Sunday, 22 August 2010

Weird Crime Theatre and Savage Sword

Weird Crime Theatre's review of Savage Sword is interesting, but as you'll see, has a few shockers too.

Conan was the role Arnold was born to play. Anyone who says Terminator is talking out of their ass. Why would Skynet program all the T-800 units with Austrian accents?! Is that supposed to make them less detectable?! No — in Conan, Arnold works because of the exotic accent and the physique. Anyone who doubts Arnold’s range as an actor in this movie needs only look at the 1997 Conan TV series starring Ralf Moeller to see real cardboard acting. And at least Ralf had the size and an accent — I am gravely concerned about the newest movie version coming out, though it’s one which I will surely never see.

It never ceases to amaze me whenever I come across people who've read the comics, and yet still assert that Arnold was the ideal Conan. I just can't see it, folks.  The exotic accent and the physique - maybe, at a stretch.  But you're seriously telling me that there was nobody around in 1982 who couldn't have done a better role than Arnold?  Anyone?  Anywhere?  Because I can name at least one: Clancy Brown.  Now he would've made an interesting Conan. But let's play the "who would I have rather seen play Conan in an actual Robert E. Howard adaptation in 1982" game later.

I loved “The Citadel at the center of Time” which is a perfect Conan adventure. The advantage may be that Thomas was adapting Robert E Howard stories for many of the tales here, whereas he was often working from scratch on the regular series (although “Citadel” is a Thomas original, and admittedly REH‘s later Conan stories were less engaging than the very earliest ones).

WHOA there, Kumar: you sure about that?  Sure, you have "The Servants of Bit-Yakin," and "Man-Eaters of Zamboula" to contend with, but "The People of the Black Circle," "Beyond the Black River," The Hour of the Dragon and "Red Nails" - all later stories - were less engaging than the earliest?  If anything, I'd say it was the middle-stories that were the "less engaging" ones, and even then, it isn't as simple as that.

"Citadel at the Center of Time" is about as Jack Kirby as Savage Sword got during the Thomas run.  So... no, not a perfect Conan adventure, really.

Still, there's really nice praise for Alfredo Alcala:

The interesting thing here is Buscema’s inkers. Alcala is the best of the lot — a real master who shades using “lines.” I don’t know if there is a name for this technique but it is a style that I most closely associate with Albrecht Durer, Punch magazine, Gary Gianni (who should be a superstar), and John Totleben’s inking work on the Alan Moore Swamp Thing run. Boy, those Image guys who were obsessed with lots-of-little-lines-for-shading could have learned a lesson from Alcala. (Years later, Alcala himself would go on to work on Swamp Thing, but by then his style would evolve into something completely different.)

Preach on, brother.  Alcala is really awesome: his work on "Slithering Shadow" (ugh, hate that title) was brilliant.

Look at that.  It's masterful.  It's almost like an intaglio or woodcut.

Another weird thing is that I feel like I’ve read the REH adaptations — like “Black Colossus” — multiple times before in different adaptations, and some of them really recently: the original REH stories, the current Dark Horse versions, maybe also even in Marvel’s regular Conan series as well. What’s interesting about the current Dark Horse series though is that they are really filling in all the gaps. For example, in one story here, Conan mentions being the last of the living “Free Companions” and surviving in the marshes for days. It’s about two or three sentences of dialog, but just a few months back, the DH series spent THREE ISSUES on this storyline! Everyone will have their preference, but I kind of preferred the DH approach.

While I love the idea of what Dark Horse is doing, it's the execution that bothers me.  The idea of expanding elements of, say, "Rogues in the House" - where we are more acquainted with the hapless revolutionaries, Murilo and Nabonidus - is an excellent idea: however, I don't like how they effectively transformed Mitraism into some ham-fisted Catholic Church allegory in the process.  In "The God in the Bowl," I appreciate the introduction of Kalanthes earlier in the story: that said, I don't like how they depicted him, as I think portraying a Stygian priest as black (and we don't know Kalanthes was Stygian at all, but let's go with that) goes entirely against the theocratic caste-driven nature of Stygia. And I certainly love the idea of making Born on the Battlefield based on the bits and pieces we know of Conan's origin as opposed to earlier iterations like Conan the Barbarian or Conan of Venarium (a shame they didn't bother with that for The Hand of Nergal and The Hall of the Dead), but that doesn't mean I like the stupidly powerful Aquiromians, the wimpification of Cimmerian women and the fact that Venarium is essentially Conan's fault.

So I like the DH approach, just not how they went about it.


  1. I know you said let's play the 1982 casting game for CONAN THE BARBARIAN later, but I have to say that I can really see Clancy Brown doing Conan. All anyone has to do is take a look at him as the Kurgan in HIGHLANDER (he wipes Lambert off the screen), and you will see the gravitas that he could have brought to the role. Of course, 1982 would have been very early in his career (according to IMDB, BAD BOYS in 1983 was film debut), but I think that he could have pulled off a young Conan (Brown was born in 1959) quite well. This will definitely have to go into my What If file, right beside HAMMER FILMS getting the rights to Solomon Kane in the early 1960s and doing a series of films with Christopher Lee as the grim Puritan. The saddest words, what might have been....

  2. Alcala's hatching technique is more akin to Franklin Booth then Albrtecht durer.

    You know, just a little bit of basic research goes a long way when you're writing a review and you don't end up sounding like a nerdy fanboy who doesn't know what he is talking about.

  3. Too right, syon: Christopher Lee as Solomon Kane is just perfect casting.

    M.D., I didn't even think to look for who Alcala evokes, but Booth's a good one. Durer isn't too far off, though: he did a couple of very detailed intaglios.

  4. I'd personally like to see more Faux woodcut style artwork.. but then I've got a pretty big soft spot for Gustav Dore...

  5. I heard the comparison between Alcala and Gustave Dore too... by the way what is exactly an intaglio, a kind of sculpture of wood?
    I think it is difficult to think about an actor for the 1982 Conan film... the muscular guys arrived later...

  6. Intaglio is a lot like woodcut, except instead of wood, metal is engraved on to provide the printing surface.

    It is hard to think of alternatives for Conan in 1982, surprisingly enough, though I think Brown would've been good.

  7. and Mark Gregory (Marco di Gregorio) the 17 years old,in 1882,bello italiano that started in the Bronx films by Enzo G Castellari