Solomon Kane is the most deadly "puritan" you'll ever come across - a badass-turned-pacifict-turned-redeemer. To give you an idea, at one point he gets crucified by his enemies, tears himself off the cross and scares their asses nakad. [She gave it a startling review.] It's hard not to be at least a little impressed with a film that's willing to crucify its main character halfway through.
REH would never put such a scene in a SK story....I remember the absolute ridicule of the scene where Kane shoots from their horses the two riders on each side of him. Having seen the clip, and the closeness of the riders, it does not appear to be so utterly out of the question for a man of Kane's martial prowess. Folks, it is an action movie. And remember, in the stories Howard clearly intimated that Kane at times had superhuman strength and skill due to the power of his faith.
....its common in films these days for writers and directors to completely ignore the laws of physics when having their heroes perform heroic stunts....
To adapt Robert E. Howard's lesser-known sword and sorcery hero Solomon Kane, would probably have been a difficult task for any filmmaker, let alone one who has never done anything quite so big or epic, but Michael Bassett jumps in head first and ends up waist-deep as he tries to capture the tone and feel of the warrior-turned-preacher fighting injustice in the dangerous forests of 17th Century.
First, we get a prologue showing the prior incarnation of Solomon Kane, a fierce warrior killing for gold and money without thought of consequences, he ends up being the last man standing on one such pillaging mission, left alone to accept the devil's claim on his soul. The story then jumps forward after Kane has spent a year in a monastery trying to find redemption by renouncing the violence that previously comprised his lifestyle. He meets a family of pilgrims making the journey to America but they fall afoul of a group of vicious bandits who have become the henchmen of the demonic "Malakai" and his masked warrior. Through the following years, Solomon Kane is certainly no longer an anti-hero. Like Elric of Melniboné, he's always unwaveringly on the side of good....
Based on Robert E Howard's 17th Century Puritan pulp fiction character, SOLOMON KANE begins in media res, with Solomon and his ill-fated ship crew coming face-to-face with the grim reaper. This particular reaper, unfortunately, is in the employ of Satan himself and damns Kane's soul for a life of wickedness, greed and throwing knives into peoples faces in a really cool way. A year later Kane, now living in an English monastery, is kicked out when the head monk senses our hero will only bring trouble for the 17th Century peaceniks. On the road Kane hooks up with Pete Postlethwaite and his brood, a family of puritans headed for the coast and a persecutionless life in the New Worlde. Needless to say, the family have 'victims' written all over them in huge, medieval script, and things don't go well. Thematically, the story borrows elements from the Howard story RED SHADOWS, but it's really its own beast. Which is a shame, in a way, because the author knew how to weave a damn good tale and SOLOMON KANE's script is certainly the weakest thing about it. We're never really sure why Kane's soul is damned, or how that's connected with the evil magician who has taken over his father's (Max Von Sydow) castle. Oh yes, Kane is also a member of the aristocracy, banished from the land by his dad in true Joseph Campbell fashion. Director Michael J Bassett also seems just a little TOO fond of a certain fantasy trilogy. A horseback chase sequence, while exciting, was even more impressive first time around in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, while the final assault on Kane's ancestral castle involves a battle in torrential rain, part Helm's Deep, part SEVEN SAMURAI. Most egregious of all is the final showdown between Solomon Kane and, really this is giving nothing away, Old Nick himself. Considering how creative much of the makeup and design work is in the film, and it really is quite striking, it comes as something of a shock to see a certain fire demon turn up for the finale. "You shall not pass!" indeed. And yet....there's so much to like about SOLOMON KANE. As mentioned above, the design work is outstanding. This is a grimy, gritty middle ages that has rarely been seen outside the early work of Terry's Jones and Gilliam. The snowy, grey landscapes of England's West Country (actually Prague, for the most part) are frequently breathtaking. The action scenes are satisfyingly low tech, with seemingly little CGI but plenty of decapitations and arterial sprays. It's a shame they weren't put in the service of a better story, but when the action scenes kick in you're unlikely to be overly concerned. The films biggest asset, however,is its lead actor. It's a little disconcerting watching James Purefoy in this role when you know that he left the production of V FOR VENDETTA having already filmed some scenes as the eponymous character. In some of the many shots where he's silhouetted against the ubiquitous grey and rain-streaked Somerset sky, all flowing cape and stovepipe hat, he's uncannily similar to Alan Moore's anarchist anti-hero. He also shares a similar penchant for dispatching England's enemies with the throw of dagger to the neck. Purefoy plays Kane as if he's in a state of persistent physical agony, which is quite fitting. He's really rather magnificent in the role and brings Hugh Jackman levels of charisma to the part. No small feat considering Kane is the sort of chap who makes Matthew Hopkins look like a member of the ACLU. Purefoy's Solomon Kane may also be the first swashbuckling, sword wielding hero with a British West Country accent since Nigel Terry's King Arthur in Excalibur. Purefoy is the main reason that, at the end of the film, with the suggestion of more adventures to come, you hope SOLOMON KANE will do decent enough box office to warrant a franchise. This first outing is far from perfect, but there's considerable potential and the distinct promise of better to come.
The results are an impressive looking film on a reasonably limited budget, technically spectacular in terms of production design, cinematography and its epic score.
JULY 1, 2009
"Castle of the Devil" in stores
When Solomon Kane stumbles upon the body of a boy hanged from a rickety gallows, he goes after the man responsible -- a baron feared by the peasants from
miles around. Something far worse than the devilish baron or the terrible, intelligent wolf that prowls the woods lies hidden in the
ruined monastery beneath the baron's castle, where a devil-worshiping priest died in chains centuries ago.
Robert E. Howard Home Restored by Project Pride
Project Pride is a community organization in Cross Plains, Texas that bought
the Howard House in 1989 and has since restored it to a museum in Robert E.
Howard's memory. Howard, one of the world's most highly acclaimed writers of
fantasy and adventure, pounded out stories of many genres in the little white
house on the western edge of Cross Plains, where he lived with his parents from
1919 until his death in 1936. Although he created many other characters, Conan
the Barbarian has probably become Howard's most well known conquering hero.
Thanks to financial support from local people, fans around the world and from
the estate of the late Alla Ray Morris, who had inherited the rights to REH's
works, the house has been restored and furnished to reflect the mood and spirit
of the environment of the home as closely as possible. A few items that were
used by the Howard's have been returned to the house to be permanently displayed
in their original positions. Other period pieces from the 1920's and 1930's
have been donated or loaned by local citizens.
Robert's room is especially well done, showing the crowded conditions of the
little room that had been created for him by enclosing part of a porch. It is
easy to imagine his big frame hunched over the old Underwood typewriter as he
hammered out stories that sold for a penny a word in the pulps of that time.
Each June, Project Pride, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association and the Robert E. Howard Foundation sponsor a two-day celebration of the writings of this native son. Ruth Stein probably identified the reason for the continuing success of this gathering when she wrote in a Literary Tour Guide to the U.S. (Wm. Morrow & Co. 1979), "Standing in a house where one's favorite author lived, or seeing the desk at which he or she wrote, or visiting the haunts the writer once knew, establishes a certain kinship with him."
Visitors come from around the world to learn more about Howard as they enjoy special guests from the broad spectrum of Howard's writings, panel discussions, tours of the Museum and local environs, special postal cancellations and many other sidebar activities.
The Cross Plains Library graciously extends their hours of operation for the week-end so visitors may view their Howard holdings. Copies of original typescripts may be purchased and the local newspaper is available for study on microfilm at the Library.
Throughout the rest of the year, people continue to visit Cross Plains to see where Robert Howard lived and wrote. We have welcomed these guests as they share with us their Howard collections, their own publications, their enthusiasm and their gifts that continue to support our efforts in commemorating Howard.
Project Pride is proud of this man whose constantly growing fame has brought
worldwide attention to Cross Plains. It was our dream to restore the Howard home and to make it possible for other dreamers to walk here. Although the restoration has been completed and the house has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1994, it takes continual maintenance to keep the house in its restored condition.
Since being formed as a non-profit organization in 1986 to promote the Cross Plains area and to preserve and document the history of Cross Plains, Project Pride has concentrated on the vision of bringing the world to our doorstep. We welcome anyone interested in the purposes of Project Pride to join our organization. Membership is $3.00 per year for individuals or $5.00 for a family. Membership fees and other donations may be mailed to: Project Pride, PO Box 534, nbsp;Cross Plains, TX 76443.
Posted by Official Editor Bill "Indy" Cavalier on 31st May 2008
Like so many of you, I love the feel of a book in my hands, so I took the 20 dollar hit and ordered Francis DiPietro's ROBERT E. HOWARD: The Supreme Moment, from Lulu.com. It's also available as a download for four bucks, but I don't like reading books on a computer.
I've only been able to skim read this book - got about six things going on at once right now, including the upcoming REH Days - y'all come! - but it looks "OK". But because of a skim read, I can only give you a skim review for now.
The cover is kinda funky, with its negative green & grey imagery, and little tiny photos of REH grabbed from Joe Marek's REH web page. (Joe Marek - now there's someone who has fallen off the Howard map…) The big red copy at the top of the really ugly back cover dramatically says: "He gave life to a genre, and saved death for himself." So, is this "The Supreme Moment" of the book's title? That's what I initially thought: another guy dwelling on Howard's suicide…sigh. Actually, Mr. DiPietro explains inside that The Supreme Moment is a title to a Howard story -which ends in suicide. Doh! OK - asked and answered, Mr. Indy.
Anyway, Mr. DiPietro tells us he will offer up a fresh perspective on REH. While previous biographies were done in a linear fashion, he explains (and then shows us) that his biography of REH is non-linear. After availing himself of every biographical scrap of information he could find about REH, Mr. DiPietro cobbles everything back together in a kind of hodge-podge fashion. Oddly enough, I didn't find this as distracting as it sounds. There's a lot of info and speculation in 216 pages here.
The Supreme Moment seems to be a well-enough written REH biography (from what my skimming has told me), drawn from the major REH biographical pieces: The Last Celt, Dark Valley Destiny, One Who Walked Alone, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, the two Necronomicon Press Selected Letters volumes, and to a much lesser extent, Blood & Thunder (which kinda gets the short shrift in a couple of places, as I recall…) Oddly omitted is Rusty Burke's A Short Biography of Robert E. Howard from Cross Plains Comics. A number of Howard scholars are quoted herein, and a pile of stuff was copped from various online websites & blogs. However, there's no evidence of any first hand research on Mr. Di Pietro's part. Has he ever been to Cross Plains and breathe Howard's dust? Had any of the Cross Plains Howard Experience that most of us reading this find to be a palpable entity? In his introduction, he asks right off: "Who the hell am I, and where do I get off writing a new biography of Robert E. Howard?" Hmmm, he's not the only one asking that question.
Mr. DiPietro reprints H.P. Lovecraft's The Silver Key within the pages of this book, and devotes a whole chapter on how it was an important influence of REH. While there's mention of various Howard fan publications, I couldn't find any notice of important Howard events like Howard Days in Cross Plains. (Again, I just skimmed…I'll owe y'all a better review sometime later…)
While the ever popular question "Was Robert E. Howard a Racist?" and it's further discussion are no where to be found, Mr. DiPietro does raise the "Was REH a Homosexual?" question. Apparently, some situations involving REH and Lindsey Tyson have tripped Mr. DiPietro's trigger. Whatever.
So, we have a new Robert E. Howard biography here that doesn't shed any new surprise news about Robert E. Howard, and is filled with a lot of rehashed biographical stuff and Howard Speculation (a great hobby of mine, so I like it here), and I find it all to be "OK". I may change my tune upon more intense reading, but like I said, I love a book in my hands, and if it's about Robert E. Howard, it's particularly "OK".
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