Sunday 28 February 2010

I Found Garrick!

Best of all, my patriotic ego leapt in joy at the sight of fellow Scots Rory McCann and Stewart Moore, who sports a mighty beard that mine wants to be when it grows up.
--Yours truly, in my Solomon Kane review

I'm thrilled to find Stewart Kenneth Moore has a fine blog (two in fact), not least because he was one of my favourite parts of the film. He, along with Rory McCann, brought a much appreciated Scottish flavour to the film. Sadly, the majority of his expansive brush has been shorn to a more manageable size, but I will pay tribute to his glorious bristles here.

To Stewart Kenneth Moore's Beard! May it find its way across Beardfrost Bridge to Vandykehalla.

Triangulation: Solomon Kane, Konahn el Destructor, Immortal Fantasy, and Things to Come

Another busy week here, at the REH forums, and at The Cimmerian.

In what is quite possibly my longest Cimmerian article, I delve into the Solomon Kane film. With a week later to ruminate, I think I've settled on "a good enough little film on its own merits, though naturally with many flaws." Interestingly, Paul Berrow liked the review, and said he'd have no reservations circulating it. Paul is one of the producers of the film: wonder if Jim Lad and MJB have read it?

On Thursday, I celebrated the first anniversary of my unofficial Cimmerian debut with El Ingenioso Destructor Rey Konahn de Simaria. I just wish Steve was still alive to read it. Hopefully he's having a good chuckle in Valhalla.

Saturday I chat about Charles R. Saunders' updates and Immortal Fantasy, the fun graphic novel from Winston Blakely. It'd be awesome if Winston and Charles did a comic adaptation of Imaro, or made up a new S&S hero together.

As for the future, Taran over at the Robert E. Howard forum brought a hateful little scribbling from Hans Joachim Alpers to my attention, and he makes a powerful case that this essay could have been a significant factor in setting back scholarship of fantasy for decades. As is tradition for The Cimmerian, I'm planning on giving it a good thrashing too. It's particularly the implication of comparing Conan and The Lord of the Rings to fascism that infuriates me beyond belief, as any fool would know Howard and Tolkien's hatred for the ideology in their letters and interviews.

Friday 26 February 2010

You Cannot Escape, Ruthless Culture!

You might've noticed that the offending article that attracted my wrath has mysteriously vanished. Well, being the good little sport I am, I saved the subscriptions for the comments, so not all is lost. Gather round, ye!

Patrick H said the following:

*cough*Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream *cough*

Oh yes, that hilarious "wouldn't it be funny if Hitler wrote High Fantasy, and it turned out to be just like real High Fantasy, because real High Fantasy is, like, totally fascist and junk?" He even called Hitler's pseudo-novel Lord of the Swastika. Subtle.

Thursday 25 February 2010

On the Continued Relevence of Pulp Racism

Featuring Solomon Kane in "Red Shadows," where apparently all the positive depiction of N'Longa as a wise, intelligent, benevolent black man is ignored for a single paragraph, and apparently how one paragraph that describes an exceptionally horrible individual somehow computes to an illustration of everyday black Americans... despite the text explicitly noting the individual's - well, individuality.


Wednesday 24 February 2010

Unanswered Questions: Solomon Kane

A fridge moment is a thought that occurs to someone after the initial viewing experience, derived from the idea that you watch the show, enjoy, then when you open the fridge door for the milk... you remember something.

It's usually something like a plot hole, forgotten thread, or something along those lines, but other times, it's just a case of being inattentive or not reading between the lines. I had a few of these for Solomon Kane. Sometimes, further thought reveals hidden depths you didn't think of beforehand, as well as a rather crazy theory that actually makes everything fall into place.

Naturally, thar be spoilers in these waters!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Solomon Kane: The Verdict

Well, there it is.

If I were going with a star rating, I'd do it thusly:

As a film: 5/10
It's alright, but not great. Good acting, decent production values.

As a Robert E. Howard adaptation: 3/10
Kane at least comes from Devon, sailed with Drake, is a swordsman with black hair and light eyes, so he fits the phenotype. James Purefoy as Solomon Kane (other coast) was awesome, and showed sparks of the real Kane. Robert E. Howard is the second name seen on the credits, which is awesome. All that's enough for three points. This is unprecedented, since I'd give the other four REH films 0/10.

As an action flick: 6/10
A lot of "badass" moments, great action choreography, plus the usual Rocky-esque "beat him down so it's cathartic when he starts kickin' ass" routine. The Overlord's entrance for the final battle is almost ludicrously awesome, like the gates of Hell just opened up.

As a Sword-and-Sorcery film: 8/10
I have no stock for nostalgia: this is better than just about all the other Sword-and-Sorcery films I've seen.

So, yeah. I didn't hate it. Maybe it's because I went in expecting Kull the Conqueror, and so was pleasantly surprised. Who knows, maybe there's hope for REH in the cinema after all.

Monday 22 February 2010

Shad Gaspard for Ukafa!

I've previously said that I really hope Shad gets the role of Ukafa, since it's his lifelong dream to be in a Conan movie. Well, the big dude's a step closer, according to his myspace blog.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Solomon Kane Review Reviews: Robert Mann

A good review, for once: Robert Mann.

Still, a few queries.

The creation of pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, known for characters such as Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror and Red Sonja, Solomon Kane is a character that can be distinctly classified as an anti-hero. Extremely dark, even by the standards of Howard, who has written some pretty dark stuff, he is a character that makes even the likes of Batman seem quite tame by comparison and, given the big screen potential for such a character, it is actually rather surprising that he hasn’t been brought to the big screen before.

It's fairly clear he doesn't have much experience with the literary character, since he considers him "distinctly classed as an antihero" who would make "even the likes of Batman seem quite tame."

This is entirely the creation of the film, based on a very extreme interpretation of the poetry. In reality, Solomon Kane is possibly the LEAST "anti-heroic" of his characters. Sure, he's dark and conflicted, but he's also immensely kind and gentle to the innocent. He'd only be an antihero if he was put into a modern context, where laws, society and mores are very different from the 15/1600s.

There are, however, a few things that set this film apart from other films in the sword and sorcery genre, things you may not expect. For starters, the acting is much better than it really needs to be. James Purefoy is excellent as the titular character, delivering a thorughly convincing performance of a character that is actually more complex than you might expect.

He mentions the performances being "better than they needed to be", but also says Kane is "a character more complex than you might expect"... surely a performance would need to be good in order to portray such a character?

Still, those problems aside, it's an interesting review, well thought out, and actually explaining why and how he came to his conclusions. Would that more critics took after his example.

Friday 19 February 2010

Solomon Kane Review Reviews: Nigel Powlson

Oh boy.

Nigel Powlson's review.

BEFORE he created Conan the Barbarian Robert E Howard tested out the plot on Solomon Kane. Instead of the steppes, we have Somerset; instead of animal skins we have black hats, instead of paganism we have Christianity.

Otherwise it's the same tale of a cast out child who grows up to seek revenge for an act of violence by a brutal nemesis.

And with one fell swoop, all Nigel's credibility in this review goes whooshing out the window. No, Nigel, Robert E. Howard did not "test out the plot" of Conan on Solomon Kane, because...

  1. The story of Conan the Barbarian has nothing to do with Robert E. Howard
  2. The story of Solomon Kane has nothing to do with Robert E. Howard
  3. Just as Howard's Conan and Kane are very different from each other, so too are the stories of Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane as films!
  4. Konahn wasn't "cast out" as a child, he was captured and enslaved. Big freakin' difference, I'da thought.
  5. Bassett's Kane isn't driven by revenge, he's driven by desire to save his immortal soul. Again, I'da thought that would be a big freakin' difference.

Quintuple point failure, damn. How could it possibly get worse?

Ladies & Gentlemen: Conan the Berber.

Remember back when I talked about Conan the Sumerian?

Well, this is quite possibly the greatest example I've ever seen. A scholarly, thoughtful, well-written article that tries to define Conan the Barbarian's ethnicity... judged purely upon the films. Absolutely no references to Robert E. Howard, or even the comics. The author assumes that none of those things exist, and uses only the films as a guide--and he still gets stuff wrong.

It's a thing of beauty, and not just because of the Howard mistakes.

Triangulation: Jim Lad, Lil' Leo, Weird Tales Troika, Momo, and Painbrush

Getting back in my stride, I think.

Monday sees an interview with James Purefoy. I am totally sold on Jim lad, which is amazing considering how much I disliked him in "Rome": turns out, you're not really supposed to consider Marc Anthony a swell chap. Jim lad, though, he's awesome. I'd love to meet him and say "job well done" on his Blackbeard, the best performance of Teach between him and Angus McFadyen.

Tuesday's scoop is Leo Howard cast as the Littlest Barbarian. As with Momo, I'm not fighting down the urge to vomit in rage, even though there are certain problems. Give him blue contacts/digital colour correction, give him a more Cimmerian hairstyle, and he could work. His theatrical martial arts styles means he has great control over his body and strong athleticism: I can definitely see him climbing sheer cliffs, felling hawks on the wing, spearing wild beasts and killing Picts at a 10th-grade level. I still think he's too cute, though.

Thursday brings us an update on the Howard-Lovecraft-Smith poetry books. I can't help but be a bit disappointed. On the Howard side, I lament the absence of "Cimmeria," "A Word From The Outer Dark," "Red Thunder," "The Bell of Morni," and the Solomon Kane pieces, which is strange, since "The King and the Oak" appears. Amazingly, not a single one of the Smith poems I thought would be foregone conclusions--“The Hashish Eater, Or, The Apocalypse of Evil,” “Lament of the Stars,” “The Titans in Tartarus,” “The Sea-Gods” and “The Song of the Worlds”--made the cut, not even the stupendous "The Hashish-Eater," which utterly bemuses me. I was also woefully inaccurate in guessing stories for the Lovecraft collection, where again, none of my predictions--“The Cats,” “Providence,” “The House,” “Festival,” and “The City”--are present. I'm also surprised that Lovecraft's epic "Fungi from Yuggoth" is represented by only a handful of its thirty-six chapters, especially since Lovecraft's poetic output is considerably smaller than that of his Texan and Californian friends. Still, these books weren't meant to be "the complete Howard/Lovecraft/Smith" Weird Poetry collections, and the omissions might well be the result of copyright and public domain issues.

Friday, Momo Spaketh! There's a minor controversy over at the Robert E. Howard forums, as his mention of hoping Conan could get him a role on Pirates of the Carribean rubbed some REH fans the wrong way, the implication being that Momo viewed Conan as a mere "stepping stone" onto more worthy projects. I think it's a bit of an overreaction: more likely, Momo was simply saying what other jobs he'd like to do, and I'm sure being Conan would be a springboard if it was any good. Just talkin' bout his job. Besides, i can officially never make fun of him again after seeing his mammy's face. Her little smile will haunt me whenever I think of poking fun at Momo. Damn it.

That was originally going to be my Saturday post, but yet again, I posted too early. Rather than cash in one of my "week off" chips, I decided to put together a quick one for Saturday. I'd been meaning to mention Strom's wonderful and touching memorial to Dan on The Cimmerian, but never got around to it: I wanted it to be more than just a link and a paragraph. Still, it's more important it's on TC at all than worry about its content.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Lego The Lord of the Rings!?!

It could happen, according to Traveler's Tales, the developers of the rather brilliant Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman video games. EA has dropped the LotR rights to Warner Brothers... who owns Traveler's Tales.

Monday 15 February 2010

Joe Queenan, you silly man.

Every time I think the British Press couldn't possibly be more stupid, something like this comes along. As a change of pace, this rant isn't about how he misrepresents Howard: this is more broad.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Triangulation: Saunders and Finn, and other stuff

I'm suffering a hideous case of writer's block. I desperately wanted to get back into the groove, but nothing's working. I have half a dozen unfinished posts wallowing in limbo, and no idea how to complete them. Drat. Anyway, two short posts again.

On Tuesday, there's a link to a cool Charles R. Saunders interview. Thus far, I still haven't read all the Imaro material: it's one of those series I want to savour and enjoy for a while. Luckily, the story format lends itself well to such reading. I'm kind of tempted to do a picture of Imaro standing triumphant over "Fools' Doom."

Saturday, I seriously hit that block. I had a ton of ideas for Valentine's Day to complement Barbara's beautiful article, but nothing clicked. So, I just went with a link to Mark Finn's awesome post on the Robert E. Howard forums. I feel really annoyed at letting the team down: if we don't get back on track, the site's momentum (which has been smashing records since November) might stall or even slide, which would be really disappointing given how we've been doing.

Well, hopefully I'll amend that. I have a few things on the backburner I could fast track: Hyborian Age Gazetteers, Barbarians of Middle-earth, more Almuric, and something special planned for 25th February.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Whither Goest, Conan of Sumeria?

The recent nonsense about Conan the Sumerian got me wondering: have any professionals ever made this classic rookie mistake? Well, only one way to find out: Avast mateys, rig out and hoist away, we of this proud ship HMS Google brave uncharted waters!