Book Review: ‘The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Book 1)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the first of three collected editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian tales. I’m reading these as they’re numerically numbered and I assume there’s at least a loose chronology to the placement of the stories over the three volumes.

This one features several of the famous Conan short stories that I’ve also read but about 40 percent of it was new to me.

Covering nearly 500 pages, this is packed full of a dozen or so stories, as well as alternate draft versions of many. The main part of the book has The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, The Tower of the Elephant, The Phoenix and the Sword and Queen of the Black Coast just to name a few.

Overall, this was a hell of a lot of fun to both revisit and discover stories I hadn’t yet read. Some of these were also stories I knew from the comics but hadn’t actually experienced the source material for myself.

All in all, a great, beefy book packed full of sword and sorcery adventure, heroism and monsters. What the hell isn’t there to love?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Film Review: Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Also known as: The Corpse-Makers (working title)
Release Date: October 30th, 1963
Directed by: Sidney Salkow
Written by: Robert E. Kent
Based on: the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Music by: Richard LaSalle
Cast: Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Richard Denning, Joyce Taylor

Robert E. Kent Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Your daughter is a fine specimen, too, isn’t she father? A specimen of the most deadly thing that was ever given life.” – Beatrice Rappaccini

While I’m not the biggest fan of anthology movies, this one is pretty good and it was better than I remembered.

I think that the last time I saw this was when it first came out on DVD, which had to have been more than fifteen years ago now.

I did remember the first two stories in this pretty fondly but I couldn’t recall the third and final act of the film. Seeing this now, I can see why, as it is definitely the weakest of the three.

However, the first two stories are both so good, that I can’t let the third one ruin the movie. Although, it probably should’ve gone first, as it sort of kills the movie’s momentum and pacing.

I’ve never actually read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, even though I own a pretty ancient copy of it. So I’m not sure if the order of the stories are the same in this film as they are in the novel. If so, I get why the film put them in that order.

Between the first two stories, it’s hard to pick a favorite, though, as both are wonderful.

love Vincent Price in this but then again, when don’t I love the man? The first story might take a bit of an edge, however, as I really enjoyed his chemistry with Sebastian Cabot.

All in all, this was neat to revisit and it fits well with the tone of Price’s Edgar Allan Poe movies and another anthology with him in it from the same era, Tales of Terror.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’60s and ’70s horror anthology films, specifically Tales of Terror, which also stars Vincent Price.

Comic Review: The Saga of Solomon Kane

Published: August 18th, 2009
Written by: Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, various
Art by: various
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, characters by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics (original printing), Dark Horse (reprinted), 416 Pages

Review:

Man, this was one hell of a buy! A great value in fact! I was surprised that I found one in pretty pristine condition on eBay for about twenty bucks.

This collection is pretty special, as it is magazine sized and all in black and white. It’s also over 400 glorious pages! It reprints all of the Solomon Kane magazine format stories from the original Marvel era when they had all the Robert E. Howard publishing rights from the ’70s into the early ’90s.

I’ve read probably half of these stories before, as I own a lot of the issues these tales appeared in but it’s been a really long time and about 50-60 percent of this was new to me.

It seems like this is mostly in chronological order and it allowed for it to read much better as a broader body of work, covering the large passage of time over Kane’s many adventures.

Being that this was made by Marvel, it features some great crossovers with the Marvel version of Dracula, as well as another Robert E. Howard character, Conan. There’s even a story in here that features Frankenstein’s castle.

A lot of the stories here are adapted from Howard’s literary Solomon Kane tales. Having recently read the definitive collection of the literary work, it was really cool seeing some of the same tales brought to life with great art.

All in all, this is now one of my favorite things in my graphic novel collection. It’s a beast of a collection but it’s also something I know I’ll go back to and revisit again and again for the rest of my life.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other comic stories that were featured within the pages of the original Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

Book Review: ‘The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane’ by Robert E. Howard

I have only read a few Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard and that was a long time ago. I’ve always loved the character, however. Especially, when he appeared in issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, as well as his own classic comic book series from his original Marvel run. I also like the film adaptation, quite a bit, as it has grown on me since I reviewed it for this site a few years back. I may need to update that, as I have a higher opinion of the movie now than I did after my original viewing of it.

This nice, thick book collects a lot of the iconic Solomon Kane stories that Howard wrote. I’m not sure if this is all of them or most of them but it does feature the stories I’m either familiar with from the comics and from what I’ve learned about the character’s history.

I enjoyed this pretty immensely, which I kind of expected to, but it exceeded those expectations and as far as a big collected body of work, this may be my favorite book I own by Robert E. Howard. Granted, I plan on reading the collected editions of Conan soon, as I have only read about a third of his short stories.

Solomon Kane is a very different hero than either Conan or Kull, however, and it was cool seeing Howard writing what I still consider to be sword and sorcery but quite unlike his better known “barbarian” heroes.

I love that this takes place on Earth in a historical time and that it connects to the real world closer than Howard’s prehistorical fantasy stuff.

Additionally, every story here had purpose and serious gravitas. I also liked all the colorful characters that weaved in and out of these tales, as well as the monsters and the Lovecraftian influence on them.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane should definitely be in anyone’s library who enjoys fantasy, action and horror. It’s a perfect blend of these three things, written by one of the greatest American authors that ever lived.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘Kull: Exile of Atlantis’ by Robert E. Howard

While this doesn’t collect all of the Kull stories by Robert E. Howard, I believe that it collects most of them. I feel like this nice, thick collection definitely gives you a lot of Kull to chew on and digest and honestly, this was all really solid without a dull moment to be found.

I believe that all of these stories are in chronological order to Kull’s life and not necessarily to the publishing date. They seem to be in order, anyway, as some stories have characters that connect to other stories and past situations sometimes get a mention.

Other than Kull, we do get mention of his big enemy Thulsa Doom. However, he doesn’t really have a presence here and I’m not sure how big of a presence he had in the actual short stories that Howard wrote. Doom did appear quite frequently in the Marvel comics series, though.

We also get a story where Kull meets another great Howard warrior, Bran Mak Morn. I think this story was originally written as a Bran Mak Morn tale but it was cool that it was included here, as it shows Howard sort of envisioned his stories within the same shared universe, which also exists within the realm of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. In fact, the two men were great friends and inspired one another.

For those who don’t know, Howard created Kull before his most famous character, Conan. The two have some similarities that are obvious but their personalities differ and you really get to see that, here.

Also, there is at least one story in this book that would be reworked and rewritten later as a Conan story.

For those who love Robert E. Howard’s work or are simply sword and sorcery fans, this is certainly something you’ll want to read and add to your library.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: anything else by Robert E. Howard, also the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Book Review: ‘The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard’

I’ve always loved that H.P. Lovecraft never really gave a shit that other writers would tap into his Cthulhu mythos. In the case of Robert E. Howard, the two had become good friends whose work influenced each other. So, naturally Howard wrote some Lovecraftian tales and even merged some of his most famous characters with those existing in Lovecraft’s literary universe.

The first story in this anthology collection sees Howard’s Kull of Atlantis crossover into Lovecraftian horror. Granted, this also happened in some works featuring Conan the Cimmerian, as well.

My favorite story in the collection was the second one, which was originally a novella. The story is called “Skull-Face”. The story is about a British man who smokes opium, has weird visions and then discovers that there’s something real and sinister afoot.

As I was reading “Skull-Face”, I kept envisioning Peter Cushing as the main character and it read like something that could’ve been adapted greatly by Hammer Films in the 1960s.

The rest of the stories were also pretty solid but my mind kept drifting back to “Skull-Face”.

All in all, this was really neat to read as it merged two of my favorite fantasy authors’ worlds together. Sure, Lovecraft influenced Howard’s sword and sorcery tales but this thick volume went beyond just the stuff I’ve read involving Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other works by Robert E. Howard, as well as the literary work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Film Review: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Also known as: Trick or Treat (alternative spelling)
Release Date: December 9th, 2007 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon Film Festival)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty
Music by: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Britt McKillip, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Samm Todd, Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett, Brett Kelly

Bad Hat Harry Productions, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 82 Minutes

Review:

“Werewolves, zombies and demons of every variety. They’ve all descended on the normally sleepy town of Warren Valley, OH. Where the holiday and all of its strange traditions are taken very seriously. It’s only 8:00 and the streets are already packed with costumed visitors. Some to show off, others to blend in, but all to celebrate the magical night of Halloween. The one night a year where we can pretend to be the scariest thing we think of.” – Reporter

It’s been a hell of a long time since I last watched Trick ‘r Treat and I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t reviewed it yet, as this is already the fourth Halloween season since Talking Pulp started. Not to mention all my other blogs that predate this one where reviewing movies was part of the regular output.

I like this movie quite a bit, especially because it truly is a love letter to Halloween and while we have a lot of horror movies in the universe, we don’t have enough that feel like they’re Halloween specific.

This is an anthology but all the stories are connected and happen in the same town on the same night. The plots overlap a bit and the movie is shown out of order ala Pulp Fiction but it isn’t hard to put the pieces together and it keeps you guessing as the multiple plot threads develop.

My only real complaint about the film is that it felt like it needed one more story thrown in to help pad out the running time and to take the picture to the next level. It’s short, moves really quick and the flick ends before you’re really ready to say goodbye to it. But I guess that’s also a testament to how entertaining it is.

I had always hoped that this would’ve kicked off a franchise of annual or semi-annual Halloween anthologies that exist in this same universe. Michael Dougherty, the film’s writer and director, has said he’s wanted to make more but it’s been thirteen years since this was originally shown and not much has happened since.

Well, Dougherty did do another holiday themed horror movie with 2015’s Krampus and I did enjoy that as well. But still, this deserves more love, more chapters and with that, I feel like it could evolve into a franchise strong enough to rival John Carpenter’s Halloween series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies, as well as movies about Halloween.

Film Review: Movie 43 (2013)

Also known as: Truth or Dare (working title)
Release Date: January 1st, 2013 (Russia)
Directed by: Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Steve Baker, Damon Escott
Written by: Steve Baker, Ricky Blitt, Will Carlough, Tobias Carlson, Jacob Fleisher, Patrik Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Claes Kjellstrom, Jack Kukoda, Bob Odenkirk, Bill O’Malley, Matthew Alec Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, Olle Sarri, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Jeremy Sosenko, Jonathan van Tulleken, Jonas Wittenmark
Music by: Christophe Beck, David J. Hodge, Leo Birenberg, Tyler Bates, Miles Moon, William Goodrum
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Emma Stone, Jason Sudekis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Charlie Saxton, Will Sasso, Seth MacFarlane, Mark L. Young, Fisher Stevens, Beth Littleford, Julie Ann Emery, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Kieran Culkin, Bobby Cannavale, Patrick Warburton, Seann William Scott, Stephen Merchant, Snooki, Emily Alyn Lind, Julianne Moore (scene cut), Tony Shalhoub (scene cut), Bob Odenkirk (scene cut), Anton Yelchin (scene cut)

Relativity Media, Virgin Produced, GreeneStreet Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me, I’m gonna go do some Batman-ing.” – Fake Batman

I never wanted to see this movie and that was before I heard how bad it was when it came out. Also, the few people who seemed to like it were people that have historically had terrible recommendations in not just movies but just about everything in life.

Recently, I was told to watch it and I kind of just said fuck it because part of me was curious and wanted to know if this was as bad as I had heard it was.

It’s worse.

In fact, I can confidently say that this is the biggest waste of talent I have ever seen in a motion picture.

It’s so bad that it’s beyond atrocious. So much so, that I find it not just baffling that this film attracted so many big stars but I find it really unnerving.

Who greenlit this fucking thing? And how many terrible agents are there in Hollywood? Fire all of them!

Anyway, I had to start asking myself some questions while trying to work this film’s existence out in my brain:

  1. Is everyone in Hollywood actually insane?
  2. Do the Hollywood elite want all of us to commit seppuku?
  3. Do the Hollywood elite think that sucking their own assholes is a good use of time?
  4. Did this movie somehow leak over from a parallel dimension where Earth actually is Hell?
  5. Did all of these “artists” commit some unspeakable crime and this was secretly some sort of punishment for said crime?
  6. Did all of these people lose a bet?
  7. Was this movie actually the result of a writing contest for mental patients?
  8. Is this what people mean by “anti-humor”?
  9. Did the person who put up the money have some sort of Brewster’s Millions deal where they had to throw away money to get their full inheritance?
  10. Was this produced to debut on an earlier, failed attempt at CBS trying a streaming service?

I mean, those are all legitimate questions. In fact, I’d say that they’re more legitimate than this film.

This is the worst movie I’ve seen that was made for less than thirty dollars.

The film was full of crude jokes, none of which landed, and it offered up a bunch of gross out moments that just come across as Hollywood trying so hard to be edgy when in reality, they haven’t had their fucking balls in a long time.

Honestly, seeing how “politically correct” and “apologetic” the Hollywood elite have become since SJWs emerged and Cancel Culture took hold, this film feels like them desperately trying to get all the edgy shit out of their system before they all started their “I’m sorry, I’ll strive to do better” world tour.

Additionally, none of these gross out moments are all that effective if you’ve been a fan of ’70s and ’80s horror. Go watch Society and try again. Better yet, you shouldn’t have tried at all.

I think that film critic Robbie Collin said it best in his review of the movie:

“I was immediately overcome with a sudden rush of emotion: not amusement, anger or even mild irritation, but a profound and faintly tragic sense of pity.”

Speaking of reviews, let’s look at what all the big sites think. IMDb gives it a 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 5 percent from critics with 24 percent from the audience, Metacritic gives it an 18 percent and Richard Roeper referred to it as “the Citizen Kane of awful.”

In closing, I’ll simply state:

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: bad cavities and genital warts.

Film Review: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Also known as: Two Fabulous Characters (working title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1949 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, James Algar
Written by: Erdman Penner, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Homer Brightman, Harry Reeves
Based on: The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Basil Rathbone (narrator), Bing Crosby (narrator), Eric Blore, Pat O’Malley, Colin Campbell, John McLeish, Campbell Grant, Claude Allister, Leslie Denison, Edmond Stevens, The Rhythmaires

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 68 Minutes

Review:

“Come along! Hop up here! We’ll go for a jolly ride! The open road! The dusty highway! Come! I’ll show you the world! Travel! Scene! Excitement! Ha ha ha!” – Mr. Toad

This is the sixth and final movie in Disney’s string of anthology/package films, ending their strange and very different approach to feature length animated productions in the 1940s.

Overall, this is my favorite film in this strange stretch of pictures, as it feels more like traditional Disney storytelling, as it only features two stories and both are done quite well and exhibit that Disney storytelling magic better than anything else out of the package film releases.

I really like both of these stories and both were favorites of mine, as a kid. However, I’ve never seen them presented in this full film version and usually just saw them used separately as filler to take up time between movies on the classic ’80s version of The Disney Channel, back when it was a premium cable channel that had to be subscribed to similar to HBO and Showtime.

This movie actually feels like the people at Disney were already planning on returning to feature length storytelling but they had to do this to get their mojo back and to learn how to tell a longer story, once again.

This film is made by two different teams, each focusing on their half of the film.

The two stories here are adaptations of two different books: The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The former makes up the Mr. Toad portion of the film, the latter makes up the Ichabod story.

I think what I liked about these stories was that they were just amusing and fun. I loved the spirit and tone of the Mr. Toad segment but then I really fell in love with the Ichabod half because of its finale with The Headless Horseman, which is still, in my opinion, one of the greatest finale sequences that Disney has ever done.

Seeing this now, the animation really stands out and it’s clear that over the course of these six experimental anthology pictures, that the Disney company really honed their skills in a variety of ways. In this film, applying these more refined skills, we’re treated to a picture that looks better than most of the work that Disney has done previously in regards to their standard animation style.

This is more fluid, the action and motion is just more dynamic and the two sequences just blend together nicely, even in spite of their very stark narrative and style differences.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: Melody Time (1948)

Also known as: All In Fun (working title)
Release Date: May 27th, 1948
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Winston Hibler, Harry Reeves, Ken Anderson, Erdman Penner, Homer Brightman, Ted Sears, Joe Rinaldi, Bill Cottrell, Jesse Marsh, Art Scott, Bob Moore, John Walbridge
Music by: Eliot Daniel, Paul J. Smith, Ken Darby
Cast: Roy Rogers, Trigger, Dennis Day, The Andrews Sisters, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Freddy Martin, Ethel Smith, Frances Langford, Buddy Clark, Bob Nolan, Sons of the Pioneers, The Dinning Sisters, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 72 Minutes

Review:

“In the state of Texas, USA, life still goes on in the same old way.” – Roy Rogers

Melody Time is the fifth of the six Walt Disney anthology/package films of the 1940s. This one is also a lot like Make Mine Music in that it mostly focuses on a series of musical numbers.

I’d say that this one is a bit better than Make Mine Music, as it features some live-action actors interacting with animated characters. Although, I don’t think that it’s as groundbreaking as The Three Caballeros in that regard.

While I appreciate these films, I much prefer the anthologies that feature stories or educational bits like Fun and Fancy Free, Saludos Amigos and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

The animation is really good, the voice acting is solid and overall, this is an energetic and amusing film with great music. But I think, by this point, the animated anthologies were starting to get redundant and tiresome.

Luckily, Disney fans in 1948 were only two years away from the second great era of Disney animation with 1950’s Cinderella being just around the corner.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.