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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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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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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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Beastmaster (1982)

The second of the three “not so bad” sword & sorcery movies of the early ’80s features a tiger dyed black, an eagle that normally refused to fly, two weasels and one of Charlie’s Angels, the latter in a role that had been written for Demi Moore. And Rip Torn was in it, too, in a role that had been written for Klaus Kinski.

We are talking of course of Don Coscarelli’s The Beastmaster.
And it’s not really bad. It’s just not very good.

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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Sword and the Sorcerer

Back in the early ’80s, a number of “barbarian movies” came out hot on the heels of John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian, and were considered shameless rip-offs. Of the lot, three remain today with a sort of cult status, to share the dubious title of “best of the crop”. And in fact one of the three was not a Conan rip-off at all, as it came out one year before the John Milius movie.
We’ll save that for last, and tonight (hey, it’s night here as I write this) we start with the one that is arguably the best of the three – the one that was so rushed, it hit the theaters before Conan.

And yes, I mean Albert Pyun’s The Sword and the Sorcerer, from 1982.
Dig that poster…

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Relic/The Relic (1995 & 1997)

Often it’s all a matter of timing. I read Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Relic when it came out in 1995, having read some good reviews. I was in the Air Farce at the time, and that probably did not help me enjoy the book, that I read during one dull weekend while holed up in the switchboard bunker, plus a late-night train ride home. That, and the comparison to The X-Files – a series I did not enjoy very much – did not help putting me in the best disposition. I liked the set up, the setting and the premises, but I found the main protagonist Agent Pendergast absolutely insufferable. I came out of the book with very mixed feelings.

Also, it was pretty obvious one of the authors, that had been an employee of the museum in which the novel is set, had an ax to grind with that sort of environment, and while I can appreciate it – I do have my own set of axes to grind with the world of academia and research – and I certainly approve of using fiction to kill the people we hate, the revenge fantasy element in the novel was to me a little too evident.

So, OK, I sort of liked it but I wasn’t crazy about it – to the point that I have a stack of other Preston/Child books here in my emergency box, and I’ve never been desperate enough to try another – despite the excellent reviews the books had from people I respect.

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Raiders of the Lost Franchise: Gwendoline (1984)

Ah, the French! The whole world is looking around for an Indiana Jones-style screenplay, resurrecting old projects and launching dubious attempts at new franchises? And the French decide that the best way to go is to take an old fetish comic series from the ’40s, and make a movie of it – with lots of nudity, a poor excuse of a plot, and Tawny Kitaen. What could ever go wrong?

The movie makes Bo Derek’s Tarzan look like the real thing, and was distributed in 1984 as Gwendoline or, on some markets, I kid you not, as The Perils of Gwendoline in the land of the Yik Yak.
Some of us saw it back then, on the big screen, and have the scars to prove it.

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