Tuesday, January 25, 2011

King Solomon's Mines, and more

A few scattershot updates on a variety of topics, none of which merit a post on their own.

First, I've been diligently updating my version of the Modern SRD with my own rewrites and edits done on top of a document that's already a merging of the regular SRD and the Arcana extended SRD. While it's not done yet (and won't be for a little while, I'd think) I did also update the wiki that has all the houserules listed. While this isn't a comprehensive document with everything included, it is one that you can refer to with the three books (or the MSRD and d20 Past) to play "correctly", i.e., the way I would like Dark•Heritage run in an ideal world. With these updates, everything is covered while I, in the meantime, keep plugging away at the standalone document that will have all of the rules in it.

Secondly, I watched the 1985 King Solomon's Mines this weekend. The one with Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone? Herbert Lom and John Rhys-Davies as a pair of villains? Yeah, I don't blame you for not remembering it. It's a rather obscure movie; although it did get a brief DVD release back in 2004 (it has subsequently gone back out of print again. I had to get the movie on interlibrary loan.) When I watched it, probably in '85 or '86 at the latest, I was a fresh young lad of 13 or 14, still excited about anything Harrison Ford was involved with (especially Indiana Jones or Han Solo-ish) and I remember thinking that it was a credible Indiana Jones rip-off. It was obviously just that; an Indiana Jones rip-off, but I was OK with that. To a lesser extent, so was 1984's Romancing the Stone, and the 1982-3 television shows Bring 'Em Back Alive and Tales of the Gold Monkey. At that time, I was certainly in the mood for more of that vibe if I could get it.

In any case, I found that my memories of the movie were a little bit gilded. Although it was obviously a Raiders rip-off, it was a rather poor one after all. The characters were cardboard, the dialogue was hoaky and unbelievable, the acting was egregious, the premise was silly, the stunts and action were poorly choreographed and filmed, and the special effects were dated and cheap, even by mid-80s standards. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot, and thinking to myself, "I've been looking for this movie for years, and this is all that it was after all?"

Although I have to give it credit for being filmed almost entirely on location in Zimbabwe. You can't fake that kind of authenticity. It's almost worth seeing just for the locations, and for the over-the-top villains chewing the scenery. Especially watched back to back with Raiders (which would also highlight all this movie's weaknesses), where you could see John Rhys-Davies play first Sallah and then Dogati might be good for a laugh.

About halfway through the movie, my two younger kids, who are big Raiders fans, came downstairs where I was watching it and watched the end with me. Both expressed an interest in seeing the movie start to finish; it scratched their itch, anyway. It didn't exactly do so to mine. Although while looking some details up about the movie after the fact, I found that there was a made for TV miniseries take on the book (on which this movie is loosely based) starring Patrick Swayze made a few years ago. If nothing else, watching this movie made me very curious to track down a copy of that and see if it's any good. There's also an Asylum Allan Quartermain film that came out in 2008, no doubt to coincide with the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (The Asylum is infamous for releasing cheap movies with a close resemblance to big blockbusters that are due at about the same time.) Although I haven't yet seen anything by Asylum Studios that I liked, including adaptations of some of my favorite source material (The Land that Time Forgot, War of the Worlds and Princess of Mars, most notably) despite everything, I'll probably eventually try to watch it. Heck, it's probably available to stream via Netflix. Most of the rest of their catalog seems to be.

I'm still feeling a bit swamped by material to read. After blasting through about 100 pages of the nearly 800 page doorstopper Iron Kingdom, a history of Prussia, I had to put it aside for a time and read some other material that was more pressing (demand for that book is probably low, so I can renew from the library a few times if necessary.) I also got the first of Brent Weeks' trilogy, The Way of Shadows and Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (no relaton to the composer. His real name is Czajkowski and he's an Anglo-Polish writer.) In the meantime, I just got notified that the long-delayed interlibrary loan request for Brian Lumley's Necroscope just arrived too. My plan was to blast through the three novels and then turn to the historical tract, and then not check anything else out for a while so I can read some books that I own. What's happened is that my blasting has been, at best, fitful sputtering. I find that my motivation to read is not high. I've only read the first few pages of Weeks' book; not even enough to really say that I've started, and I haven't cracked open either of the other two at all.

Meanwhile, I rectified an embarrasing oversight in my book collection. Although I claim to be a big Lovecraft fan, I'd never actually owned any Lovecraft stories; I'd checked them out at the library or even read them on dagonbytes. Now, I have all of Lovecraft's work --I bought the Del Rey versions with the much better cover art than the Arkham Press versions. I also bought the older White Wolf printings of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories--I didn't get the entire run, but I've got the first omnibus, which is what was published as three separate books (which were themselves collections of earlier published short stories, of course.) This has raised my count of "Books I Own But Haven't Yet Read" to ridiculous levels; so much so that I'm almost tempted to stop counting them if I've read them before I bought them, no matter how long ago.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I'll probably power through the library books and then decide. But I'll review whatever I read here; unless I decide to re-read something I've already reviewed in the past, which is another possibility. Oof.

Finally, for some reason, I've also been drawn back into listening to my Red Dead Redemption soundtrack. I bought that as a download from Amazon a little while ago; when it was new, I guess, and I think it's kinda fun. I included a sample song from the soundtrack here. I think what drew me into it was a combination of things; working on developing the part of my setting which most closely resembles the Old West, seeing True Grit, and dusting off my old Xbox copy of Gun, itself a decent example of Revisionist Westerns (also available on Steam, I'm told.) It's got quite an impressive voice actor cast, including Thomas Jane, Kris Kristofferson, Lance Henriksen, Ron Perlman, Tom Skerrit, Brad Dourif and prolific video game voice actors Dave Wittenberg and Kath Soucie. There are rumors of a Gun sequel, which given the success of Red Dead Redemption might be more valid now than they were before (although Gun was itself a reasonably successful title.) I continue to place the Old West, including some aspects of darker revisionist westerns--especially spaghetti westerns (I'm not real keen on the Hollywood use of revisionist westerns to criticise contemporary American society, for instance), as one of the main influences on my setting, along with a similar darkening of the Golden Age of Piracy. Revisionist pirate movies? Revisionist Arabian nights?

I guess the darker, "noir" take on any genre is one that I take to well... and we're currently undergoing a wave of revisionist fantasy as well. While probably mostly subconsciously, now that I'm aware of it and can perceive it more clearly, it's obvious that I'm just one cog in a greater cultural zeitgeist amongst fantasy fans, turning to a "noir" sensibility, darker anti-heroes, and a "demythologizing" of a lot of our long-standing fantasy tropes and conventions.

Anyway, I included the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack sample below, as promised. Just for the heckuvit.

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