I’ve been a fan of Robert Howard’s work for a good many years, but by no means am I any kind of expert. I’ve not read all of his stories and, not being one to read most things more than once or twice, I wanted to read the Solomon Kane tales again before viewing the movie, the idea being to know whether any of his Solomon Kane was there(you know Hollywood). Laying my hands on my copy of the book was problematic as most of my books are packed away in boxes. I opted to get THE SOLOMON KANE COLLECTION, an ebook, that was fairly reasonable. Seven stories and two of the fragments. Two stories were missing(Blades of The Brotherhood and The Right Hand of Doom) and two of the fragments(Death’s black Riders and The Castle of The Devil). There was also formatting problems and a serious need for editing; spelling goofs were all over the place. It was good enough to give me what I needed though.
SOLOMON KANE was written and directed by Michael J. Bassett and they opted for an origin story. Max Von Sydow has a brief role as Kane’s father, a nobleman who made it known he was leaving the estates to the older brother and wanted Solomon to enter the priesthood. When the boy refuses and leaves, he’s banished, cut off, completely on his own. It debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September, 2009 and appeared at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. Lion’s Gate has the rights and supposedly will release it in 2010(they better hurry). Since it’s already been released to DVD, they seems unlikely.
The movie opens in North Africa in 1600. A furious battle with the Ottoman army occupying a town. Storming the fortress after the treasure within, Kane is confronted by a demon calling itself The Devil’s Reaper, there to claim his soul. He escapes through a window, falling into the sea.
It’s a year later and he’s hiding in a monastery. Forced to leave because of the head Monk’s dreams, “you have a greater destiny,” he leaves, still vowing to renounce violence, such that when accosted by three robbers, he’s beaten and left for dead. He’s saved by the Crowthorn family and travels with them.
There is a plague on the land, though, a sorcerer named Malachi and his brutal lieutenant, The Masked Rider, who has a power in his hands to brand a man to make him loyal to the army. The weak are enslaved, or outright killed, and the strong become part of the army.
Kane is forced to return to what he knows best and makes a vow to a dying father to rescue his daughter. Battling his way across the land, he leaves a bloody swath in his quest, only to learn things about Malachi, The Masked Rider, and his own past.
Some thoughts on the movie.
It’s bleak, bloody, a lot of rain and mud. As an action movie, there’s a lot right here. Not a lot of CGI effects either, only the beginning and the end. James Purefoy looks right as our Puritan hero(at one time, Christopher Lambert was attached in the role), lean, but well-muscled, torso covered with scars and tatoos. The sword fights are well choreographed, the action nicely paced.
But as one, fan though I am, not fully versed in Howard’s worlds as some others, the spirit is there, just not enough Howard. Research shows a trilogy is planned, though considering the track record of theatrical release here in the States, that doesn’t seem likely. The plan is to use Howard’s stories as a basis for the others.