June 17th, 2008

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Cyrano!

So, I went to see the 1950 version of Cyrano de Bergerac (in glorious black and white!) at the Showcase Worcester North yesterday afternoon and found myself whispering many of Cyrano's better lines. It has been a while since I read that play (or seen the movie), and I'd actually forgotten just how much I love the character (of course every other character in that play is a senseless schmuck or vapid as all Hell, but that's neither here nor there). Why do I love this character? His style! The many possible jokes he delivers about his own nose when confronted by a simpleton who thinks "Your nose is very long," as the height of wit are priceless. The poetry he composes while dueling ("and as I end my refrain... STRIKE HOME!") is a delight. A fine screen adaptation that I have not seen in years, and am only too glad to revisit.

Keep your Hulks and your Happenings; I'll take Cyrano, instead.


Last night, T and I also finished watching Woody Allen's veeeeery dark thriller Match Point, yes another film we had somehow missed. What a delightfully chilling movie, brutal not in the very brief acts of physical violence but in a much more metaphysical sense. Though it features a couple of funny, Woody Allen lines ("He lost his legs but found Jesus." "I don't know, it sounds like a bad trade to me.") and an interest in incorporating other art forms into the piece (this time around, listen for pieces from the operas based on Othello and Macbeth, played at delightfully apropos moments).
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The Eternal Champion...

Over the last few days, I've been writing a "horror" story (well, sort of), which means I don't want to read horror... So, that means on to Michael Moorcock!

I cracked open the first of many omnibus volumes of his Eternal Champion cycle (published by White Wolf during the 1990s), named (originally enough) The Eternal Champion. This one contains the novels: The Eternal Champion, The Sundered Worlds, and Phoenix in the Ashes, as well as the short piece "To Rescue Tanelorn"). This omnibus series has been sitting on my shelf for well over a decade, so it's long past time that I actually got to reading them.

Two night ago, I finished up the first of the contained novels. First published in 1962, The Eternal Champion offers an exciting piece of daring do wherein the spirit of an ancient warrior (Erekose) is called across time and space to save a kingdom from a barbaric enemy, only to discover that the reason for his coming might not be so clear cut. This spirit is the titular champion, a figure doomed to be reborn in an endless cycle of conflicts, haunted by dreams of his other incarnations. Here we find a young Moorcock tackling such topics as the necessity of war, the proliferation of atrocities accompanying such a conflict, as well as introducing his recurring figure (who will also go under the guises of Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon, etc.). The style hearkens to pulpy adventures of science fantasy (which I adore!), though there are also plenty of thoughtful, philosophical asides. While some of the emotional stuff just does not quite ring true for me (Erekose seems to fall in "love" at the drop of a hat), there's still plenty of meat on the bones of this work. The ending is truly killer.

Yesterday, when not working on my own fiction, I got about halfway through The Sundered Worlds (also originally published in 1962), a space opera piece wherein Renark von Beck (the Eternal Champion in another guise) explores the ramifications of living in but one universe of an untold number of reflections (through these books, the concept of "the Multiverse" was introduced and explored in the genre). Though not gripping in quite the same way as the first novel, The Sundered Worlds is nevertheless intriguing.
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Do you remember...

A child clings to a woman in a claustrophobic, far future, dungeon-like environment, discovering to their horror that they have stumbled through the darkness only to find themselves in the heart of nightmare. The chamber they've come to is filled with ovoid, slime drenched eggs. Each of these holds an all too real monster, a creature with the need to lay its eggs inside a warm host and no compunctions about using human beings as its breeding ground. Where do these eggs come from? Well, that answer is not far away... In this same chamber, the woman and child witness the birth of an egg. An elephant like trunk pulls up from the floor, leaving behind yet another specimen. Visually following the trunk, woman and child discover a filthy sack suspended from a ceiling to floor, fat with still more eggs. At the end opposite the trunk-like delivery system, waits a great black shape, like some piece of otherworldly, bio-mechanical artwork. However, this artwork is alive, the woman and child (and we viewing alongside them) discover, as we all behold it slowly unfolding from a slumbering state. Multiple arms spread unbelievably wide, and then e-fricking-normous slime slick jaws descend from a crown like, chitinous shell... Once free, those jaws spread in a hiss, revealing yet another set of jaws within. She has no eyes, no gender that we can understand. There is nothing recognizable here. This creature is truly Alien, and yet most certainly a Queen...



Of course, I'm describing one of the many wonderful scenes from the 1986 science fiction/horror film Aliens (undoubtedly altered via my own recollections, but that's what memory does, right?). My folks took me to see this movie in the cinema when I was 11, and it quickly worked its way under my skin and into my head.

However, while the writing, acting, and direction were top notch, it was the amazing creature creations (particularly that Queen Alien), which really sold the thing. These were the products of a whole group of designers, headed by a guy named Stan Winston. I understand he passed away recently, and that's a real shame. But instead of the typical blah-blah-movie-star-I-can't-believe-he's-gone nonsense, I think the above makes a much more fitting tribute. Whether it's the Queen Alien, the dog head puppet in John Carpenter's The Thing, creations for the titular beasties of Pumpkinhead or The Terminator, dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, or critters/effects/makeup for a host of other movies, I have to take my hat off and remember the work of this creative guy (who always smiled in the interviews like he loved his life and work) with fondness and (well earned) chills.