Peter Yates had the noble but doomed idea of challenging George Lucas at his own game, so this was released in the summer of Return of the Jedi and was banished to cable purgatory. The alien spaceship wedges itself into the ground and becomes a jagged medieval fortress, the head Beast is a scaly behemoth viewed through a fish-eye lens, the troops are slugs inside the armors of Boorman's Excalibur. The planet Krull has two suns and two rival kingdoms, joined in matrimony to defeat the invaders -- the ceremony is destroyed, the Princess (Lysette Anthony) is taken, the Prince (Ken Marshall) is joined by a sage (Freddie Jones) and a bunch of outlaws (including Alun Armstrong, Liam Neeson, and Robbie Coltrane) in heroic pursuit. Despite the heaps of '80s hair and the special-effect sparks added to the clanking of swords, this is richer stuff than anything by Lucas before it, or Peter Jackson after it. Where was it shot? The European locations lend a glow to Yates' filmmaking, with its accesses of luxuriance in sweeping hilly vistas and stampedes of fire-hooved horses. The Beast's lair amalgamates Gaudí and Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, complete with a vision out of Lang's Destiny (a clenched claw burns into a rose, "Power is fleeting... Love is eternal"). The ashes of time figure rather poetically between Jones and the Widow of the Web (Francesca Annis), the deplorable comic relief (David Battley) achieves sad dignity in his farewell to a taciturn cyclops (Bernard Bresslaw): "We had no time." And then there's the Glaive, the oatmealy swamp, and the fiery finale, which suggests that, rather than copying American science-fiction, Yates is really paying tribute to British fantasy (the Powell-Zorda Thief of Bagdad, Quatermass and the Pit). With John Welsh, Graham McGrath, and Tony Church.
--- Fernando F. Croce