Kull the Conqueror

Well it looks like Robert E. Howard gets to be responsible for almost half of our Sword and Sorcery week. Kull the Conqueror is currently available on Netflix instant play.

Kull the Conqueror

PASS: Kull the Conqueror (1997) – Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and sensuality

“Kull (Kevin Sorbo), a barbarian and warrior, becomes the king of Valusia when he kills the old king in battle. But to maintain his royal title, Kull must conquer many enemies, including Taligaro (Thomas Ian Griffith) — the head of Valusia’s royal guard who wants to take over the throne. In hopes of ousting the king, Taligaro summons Akivasha (Tia Carrere), a 3,000-year-old demon whose looks could be deadly if Kull can’t resist her.”

I think the main difference between this film and Red Sonja is that Kull seems to know that it is pure cheese. Originally planned as Conan the Conqueror, it became Kull when Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to participate. Lacking Conan they went with TV’s Hercules, Kevin Sorbo. Kevin Sorbo plays this with the same tongue-in-cheek style he uses in Hercules – in fact he doesn’t so much act as simply change his character’s name.

There is a nicely timed shot where as Kull’s time as a prisoner is mentioned, we see his scarred back for the first time but other than that there aren’t many directorial flourishes. Akivasha steals a line from Darth Vader at one point – “I am altering our bargain. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” which caused me to groan when I originally saw this. Most of the rest of the dialogue is anachronistically modern – just enough to be cheesy but not polished enough to reach the level of the far better film, A Knight’s Tale. They also throw some heavy metal licks in the score.

I have to say that while I hated this film at the theater, I enjoyed the cheesiness on this second go-around. I really can’t recommend it except on that level so I’m rating this a pass.

People Watch: Look for Harvey Fierstein in a small part as Juba

Red Sonja

Netflix doesn’t have Conan the Destroyer available on instant play so if you need a second dose of sword-swinging Arnold after yesterday’s Conan the Barbarian, try Red Sonja.

Red Sonja

PASS: Red Sonja (1985) – Rated PG-13

“After her family is brutally murdered, a young woman named Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen) sees “red” and becomes a master of the sword — all to seek revenge on the evil queen responsible for the tragedy that snuffed out her kin. Directed by Richard Fleischer, the film co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (in one of his earliest roles) and features Sandahl Bergman as the evil queen.”

This is Arnold’s 3rd outing as Conan in all-but-name. Sadly not only is this not very good but Arnold himself considers it one of his worst films. Production values came down quite a bit from Conan the Barbarian and unfortunately it shows. This also continues the family friendly PG-13 trend started in Conan the Destroyer which seems odd for a Robert E. Howard/Frank Frazetta inspired series. They added Black Belt/child actor Ernie Reyes Jr. to the mix which I found somewhat grating.

Regrettably Sandahl Bergman turned down the title role – opting instead to play the villain Queen Gedren. If you thought Sandahl was a bit wooden in Conan, you haven’t seen anything until you see Brigitte Nielsen as Sonja. They also make Gedren a lesbian. Gasp! An evil lesbian! who wants to destroy the world! How do we know she is evil? Her face is scarred! Examples number 63, 104 and 106 in our series on lazy lazy lazy screenwriting.

All in all there are just too many flaws – most of them significant – for me to recommend this film. If you can check your brain at the door and enjoy a healthy dose of Arnold then by all means go ahead and watch this piece of cheese – otherwise give this a pass.

People Watch: As with my post on Flesh + Blood, look for perennial villain Ronald Lacey as, surprise, a villain.