It’s been awhile since I covered one of these batches of Mill Creek Blu-rays with retro VHS artwork as the last releases in the series were way back in March. For those who don’t know, these releases are part of a budget line of bare bones but mostly new-to-Blu-ray titles. Each release comes with a slipcover that evokes the look of a video store rental copy by featuring similar rental “stickers” like “be kind, rewind,” overheating/melting warnings, the film’s genres, etc. The art also features a VHS tape on the side which leads to a spine that looks like the typical white stickers that would be placed on VHS tapes. The right side’s spine on these releases always looks the same, helping these titles look nice if placed together on a shelf. Other than that art on the slipcover, these are just basic Blu-ray releases but for titles that usually haven’t been released yet on Blu-ray or aren’t easily available. This wave’s roster includes Kull the Conqueror, Splitting Heirs, Renegades (all three of which I’ll be reviewing here), and finally Casual Sex? (the only title I wasn’t interested in reviewing). In this case, Splitting Heirs and Renegades are new to the format while Kull the Conqueror and Casual Sex? both had prior Blu-ray releases (though the latter appears to be a manufacture on demand release and is currently double the price of this one).
Kull the Conqueror
Kull the Conqueror was originally titled Conan the Conqueror and as the title suggests, was planned to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third Conan movie. Star Kevin Sorbo didn’t want to portray a character already brought to life by someone else so the title was changed to Kull the Conqueror. The movie adapts The Hour of the Dragon and finds Conan (I mean Kull) quickly rising to the title of King of Valusia (he “conquers” the kingdom in about ten minutes by winning one fight after the former King goes mad). This doesn’t sit well with some of the King’s actual heirs and they plot to take him down with the just re-risen demon queen Akivasha.
*Note: As with most bad movies I cover, I will be reviewing and ranking Kull the Conqueror as a B-movie. If it was being reviewed as a normal movie, the rating I would give it would probably be a 2 or 2.5/5 at best.*
If you’ve been reading Geeky Hobbies for awhile, you probably know that we have a love for B-movies here. In general, I always tend to prefer entertaining films (even if they aren’t exactly good) over well-made but boring ones. Entertainment trumps everything else in my book. Kull the Conqueror is a well-known box office bust and widely regarded as a terrible movie (25% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes approve of it and it has just a 4.9 rating on IMDB). However, of the three movies I watched for this batch of reviews, Kull the Conqueror actually entertained me the most. It’s not a B-movie classic but solidly in that second group of B-movies that I’d recommend watching and riffing on. Kevin Sorbo is surprisingly fun in the lead role and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Thomas Ian Griffith playing a delightful villain. There’s plenty of small things that made me laugh and the fight scenes are somewhat entertaining (if not a little cheesy) as well.
Yes the plot isn’t much (and apparently is nothing like the Conan novels) and things move extremely quickly. The acting isn’t great and the budget really isn’t there either (some of the effects are actually quite decent but there are some that are absolutely dreadful). However, many of those things are what helps make B-movies so fun. It’s fun to laugh at the poor acting (or cheesiness of the performances in the cases of Kevin Sorbo and Thomas Ian Griffith) or the hilarious dialogue. A low budget just leads to more cheesiness. Kull the Conqueror isn’t a completely inept B-movie the likes of Andy Sidaris or Ed Wood would churn out (I’d probably give it a 2 or 2.5/5 even if I wasn’t grading it as a B-movie), it kind of straddles the line between actual movie and B-movie. Would I recommend it as a serious movie, probably not. However, I don’t think it is as God awful as the critics made it out to be either. Kull the Conqueror does shine the most as a B-movie that you can riff on. For those purposes, I was entertained enough for it to earn a 3.5/5. If you aren’t into B-movies though, this is probably something you should skip even if it isn’t quite as bad as most say.
Splitting Heirs is a black comedy movie about the Dukes of Bournemouth, a historically unlucky family of British royalty. The latest Duke even forgot his infant son in a restaurant. After the baby disappears, to avoid a scandal, he heads down to the police department and claims a random baby as his Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace. Thirty or so years later, when the Duke dies, his “son” (Rick Moranis) takes over the title. However, his co-worker and friend Tommy Patel (Eric Idle) begins to believe he is the actual heir and will do anything to claim the status and riches he believes should be his.
Splitting Heirs is one very odd duck. I almost turned it off after the first 30 minutes or so. Almost none of the jokes early on work and many of them are either groan-worthy or even in bad taste (“You don’t have to worry about me, dear. I’m bi-sexual. Whenever I want to have sex, I have to buy it.” and Eric Idle’s character somehow not realizing he was adopted into an Indian family). The first half of the movie is absolutely dreadful, I’m pretty sure I didn’t laugh at anything. However, I’m glad I soldiered on because after the movie gets all of its unfunny jokes out of the way, it actually becomes somewhat good in the second half. Not good enough to completely make up for its embarrassingly bad first 30 minutes, but good enough for Splitting Heirs to earn an average rating at least.
Once Splitting Heirs gets away from its terrible jokes and starts getting sillier, it becomes a heck of a lot funnier. There’s a sequence of funny gags showing off just how unlucky the possible Duke of Bournemouth is and how lucky the actual current one is that often had me laughing out loud. John Cleese, one of the biggest highlights of the movie, also starts showing up more often in the second half as well (though his character still isn’t used enough). Cleese probably got about 70% of the laughs for me despite only appearing in 20% of the movie (if that). The rest of the cast is a bit mixed. Some critics thought that Rick Moranis and Eric Idle should have switched roles. I’m not sure I completely agree with that but I do think they might have been a bit miscast (especially Moranis, though he does the best he can with the role). I don’t think either of them are anywhere near their best in this movie but they aren’t terrible either. Also of note, a young Catherine Zeta-Jones is in this film as well. Despite this being just her third film role she holds her own with the well-known comedy stars like Moranis, Idle, and Cleese.
I’ve rarely seen a movie rebound from such an awful opening like this. It’s so night and day that if I ever watch Splitting Heirs again, I’ll probably just skip the beginning and go right to the middle. Unfortunately a movie review needs to be a summation of all of the film’s parts and the early bits are just awful. With a better first half, this could have easily been a hilarious movie. Instead, the 3.5/5 middle and ending is only enough to bring the 1.5 or 2/5 beginning up to an overall average score of 3/5.
Renegades is an action crime drama featuring two actors in their younger days who would eventually become action stars, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips (apparently they are also real-life friends as well). Kiefer is an undercover cop named Buster McHenry who is trying to catch a dirty cop planning a diamond heist. When the crime boss behind the heist (Marino, played by Robert Knepper) changes the plan at the last minute, Buster is forced to tag along on the job and the heist quickly unravels. Making things even worse, Marino steals a Native American lance during the escape that he assumes is valuable. Unfortunately for him, that lance is an important artifact for the Lakota tribe and Hank Storm (Lou Diamond Phillips) makes it his mission to retrieve it. He gets some (at first unwilling) help from Buster as both have a score to settle (Buster wants to bring down Marino and the dirty cop).
Renegades is a pretty standard action movie outside of the amazing, lengthy, and sometimes cheesy early chase scene. Unfortunately things slow down from there (probably half of the budget went to this car chase). Renegades never gets truly boring but it is missing some action in the middle and 10-15 minutes probably could have been chopped off the run time (90-95 minutes would have been better than the 105 it runs). There’s still plenty of shootouts, chases on foot, and other action but it all pales in comparison to the opening car chase. When you start things off with such an exciting action scene, it’s hard for the rest of them to stack up.
I’ve long been a fan of 24 so it was a bit of fun to pretend like this was Jack Bauer’s origin story. His character is actually reasonably similar, he even utters several of Bauer’s catchphrases like “son of a bitch” and he has a knack for doing whatever it takes to get information out of people. Kiefer Sutherland is definitely the highlight in the acting department as he gets to do Jack Bauer stuff throughout the film. On the other hand, Lou Diamond Phillips is saddled with one of the most boring characters I’ve seen in awhile, though his acting is pretty wooden at times as well.
Overall, Renegades is pretty much the definition of an average, standard action movie. The heist and ensuing car chase are great but the rest of the film is pretty much as middle-of-the-road as it gets. Renegades is very watchable but not something you absolutely need to see unless you really love action movies or either of the two leads. 3/5 (but just barely)
Video Quality and Final Thoughts
As usual, I’m going to point out that I am far from an expert on the topic of video quality. I’m terrible at picking up on the little things that make a Blu-ray look nice or barely better than a DVD. I didn’t really notice anything God awful video quality-wise on these three Blu-rays but it’s not like a full restoration was done on any of these films either. While I watched them on different days, I believe Splitting Heirs looked the worst of the three (but as a comedy, video quality isn’t super important to begin with). I thought Renegades looked pretty good for a film from the late ’80s and Kull the Conqueror was kind of in the middle (decent video quality but nothing to write home about). All three releases I received only contained the trailer and no other bonus features.
While none of these titles are amazing, all three of them were worth watching in their own way. There’s a pretty fun and funny B-movie (Kull the Conqueror), a comedy that starts off poorly but redeems itself (at least somewhat) by the end (Splitting Heirs), and a fun-enough action movie (Renegades). Outside of the first half of Splitting Heirs, I wasn’t disappointed by any of these movies but none of them are absolutely must-watches either. If they sound interesting to you, pick them up.
Kull the Conqueror, Splitting Heirs and Renegades were released on Blu-ray on October 19, 2021.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copies of Kull the Conqueror, Splitting Heirs, and Renegades used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.