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Sunday, March 30, 2014

DVD Review: Prince Killian And The Holy Grail

I’ve long enjoyed sword and sorcery films, ever since I was a child. Because there have never been all that many of them, I’ve learned to accept and enjoy even the moderately decent ones. Often the problems are in the production value. That’s not so with Prince Killian And The Holy Grail. Clearly a lot of thought, time and money went into the locations, the props, the costumes. The film has a good look to it. And the plot is full of the things we’ve come to expect from this genre: magic, witches, castles, sword fights, and religious artifacts.

If the title is unfamiliar to you, you might have heard of it under another of its titles. The original title is El Capitan Trueno Y El Santo Grial. It is also known as Captain Thunder and Order Of The Grail. The film takes place in 1291 (which the DVD case mistakenly refers to as the twelfth century, but we’ll forgive them that), during The Crusades.

The film opens with a little narration, telling us of “An event that would change our history and which was kept secret for centuries by a nameless bloodline. This is their story.” Okay, I’m on board. We then see a man spying on a Christian camp. He rides back to his castle to warn his father that the forces are large and they’ll soon learn he’s unprotected. His father orders the Christian prisoners executed, and tells his son, Prince Hassan, to burn everything. “Nothing is to be left standing. Let not these barbarians humiliate our memory.” And he hands Hassan a medallion before leaving. It’s great that we meet these people first, and that they’re not portrayed as simple, evil enemies. By introducing them before we meet the Christians, we actually care more for them. Also, Asier Exteandía, who plays Prince Hassan, is one of the better actors in the film.

We are then introduced to two of the Christian prisoners, Crispin and Goliath. These are much sillier characters, and the tone of the film changes greatly once they’re on screen. Prince Killian and his men arrive to rescue them, and there is some very silly business in the ensuing fight, such as half a dozen men piling on top of Goliath to subdue him and him easily shaking them off.

Prince Killian (Sergio Peris Mencheta) is also known as Thunder because he was born in a storm, and has the mark of a storm on his neck. An old prisoner in the castle sees that mark and gives him a special chalice he had hidden in his cell and tells Killian to return it to the Custodial Knights, and to find a man named Morgano in Spain. He also tells Killian not to trust anyone. (By the way, that warning doesn’t really come into play, as none of Killian’s men ever attempt to betray him.)

Another man enters the old man’s cell, looking for the chalice, which of course is the holy grail. The old man says, “A chalice that will save humanity from its own destruction.” I’m not exactly sure how the cup is supposed to do that, and it’s never really explained, but that’s okay.

Killian also rescues a princess from the castle (because there always has to be a princess). Sigrid (Natasha Yarovenko), Princess of Thule, is a strong woman who believes the men are there only to rescue her. King Richard assigns Killian a new mission: to go to Spain to discover the source of the troubles there which were vaguely described in a letter he received, and to see Sigrid safely delivered home. So that works out, since he needs to take the chalice there anyway.

When they set out on their mission, we get one of those shots of a map, with their progress noted by a red line moving across it. It turns out this is simply to avoid expensive boat shots, and perhaps to save time. The movie moves them directly to Spain, where they find a line of men buried up to their heads in the sand. And there appears to be some sort of monster beneath them. Also, the folk of the countryside are being terrorized by a group of men known as the devils. So Killian and his crew have their work set out for them.

One thing I appreciate it is that though this film is set during the Crusades, and its main character is a soldier in the Crusades, it is actually not really about the Crusades. Though when Killian is captured by Sir Black (the bad guy), he says he’s a soldier fighting for a cause, and Black replies, “You are a mercenary who believes in the farce of the Crusades.” So it’s more of a backdrop to the action, and is not entirely forgotten once we get into the plot of the grail, which is good. Also, I like that the bad guy has a valid point.  (By the way, that scene reminds me of Time Bandits, as Prince Killian is in a metal cage suspended off the ground in a dark room.)

Though I enjoyed this film, it is certainly not without its share of problems. The acting in the film is uneven. And there are some continuity issues. When Sigrid is cleaning a beaten Killian, Killian’s lips are chapped and bloody. But a second later his lips have healed. And then they’re bloody again. Since these are all close-up shots, someone should have noticed that. And of course there are problems of believability. Obviously we accept the magic and all of that, as it goes with the territory. But there is a moment when Black could very easily finish off Killian, but doesn’t, which is completely unbelievable. The film’s score is also problematic. The music in this film is often overbearing. It’s like the filmmakers felt a need to use music to punch up every moment, or at least to comment on it. It relaxes a bit later on, but in the early scenes, it’s relentless.

And at the end it says, “To be continued…” And I’m not sure why. The film is based on a comic book, and the closing credits are done in a comic book style (while a terrible rock song plays).

Prince Killian And The Holy Grail is presented in Spanish, with English subtitles. The DVD also includes an English dubbed version. There are no other special features on the DVD.

Prince Killian And The Holy Grail is scheduled to be released on DVD on April 29, 2014 through Shout! Factory.

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