive, a powerful ancient weapon, and then consult with a mystical seer. Krull chronicles their adventure to locate the Beast's Black Fortress. Along the way, they meet up with various characters who help them in one way or another, from the bumbling magician Ergo (David Battley) to highwaymen such as Torquil (Alun Armstrong) and Kegan (Liam Neeson).

Obviously, the plot is fairly standard "damsel in distress" fare. What elevates Krull, however, is the sense of visual splendor it has. Although it uses a medieval setting, it is one that seems to have its own set of rules, rather than one dominated by tradition. We find ourselves wrapped in a certain amount of magic and mysticism, but none of it is really made too obvious or forced into the story. Rather, it is just accepted that Krull is a world filled with superstitions and enigmas. The concept of the Beast's Black Fortress nicely pushes aside the classic 'castle of the bad guy' concept and replaces it with a surreal, Dali-esque void where nothing makes much sense.

Krull is also very character driven. An incredibly strong cast manages to breathe more life into the heroes than just the average swordsman. Most noteworthy is the charismatic performances of Freddie Jones as Ynir, and Alun Armstrong as the thief-leader Torquil. The majority of the cast is from the great pantheon of British acting; most of them following the same general lineage from classic British television to grand films.

Although a bit dated, the film still holds it's visual charm, with great set and costume design, and a real sense of immersion. The Great Swamp sequence alone required the crew to build a huge, swampy forest inside Pinewood's 007 soundstage, the gigantic stage built for the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Wisely, the Beast himself is not made into a specific threat, but rather a creepy monster who is never given much screen time. Whenever he is shown, it is filmed through distorted lenses, adding to the surrealism of the Beast's menace.

All these elements really add up to an entertaining and vibrant fantasy film. It's hard to get this genre right, without doing too much that seems by-the-numbers, and Krull manages to be exciting and visionary at the same time without much compromise. Despite some aged special effects, most of it still holds up today, and I'm still impressed by the fantastic matte and miniature work by the legendary Derek Meddings. It won't win any awards for story, but Krull is an old-fashioned swashbuckler that you just don't see very often. From the wonderful musical score by James Horner, down to the most minute set details, this was obviously a labor of love for those working on it, and it really shows.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in anamorphic widescreen, at 2:35:1, Krull looks extremely good and much improved over previous incarnations. This is the first time, other than the Laserdisc, that Krull is available widescreen, restoring the picture composition and wonderful visual style. Although the source print here does suffer a bit from age problems (dirt, speckles, scratches), these flaws are fairly short-lived. The majority of the transfer is luminous, with incredible new detail and sharpness added to the picture. The outdoor, on-location scenes look gorgeous, with wonderful colors and a restored balance to the overall grain of the film. Previous VHS versions were quite murky, with discolorations and fading on the edges of the frame. The print here is free of these problems, adding sharp, new black level to the film that I have never seen before. The movie also uses a lot of mist and fog for atmosphere, none of which causes compression artifacts or unwanted movement. Fans should definitely be happy with this digital master.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanish, Portugueseyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A new, English, Dolby 5.1 soundtrack accompanies the film. Overall, this mix is very pleasing. While there aren't quite as many surround and split-surround effects as you might expect, the general sound-field is very impressive. The fronts seem to take most of the film, with the majority of dialogue and effects rooted in the center channel. There are a lot of stereo effects and directionality, especially obvious in the fighting sequences with Slayers. Surrounds get a few ambient effects now and then, but nothing particularly special. The tone of the soundtrack, however, is very good, and it really sounds meaty and exciting. At times, the audio seemed to lack a certain amount of depth, maybe not enough bass, but this seemed to only occur in a few instances. One thing that really gets souped up is James Horner's wonderful musical score, which really leaps out of the film here.

There is very little difference between the 5.1 and the 2.0 Surround. About the most noticeable thing is that the high-end of the 2.0 seems not be as audible. For example, the staff that Titch carries has these little bells on it: in the 5.1, the sound of those bells as he walks is always very clear and audible, whereas it's muted in the 2.0. There are other things, like swords clanging, that sound bit more vibrant in 5.1. Otherwise, there's really little difference. In another one of Columbia's surprise multi-lingual moves, the disc also features French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubbed 2.0 versions.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger, Jason And The Argonauts
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by (1)Director Peter Yates, actors Ken Marshall & Lysette Anthony, and editor Ray Lovejoy, (2)Behind-the-scenes information and trivia
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:24m:19s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Galleries
  2. Images from the Marvel Comics adaption of the film.
Extras Review: Two commentaries are featured on the disc. The first has Peter Yates, Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, and Ray Lovejoy. They are not together on a 'live' track, but rather it would seem each person gave separate commentary, then their comments were edited together. Director Peter Yates gets the most time on the commentary, and he's a very amicable and exciting person. He gives a lot of anecdotes and making-of tidbits, while all the while giving off an attitude of how proud he was to have worked on a fantasy/adventure film. Every now and then, Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony are given a few minutes to discuss some element of filming. Ken Marshall discusses much about being the only American in the cast and how much fun it was to do the film. Ray Lovejoy, the editor, appears in a few spots to give his opinions on the film and discussing some of the post-production work.

The second commentary track is an article from a 1982 issue of Cinemafantastique magazine and a variety of other trivia being read by an anonymous voice. In a technical sense, this track is slightly better than the first one because it's so linear and discusses more about the making-of without any sidetracking. My only complaint is that the person reading the material is, at times, a little too theatrical about it.

The 22-minute featurette, Journey To Krull, is the original 1983 featurette that played on HBO. I was very surprised to see it on the disc, and watching it was quite a trip back in time for me. Despite being dated, it's a good look at some of the work behind the film, including some great footage of script read-throughs between the central cast. I often wonder, in todays high-speed, prima-donna-filled world of modern Hollywood acting if this kind of relationship-building between actors is even bothered with anymore.

Four photo galleries are presented, divided into sections: cast portraits, behind-the-scenes, design & concept, and vintage advertising. The most interesting gallery is the conceptual one since it highlights designs for the costumes, monsters, and locations. Unfortunately, the galleries center the images in the middle of the screen, which makes them awfully small when compared to the usual gallery of film stills.

The most unusual and exciting feature is a look at the original Marvel Comics adaption of the film (another blast-from-the-past for me). Using sound effects and dialogue from the actual movie, scenes from the comic are played out like an illustrated storybook with a soundtrack. It's also rather lengthy, running about 40 minutes. Highlight the comic book from the Features menu to get this to play.

Cast/crew filmographies and trailers round off the disc (the trailers are widescreened, non-anamorphic). The filmographies are rather thin, however.

The menus are all well-designed and themed, with good animation. Although I didn't like the new cover Columbia decided to give the film (I always liked the original cover art), it's not as bad as some new covers. The keepcase insert contains some making-of trivia and chapter listings.

Columbia, crowning themselves "subtitle kings", offer you subtitle tracks in 7 languages, including Chinese.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Krull is one of those movies I always hoped would be treated really well on DVD, but I assumed it probably wouldn't. It's great to be proven wrong on occasion, and this disc certainly does that. If you're a fan of the movie, there's no reason why you shouldn't get this disc; it's a wonderful special edition that finally does justice to this underrated gem. Highly recommended.

 


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