East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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Oh, frell!

Getting old is sometimes a cruel experience. I have just found out one of the TV series I liked the most when I was not-so-much-a-kid-anymore is today considered “obscure” and described as “one of the lesser known science fiction shows”.

It is really a weird sensation because I know that it’s been 17 years since the series was cancelled, but in this age of total recall it should not be a problem – you can get it in streaming, you can get the DVDs.
Is there really so much good new stuff that there is no time or interest for anything older than, say, five years?

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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.


The Riddle of Steel

I had an interesting and instructive discussion last night, on the Facebook group devoted to my friend Umberto Pignatelli’s Beasts & Barbarians roleplaying game, about John Milius’ 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, and about the riddle of steel in particular.

The Conan movie has been an object of much debate ever since its first screenings, and Howard fans in particular tend to be often quite critical about it. For my part, I’m one of those guys that will tell you “the book is better”, but I do like John Milius’ film. I like its looks and its composition, I like Basil Poleduris’ score, I like Sandhal Bergman a lot (and the poor, late Valerie Quennessen!), I like the characters of Subotai and Mako’s wizard, and most of everything else I like the movie’s structure. The way you can split it scene by scene and see perfectly the story arcs, and the mirror-like pivot points that make the whole narration symmetrical.

And then there’s the quotes, and among these, Conan’s father’s lengthy monologue about the Riddle of Steel.
And be warned, because from this point on there are SPOILERS (but really you never saw Conan the Barbarian? What are you doing on my blog?)

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Stranded on a mysterious island

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a bunch of strangers from all walks of life are thrown together by mysterious events and find themselves stranded on a mysterious volcanic island. They are not alone, there’s monsters and other survivors in the trees, and an underground compound filled with strange tech, a self-destruct mechanism and what else. The main characters have different skills and backgrounds – there’s a doctor, a criminal, a fat nerdy guy, a bald savvy guy, a sportsman, a businessman etc – and they have to find a way to work together to survive, solve the mystery of the island and go back home. We get flashbacks of the characters’ previous lives, and the first season ends on a massive cliffhanger.

And it’s not Lost.
It’s a strange, derivative but cool animated series produced in China, and based on a comic book. It’s called Mi Yu Xing Zhe, or Uncharted Walker in English. It was aired early in 2018 and it is not half bad.

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