Sunday, June 13, 2010

Retro View: Kull the Conqueror

Well I promised my two cents so here goes.

After a narrated open that manages to confuse the heck out of the viewer (something about demons, gods and a shooting nozzle of fire) we meet Herc...Kull (Kevin Sorbo), a barbarian exile from Atlantis who is in the middle of tryouts (I guess) for the Valusian army when word reaches that the mad king Borna (Sven-Ole Thorsen) is killing off his heirs. Kull arrives in time to stop the king who then ups and croaks but not before he leaves his kingdom to Kull. That doesn't sit well with the old king's surviving heirs who promptly strike a deal with a wizard to resurrect the demon goddess Akivasha (Tia Carrere). And like most royals Kull makes the boneheaded move and marries her even though she is a demon and 3,000 years old. That leads to Kull almost being killed and suddenly having to go on the run to find the one thing that can stop Akivasha from turning Valusia into Demonland. Oh yeah there's a hot fortune teller (Karina Lombard) who Kull falls for. And an icy wasteland our heroes venture off too. And Harvey Fierstein kvetching as Kull's backstabbing old pal...and yeah the movie is awful.

I admit I've been lenient in my views on movies on this blog. Heck I even found good things in Asylum's Princess of Mars. But this one takes the cake for pure agony. Some background for those unfamiliar with its origins-it originally began as Conan the Conqueror, a planned third go-around for Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Cimmerian and was supposed to adapt Robert Howard's one Conan novel The Hour of the Dragon with a script by writer Charles Edward Pogue (who did the script for David Cronenberg's The Fly and was the first writer hired to adapt A Princess of Mars for Disney in their early attempt to make a movie.) Those plans fell apart when Arnold bowed out and the studio decided instead to change Conan to Kull and rework the film into a starring vehicle for Sorbo, then at the time hot for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In a recent article in the movie magazine Empire on the troubles of Conan on screen, Pogue himself admitted the script got turned into a mess by other writers in order to appeal to the Hercules fans.

In fact the movie could have been called Hercules and My Demonic Wife since that's pretty much what it is with Sorbo doing his Herc shtick in several scenes (when he finds out his wife is 3,000 years old he responds "she told me she was 19") while wearing even less clothes than the female leads-I guess his chest was supposed to be the selling point for some. The other actors also seem to bounce back and forth with some (Miss Lombard especially) acting like they believe they're going to win Oscars and others (Fierstein and Roy Brocksmith as an effeminate Tu) play the comedy to the nth degree. Throw in some of the cheesiest dialogue ever-from the rather dirty sounding "its inside her" when the fortune teller gets possessed to Tia Carrere actually saying "I've altered our bargain. Pray I don't alter it any further" (which doesn't sound right without James Earl Jones dubbing) and you got an idea of why this film flopped. Only Carrere seems to know how to play this-camping it up in some scenes and chewing the scenery in others.

In the end Kull deserved better. Its just a shame Mystery Science Theater 3000 never got to do this. Then it would have been at least watchable. * 1/2 (and the half is for Karina Lombard-she was hot) out of 4.

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