Krull [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (18th August 2019).
The Film

"Krull" (1983)

Taking place on the planet Krull, an allegiance is formed between two rival kingdoms to battle against a threat from another world - The Beast. Arriving in a teleporting rock formation called the Black Fortress, The Beast along with its minions the Slayers attack before the people can fully retaliate. The two united kingdoms are devastated, losing both its kings and much of their armies, with the Prince Colwyn (played by Ken Marshall) left barely alive, and kidnapping his wife to be, Princess Lyssa (played by Lysette Anthony). Colwyn's journey to rescue the Princess is filled with various encounters of allies, with the helping hand of Ynir (played by Freddie Jones), the quirky shapeshifter Ergo the Magnificent (played by David Battley, and a band of escaped thieves led by Torquil (played by Alun Armstrong. But as expected, there are also many enemies standing in the way, and an uncertainly in reaching the always teleporting Black Fortress...

Back in 1980 following the successful runs of two "Star Wars" films and numerous copycats with their takes on science fiction and fantasy, Columbia Pictures was also looking for a way to capitalize on the trend. Producer Ron Silverman was in charge of developing a project to fit the bill and enlisted writer Stanford Sherman, who's first draft entitled "The Dragons of Krull" was to later become simply "Krull". After numerous rewrites and updates that took place including hiring a second writer, ideas were changed or discarded, with the eventual "dragons" in the title not making an appearance at all in the finished product. During the time of pre-production there were multiple fantasy themed science fiction films released including "Clash of the Titans" (1981) and "Beastmaster" (1982) which relied on old fashioned adventure stories with fantasy elements that required a great deal of special effects and "Krull" was being formed as a special effects production, taking place on a distant planet with shapeshifting creatures and a mystical Beast as the main protagonist. But for the director, quite an unlikely choice was made with the hiring of filmmaker Peter Yates.

Yates was known for hard boiled crime and action with "Bullitt" (1968) and "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" (1973) and reality dramas such as "Eyewitness" (1981), so the idea of having him direct a fantasy film with science fiction elements was odd to say the least. But as a filmmaker he was keen to challenge himself to new work and took inspiration from films such as early swashbuckler action films for the swordplay scenes as well as incorporating a special effects team to design the elaborate sets at Pinewood Studios using everything from blue screen, miniatures, mirror effects, wire action, animation, and more to bring the world of "Krull" to life. Notable names such as Vic Armstrong was the stunt coordinator, James Horner was the music score composer, and Peter Suschitzky was the cinematographer. Certainly a great number of talented people were behind the scenes, but things were not as smooth as it could have been with constant changes in the script during production which affected the shooting as well as affecting the consistency of the story itself.

While "Krull" was looking to be a new kind of epic science fiction fantasy in the vein of the "Star Wars" craze, there was much too much reliance on recycled ideas and nothing particularly new. With "Star Wars" the weekly adventure serials of the pre and postwar period along with classic good vs. evil stories plus a little Japanese Samurai influence placed in space took ideas and made things feel fresh and inspiring. "Krull" on the other hand felt like standard fare action fantasy from literary and film elements that were all too familiar. A princess needs to be rescued, a hero must rise, recruitment of allies along the way, encounter obstacles, bring peace to the world. This may be all the check marks in a standard fantasy adventure story. The science fiction element that the film was supposed to deliver on was put mostly on the back seat, with the enemy Slayers using lasers and the Black Fortress appearing from space, but besides that there is very little in terms of sci fi. The castle sets are Earth-like castles, there are forests, swamps, snow, deserts as landscapes, humans, dogs and other animals from Earth existing, so it's almost entirely a carbon copy of Earth. Though there are a few things that set things apart. There are users of magic. Cyclops, sightseers of the future, shapeshifters of both good and bad also exist in this world. There are a lot of questionable points in logic to the story. Is it coincidence that the Beast and Slayers attack the day of Colwyn and Lyssa's wedding? Is there really a reason for the Beast to kidnap the princess? Lengthy scenes of characters going on sidequests alone? The reason for the Cyclops Rell (played by Bernard Breslaw to be following the men rather than joining their quest from the start? But like many fantasy films and stories as well as countless RPGs, logic in these matters are rarely a driving force. It is rather the fun in seeing a new world where the laws of the land and the laws of nature differ from our own, and in that case "Krull" does in fact succeed, though the execution may be imperfect. The pacing with the slow scenes with the action, some of the unconvincing special effects such as the Black Fortress, and many of the sets looking almost too clean and polished rather than something lived in with life attached.

"Krull" had a fairly good cast but unfortunately with no large names at the time of its release. Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony were both young actors. The supporting roles were from television and film supporting actors and a few newcomers as well, especially notable were Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane as two of the bandits. The characters are fairly on the memorable side, with each having their own personality and quirks, and when some of them eventually lose their lives along the way, there is an impact to be felt. The story may be on the weaker side but the actors do a fairly fine job with what was given.

"Krull" was released theatrically in the United States on July 29th 1983, where it opened at fourth place and performed quite low. It grossed a low $16.5 million in total, which was a little over half of the $30 million budgeted production. One of the films that stayed ahead in the box office rankings was "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" which was already out for three months and had already grossed over $200 million. It was obvious that Star Wars fever was still rampant and any other fantasy film would suffer at that time, and "Krull" suffered with bad timing and a messy production. It won no major awards at the time and could have been easily forgotten, but with constant broadcasts on television throughout the years and strong rentals sales on video, the film eventually reached an audience over the years and still continues to find cult fans. "Krull" may not have gone as expected, but there is a lot of fun to be found in the flawed film.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. This high definition transfer is very solid with a lot of positives though imperfect it may be. Colors are bright and beautiful with whites being quite bright and well designed costumes looking splendid. Sharpness is fairly good but a little on the soft side that slightly adds to the fantasy setting in certain sequences, while black levels are quite good with darker scenes at night such as the opening raid looking nice with the . Special effects sequences can look a little rough with blue screened sequences and other superimposed shots, darkness of the shadows and backgroundswith additional grain, fluctuating image, and thicker textures, but this is to be expected as that was part of the printing process at the time. Film grain is visible while cleanup has been applied to the image, reducing instances of dust, scratches, or other marks though there are minor speckles that can remain on very close inspection. The visuals may look "too" good, showcasing some of the flaws in the special effects and makeup of the production. With just over 30GB of the 50GB disc dedicated to the film itself, there is plenty of breathing room for the film itself. Overall a very good transfer from Umbrella Entertainment.

The film's runtime is 120:45.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Originally screened in Dolby Stereo and has been remixed for home video with a 5.1 track, presented here lossless. The original music cues by future Oscar winner James Horner comes alive and well in this track, with the directional speakers spreading the music mostly in the fronts while ambient tones are left to the rears. Dialogue is almost always front and center based, always sounding clear with little to no distortion or muffle in the track. Dialogue, music, and effects are well balanced, making this a very solid track.

There are optional English subtitles in a white font. They are timed well, easy to read, and no errors to speak of.

Extras

Audio commentary by director Peter Yates, editor Ray Lovejoy, actor Ken Marshall & actress Lysette Anthony
In this vintage commentary track from the Sony DVD edition from nearly two decades ago, the director and editor are recorded together while the two actors are recorded separately, and the three sessions combined together into one track. There is a lot of good information, such as the building of the set on large soundstages, the casting process and information on the actors, the music, the time period and much more. It is not the most in depth commentary, as it is missing quite a bit of information such as the development of the project and the many changes made during he production process.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Cinefantastique article audio track (73:04)
Cinefantastique magazine's November 1982 issue featured an extensive article on the production of "Krull". Rather than reproducing the lengthy piece in a booklet which would be very long, a recording in an audio book form was made for the Sony DVD edition from nearly two decades ago. The article is heavier on the making of the film, from the set pieces, the original script having dragons that were ultimately removed, the crossover appeals of medieval with science fiction, some specific scene breakdowns and much more. This was written before the film was completed and ultimately released the next year where it didn't meet the critical and financial expectations, so the hyping of the production in the text is evident. This plays as an alternate audio track over the film itself. Once the article finishes at 73:04, the audio reverts back to the film's audio track.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Journey to Krull" featurette (23:07)
In this vintage EPK featurette from the time of the film's release, it features interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage of the sets and stuntwork along with exciting narration to piece everything together. Of course there is no mention of production troubles or rewrites with everyone excited for the new production on camera. This was previously available on the Sony DVD releases.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Krull: Marvel comic adaptation" featurette (38:29)
In conjunction with the film's release, Marvel Comics released Marvel Comics Super Special Vol 1 28, which was a comic version of "Krull". In this extra, it features images from the comic along with the film's audio to accompany them. Unfortunately it does not feature the full images but moving stills that pan and zoom in different directions, and the speech bubbles are mostly left out. It is a digest version of the film itself which is fascinating but it might have been better in a stills gallery format instead. This was previously available on the Sony DVD releases as an Easter Egg.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (1:28)
A grainy and slightly windowboxed transfer of the original narrated trailer is here. This was previously available on the Sony DVD releases.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


The older Sony DVD editions releases worldwide has all the above extras. The only extras not carried over are the stills galleries (which are sorely missed) and talent files (which are outdated and not missed). The film was first released on Blu-ray in the US by Mill Creek. The Blu-ray had a solid transfer in audio and video, most likely identical to what was used on this Umbrella Entertainment release. Unfortunately no extras were included on the disc. Sony released the film on Blu-ray in the UK, Italy, and Spain which included extras with the commentary, the audio article, and featurette, but unfortunately the transfer was cropped from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1 which is an incredibly questionable decision on Sony's part. With the Umbrella Entertainment release having the film in the correct aspect ratio and the most extras, it is easily the best choice available on Blu-ray.

An interesting note about this Umbrella Enterainment Blu-ray is that is seems to be authored by Sony and not Umbrella. It opens with the Sony Pictures logo, has a Sony Pictures disclaimer, and the menu style is very different from the Umbrella menu design and Umbrella Entertainment logo is nowhere to be seem, except for the printed label on the disc. But this is obviously different from the Sony releases found in other countries as the transfer is different plus the number of extras being greater.

Packaging

The inlay includes the original theatrical poster artwork on the reverse side.

Overall

"Krull" may have an inconsistent tone from the production troubles it went through plus a story relying on cliches rather than originality, but is still a fantasy epic that is a lot of fun to watch. Umbrella Entertainment gives the film a very solid transfer and includes all the major extras from the older DVD edition. Nothing new is included, but still comes as recommended.

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: B+

 


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