Kull the Conqueror (1997)
Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Genre: Action and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: August 29th, 1997 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: John Nicolella Actors: Kevin Sorbo, Tia Carrere, Thomas Ian Griffith, Litefoot, Roy Brocksmith, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Edward Tudor-Pole, Douglas Henshall, Joe Shaw, Sven Ole Thorsen

 


 

A

t the dawn of time, the world was covered in fire, and demons ruled over men … It was the age of the evil Sorceress Queen of Acheron, the Red Witch Akivasha (Tia Carrere). Although her reign ended, paving the way for the triumph of the peaceful Kingdom of Valusia, an eternal flame still burns atop an outcropping near the castle walls as a reminder of ancient godlessness. Currently, in the village on the outskirts of the city, former pirate Kull of Atlantis (Kevin Sorbo) trains hard, hoping to eventually join General Taligaro (Thomas Ian Griffith) and his Dragon Legion.

When the presiding king (Sven Ole Thorsen) goes mad and slaughters his children to settle a dispute about ascendancy, Kull turns up – seemingly out of nowhere. And for an inexplicable reason, he isn’t stopped by the palace soldiers when he engages in sword combat right there in the throne room. He’s victorious, instantly making him the new ruler of Valusia. Immediately after viewing the royal harem, where Kull is enthralled by slave and fortuneteller Zareta (Karina Lombard), he begins releasing slaves and granting the townsfolk the right to worship any gods they choose. The “barbarian’s” decisions infuriate Taligaro and his loyal men, including hideously scarred sorcerer Enaros (Edward Tudor-Pole), who plot to overthrow the new leader – by resurrecting the malevolent spirit of Akivasha, whose dark magic will again shroud the land in blackness.

Sorbo doesn’t take his character or the situations seriously, which unavoidably turns this sword-and-sorcery epic into something of a comedy. This is problematic, considering that most of the supporting cast provides comic relief, including royal eunuch Tu (Roy Brocksmith), punching-bag Enaros, sidekick priest Ascalante (Litefoot), sniveling nobleman Ducalon (Douglas Henshall), and wealthy merchant Juba (Harvey Fierstein). Even Taligaro appears to be perpetually smirking. When action scenes break out, the consistent levity makes these moments far from severe – or exciting. Even though the choreography is slightly more convincing than the ultra-low-budget works of Roger Corman’s Argentine coproductions (including “Barbarian Queen” and “Deathstalker”), it’s still amateurish at best.

Also unfitting are intermittent spurts of rock music, which are intended to amplify the intensity of the sword-fights, but merely create anachronistic interludes. Meanwhile, Kull embarks on a quest of revenge and salvation, which conjures random names and missions to prolong his return to Valusia to face off against Akivasha. No specific focus is observable; mini adventures are devised on the spot for additional action sequences and a longer runtime.

Nevertheless, some of it is fun, especially when it manages to resemble the likes of Sinbad and his mythological endeavors. Unfortunately, a lot of it is poorly planned and edited, and many of the ideas are nonsensical (though occasionally designed for exploitation value, such as when Zareta strips inside an ice cave). But the costumes are acceptable, some of the visuals are amusing, and the makeup effects (though not the CG) are above average. Oddly, the conclusion is somewhat anticlimactic and uninspired – and it again returns to a state of lighthearted comedy, cementing the picture’s frivolousness.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10