Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Phantom (1996)

After The Shadow fizzed at the box office, the hopes, for lovers of old time adventure and pulp-ish entertainment, rested on the Paramount production of The Phantom, based on the classic comic strip by Lee Falk, featuring a stellar cast: Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar and Patrick McGoohan.
What could ever go wrong?

And really, based on the trailer, one could dream…

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Italian Airmen in China, circa 1933

This morning I was asked a short piece on the Italian Concession in Tientsin, to serve as a bridge between two history articles of mine that are being reprinted. It was a fun job, 700 words in one hour. Thanks to all the research I did for my books,The Ministry of Thunder and Cynical Little Angels, I have tons of material on the Italian presence in China between the wars.

But I did a little web search anyway, and unearthed some stuff I had never seen before, including a photograph.

These are Italian airmen, photographed in China in the early ’30s, at the time of the Breda Ba.27 debacle that is at the start of Felice Sabatini’s adventures in China. The photo is badly colorized, but you get the idea.

“And who’s Sabatini?” my brother asked me upon seeing the picture.
Nice question.
I have of course my own candidate for the role.
But what do you guys say?


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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Shadow (1994)

This is one of the two movies that really got us all excited when we learned they were in the making, one that we expected with increasing trepidation. And it is really one of the great missed opportunities of franchise-making cinema – in a parallel universe somewhere, the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t exist, and kids go crazy about the Shadowverse.
Or something.
But this is not that universe.

And if I have to explain to you who and what The Shadow is, you are on the wrong blog. One of the most iconic and long-lived pulp characters, The Shadow has been a radio drama host/character, the hero of 325 novels, and has appeared in comics and films for almost a century.
When the 1994 movie was announced, the fans went in overdrive.

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The scholar first, the fictionist second

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the death of Harold Lamb, one of the patron saints of Karavansara.
He was a writer of pulp fiction – a lot of his works were published in Adventure – much admired by Robert E. Howard among others, that later became so famous as an author of biographies and historical novels that his lighter and more adventurous side was almost completely forgotten.
He did work with Cecil Be Demille on his The Crusades, as a historical consultant.
It is not the first time I mention him here on Karavansara, and I am sure WordPress will add links at the bottom of this page.

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The Fourth Bette Davis Blogathon: The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

My brain is a sieve, and I was almost forgetting today it’s the last day of the Fourth Bette Davis Blogathon, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.
I blame the spring. But all is not lost, and here is my late-night contribution.
Be sure to check out the link above to find a wealth of other posts on the movies of the woman that was called The First Lady of Hollywood.

But then come back here, because this late-night post is filled with things that go bump in the dark: we’ll be talking about Walt Disney’s horror The Watcher in the Woods, from 1980.
The film that was to be Disney’s response to The Exorcist.
I kid you not.

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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: Hawk the Slayer (1980)

And we finally come to the true heavyweight among the three “not so bad” early 1980s Conan clones. And Hawk the Slayer is a heavyweight for a number of reasons: because it is a true cult movie, because it was not, in fact, a Conan rip-off at all (it came out two years before the John Milius film), and because it was damn cheap, but it had a heart.
And Jack Palance playing Darth Vader.

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Pulp heroes & villains

This is no time for Kickstarters, for me: in the first three months of 2019 together with my brother we have done over 1000 euro of so-far unpaid work, and that’s a big figure for us,a big hole in our finances. So, we are cutting on expenses and hoping for tomorrow, and wild purchases are out.
But maybe your finances are better than ours, so I decided to point out a very interesting Kickstarter.
Take a look at this:

Yes, there’s a Mola Ram lookalike character, there’s a lady that looks a lot like Ursula Andress in She, and that big guy on the right, next to a female version of Indiana Jones, is quite obviously Rando Hatton.

I do not usually use minis in my games, and I do not game that much anymore, but this one is breaking my heart.

In case you are interested, the crowdfunding closes in 8 hours.