Saturday, February 27, 2010

There are many paths to redemption... not all of them peaceful

I once read an anecdote about Robert E. Howard. The person writing the tale stated that he heard Mr. Howard talk about the times that he was writing the story of his most famous character, Conan. According to the tale, Mr. Howard felt the presence of Conan as he wrote, defending him from the evils around him and at the same time FORCING him to commit Conan's story to paper.

It was an interesting bit of trivia that has always stuck in my head. Due to the fact that it reveals more about Robert E. Howard's mental state during his writing of Conan that the author would have liked. Today, I have discovered another character in Howard's gallery of rogues: Solomon Kane.

In the next couple of months, the US will be treated to a major film release telling an original story based on Robert E. Howard's work. I've seen the trailer, and it looks AWESOME!! Like Van Helsing meets Pan's Labyrinth with a touch of Lord Of The Rings. Check it out!!

Solomon Kane is played by James Purefoy (Rome, A Knight's Tale, Resident Evil). And if there's anyone who can play a 17th century Puritan badass, it's James Purefoy. The film was supposed to be released last November in the US, but the release was delayed. It should be out sometime in March or April. I, for one, can't wait to see it!


  1. I've been reading REH's stories and comics based on his characters since I was 14. Yet Solomon Kane has always been my least favorite of his.

    This trailer shows that the movie isn't quite like the original stories, but close enough. I don't think Purefoy fits the character at all, though. Maybe it's just me. That gravelly, Batman-like voice is a little stupid.

    I'm torn on whether or not I'll see this. Van Helsing was shit, so it better not be in that vein.

    By the way, if you want to see a pretty decent portrayal of Robert E. Howard the man, rent The Whole Wide World. It's a pseudo biography disguised as a romance movie, starring Vincent D'Onofrio as REH, and Renee Zellweger as the woman that was his greatest love in life, Novalyne Price. The movie is based on Price's memoirs, which she published as a book under the title: "The One Who Walked Alone." Some question the exact details of her memories, but all-in-all a lot of the details are spot on from what I know of the man. Definitely check it out.

    I talked about the movie, and put an excerpt video of my favorite scene, in a blog entry I wrote almost a year ago. Copy and paste this URL if you want to see it:

    Also, try to find a copy of REH's poem titled "Cimmeria," which partly inspired him to then create Conan. This poem is masterfully written. The poetic language is remarkable from someone who's contemporaries at the time dismissed as merely a "pulp" writer.

  2. Rodney, the anecdote you mention sounds a lot like John Milius' ramblings about Howard in the Conan the Barbarian documentary, "Conan Unchained," where he also comes up with bizarre nonsense like Howard boarding up his doors and windows at night like Robert Neville awaiting the vampires.

    In truth, Milius took a paragraph Howard wrote in a personal letter to Clark Ashton Smith and blew it out of proportion. Here's the relevant extract:

    "I know that for months I had been absolutely barren of ideas, completely unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen or rather, off my typewriter almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of storywriting. When I deliberately tried to write something else, I couldn’t do it. I do not attempt to explain this by esoteric or occult means, but the facts remain. I still write of Conan more powerfully and with more understanding than any of my other characters. But the time will probably come when I will suddenly find myself unable to write convincingly of him at all. That has happened in the past with nearly all my rather numerous characters; suddenly I would find myself out of contact with the conception, as if the man himself had been standing at my shoulder directing my efforts, and had suddenly turned and gone away, leaving me to search for another character."

    As you can see, Howard was engaging in poetic metaphor. He wasn't actually saying that the ghost of an imaginary barbarian king was visiting him at night and threatening to kill him unless he did what he said.

    David, the film is really divisive among Howard fans as to whether it adheres to the spirit of his character, but one thing they all agree on is how the character's origin is a complete invention and contradictory to what Howard said. Still, I and others think that, like Conan the Barbarian, it has sufficient qualities to be considered worthy on its own merits.

  3. Taranaich, yes I did read somewhere of how divisive the movie was amongst his fans. And I can see why, watching the film.

    Yet even though I love the scene I allude to in my blog entry, I knew enough to know that most of the film was an embellishment of the real Bob Howard. Still, I liked certain aspects of the movie well enough. Particularly the part where REH is pounding away at the typewriter and reading out the words in full dramatic fashion. I thought D'Onofrio took too much license with his portrayal of REH, but yet still enjoyed his performance nonetheless.

    I guess I can say the film is bittersweet. It gets the spirit of the man right, if not necessarily the details.

  4. First off, Taranaich, thank you. I thought the only other person who read my blog was David!!!

    Also, thanks for the information. I've always preferred knowing as much of the reality as possible. It always seemed kind of strange that someone as prolific as REH could be mentally unstable, but I've always known there was a fine line between genius & insanity.

    I would be interested to know more of your thoughts on the Solomon Kane character, though.

  5. David,
    In my experience, Puritans have been portrayed as overly righteous, loudly denouncing any & all sins they come across. Sometimes they are correct, other times they are not. But they are usually exceptionally opinionated and never quite hold back in their judgements. Which makes the movie version of Solomon Kane so interesting. He has all the same beliefs of the Puritan archetype, but expressed in ice as opposed to fire. I've always been impressed with cold, deliberate rage. It always seemed the most accurate representation of the sentiment.

    The other part that makes this interesting is the deliberate choice he made to walk away from battle. I'm a big believer in free will and the power of human choice. Seeing that portrayed, even in a small part, is always captivating. His beliefs & convictions drive him away from his talents, and then those same principles drive him to reverse his choice. That will always be a compelling story for me.

  6. I'm sure this is painfully obvious, but I've only read about 5% of REH's work, if that. Which puts me in a particularly interesting position, since I can judge the merit of the movie & the character SOLELY on what is presented without the preconceived notions of the books, but I don't have the full appreciation of the character because I have no clue as to his history.

    But even with characters that I DO know from their literary origins, I try to separate the book from the films. Just because I'm aware of the vast differences in the mechanics of making a story work visually as opposed to verbally. I don't know anything about the Solomon Kane books or comics, but the movie appears to be interesting, both in the events of the story, and in the complexities of the main character. I have high hopes for this movie.

    I do agree, though, Van Helsing was SHIT!