East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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16 seconds of Mummy

So I caught the teaser trailer for the new Mummy movie.
You know The Mummy, the franchise starring Brendan Fraser whose third movie actually put me to sleep…
Well, they are rebooting it (who isn’t rebooting something, these days), and it will star Tom Cruise.

And my first reaction has been… uhm.
Yes, there is an attractive lady in tactically ragged bandages screaming her heart out in the wind (ooooh, scary), but all things considered, uhm. Continue reading

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Looking for Pauline

MTE4MDAzNDEwNzI0NDIzMTgySome things start just like that…
Despite my very busy schedule, I’m going to try and track me down a copy of The Perils of Pauline, the 1914 serial featuring Pearl White (I guess that was not her true name1).
Fact is, you see, I’ve been told in detail how movie serials were a phenomenon in ’40s and ’50s American cinema, by yet another expert that apparently failed to check out Wikipedia to get the full story.
I heard that and thought… but what of Pauline?2

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Yellow Peril

Time to start going through the pile of books – and the virtual pile of ebooks – I received as Christmas presents.

5103HNt1jfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Despite my previously-vented decision to steer clear of Chinese-set stories for a while, I’m currently reading Robert J. Pearsall’s The Complete Adventures of Hazard & Partridge, a huge collection of stories that originally appeared in Adventure magazine in the ’20s.

The general setup is reminiscent of Sax Rhomer’s Fu Manchu but, as the great introductory essay by Nathan Vernon Madison points out, Pearsall was, unlike Rohmer, writing from a first-hand experience of China and the East.
The author had served overseas in the 1910s and his knowledge of China and the East makes his stories more vivid and “solid” than the Rohmer books.

As the two titular characters fight against Koshinga, a sinister Chinese mastermind hell-bent on world domination, the reader gets a nice serving of local color and historical detail.
In this sense, the Hazard & Partridge stories are a sort of “historical fiction” – because the author is well aware of real events in the past of China, and can tie them to the fictional events he’s describing.
And yet, these remain high adventure stories.
The best of both worlds, so to speak.

The stories are well-paced and fun, and the characters original enough to keep the sense of deja-vu at bay. Politically correct, they are not – but one does not read a 100-years-old adventure fiction looking for 21st century sensibilities.
I’m currently one-third through this 500+ pages colossus from Altus Press, and already I think I’d recommend it to fans of pulp stories and Oriental mysteries and adventures.

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The lost Flash Gordon

294080There’s a strange story behind Flash Gordon, The Greatest Adventure of All – the movie I watched last week to counter the desert of Christmas-time TV.

Originally conceived in 1977 as a live-action adaptation of the classic Flash Gordon strips1, the project was deemed too expensive, and reworked as a feature-length animated movie, produced by Filmation (the same guys who did the Star Trek animated series, and …e hm, He-Man).
While working on the movie, the gentlemen at Filmation brought in Dino De Laurentiis as a financer – and he jumped at the opportunity of striking a deal that would allow him to make the “too expensive” live action flick, which duly premiered in 1980.
As a result, the movie being on its way, Filmation decided to rework yet again the animated feature, turning it into a Saturday Morning cartoon series, airing in 1979 and paving the way for the live action movie.
Finally, in 1982, the original Flash Gordon animated movie was released – but it did not get a wide circulation.
And that’s a pity. Continue reading

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A baroque, pulp Ulysses

Now here’s something… unusual.
An operatic version of Homer’s Odyssey, set to music in 1765 by Gluck*, and represented in 1940s costumes and setting.

The opera is Telemaco, ossia L’isola di Circe (Telemachus, or Circe’s Island).
I like the setting quite a lot.
The idea of Ulysses as a lost flyer is quite interesting.
And when Circe the sorceress as an Oriental Dragon Lady gets into play, the whole thing assumes a curious pulp tone.

Here’s a first excerpt – you can find the rest on the Tube.

*The libretto for the opera was written by a guy called Marco Coltellini – which of course means Mark Small Knives, in Italian.

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Pulp the Spanish way: The Island of Death

imageAnd so it started: my first expedition in the uncharted territory of other people’s pulp, my first non-Anglocentric (?) pulp read is a free ebook published in 2013 by Dlorean Ediciones.
It’s in Spanish.
It’s steampunkish.
It’s part of a series.
And it’s called La Isla de la Muerte.

And c’mon – how can anyone restist a story called The Island of Death, and featuring a great cover graced by a scantly clad woman wielding two katanas, standing on the shoulder of a giant ape?

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