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Krull Re-Watch

I watched Krull on HBOMax. I hadn’t seen it in ages—and maybe never in its proper aspect ratio.

It is what it is: a very expensive, fantasy–medieval Star Wars knockoff that’s just not very inspired in the story or characters department.

It’s okay to emulate Star Wars, of course—which itself was derivative of old serials—but when your characters blatantly evoke Luke, Leia, Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, stormtroopers, a bunch of Han Solo pirate guys, a comic relief goofy guy (a la Threepio)’s like, come on. At least hide it a little better?

I remember being a kid and thinking, good grief, you guys introduce this awesome, five-pronged knife frisbee weapon, the glaive, build the entire marketing around it—it really is a memorable design—and then it just dangles from the hero’s waist for the majority of the movie? (It’s used in the climax but by then it’s a disappointment.)

When the kids in the audience can point out what you’ve done wrong—you’ve got a problem.

I love a lot of Peter Yates’ movies, like Bullitt and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, but I don’t know what the studio saw in those films that made them think, “Yes, this is the perfect filmmaker for a Star Wars-style family fantasy adventure!”

I guess they were probably just satisfied that Breaking Away was a hit?

As an adult, I learned that Lindsay Crouse dubbed Lysette Anthony—that must be so frustrating for an actor, to discover they’ve replaced your voice...

Ken Marshall (the lead) became a character actor, here he is on Deep Space Nine

Yes, that’s Liam Neeson as “second piratey good guy with a few lines”—

And Robbie Coltrane with even fewer lines (dubbed)—

As a kid, I remember the “widow’s web” sequence being a tedious interlude, but as an adult, it struck me as the only sequence with real dramatic weight—with these two elderly, tormented souls sacrificing themselves to save the world:

Francesca Annis will always be my Lady Jessica...

And when I don’t buzz my eyebrows, I end up like Freddie Jones—

As for the James Horner score—wow, what a talent!

This was, for me, peak early Horner—the apex of his initial, break-in Battle Beyond the Stars/Star Trek II space odyssey epic–action style that, apparently, he soon got tired of writing. (Or maybe it just didn’t fit how movies were evolving?)

To this day I marvel at how Horner combined certain chord changes with super-lush orchestration for this incredible, magical, full-bodied symphonic sound. He famously wrote a concert piece, “Spectral Shimmers,” in the late 1970s, which was barely performed—and was supposed to be resurrected for a new concert, finally, but the pandemic postponed those plans. I’ve always wanted to hear it! I wonder how much Krull is in it...?

I got the first Krull soundtrack CD (from Southern Cross) in the late 1980s, before I even saw the movie—and the original album didn’t have the main title music, but used “Ride of the Firemares” to open the program:

I thought this was the greatest piece of music I’d ever heard. I would run around our yard outside pretending I could fly!

My brothers and I used to make silly home movies circa 1988–91, and of course I used “Ride of the Firemares” as our main title music in this swan song of our idiotic “00 Moron” action movies:

Neumation Music has published the full Krull orchestrations as an engraved book, and I still need to get this!

They’ve also created this video of “Firemares,” available for free, so you can follow the score with a re-recorded synth version:

I definitely noticed, while rewatching Krull, how slow and languid it was. Today’s movies are so fast-paced, cutty and dense—with jam-packed sound design—that Krull feels more akin to a 1950s biblical epic.

It needed a busy, robust, energetic score to move things along—very old-fashioned, in that sense. And by the end of the 1980s—maybe sooner?—that style would be a thing of the past.

The movie was released in 1983 but it feels even older than that. It’s almost forty years old, so it’s funny to think...that would be the same distance from today as, what, a movie made in 1944 back in 1983? Wow.

Farewell, Krull. They spent a lot of money on you, and they got the music right!

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