Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button
The advent of the high-definition era brought about the opportunity to revisit many of my childhood favourites in previously unforeseen quality. As time went by more and more of my favourites found their way into my Blu-ray collection; films such as E.T., Tron, The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Gremlins, Clash of the Titans, and The Dark Crystal. However, one childhood favourite, the 1984 British fantasy flick Krull, frustratingly failed to materialise. Imagine my delight when I discovered that budget label Mill Creek were set to release it, albeit on a bare-bones, region locked disc (more on that later). Although Mill Creek titles don’t have the greatest reputation I remained quietly confident that they'd release an unmolested version of the film, sourced from a Sony-created master. Let's see if that confidence was warranted...

Feature


The peaceful planet of Krull has been invaded by the Beast, a conqueror who employs his army of nightmarish Slayers to terrorise and enslave it inhabitants. In an attempt to unite the people of Krull against the Beast, a marriage between Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa – the son and daughter of two opposing kingdoms – is proposed, but the all-powerful Beast has other ideas. On the eve of the wedding he orders his Slayers to attack the palace and kill everyone except the princess, whom he wishes to take as his bride.

Although badly wounded Colwyn survives the massacre and is nursed back to health by Ynyr, a wise old man who foresaw the tragic events. With his father dead, Colwyn becomes the reluctant heir to the throne and together he an Ynyr set off in search of a mythical artefact called the Glaive, the one weapon said to be capable of defeating the Beast. Along the way they recruit an eclectic group of companions, including a band of outlaws, an inept magician, a mysterious Cyclops, and an orphaned boy. Our heroes must also face many hardships on the road to the Beast’s sinister Black Fortress, not least Slayers, changelings, and giant spiders.

The cast, consisting mostly of (then) unknown actors, do a great job in their respective roles. Ken Marshall, who plays the lead role of Colwyn, makes for a suitably dashing young prince, while Freddie Jones provides the gravitas with his turn as the wise old Ynyr (a sort of analogue of Obi-Wan Kenobi). Of course some of the cast members went on to bigger and better things, most notably Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltraine, but if you pay close attention you will notice Todd Carty, he of EastEnders, Grange Hill and Tucker’s Luck fame, lurking in the background. Even Bernard Breslaw (famous for the Carry On films) pops up as Rell the Cyclops. Lyssette Anthony, who rather unbelievably was aged just seventeen when she made this film, plays the princess. She is perfect for the role, bringing an elegant quality to the part and looking every bit the fairy-tale princess. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to itself, the studio decided to dub her voice with that of a considerably older American actress, which slightly sullies the innocence of her character for me. Nonetheless, Krull remains an entertaining fantasy romp that deserves a place in all self-respecting genre fans’ collections.

Video


Krull's Blu-ray début comes courtesy of Mill Creek, but make no mistake about it, this is a Sony transfer through-and-through. Of course this doesn't come as any great surprise what with Sony licensing numerous other titles to labels such as Twilight Time, but it does ensure that Krull arrives with an impressive visual presentation. The image is wonderfully filmic, with DVD-destroying levels of detail and a pleasing, refined grain structure. Colours are strong and natural, putting to shame the muddied tones of the older standard-definition release. The entire palette is a massive improvement over any previous edition I've personally seen (including HDTV and Netflix showings), particularly the greens and flesh-tones, which are the biggest beneficiaries.

For the majority of the runtime there are no major contrast issues and black levels are solid, although the opening sequence proves to be the exception to the rule. Both are sub-optimal during the Black Fortress's approach to Krull, and there are some odd artefacts on show, almost like a veil covering portions of the screen. There are also some minor image stability issues during this short section of the film. Still, whatever minor issues present themselves during the opening scenes are quickly forgotten once the film proper begins, as there are no particularly egregious film artefacts and the encode itself is relatively solid, although I’m sure I spotted a bit of blocking here and there. When all is said and done Krull holds up very well next to its contemporaries, including Sony releases such as The Dark Crysatal and Labyrinth, so I’m more than pleased with this presentation.

Audio


As with the visuals, Krull's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack belies the film's poor box office showing and comparatively limited appeal. The opening credits are the first indicator that there's more to this track than meets the eye, as the Glaive whooshes around the sound-stage, passing overhead and darting between channels courtesy of some impressive imaging. While fidelity isn't as good as your average modern feature it is better than many films of a similar age, and the same holds true of dynamic range. There are some surprisingly clear highs and ferocious lows here, revealing elements of the sound design that had previously gone unnoticed on lesser mediums. Subtle environmental effects are more precise, while bass packs a fair bit of punch (check out the arrival of the Black Fortress, the rock-slide during Colwyn's assent of the mountain, and the stampeding Fire Mares for examples). Curiously, dialogue remains firmly rooted in the centre channel throughout, but it is always perfectly intelligible.

Over the years I've developed a great fondness for Krull's grand musical score, which was composed by none other than James Horner. Of course I wasn't aware of this fact as a child, but I've rediscovered the music in recent years and grown very fond of it. There are numerous signature motifs that remind me of Horner 's other works, particularly those from the eighties such as Battle Beyond the Stars, Aliens, and the Star Trek films. In particular, the battle in the swamp evokes memories of Ripley's acid-blooded adversaries with its foreboding horns. The score is given sufficient presence in the mix without overwhelming the other elements, and all things considered this is a very respectable track.

Extras


As I mentioned at the top of the review, this Echo Bridge release is a bare-bones affair. I can see that coming as a disappointment to some, especially when compared to the jam-packed Sony DVD release, but to be perfectly honest I'm just happy to have the film on Blu-ray. At a time when studios are less willing to release their catalogue titles than in DVD's heyday we're going to see fewer and fewer feature-rich catalogue titles, if we see them at all... Presentation is also fairly basic, with a simple menu displaying only one option, that of “Play Movie”.

Overall


Fans of the classic (I think it now qualifies) British TV show Spaced might remember Bilbo Bagshot defending Hawk the Slayer with terminal intensity, when what he should have said is "Dad, you're right, but let's give Krull a try and we'll discuss it later." The line always resonated with me, because I think the film is a marvellous example of the fantasy genre and a bona fide eighties classic to boot. Sure it looks dated by today's standards, and some of the acting is a little hammy, but it's a film very much of its time; a more innocent time in which films didn't have to be oppressively, overbearingly dark to be considered merit-worthy. I'm glad to have experienced it as a child, and I very much hope to be able to be able to introduce my own son to the film when he's old enough.

Mill Creek's Blu-ray release isn't quite everything a fan could ask for, devoid of bonus content as it is, but if like me you're relatively unconcerned with such things the impressive audio-visual presentation should more than satisfy your Krull cravings. If you ever ran around your school playground throwing an imaginary Glaive at your friends you owe it to yourself to pick this disc up. Hell, if you have even a passing interest in fantasy movies, or eighties kid's movies in general, Krull is more than worthy of your time and money.

As I alluded above this disc is region A locked, but there is hope if you only have access to a region B player. I was able to play the disc on two region B machines (a Panasonic and a Sony) simply by pressing the “top menu” button when presented with the “this disc is not intended to play in your region” message. It probably adds about five seconds to the already short loading time, so it's a small price to pay.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Krull
 Krull
 Krull
 Krull
 Krull
 Krull
 Krull
 Krull


Links: