Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Thursday, October 7, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Unnamable (1988)

The Unnamable (1988)
I started watching 1988's The Unnamable tonight thinking for sure I had seen it.  Started it, couldn't remember it, then realized I had seen it.

The Unnamable (1988)

So there must be an unwritten rule that all modern adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft must take place in or around Miskatonic University and/or Arkham. After all, it makes good sense and if I were a filmmaker it is what I would do as well.  Of course, it doesn't mean you always have to do it.

Case in point there is almost more about M.U. here than there is about the titular monster/character here.  We get glimpses into the undergraduate life, the student body (and bodies), even people majoring in things other than medicine and the dark arts.  But all of this is just fluff for the main story.  Again a common problem, how to make a full-length movie out of a short story.

This one features Lovecraft's reoccurring protagonist Randolph Carter (this time played by Mark Kinsey Stephenson).

It is typical late 80s fare. Lots of gore. Lots of implied sexual antics.  

In this second viewing (or third, who knows) I can help but think Randolph Carter here is kind of a jerk. By the time he comes around to helping anyone half the cast is dead. Yeah, it's a horror flick people are going to die, but his laissez-faire attitude borders on sociopathic negligence rather than a cool distance.

I wanted to also watch The Unnamable II but I can't find it anywhere.  This is also a problem I am having with other Lovecraft-based flicks.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 11
First Time Views: 4.5

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)

The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)
Ok. I can already tell that a Lovecraft film-fest is going to be rough.  Lovecraft's writings rarely translate well to the screen, this one is no exception.

The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)

This one looks like it was a student film, except everyone looks too old to be a student. 

The story sort of follows the Lovecraft short story, updated to modern times.

The cast is all unknowns. For most of them, this is their only film credit.  

The filming has an odd sepia tone to it that I thought was more than a little annoying. It certainly gave it a solid straight-to-video vibe about it. 

Again this video commits the worst sin a horror movie can; it was boring. I made it halfway through and ended up fast-forwarding to the end.  I am sure I missed nothing.   But given that I can only give myself half a point.  


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 10
First Time Views: 4.5

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: From Beyond (1986) & Banshee Chapter (2013)

From Beyond (1986) might have been the very first Lovecraft-based movie I ever saw.  I remember having the poster of it hanging in my room until I went off to college and then my brother had it in his room.  I was pleased to also find a new movie based on the same Lovecraft short story and this film.

From Beyond (1986)
From Beyond (1986)

I have been re-watching Star Trek: Enterprise, so I have been getting a fairly constant dose of Jeffrey Combs, but he looks so damn young here.  Incidentally, the doors in the psych ward make the same noise as the doors on classic Trek. 

This movie reunites Combs with Barbara Crampton, director Stuart Gordon, and producer Brian Yuzna.  Gordon wanted a core set of actors he could work with to do a bunch of Lovecraft's stories.  It's didn't quite turn out that way, which is too bad really.  Crampton and Combs have great on-screen chemistry; especially considering they have no scenes where they are "romantically" linked.  This is also the best of the batch of the Lovecraft movies.  Having Barbara Crampton as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, a strong woman as a Lovecraft protagonist is fantastic.   Combs does a great job as Tillinghast and you never once think of him as West from Re-Animator.  Ted Sorel was also fantastic as the mad Dr. Edward Pretorius. 

The movie holds up really well. The only things that seem "dated" in it are the hairstyles and technology.   Even many of the special effects are still great. 

I think I would have rather had a sequel to this one more so than Re-Animator.

Banshee Chapter (2013)
Banshee Chapter (2013)

I sort of got the sequel in Banshee Chapter.  This one combines the Lovecraft tale with the CIA's MK-ULTRA program. It features Katia Winter (who I adored in Sleepy Hollow), Ted Levine (from Silence of the Lambs and more recently The Alienist), and Michael McMillian (formerly of True Blood).

This features some "found footage" material, used to great effect in Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity and I think it works well here too.    In this movie, the dimensional shifting abilities are from a chemical created by the CIA, and some short-wave radio broadcasts over Number Stations.  I will tell you this, if you don't like jump scares, avoid this movie.  

The mixing of Lovecraft's base story, secret CIA programs, weapons-grade hallucinogens, and creepy urban legends makes for an attractive mix.

Katia Winter plays Anne Roland, a journalist searching for her missing friend James Hirsch (McMillian) who filmed himself taking some of MK-ULTRA's super-LSD (DMT-19) and has now disappeared.   She investigates the mystery and stumbles upon a recording of her friend picked up by a short-wave radio hobbyist who also happened to have worked for the NSA.

Ted Levin brilliantly plays Thomas Blackburn, a Hunter S. Thompson-like character.   This is getting better all the time.

Anne views some CIA footage on the effects of the drugs. She watches one of the patients/test subjects get attacked by some creature in the dark.  She also learns that DMT-19 is extracted directly from dead human pineal glands. 

Anne finally gets in contact with Blackburn and they do some DMT-19 created by Blackburn's friend Callie (Jenny Gabrielle).  Callie, who took some DMT-19 earlier, begins to show the same behavior that James did on the tape.  They see creatures that they normally could not see.  Much like how the Resonator does in From Beyond.  At one point we see Callie, all white-skinned and black eyes, vomiting up a ton of blood. It's a lot of fun.  

Monique Candelaria also appears as "Patient 14," one of the CIA test subjects.  She would later make another contribution to Lovecraft media in "Lovecraft Country."

Maybe it is my ears, but I found it helpful to have the Closed Captions turned on.

We learn after some scares and a run in with Callie that Blackburn never gave Anne the drug. Though she can hear and see the creatures.  We also find out the drug can be transmitted via touch and Blackburn was a subject of the CIA experiments when he was a teen.

Pretty good flick, but it sort of fell apart at the end.  I read the director ran out of time for filming and you can kind of tell.  But still, it was fun.  They even name drop Lovecraft in it.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 9
First Time Views: 4

Monday, October 4, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Re-Animator (1985, 1991, 2003)

Re-Animator (1985)
I can't do a Lovecraft film fest and NOT do the Re-Animator series.  Yeah, it is so loosely based on Lovecraft's Herbert West, but it left a long shadow, for good or ill, on all future Lovecraft film adaptions.

Re-Animator (1985)

The first thing I notice about this is how freaking young Jeffery Combs is.  Secondly how much gratuitous nudity there is in this.  Third, re-animated humans are SUPER STRONG!

The scene where they reanimated Rufus the cat has stuck with me for years. Pretty much everyone in this is a little forgettable, save for Jeffery Combs as Herbert West and David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill.  Yes, Barbara Crampton is in it as Meg doing what she does best, screaming and getting naked. 

The version I just watched on the Midnight Pulp did not have the infamous "head giving head" scene, nor did it have the scene where West is injecting some of the reagent into himself like heroin. That might be in the sequel.  Which is for later tonight.  Though this one ends fairly definitively with West, Hill and Meg all dying in the end.  Yeah...I know the title of the movie here.

I have seen this movie, I don't know now, maybe three dozen times.  Never fails to amuse and entertain.  Though it has been a few years since I last saw it and I am surprised which parts seemed to new to me.

I might need to get one of the newer Blu-Ray releases of it.  Though that could just be my tired brain talking.

Bride of Reanimator
Bride of Re-Animator (1991)

Taking place after what is being called the Miskatonic Medical School Massacre, Herbert West and Dan Cain are still working on perfecting the re-animation process.   

This movie, along with the first, completes the Lovecraft short story, more or less. 

This one is also less campy than the first, which is interesting since the camp was one of the main features of the first one.  Although West seems a little more unhinged in this movie.  Almost out of character really. 

There is also far less gratuitous nudity and blood in this one. Of it's there, just not the same as the thirst movie.  I am getting the feeling the director and writers were trying to make a more serious horror movie.  The scenes where the "Bride" is reanimated are very reminiscent of the Bride of Frankenstein with Else Lancaster. The lightning and the rain in the scene helps that feeling. 

David Gale is back as Dr. Carl Hill, a fantastic bad guy to have really.  This also marks one of his last roles before dying due to complications from open-heart surgery.  Hill as a bat-winged flying head is really one of the joys of the film.  

The ending though is pretty campy and crazy.

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

Oh, I am going to be dragging in the morning.  I knew of this movie but did not recall it until I went looking for Bride of Re-Animator on my streaming services.  I found it and figured, let's make a night of it! Plus I need a new watch for this challenge.

This one is different from the other two even if it is supposed to be a direct sequel.  We begin with the last night of the last movie. Young Howard Philips (hehe) is camping out in a tent with a friend when they hear someone go into their house.  They investigate only to find his older sister, but they are quickly attacked by a zombie that kills his sister Emily.  Wandering out of his house he sees the police take Herbert West into custody. West drops one of his re-agents and Howard picks it up.

It's13 years after those events and Herbert West is in prison experimenting on rats. Dr. Howard Philips has joined the prison hospital as the new doctor.  

The movie was made in Spain and sadly has a less than polished feel about it.  I was not surprised to hear it was direct to SciFi production, though I guess it was in some theatres overseas.  The presentation is SD, not HD.

They try for a "Silence of the Lambs" feel to the prison, Arkham State Prison.

Elsa Pataky, aka Liam Hemsworth's wife, appears as Laura Olney a journalist who starts an affair with Dr. Philips.

Philips and West set up a lab space in secret to continue their experiments.  Meanwhile, Laura keeps investigating West's background. The use of the original music for the research/investigation scenes is a nice touch.

West has discovered that the reagent is only half the solution, there is also this "Nano-Plasmic Energy" that jump starts all the cells.  They try it on a pet rat and it comes back to life and 100% fine...well almost.

Laura goes to interview the prisoner that West revived, but is discovered by the Warden. Who promptly gets his ear ripped off. Laura refuses the advances of the Warden and he kills her too.  They bring Laura back to life and use the Warden's NPE to make her normal, but it has some weird side-effects, like making her homicidal.   West also brings back the Warden, but he manages to escape and steal the reagent.  He starts killing prisoners and guards to bring them back to experience death over and over.

A prison riot breaks out and prisoners and the reanimated are all locked in together. 

SWAT teams rush in to stop the rioters. We also learn what happens when a living person injects the pure reagent.  Spoiler, it's messy.

This one ends with Herbert West walking out of the prison into the night.

It wasn't great, but it was fun.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 7
First Time Views: 3

Sunday, October 3, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Dunwich Horror (1970, 2008)

The Dunwich Horror (1970)
The Dunwich Horror is one of Lovecraft's most enduring tales.  We get the demented and evil Whately family.  It is the story that gives us the most information on the Old One and Outer God Yog-Sothoth.   There have been a number of movies based on it, but tonight I want to focus on two, both starring Dean Stockwell.

Double the Dunwich Horror and double Dean Stockwell!

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

So from the start, this movie is not 100% sure if it wants to be Lovecraftian horror of more typical 70s occult-themed horror.  

I do love how the Necronomicon is given to a coed to return to the library like it was a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Dean Stockwell is Wilbur in this one.  He is really young and does a good job acting, BUT he is not a good Wilbur.  That is due to the script really, not the acting. I guess they needed someone to charm Sandra Dee, and a deformed 10-year-old would not do the trick.   Ed Begley (in one of his last roles) is our Dr. Armitage and he brings the right amount of pomposity to the role. 

The biggest crime here is that the movie is so slow. The Whateley home in this movie is far nicer than it ever was in the Lovecraft tale.  

The effects are not great, but fun.  The image of Wilbur's brother is kind of cool. 

There is a lot of conflating of the Old Ones with some sort of satanic aspect, which is fairly irritating, to be honest.  But is it more irritating than Wilbur getting a "love interest?" Hard to say.  

Among other things, this movie is notable for a very, very rare, blink and you will miss it, Sandra Dee topless scene. This was also near the end of her very prolific career. She would only appear in a few more TV episodes. 

The movie ends with Dee's character, Nancy Wagner, pregnant with Wilbur's baby.  I guess he would be in his 50s now.  Sounds like a sequel to me!  The Bride of Dunwich!

The Dunwich Horror (2008)
The Dunwich Horror (2008)

This one has also been called "Witches: The Darkest Horror" and "Witches: The Dunwich Horror." This time the story moves to Louisana. 

Dean Stockwell this time plays Dr. Henry Armitage.  The movie is really not good, to be honest, but it is kind of fun.  It watches like a Call of Cthulhu adventure; exotic locales, strange artifacts, old evil tomes, guest-starring Jeffery Combs (as Wilbur no less).  Even John Dee, Olas Wormius, and the Knights Templar get name-dropped here.  Olas even shows up in a swamp for some reason.

Moving the location to the far south is an interesting one. I am sure in Lovecraft's time New England had its share of strange locales, but now on a larger scale the same "other place" is served by the backwoods southern parts of the country.  Or I might be giving the filmmakers too much credit.  I also can't tell if the effect of Wilbur being "slightly out of this dimension/time" is interesting or irritating. 

While it is not Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror and it is not very good, it kept me watching to the end.

So where are we at now?  I think it is time for another Dunwich Horror movie, this time make it closer to the Lovecraft tale and get Dean Stockwell to play old man Whateley! 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 4
First Time Views: 2

Friday, October 1, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Tragic Ceremony (1972)

Tragic Ceremony (1972)
Time for another October Horror Movie Challenge.   My goal this year is as in previous years, to watch 31 horror movies with at least 20 new ones. This year I am going to try a Lovecraft film fest, know full well it is (or I am) likely doomed to failure on it.  Lovecraft does not translate well onto the big (or small) screens.

But before that gets started I have (as in previous years) some "leftovers" of movies I wanted to see but did not get around to watching.  Tonight is the first.

Tragic Ceremony (1972)

Last year I spent a lot of time watching European, especially Italian, horror films released before 1973.  I wanted to get a good feel for what was going on in horror before The Exorcist changed everything.  

Tragic Ceremony is a Spanish/Italian flick starring American actress Camille Keaton years before her defining role in "I Spit on Your Grave" in 1978.

Four "hippies" spend some time goofing off in the country when their car runs out of gas.  They end up staying at the manor of Lord and Lady Alexander (Luciana Paluzzi).   Lady Alexander takes a particular interest in Jane (Keaton) of course.  The other three dudes witness a black mass where Lord and Lady Alexander attempt to sacrifice Jane. They stop it and everyone goes insane and they all kill each other. 

Jane and her dudes drive away (thought their dune buggy was out of gas?) and they head back to Bill's (one of the guys) home.  Soon everyone starts getting killed and no one knows who is doing it.

Eventually, only Jane is left alive, she had been killing them all.  She is committed to an asylum but is visited by Lady Alexander (who survived the massacre).  Jane walks out of the asylum and into a waiting car where she is transformed into Lady Alexander.  Jane's body remains in the asylum where the doctor matter of factly tells us she had been dead this whole time and possessed by LAdy Alexander.

There was a moment there where I thought I had found my "mystery movie" from the 70s. But it turned out not to be it.

I watched this one with my kids, but yeah it is not good. Though I will comment that Camille Keaton's Italian seem to me to be pretty good.  I thought it was pretty good in last year's Il Sesso Della Strega (1973) as well. 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 1
First Time Views: 1

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Sarah Douglas Film Fest

I was working on an adventure for War of the Witch Queens this past week and I was thinking that my Witch Queen in this adventure had a lot in common with Queen Taramis from A Witch Shall be Born and the Conan the Destroyer movie.   I did my digging and discovered that yes, the look/vibe I wanting in my next Witch Queen (loosely based on Methyn Sarr from Barbarians of Lemuria) was based on Queen Taramis AND surprisingly enough "Lyranna" from Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.

Both were played by the exquisite Sarah Douglas

So I figured I would have to do Sarah Douglas film fest since she plays a witch in both movies.  

Sarah Douglas in Beastmaster 2Sarah Douglas in Conan the Destroyer


Beastmaster 2
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Nearly a decade after the last Beastmaster movie we rejoin Dar in his battle against evil.  This time against his own older half-brother Arklon. The camp is WAY high in this one. Sarah Douglas plays Lyranna which sounds a lot like my "Larina" (but mine was 5 years before this).  Lyranna has a lot of language and speech that makes her sound like she is from L.A. from the late 80s.  There is a reason for that since she has been studying the land of "LA" where she has learned about a Neutron Detonator that she will give to Arklon, in exchange for ruling with him.

While she has the portal open Kari Wuhrer comes racing through in her red Porshe.  The poster showing the scene has a solid "Back to the Future" vibe to it. 

Ok. I am going to say this. Kari Wuher gets on my nerves. She is not so bad here, and she is actually supposed to be annoying here. 

Let's be honest. This is not a good movie.  I give Marc Singer a lot of credit here. The movie all around him is campy as all hell and he is playing Dar straight.  His earnestness from the previous movie holds over here. 

Wings Hauser chews up scenes as Arklon.  I can't if he is good at camp or bad. In any case, it works for him and this role.  Sarah Douglas is great, but I was inclined to like her anyway.  Even Kari Wuher was a lot of fun in it. 

The movie is not good, but it is fun. 

Conan the Destroyer
Conan the Destroyer (1984)

This is the second, and less well-liked Conan movie.  I personally thought it was a lot of fun. I had been a fan of Grace Jones since her Nightclubbing album so I was looking forward to seeing her in this.

This movie was also the second time I became aware of Sarah Douglas. I thought she was fantastic as Ursa in Superman and Superman II, and she was exceptionally great here.  Well. At least I thought so then.  I STILL think she was great, to be honest.

Queen Taramis (only a princess in the Howard story) gives Conan a quest to escort the Queen's Niece, Princess Jehnna, played the ever-lovely Olivia d'Abo in her first movie, to restore the horn of the dreaming god Dagoth (played by none other than André the Giant).  Sounds vaguely Lovecraftian. Jehnna is naturally a virgin.  Hey pro tip, girls who sleep around never get sacrificed to Elder gods. 

Going along with Conan is the Queen's guard Bombaata played by the NBA and College Basketball Hall of Famer, and future best-selling author, Wilt Chamberlain in his only film role.  I am sure you have all seen the photos with Arnold standing next to Wilt and André before.  Shared by Arnold himself, he commented that he had never felt so puny before in his life.

Arnold standing next to Wilt and André

There is a cool scene with Conan in a room full of mirrors and a creature that swear influenced Hordak.  The creature was neat, the scene however seemed really silly. Made even sillier now with such memes as this. 

Conan and Rose

Among other actors, the immortal Tracey Walter appears as Malak. I swear this guy has been in everything. How many thieves started swallowing gems because of this movie? The equally prolific Mako is here as Akiro, sounding like a gruff Iroh. 

Our virgin is captured. Found. Captured again. Put in jeopardy. And set to sacrificed.  

And like all sacrifices go awry, the angry god kills the one summoning him, this time Taramis. 

So will a fun little romp it is worse than I remember but not as bad as I feared.   I remember that is felt more "D&D" than the first movie did and pretty much every gamer I knew had gone to see it.

Gaming Content

For me,  I can use Lyranna as Queen Taramis as a nice bit of history for my own version of Queen Methyn Sarr.  She starts out as a witch, finds a ruler whom she seduces, and then ultimately betrays and takes his kingdom as her own.  Not 100% original, but it fits with the pulpy feel I want. 

Plus it will give me something to start from.  Though given tonight's movies I wonder if I should rename her to Methyn Sarah.  Doesn't sound quite as evil does it?

Methyn Sarr

Links

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Camelot (1967)

Camelot (1967)
At the risk of sounding really old, I adore Camelot.  Back when I was young I ended up with a second bout of chickenpox.  My parents had a laser disc player back then and this one of the movies they had. I think I watched it a dozen times.  Not a lot of choice really, but it was still good.  I can still recall all the songs.

I have to admit I often judge my Athurs, Gueneveres, and Lancelots based on the examples set by Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero.  Let's be honest. Vanessa Redgrave is adorable here.  I am not 100% convinced that she did not contribute to me having so many blue-eyed, redheaded characters.

Arthur's meeting with Guenevere is one of my favorites. And I fully admit I still hum "Camelot" whenever I watch another movie about Arthur.

The story here follows, more or less, the T.H. White "Once and Future King" novel.

Arthur's conversations with "Jenny" are really fantastic. I mean the attitudes are more modern, but that is fine since the setting is more Ren Faire than post-Roman Britain. I find Richard Harris' Arthur enthusiasm infectious. 

Also if you ever wanted a better depiction of an AD&D Paladin then you can't do much better than Camelot's Lancelot. The scene where Lancelot is jousting with Sir Dinadan, accidentally mortally wounds and then heals him has stuck with me for years as the example of laying on hands.  I can't help but think this is what Gygax had in mind when he wrote the Paladin class.  

The movie does drag on a bit, it is nearly 3 hours, but I am hesitant to suggest any cuts. 

The scene where Lancelot rescues Guenevere is both profoundly heroic and profoundly sad at the same time.  Give this to Richard Harris, he makes you feel Arthur's pain. 

Arthur, "For what? Revenge. The most worthless of causes."

I might lack the historical gravitas of Excalibur and have nearly nothing in common with real history but I don't care.  

Much like reading Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, I think this is a must-view for any fan of the myths and tales of King Arthur.

Gaming Content

Nothing directly here save what all the tales of Arthur can give us.  BUT given the musical nature of this movie, it does make me wonder if a game where everyone is a bard might work.  Lusty Month of May indeed.

This Lancelot, maybe more than any other, is a great example of a Paladin in D&D.

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has been so deeply embedded in our society that retellings are not just inevitable, they are ubiquitous.  Among those, there are going to retellings that differ from the classic, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory retellings.  Some might even improve on the tales.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), is not one of those.  It's not that it takes so many liberties with the tale, that is expected.  It's the liberties are fairly nonsensical and some are just bad.  For starters, while Charlie Hunnam is ok as Arthur, he is really much too old for the role.  

Jude Law reunites with his Sherlock director Guy Ritchie and gives us a decent enough Vortigern, but I felt he wasn't really giving the part all he could.  

Supergirl's Katie McGrath appears as Elsa, Vortigern's wife, making this her second dip into the Arthurian legends. She had played Morganna in "Merlin" (I'll be getting to that soon).  

Djimon Hounsou appears as Sir Bedivere. Frankly, I enjoy every role he has played, but I felt he was phoning this one in. I also felt Eric Bana was miscast, but honestly, I am not entirely I have seen him in anything that I liked him in.  Even his Nero in Star Trek seemed a little off to me.   

The movie feels like it has too much "Games of Throne" or "Vikings" envy.  To that end, Aidan Gillen appears as Sir William, but all I could see was Little Finger. At least he was using his real accent here. 

Of course, there were other things I could pick on, like there being Vikings in Britain at all at this time, or even Chinese people at this point; figuring this was between 550AD and 1040AD.

There is more, but not enough to write about, to be honest.  Interestingly enough my wife, who doesn't care for the King Arthur story, really likes this one.  

What good can I grab from this?  Well, I liked Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Mage, Merlin's apprentice.  I always felt Merlin needed to have a couple more apprentices.  I'll also talk about this when I discuss "Cursed."

Gaming Content

Back in Jr. High, I was playing in a D&D game (Basic/Expert) set in Medieval Britain in the time of Arthur.  Of course, as most Jr. High games in the early 80s were, this one devolved rather quickly on who was going to kill Arthur and claim Excalibur as their own.  I grew tired of that campaign rather quickly and instead wanted to play in Middle Earth.   

But ever since then I have been very, very curious about the RPG Chivalry & Sorcery.  Seeing ads in Dragon Magazine only added to the mystery of the game.  I am going to have to spend some time with that.

Another bit of content, something that I think comes for the later retellings of the Knights of Camelot, is the notion of the New Religion (Christianity) vs. The Old Ways (Paganism).  We saw this in Excalibur and it was a central focus of The Mists of Avalon (which I also hope to talk about).  This movie did not feature it all that much, but the thought was still there.  I like this sort of interaction and love putting it into my games when I can.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Excalibur (1981)

Excalibur (1981)
Let's be honest. Few tales grab the epic feel of Fantasy RPG as well as the tale of King Authur, and few retellings of King Arthur's tale are as epic as John Boorman's Excalibur

Excalibur (1981)

Ok. So it's not perfect in its retelling of King Authur's tale, nor is it a great representation of say Dark Ages, post-Roman-Britain arms, and armor.  But it is still a fun movie with some seriously epic scenes and moments.

First, let's take a moment to appreciate this cast;  Nigel Terry as King Arthur, Nicol Williamson as Merlin, Nicholas Clay as Lancelot, Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere, Helen Mirren as Morgana, Liam Neeson as Gawain, Gabriel Byrne as Uther Pendragon, Corin Redgrave as Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance.  Seriously.  It would have been enough for me just to have Helen Mirren as Morgana. Everything else is just gravy. 

Rewatching it now, after a lifetime of reading and rereading various tales of King Authur, I am pleased with how well this one holds up.  I do recall there being a bit of gore, but it was more than even I remembered. 

Watching this now makes me want to do a "King Authur" film fest.  There are a few really great ones and a few terrible ones. But all the same, it would be fun.

The tale is largely what we all know, but that doesn't make it less fun.  On the contrary, it makes even more enjoyable at times because you are expecting certain things. 

I think Nicol Williamson might very well be one of the best cinematic Merlin's ever.  Not just in the look and manner, but pretty much everything he does. Equal parts wizard and fool. Perfect as the advisor to a King. 

Authur: No riddles Merlin, a simple "yes." That really frightens me. 

The exchange between Merlin and Morgana at Authur's and Guenevere's wedding imprinted so deep on my unconsciousness that I don't doubt that my fascination with pagan witches wasn't intensified 100 fold here. Also, my enduring love for Helen Mirren certainly began here.  

Helen Mirren
Can you really blame me?

Ultimately King Authur, like most Celtic stories, is a tragedy.  The betrayal of Lancelot, the birth of Modred, the Quest for the Grail. 

Merlin: A dream to some. A nightmare to others!

While the first half is much better than the latter half, the return of Lancelot to Authur's side is one of the great and saddest cinematic moments in Authur's tale. 

Yes.  An Authurian filmfest is in order.

Gaming Content

Again, are you serious? 

One of the best bits, for me, was the Charm of Making, spoken in old Irish (sorta).

Anál nathrach,
orth’ bháis's bethad,
do chél dénmha

or

Serpent's breath,
charm of death and life,
thy omen of making.

Great stuff really.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Pathfinder (2007)

Pathfinder (2007)
I have been wanting to see this one for some time now.  My wife and I have been on a Vikings and Norse Mythology kick for a while now and we both like Karl Urban. So I thought tonight was a good night for it.

I mean I had heard it was not great, but I wanted to see it for myself.

So from the start, there are some issues here.  There were no horses in America during the Viking era and the Vikings certainly didn't use them.  Nor was chain mail as depicted here used.  So yeah, this 

Karl Urban stars as "Ghost" a Viking boy, left behind after a raid. He is raised by the locals and has built a life for himself.    Fifteen years later the Vikings return and kill everyone except for Ghost, who is out hunting. Ghost watches them kill his father, and he attacks, killing many of the Northmen, called "The Dragonmen" by the Native Americans.

Ghost finds the other tribe, the one with Pathfinder and his daughter Starfire and warns them of the Vikings. 

The villagers leave and Ghost prepares to fight the Vikings.  There is a battle and Ghost kills a lot, but the braves from the village come back and they are slaughtered. 

The Vikings capture Ghost, Starfire, and Pathfinder.  They draw and quarter Pathfinder and force Ghost to show them where the next village is. He does so to protect Starfire.

All the Vikings are killed. Starfire becomes the new Pathfinder and Ghost guards the coast, watching for more invaders.

So yeah. It was not great.  My wife called it "Dances with Vikings."  I think that is being overly generous.  Clancy Brown is in it, but you can hardly tell. 

Gaming Content

This movie came out in 2007 around the same time as the Pathfinder RPG (2009).  I always conflated the two even though I was aware of the differences.  Though part of me would still like stat up the Pathfinder movie with the Pathfinder rules. 

The Vikings in this are more like Orcs than they are like Ragnarr Loðbrók. With their centuries too early arms and armor, this actually has more in common with Pathfinder the RPG than it does with the historical Vikings.  Their armor looks like they got from a GWAR yard sale.

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Green is the color of the devil.

Looking over my plans for a new Darklord and some other ideas I went search for a very specific sort of movie. I wanted something set in the Dark Ages, I wanted it to involve a witch, and a normally innocent person turning to evil, or at least revenge.

I got a few hits, but the one that keep coming up in various permutations of my searches was the Japanese Animated feature, Kanashimi no Beradonna, also known as La Sorcière, Tragedy of Belladonna, and Belladonna of Sadness.

The movie takes place in an undisclosed time and place, but it is obviously some sort of feudal time.  Though we later learn it was medieval France, it could be anywhere.  Jeanne and her husband Jean have just gotten married and the Lord of the land demands jus primae noctis since Jean can't pay all his taxes.  That night Jeanne is brutalized and she returns home bloodied and bruised. While her husband wants her to forget Jeanne has visions of a phallic-shaped devil that promises her power in return for just small things.   She hesitates at first but soon succumbs to the little monster.

Soon Jeanne has power. Her husband is elevated to tax collector, though when he can't collect all the taxes the Lord chops off his hand.  As she grows in power her devil grows in size. Soon Jeanne is the true power in her village.  When the Lord returns from a war he seeks to arrest Jeanne, but she flees into the forest where she lives for a while.  The villagers start to die from the Bubonic plague and it is Jeanne that saves them with her magic.  They celebrate by throwing a huge orgy.

Jeanne runs afoul of the Lord and his wife again. She manages to get the wife killed when a young page comes to her for a love potion for the Lord's wife. The Lord offers to marry Jeanne but she refuses, claiming she wants everything he has.

She burned at the stake but as she looks out at the onlookers she sees their faces turn into hers. Knowing they sympathize with her.  The narration tells us that Jeanne's spirit lives on in the women of France and they will rise up to eventually overthrow the monarchy in the French Revolution.  It is implied that she is reborn as Liberty in La Liberté guidant le peuple

This was not like any anime movie I have ever seen before.  Check out the trailer for it.

The artistic style is not what many consider "anime" and there is almost a Ralph Bashski psychedelic about it.  The story is of course quite sad. Jeanne never has a choice in her actions, but at least she makes the best of them and she is defiant even to the point she is burning on the stake. 

Articles keep calling it "X" Rated. But that really is sensationalism.  Yes, there is a rape in the beginning, but it is all done in metaphor. Ok. Graphic metaphor.  The trailer has a lot of nudity in it, but that might be every cut in movie.  No, where this movie is the most disturbing is the violence perpetrated on Jeanne (and some to Jean) and how she reacts to it all. 

There is a lot to process in this movie, to be honest. I am severely disappointed I never saw it before this.  

Gaming Content

Would Jeanne be a Darklord? I am not sure, she doesn't seem to live up to the evil witch she is described as or thought of by others.  Instead, she becomes something else. Liberty if the movie is followed.  But there are moments when she could have turned a lot more evil.  I would have a very difficult time blaming her to be honest. 

I do like the subtle seduction the little devil does. As she grows in power, so does he.  This would be a good Warlock Patron.   

There is more I would love to do with this. I think I am going to need the BluRay. 

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Frankenstein

May has been split between two themes for me.  We started off with Sci-Fi month with a bunch of reviews on sci-fi games and movies and I ended with a week-long journey back to Ravenloft with the new 5e Ravenloft book.

What movie could I watch that would cover both halves of this theme?

Well really there is only one that could do it proper justice and I have a LOT of choices of that one.

The story is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  The movie is...well there are a lot of them.

While Frankenstein, or as it properly titled, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, was written by Mary Shelley and published in 1818 when she was only 20 years old.  

While it is a horror novel and a Gothic and Romantic Horror novel at that, it really is more properly one of the very first Science Fiction novels published. Jules Verne and H.G. Welles were not even alive at this point.  They might be known as the fathers of Science Fiction, but the mother of Science Fiction was a teenage girl and one of the most prominent feminist icons of her day.

So suck it up. Science Fiction was created by a teenaged feminist.

Currently, there are over 70 movies featuring Frankenstein and/or his monster. And those are just the ones I have access to on the Internet, there are likely even more.

No way am I going to watch them all tonight!  That would be a good October Movie Marathon month. But here are some I have seen in the past.

I am surprised by what is not on my list.  Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh is one of my favorites and the closest we have seen to Shelley's book.

Maybe a Frankenstein Movie Marathon is in order after all!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Forbidden World (1982)

Forbidden World
More Roger Corman fun! This one is a repeat from an October Horror Movie Marathon from 2018.

If I had thought about it I should have done this as a double feature with last week's Galaxy of Terror.  I think a lot of the starship interiors were reused. The movie starts with some starships attacking another ship. A robot (straight out of Star Frontiers by the look of him) wakes up the commander out of cryosleep to deal with them.   After the battle, we learn that the captain, Mike Colby played by Jesse Vint, has been asleep so long his son is older than he is now.  Also, he has been re-routed to the planet Xarbia which Colby thinks is a joke.  It is an experimental research station and something got loose. Something they call Subject 20. June Chadwick stars as Dr. Barbara Glaser, who is best known from V and This is Spinal Tap. Dawn Dunlap also stars as Tracy Baxter.  Dunlap is better known as "Laura" from the quasi-erotic film of the same name when she was only 16 and from Corman's Barbarian Queen

Another Corman recycle are the two suns rising on the planet. Same shot is used in The Warrior and the Sorceress.  Wonder if it is the same planet? What happened to it I wonder. I was already running low on water in David Cardine's time.  Maybe it died out leaving only the Proto B bacteria the scientists are studying. 

So we have a mutant monster in a lab out in space.  What can go wrong?  Well, I sure you can guess.  The movie is not great, but it is also not really terrible. Like a lot of Corman's stuff, there is a core here, a kernel of a really good idea here.  This movie very, very effectively combines "Alien" and "The Thing" into one movie and puts the whole thing on a station in space.   It is Corman, so yeah the women take off their clothes at the drop of a hat. They also run around in high heels and shower together. The future is weird. 

The movie is fairly uneven, going from the tension of the escaped mutant in one scene to everyone turning in for the night in the next. 

The monster picks people off one by one, you know like a monster will. Until we are just left with just Tracy and Mike.  Though the idea of feeding the monster a cancerous tumor to kill it is a novel one. 

It was a fun flick, but I got really tired of Tracy's screaming in the last half of the flick. 

Gaming Content

Same as you get from Alien or The Thing.  Hunt the monster before it hunts you. I suppose that I will have to do a "monster is loose in a research facility" adventure at some point.  But I would need to make it different than either "Ghost Ship" or the "Ghost Station of Inverness V." This would have to be a flesh and blood abomination. NOT just an alien, but a creature of humankind's hubris.

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Rogue One (2016)

So I heard that not a lot of people like this movie. Which I find confusing.  I saw it the theatres and it was a fun popcorn flick (which is what all Star Wars movies should be) and I enjoyed it.  So I decided to go back and watch it again. This is the first time since it was out.  I figure since "This is the May."

Rogue One (2016)

So this is taking place just before the events of A New Hope.  We are introduced to Galen Erso played by the always wonderful Mads Mikkelsen. He seems to be on the run from the Imperial Army, but they don't want to kill him.  He hides his daughter, Jyn (Felicity Jones) but the stormtroopers kill his wife.  Jyn is later found by Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker who it woefully underutilized here.

Fast forward a few years and work continues on the almost complete Death Star.  Orson Krennic, who grabbed Galen, is the Director of the Death Star development and it seems that Galen is head of the weapons division, the Death Star's super laser.   Saw Gerrera is now a rebel extremist (I think his name is supposed to be connected to Che Guevara).  There is an Imperial cargo pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), who has defected and is looking for Saw. He has information about the Death Star from Galen and he is trying to get it to Saw on the Jedi holy planet of Jeddah. 

The rebels hear of this and decide they need to get to Saw themselves but they need Jyn Erso to do it. Jyn, now a young adult, has been arrested for a number of petty crimes and is currently on a prisoner transport. She gets busted out by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and K-2SO (played wonderfully by lan Tudyk) and they head to Jeddah to talk to Saw. 

Lots of things happen including shooting up a bunch of Stormtroopers, finding Saw, running into a blind Force monk (Chirrut Îmwe) and his blaster rifle-wielding best friend (Baze Malbus) played wonderfully by Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen respectively.   They all get together, learn of the plans for the Death Star and of the secret weakness planted there by Galen Erso.  The same weakness that Luke will exploit in A New Hope.  I actually think it is rather brilliant.  Plus it does something truly great. Anytime you see Mad Mikkelsen in a movie you naturally think he is the bad guy, and he could have been here, but instead, he is a flawed man trying to do something good.

We get to see the Death Star operate on low power when they destroy the temple on Jeddah and even a CGI Tarkin played by a CGI Peter Cushing.  It's a little jarring, but not bad.  The one of Carrie Fisher seemed more unreal to me. 

Really that is the best part of Rogue One, everyone is a little bit flawed. Saw is an extremist, Jyn doesn't care, K-2SO is an asshole, Bodhi is kind of a coward. But they come together wonderfully to get the Death Star plans and transmit them to the Rebel Alliance.

They get to the base with plans, the attack goes south of course and everyone gets killed, even our stars.  Though that is not where the movie ends. We now follow the plans as they are transmitted from the communications tower by Jyn, to a rebel ship where they are downloaded onto a disk and everyone is running away from the oncoming attack by Darth Vader.  Vader proves here why he is the most feared person in the Galax by mowing through armed rebels like they were nothing.  We would later see Luke do the same thing to Death Trooper Droids in the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian.  The moral of this? If you are in a hallway and there is a Skywalker at the other end you are doomed. 

The movie ends just as a New Hope is about to begin.  All our heroes are dead which makes for a downer for a Star Wars film, but the perfect lead-up to the "new hope" the Rebels now have. Plus this movie is every bit like the Magnificent Seven or the Dirty Dozen.  This reminds us that war is going on and not everyone will survive.

What I don't get is why do people not like it.

I think it is great and enjoyed even more on my second watch. There are lots of fun Easter Eggs like the two aliens that accost Luke in the Mos Eiley bar, to Donnie Yen as one of the Guardians of the Whills, to Anothy Daniels and James Earl Jones doing the voices of C-3PO and Darth Vader. We even got Genevieve O'Reilly back as Mon Mothma. She played a younger version in Revenge of the Sith and now 11 years later she looks even more like Caroline Blakiston in Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars Novel

The above was written for the Star Wars novel back in 1977.  I remember reading it and wondering what the hell "Whills" were.  Thanks to Rogue One I know a bit more.  Also, I feel that the last line, while about Luke, Han, and Chewie could have just as easily been said about Jyn and Cassian. 

So I wonder why it is that people didn't like this movie.  

You can't blame the plot holes (every Star Wars movie has them) or the fact that everyone dies.  No I think it is, and this is because I see Star Wars fans online, because the hero of this tale is a woman.

There are a lot of misogynistic Star Wars fans and they just can deal with characters like Jyn or Rey.  

But that is a discussion for another day.

Gaming Content

I have heard it said that Rogue One is an example of everyone's WEG Star Wars RPG game. The characters are all practically RPG characters really and the situation; break into an Imperial data storage and steal some plans, sounds like an RPG session. 

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters that is if I can get my co-admins to agree this is the best hashtag for this!


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Beowulf (2007)

Beowulf (2007)
"I am Beowulf, I am here to kill your monster."

Moving outside of the 80s and the Swords & Sorcery flicks of old to a newer (but still 14 years old) flick.  The big All-Star Robert Zemeckis and Neil Gaiman version of Beowulf.

I figure since all month is about monsters, let's go with one of the most famous monster-hunting tales in the English Language.  

Now let's be upfront about this.  The movie takes some liberties with the source material.  But I don't feel they are undue liberties.  Beowulf at its heart is a tale of good vs. evil, man vs. monster, and in some ways the Pagan world vs the Christian one.   That at least has always been my take on it.

When I first saw this movie it had been years since I had read Beowulf.  I remember it was stuck in the back of a bunch of myths and legends of Greek and Norse myths. The way the book was structured I thought there was a chronological progression of them; the Greek, then the Norse then Beowulf. And there was, to a degree, but not in the way I was thinking about them.  This is a topic I am going to come back to later.

Beowulf (2007)

I imagine that most people reading my blog have some passing familiarity with the story of Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's Mother.  Today though I am talking about the movie. 

Overall I like this particular version of the story, I am not sure I am 100% happy with the animation though. It reminds me a little too much of Shrek.  Now that would be a movie, replace Grendel with Shrek. Might have been an improvement over the whinny Grendel we get here.  This guy is supposed to be a fearsome demon-like monster.  Not an overgrown kid that can't sleep because his neighbors are partying too hard.  Though getting Crispen Glover to play Grendel was inspired.  Still, there is a bit of an Uncanny Valley to all of this. 

Still though, what a cast!  Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar likely his audition for Odin in Thor.  Ray Winstone as Beowulf cuts an imposing figure, but I can't help but think the role would have been better served by the likes of Sean Bean.  John Malkovich as Unferth is woefully underused but still manages to chew up the scenery.  The one though that got everyone's attention was Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother.  Changing her from an ugly monster that was worse than Grendel to a succubus-like seductress was an interesting choice and one I still think works.  Robin Wright plays Queen Wealtheow as a more or less older Princess Buttercup. 

The creatures; Grendel, his mother, the dragon, and the sea monsters all look fantastic. The movie makes the idea that Grendel and his mother are demons. Likely playing into the idea of Pagan vs. Christians. 

Much like the epic poem, the parts leading up to Beowulf's and Grendel's fight and right after it are the best parts.  Afterward, it kind of drags a little for me.

Neil Gaiman wrote the script and did a really good job. 

Gaming Material

I have been posting my Beowulf gaming material now for some time. My two biggest are the Aglæca and Trolla.  This though is another example of something I started thinking more and more about when working on The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition,  a game of fighting demons and other monsters against the backdrop of the rise of Christianity and the decline of Paganism.  Would be a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Clash of the Titans (1981, 2010)

Double Feature!

Clash of the Titans (1981)

I can't talk about monsters all month and NOT pop in the stop motion masterpiece of Clash of the Titans.

If you come to this blog I have no doubt you know this move and this story.  So instead lets talk about the production.  Let's get good look at the casting for the gods. Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera, Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, Maggie Smith as Thetis. Seriously these WERE the gods in 1981. Add in relatively unknown (pre L.A. Law) Harry Hamlin as Perseus and the captivating Judi Bowker as Andromeda then our cast is set.  Throw in some Burgess Meredith for comic relief and a bunch of Ray Harryhausen stop motion creatures and you have a classic.

I am not sure if Medusa was ever depicted as a half snake-woman before this movie, but she sure was after it.  Maybe more so than anything outside of Tolkien has left it's stamp on D&D more than the Greek myths and no movie did as much as Clash of the Titans.  Even people that have never seen the movie know "release the Kraken!"

The film almost has a Disney quality to it with it's score and cinematography. Cinematographer Ted Moore had worked on a lot of 70s Bond films and two of the Sinbad movies, the spiritual forefathers to this one.

Re-watching now (and again) the story holds up and the special effects are more charming than dated. Even Bubo was less annoying in reality than in memory. 

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Ok. The Greek myths endure because they are stories that can be told and retold again and again.  A remake then should always be welcome.  And on paper this one sounds good.  First lets look at our Gods again. Liam Neeson as Zeus, ok do we even care who else is playing the gods at this point?  Ralph "Voldemort" Fiennes as Hades.  Luke Evans (Dracula Unbound, The Hobbit) as Apollo, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine, Game of Thrones) as Hermes. Ok so, this is all good.  Sam Worthington as Perseus. Ok a good actor, but lacks a certain Harry Hamlin-ness. Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, also good.

Plus we know the special effects were going to be better since this was the new age of CGI.

And...yet it all falls so flat.  Zues' "release the Kracken" doesn't have Sir Laurence Olivier's gravitas and we know Liam Neeson can deliver a line.  Hades...exactly WHY was Hades here anyway? The rest of the gods were blink an you miss them.

The Kracken was underwhelming, but still fun.  Medusa, well. Actually I liked this one. While the first medusa was a spectacle of stop motion puppetry the new one with the face of supermodel Natalia Vodianova seemed more human. It also was one of the first certainly not the last time the story made you feel properly sad for Medusa.  But that is topic for another day really.


The movie is all glitz and spectacle and no heart.  The sign where they toss Bubo from the original movie aside might have felt funny, but it is a good example of the entire film.

Still for a popcorn flick it is fun.  You can even see this as a prequel of sorts to the Greek gods in Wonder Woman.

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Game Material

Pretty much the entire movie to be honest. The original is so deeply imbedded into the DNA of 80s roleplaying it would be hard to tease out today what came from the Greek myths before this movie vs. after.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Beastmaster (1982)

The Beastmaster (1982)

Another one that made it's presence felt in many D&D games at the time.  In fact, I can think of about 4 or 5 different beastmaster classes off the top of my head now.

It has been forever since I have seen this one, so lets see what we have here. 

We have a young Rip Torn as our bad guy Maax ("May Axe").  Some scantily clad witches tell that King Zad's unborn son will kill him. One of the witches is none other than the future Mrs. Wayne Gretzky, Janet Jones. 

The witches transfer the unborn baby to a cow. Here they attempt to sacrifice him but are stopped by Ben Hammer. He takes the baby to raise as his own. 

Soon young Dar shows a strong affinity to animals. And sooner again we have older Dar in the form of mulletted 80s stalwart Marc Singer.  But he gets no time to enjoy it when his village is attacked by Rip Torn's men.  Maax sees Dar's brand from the witches but before he can get him Dar's dog drags him to the wilderness.  Dar returns to his village (seeing out of the eyes of an eagle) only to find everyone dead.  Even his dog died trying to save him.  

We get an 80s training montage of Dar training and learning how to talk to animals, including some ferrets.  Mind you we are now a half-hour into the movie and Singer's most significant dialog has been with the ferrets. 

I can say it is much slower than I remember, but not as cheesy.  Oh, it is still cheesy, but not as bad as I remember.  I think I was getting it confused with some Roger Corman flicks.  Credit to the movie, they use a lot of real animals and Marc Singer seems really comfortable with them.  Today they would just use CGI.

The Beastmaster may have supernatural powers but that doesn't mean he isn't above using them to steal (the now sadly late) Tanya Robert's clothes or scare her a bit with his lion. 

There are some cool winged "bird-men" or something, but Dar doesn't fight them.

Dar finds a city "Aruk" with a ziggurat (a model, but not a bad one) and the road is lined with dead people long before the same was seen in Meereen in Game of Thrones.  Rip Torn is here sacrificing children but Dar saves one with his eagle.  An effective scene, it would have been better if the eagle had saved the child and tore out Rip Torn's eyes or something, but we still have an hour to go.  Plus Dar returns the child, so I guess the eagle was busy.  Pretty solid good vs evil lines are being drawn here. 

John Amos shows up as Seth.  He appears to be some sort of Monk.  This is one of the roles he took after Good Times.  I always like John Amos, he should have been a much bigger star than he was.  

The undead guards are kind of cool too. Even little Kodo got to be a hero in the end. 

This was much better and more fun than I recall, to be honest.  Nice to have this kind of surprise really

Gaming Content

Lots really.

Ring of Scrying. This ring has an eye set into it like a gem.  Any spellcaster that can scry (Magic-users, witches) can see through this ring using a scrying medium such a pool, mirror, or crystal ball.  Witches will give these to servants and cowans so they can literally keep an eye on them. Damage to the ring though will damage the witch viewing through it.

Beastmaster classes. I covered these a while back in a Class Struggles.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Dragonslayer (1981)

Dragonslayer (1981)
Since April is Monster Month here I thought it might be fun to check some monster-themed Sword & Sorcery & Cinema movies.  Up first is a classic and premiered at the height of the 80s fantasy craze. Here is 1981's Dragonslayer from both Paramount and Disney.

We are introduced to one of the most famous dragons outside of Westeros or Erebor, Vermithrax Pejorative.  Though he is mentioned among the dragons in Game of Throne's first season.  

The movie is a little slow, but on par with what was normal at the time.  Peter MacNicol is fine as the apprentice turned dragonslayer Galen, but I can't help but think if someone else would have been better in the role.  Caitlin Clarke was great as the girl pretending to be a boy Valerian.  She returned to theatre work after this and this was her only major role.  She sadly passed of ovarian cancer in 2004.

Sadly the movie under-performed in the box office and some of the reviews were not great, but the movie was fun then and to be honest the effects have held up well enough.  It has achieved "cult movie" status and that is not a bad thing.  It certainly is a great one to have on a Dragon-themed movie night.

The effects are good and the director gets away with a lot of "showing less is more."  We only see bits and pieces of the dragon until the very end when it is most effective. Sure some of the stop motion looks very stop motion-y, but Vermithrax still looks like he could go toe to toe with Smaug or Drogon.  I really can't help but think that this dragon wasn't at least some of the inspiration for the DragonRaid game

The musical queues in this are pure Disney so they are also very effective. 

Gaming Content

Now THAT is a Dragonlance! The Sicarius Dracorum really shows that a spear, or a lance, is the best weapon for fighting a dragon.  The forging scene where Galen heats the metal with magic is really one of the best.  If you are not forging your magic weapons like this then you are missing out!

Caitlin's dragon scale shield, while less theatric, is just as magical. 

I am sure there are those that will nitpick that the "dragon" only has two legs and not four, but I can't get worked up over that. He is still a fantastic dragon.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)
Time for a rather notorious Sword & Sorcery & Cinema choice.  Another Roger Corman flick and it stars David Carradine as Kain, a holy warrior.  Not to be confused with Kwai Chang Caine, a monk.  But you know, it works here so let's go with it. 

The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

Well. We have two suns, so that is a cool thing.  I wonder what else we are getting double of? 

Caine, er rather, Kain comes to a village with one well and two warlords protecting it.  Each keeps the other from controlling it.   Kain kills the guards.  Not 10 mins in and we have both gratuitous violence and nudity.  Right on time Corman.

The movie is a retelling of Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars or Red Harvest.  This doesn't make it less enjoyable mind you, the story is pretty classic.  Kain plays the two warlords, Zeg (Luke Askew) and Bal Caz (Guillermo Marín) off of each other well.  

María Socas plays Naja the Sorceress (not the one on the poster) and spends most of her time topless.  Yeah, we are not dealing with a top-tier studio here.   Anthony De Longis is also in this as Zeg's captain Kief.  He was a familiar face in a lot of 80s movies. 

The two fools, Blather and Gabble, make fairly decent enough goblins.  Burgo, the Slaver, appears to be some sort of lizard man.  There is even a little bullywug looking creature that Bal Caz has.

Kain goes back and forth between the camps killing as he likes and is getting paid by everyone.  He is the most self-actualized mercenary adventurer on film. 

I'd like to know what the writer was thinking with the dancer at 55 mins in.  No, the dancer, Cecilia Narova does not look like the poster girl either.  She is a brunette.  I'd also like to know about the stinger that came out of her...navel, was that it?  I'd love to blame Corman for this one, but I don't think I can.

If you have seen any movie, ever, you know how this ends really. 

Maybe all these Sword & Sorcery movies all take place on the same world. 

Gaming Content

Sacred Sword of Ura

This looks like a sword of sharpness or a vorpal blade.  The blade is much lighter than one would expect from steel.  Only the Sorceress of Ura knows the secret of how it was forged. It is a +3 sword and can cut through an anvil, but not leather armor apparently. 

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.