SF Obscure Movie: Krull

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Krull is a 1983 British-American science fiction and fantasy film starring Ken Marshall (who played Eddington on DS9. Eddington was an excellent returning character) and Lysette Anthony. It’s a cult favorite-and I understand why because it is entertaining despite not really making any sense if you think too deeply about it.

It starts with Princess Lyssa who is to be married to Prince Colwyn as part of an alliance to unite their two kingdoms to defeat the Beast. The Beast has conquered lots of worlds with his army and teleporting Black Fortress. Princess Lyssa had the most enormous hair I have ever seen on a human character. Prince Colwyn has the tightest pants I’ve seen on anyone expected to do that much running in a movie.

Anyhow, the Beast and his army attack during the wedding ceremony. Lyssa is kidnapped. Everyone else is killed except for Colwyn and an old healer/wiseman named Ynyr.

Ynyr tells Colwyn he must get a five pointed throwing weapon called the Glaive which can destroy the beast. Colwyn retrieves the Glaive and is determined to save Princess Lyssa. On the way they gather some companions: A wizard named Ergo; a group of bandits who decided to follow Colwyn (Liam Neeson?!) ; and a cyclops named Rell. Rell is the remnant of a race who made some sort of deal with the Beast and were cursed to be cyclops. Rell was one of my favorite characters, even with the questionable budget costuming.

There are screenshots of Lyssa and her hair, and a giant eye. Oh, and they have to visit the Emerald Seer to tell them how to find the Black Fortress to kill the beast; but the beast’s hand magically rises up to crush their magic crystal (I think that’s what happened).  Then they go to the lair of the Crystal Spider where an enchantress, Ynyr’s old lover, is exiled. She has a magic hourglass that keeps her alive and tells them how to find the Black Fortress.  They find out the Black Fortress and go to rescue Lyssa and kill the beast.  The beast is wounded by the Glaive, but doesn’t die until Lyssa and Colwyn finish their wedding ceremony. Their combined love ( I guess??) gives them the power they need to really kill the Beast.

Like I said, Krull is enjoyable if you don’t think too hard. You have to accept the basic premise that invading aliens capable of interstellar travel are somehow incapable of traveling around on land by any means other than horseback. You have to accept the people put up a decent fight with swords against alien technology and laser weapons. It’s meant to be a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. And it does have its moments despite these shortcomings. On my B-grade movie list, I put it above Flash Gordon. A little goofier than Battle Beyond the Stars, but the pacing is better and the actors get into their roles for the most part.

SF Obscure: Flash Gordon (1980)

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For my next venture into B -movies and cult favorites, I decided to sit and watch Flash Gordon. I recently saw Bohemian Rhapsody. Clearly they couldn’t cover everything and purists felt as it there was much left out to protect Freddie Mercury’s image. I didn’t mind that actually. To often, I feel like all celeb movies do is try to show us everything that was wrong rather than let us enjoy what we love about things.

But, I must say, they make no mention of Queen’s contribution to Flash Gordon.

First, The Flash Gordon theme song is an ear worm that won’t go away for days. Second, I feel a lot more forgiving towards Battle Beyond the Stars now.

Flash Gordon was a comic strip created in 1934 and had all manner of serials, early movies, etc. There was a 1996 TV series I vaguely remember and a 2006 TV series which I do remember. It wasn’t terribly remarkable-but to be fair- I’m not a Flash Gordon fan. It’s never  been a character I followed much, so there wasn’t much emotional investment. I realize it’s place in pop culture but that’s about it.

Let’s get to the movie summary (which is apparently close to the original serial):

Space Supervillian Ming the Merciless is going to destroy earth by causing natural disasters. A football player named “Flash” Gordon is traveling on a plane with a travel agent named Dale Arden. The plane is hit by a meteorite, falling into the lab of Dr. Hans Zarkov who is building a spacecraft because he believes in a coming alien invasion. Through convenient plot devices, Flash Gordon and Dale Arden end up traveling another galaxy  with him. They are taken prisoner by Ming the Merciless and paraded in front of a group of colorfully dressed aliens with bizarre headpieces. Ming’s daughter Princess Aura decides she likes Flash, but has a thing going with Timothy Dalton aka Prince Barin. There is a lot of glitter and orange. Flash fights off a bunch of aliens with football moves, but is captured and sentenced to death. Dr. Zarkov is captured for mind experiements. Dale is dressed up in a tacky dress to join Ming’s harem. Flash is executed, but it is faked and Aura frees him.

This is where I got a bit confused. Aura is taking Flash to Prince Barin. Flash communicates telepathically with a machine on Aura’s spaceship to let Dale know he’s alive and will rescue her. Another group of people steal Zarkov’ s memories. Aura and Dale are chased by the Hawkmen (another group of aliens). The arrive at Prince Barin’s land, but then Flash and Barin fight each other. The Hawkmen capture all of them, but they escape. And there’s a lightning shield that does something but they have to destroy it. Then Barin and Aura will work with the Hawkmen to overthrow Ming the Merciless.

And there are Lizard Men because there must be in any B-grade SF movie.

Battle Beyond the Stars did have a clear narrative. It may have been clumsy in its delivery but I could watch the movie in one sitting because I felt like it was going somewhere. Flash Gordon was filled with running and yelling and bright colors and weapons and no real direction. I got impatient and had to stop midway and pick it up later. I think they film makers were trying for a parody of SF or some comedy, but it never quite fit. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was watching. If I had to choose, I’d rather watch Battle again.

If you have any good cult or B-movie suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I think Krull might be up soon:)

SF Obscure Movie: Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

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This is a 1980 film which was billed as The Magnificent Seven in space; which is The Seven Samurai in a western setting. This film stars Richard Thomas (The Waltons)  and featured the late George Peppard (The A-Team) and the late, great Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven, The Man from U.N.C.L.E) The music was done by James Horner and features James Cameron’s earlier SF effects work.

Summary: The planet of Akir (one of those one culture, one town planets) is threatened by a psycho warlord named Sador of the Mamori  and his mutant army, who will destroy the planet. Since the people of Akir follow the “teachings of the Varda”- they are committed to non-violence. Basically, no one knows how to fight. And Sador has a secret planet destroying weapon. (Yep. They were trying to capitalize on a certain other franchise) One young man Shad, is sent to go and find mercenaries to fight Sador. He has a ship with an AI named Nell- who is probably more interesting than a lot of the characters. His first stop is a space station to find Doctor Hephaestus, who was an old friend of an Akir leader. The only people on the station are  Doctor Hephaestus  and his daughter Nanelia and a host of androids. The Doctor has become a cyborg due to life extension and is stuck in a giant container. So, not much help. Nanelia eventually agrees to help Shad and escapes.

I won’t go through the whole list but Nanelia and Shad manage to recruit some other mercenaries: A guy who trades weapons, smokes cigars, and watches lots of westerns. (George Peppard right before the A-Team) A group of clones with a hive mind and very fake third eyes glued to their foreheads. Some lizard alien. A space Valkyrie. And a hired killer, played by Robert Vaughn, who is actually one of the better and far more convincing characters and you kind of wonder how and why he got roped into this film.

Actually, the concept isn’t a bad one. Battle Beyond the Stars does have its moments, but it is very much a B movie. And in light of 2019, a very, very B movie. Cheap special effects can be overlooked; but the costumes have a giggle factor difficult to ignore. Lots of robes. Glued on extra eyeballs. Stiff, plastic lizard head. The Valkyrie had on some type of breast baring halter top  and looks like an erotic amazon bird creature.

There are a few decent actors, but the script doesn’t give them much to work with. The supporting actors are not exactly top quality. Lots of stiff delivery and staring into…space? The camera? Cue cards? The aliens,-“forms”- as they are called all seem kind of slapdash. As if the writers took lots of old SF movie alien tropes and sort of threw it together. I think that’s part of what makes it so B-movie. There is no consistent look or style. Just lots of random names and goofy costumes.

The real problem, though, is the pacing. Or rather a lack of pacing. The hero meanders through space for a while, picking up aliens, but there is not sense of fear or danger. Even the climax doesn’t feel climatic. You just have background mood music and a hero who rarely changes his facial expressions.

And that’s what really does me in. You can have budget effects and costuming as long a you have top notch actors and a good script. This movie does not have those things.  But it does have a goofy charm; and hey, it did well on its release and clearly has its fans. As long as it makes someone happy, I guess it’s all worth it.