Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: The Return of Tarzan


I'll just skip to the review.

Following his decision to allow Jane Porter to live happily ever after with his cousin, Tarzan sails to France and immediately finds himself an enemy in the form of Nikolas Rockoff, a Russian spy whose schemes-including blackmailing his own sister Olga and her husband, the Count De Coude over a past indiscretion-are foiled by Tarzan. But after almost being killed by De Coude after being framed for having an affair with the Countess (which gets resolved for everyone involved), Tarzan happily leaves Paris on an assignment. But Rockoff is in pursuit, determined to get his revenge. Along the way Tarzan befriends an Arab Kadour ben Saden and his daughter, meets Miss Hazel Strong on a ship, is tossed overboard by Rockoff, finds himself back in the jungle he calls home and gets adopted by the Waziri, a brave tribe that welcomes Tarzan after he saves one of their own. Meanwhile, Jane is having conscience attacks over his upcoming marriage to William Cecil Clayton and keeps putting it off. Eventually a year long trip on the ship the Lady Alice becomes a nightmare when it sinks and she finds herself on a raft with Clayton and Rockoff. Eventually things finally come together as Tarzan and Jane are reunited. That and a trip to Opar and our first introduction to the one and only La...

Back during the release of John Carter, one constant defense for the film's many changes was that Edgar Rice Burroughs' work was episodic, jumping from one event after another without the streamlined narrative that apparently Hollywood and audiences demand (even though they don't seem to care that Harry Potter is extremely episodic). I never felt that way concerning A Princess of Mars because it always had what I felt was forward momentum but after reading The Return of Tarzan I'll concede that this one takes the episodic form to the limit. Jumping from Paris to Africa to Opar, Burroughs has a lot of story going on here and sometimes it just seems there is too much story. Part of that is attributed to the introduction of Rockoff and his various schemes that never seem to work out for him. Coming from the Snidely Whiplash school, Rockoff never really takes off for me as a threat, spending most of his time cackling about how he'll get revenge on Tarzan and then cowering whenever there is a face to face confrontation.

That said it is interesting to look at The Return of Tarzan as a reverse of the first book. Starting out in civilization and then returning to the jungle, Burroughs reveals more about the inner workings of his character. There is an almost child like sense of right or wrong in Tarzan's world view in the opening chapters that eventually gives way to a bitter truth-that civilized man is more dangerous and evil than the beasts of the jungle. Finding acceptance among the Waziri-which for all the complaints of racism in these books are portrayed in a more respectful way than the cannibal tribe in Tarzan of the Apes-Tarzan finds comfort only for that almost to be destroyed in one of the most vivid passages of the book-finding Jane and Clayton in an embrace Tarzan becomes consumed with jealousy and comes close to ending the life of the man who has taken virtually everything from him-until he realizes that he allowed this to happen by not stepping forward and deciding that Jane is better off without him. By the end they end up together-the old love conquers all motif is present-and it shows someone ready to throw off childish behavior and growing up. The jungle is a fantasy land-Tarzan's own OZ or Wonderland or Barsoom-and at the end he accepts grown up responsibility. I'm probably misreading this but that's my own interpretation of it.

Of course let's not forget La. At this point I'm sure you'll find that a vast majority of ERB fans will site La as the best female character in the entire Tarzan series, even over Jane (who in this one does end up living up to the stereotype view of the character as she swoons a lot). Not introduced until chapter 20 La emerges as an interesting character in the series-especially in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar-as she is presented as a woman of power who at the same time has a human side in her love-and rejection of that love-for Tarzan.

As a novel, The Return of Tarzan is a compelling companion piece to Tarzan of the Apes in how it presents the hero's quest and his eventual triumph. It may not be as well written as the first one or filled with the imagination of some of the later books but it still delivers a fun read so if you haven't read it or it has been awhile take another look. Rating ***1/2 out of 4.

Monday, August 27, 2012

John Carter 1980s Trailer

Here's what happens when you have downtime at work and access to Windows Movie Maker: My own badly edited trailer. See how many times the same shot gets repeated and see how this film might have sounded with Bryan Ferry on the soundtrack. I hope you fans enjoy it! (Now if I can only edit out the shape shifting and Carter's family...)

Solomon Kane: New Poster and Preview

Blood dripping cool! A new poster has arrived to help promote the recent VOD release and the upcoming theatrical release on September 28th as you can see above. Also distributor Radius/TWC has released the opening scene online for you to take a look at. So take a peek and let us know what you think.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong RIP 1930-2012


Here's some sad news as it has been announced that the first man to set foot on the moon has passed away at the age of 82. I have to admit I was born many years after this historic event but Mr. Armstrong was always a hero to me and to countless others I'm sure for inspiring us to look up to the night sky and dream. You can read more at http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-neil-armstrong-20120826,0,1467170.story.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rocketeer Animated Fan Film


With this week's news of a possible new movie I thought I would post this: A cool fan film made in the style of The Incredibles. Take a peek and I hope you guys enjoy it.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Rocketeer Flies Again


Now this might be cool: According to Vulture, new Disney chairman Alan Horn is said to be working on bringing a new film version of Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer to life. Disney had produced the 1991 film and while it was not a box office hit it has developed a loyal cult following over the past 20 years (with this guy being a member of the cult). You can read more at http://www.vulture.com/2012/08/disneys-the-rocketeer-being-reloaded.html and let us know what you think about it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

100 Years of John Carter of Mars Video

Even though we don't see eye to eye the John Carter Files has put together a pretty nice video showing the 100 year voyage of John Carter of Mars to film that was shown at this past weekend's Centennial celebration. So take a peek and let us know what you think.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs Stamp Event


While the Centennial celebration continues, one of the biggest events was the unveiling of the official USPS Postage Stamp featuring ERB and his famous creation. The stamp was released during an event in Tarzana attended by Burroughs family members and others. You can read about it at http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_21341008/tarzana-celebrates-edgar-rice-burroughs-and-tarzan-postage and see a photo gallery at http://thejohncarterfiles.com/2012/08/the-edgar-rice-burroughs-stamp-ceremony-photo-gallery/

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: Tarzan of the Apes

With its 100th anniversary coming up-and having read it in one day-here's my take on the original classic.

Following a violent mutiny John Clayton, also known as Lord Greystoke and his wife Alice are left to fend for themselves on the coast of Africa. After giving birth to a baby boy, Alice dies and John is soon killed by an ape Kerchak. The baby survives though-nursed and raised by the female ape Kala-and is named Tarzan. While growing up in his new surroundings, Tarzan discovers the beauty and violence of the jungle at the hands of his fellow apes and a cannibal tribe and learns thanks to some left over books in the small cabin his parents built how to read and write. Those skills come in handy when a small band, including his unknown cousin William Cecil Clayton, Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and Porter's daughter Jane, are left by treasure seeking thieves on the same coast. Eventually Tarzan must make a choice-to go to America and the woman he loves or to stay in the jungle.

I know I skipped a lot there but I figure most of you know the plot of Tarzan of the Apes at this point. If not, read the book. Even though it may not be the most "perfect" piece of literature ever written, it is a strong and unique novel that brings more to the table than most of its critics will ever admit.

What I discovered in rereading it is how slow paced the book is. Unlike the later Tarzan novels-or most of his other work-Edgar Rice Burroughs spends most of the book's length developing the character of Tarzan. He is at once embarrassed by is un-ape like appearance; cruel and mischievous in his torment of the natives and his adopted father Tublat; heartbroken when he thinks Jane has rejected him and content to leave the civilized world and return home. There is no grand plot, no Macguffin to chase after-even the treasure that Porter and company are looking for doesn't eat up much of the story-but rather a surprisingly well developed and in some cases tender coming of age story of how a boy becomes a man with all of the heartbreak, adventure and emotion that comes with it. I know that sounds silly for what is basically a "pulp" story but there is enough there to cause it to raise above its pulp origins.

The other surprise was the character of Jane Porter. The stereotype view of Jane is that she's nothing more than a damsel in distress, a piece of eye candy for the hero to rescue and the villains to leer at. And true she's not out there fighting lions-even though she takes a shot at one attempting to enter the cabin she's in-she is not a one dimensional character either. In fact the Jane here is a rather forceful character, arguing about remaining until Tarzan returns and showing backbone to Robert Canler (the closest the novel gets to an actual villain even though Burroughs never brought him back) over being "sold" to him in order to erase her father's debts to Canler. The character would grow in the series, to the point in Tarzan's Quest she can handle the jungle herself without Tarzan, and here she shows the same growth. Granted she does resort to speechifying which seems to be the major fault of most of Burroughs' female characters (Dejah Thoris did it quite a bit in A Princess of Mars) but she isn't just a fainting damsel in distress (most of the fainting is reserved for Esmeralda, her nanny who is here as a rather antiquated piece of ethnic comedy relief).

The book does have its failings though. There is too much of the standard ERB "coincidence" plotting: Tarzan just happens to find the cabin and the locket; there just happens to be a book with his finger prints in it from his childhood; there just happens to be a wildfire to rescue Jane from...But at this point you either accept or go off and read something else. Also some of the stereotypes from the time will make the PC police wince. All I can say for them is you have to remember what time period this was written in and how what was acceptable then wasn't now. After all who knows-in a 100 years people might find Harry Potter offensive.

So with all of that wrote up I admit it isn't the most original review I've written. Nor is it probably the most academic or intelligent. But with Tarzan of the Apes-and most of his work-Edgar Rice Burroughs was aiming for entertainment. And while the later books get more wild-lost civilizations, narrow escapes, that hot and horny High Priestess La-this is still the one to read and think about. It isn't just escapist fiction, its a classic. Rating **** out of 4.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

100 Years of Tarzan: Celebrating ERB's Legacy


I'll cut to the chase here: With the start of the Tarzan/John Carter Centennial Celebration being held this week at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA near Tarzana, the LA Daily News has an interesting piece up about Tarzan's longevity and the events that will happen at the Centennial-including the unveiling the Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp and a dinner with guest speakers Jane Goodall and John Carter producer Jim Morris. You can read more at http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_21305730/celebrating-100-years-tarzan-edgar-rice-burroughs-legacy and if you're going the John Carter Files has up the list of events http://thejohncarterfiles.com/2012/08/official-tarzanjohn-carter-centennial-schedule-for-the-2012-dum-dum-is-out/.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Comic Review: Lord of the Jungle #6


I know this one is a little late. But that happens.

After leaving the jungle behind, Jane and her father attempt to start over by moving from Baltimore to Wisconsin. There is one problem though: Robert Canler, a swindler that Prof. Porter owes money to and has the deed to their property and is willing to forget everything...if Jane marries him. This doesn't sit well with Cecil Clayton who has also put his feelings on the line for Jane. Adding more drama is a wild fire that has spread and the arrival of a mysterious stranger-Tarzan! If you read the novel you know the rest-including a heartbreaking choice for Jane to make-stay in the civilized world or be with the man she truly loves.

With this final issue in their adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes, Arvid Nelson and artist Roberto Castro deliver an emotional and action packed climax that sticks pretty much to Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel. From the arrival of the slimy Canler to the fire to Tarzan's final words, it all comes from the book. Granted this leaves the reader unfamiliar with the book probably feeling a little cheated that there is no grand final battle or fight but that wasn't the point. Instead if was the feeling of wanting what the heart wants but cannot have that both Tarzan and Jane come to terms with. I know that sounds sentimental and melodramatic but it serves the story.

Castro's art is also quite good with a change from the jungle location to America. Like the previous issues more work is devoted to the characters and their designs than the backgrounds but with this issue I felt it worked since the ending is about emotion,not action. I just hope he sticks around for the next issue.

So Tarzan fans there you go. A great and largely entertaining take on the character that sticks if not to the letter than the heart and soul of Burroughs that also manages to make the story accessible to newcomers. Just as long as Cheeta doesn't show up.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Comic Review: Warriors of Mars #4


This weekend's comic reviews begins with another quest to rescue a beautiful princess from an evil creature. Isn't that the plot of every story?

When we last left off, John Carter and Gulliver Jones had forged a truce in order to rescue Dejah from the Thither people who have kidnapped her along with Gulliver's magic carpet. As this issue opens, Carter and Jones find themselves at the end of the River Iss/of Death, almost falling prey to some sweet smelling and tasting substance. Lucky for them they are rescued by an outcast Thither, who helps direct them on their ways. Meanwhile the Thither king Zar-Hap questions Dejah about the carpet and when failing to receive a satisfactory answer has thrown into a pit. Before too long there is a surprise cameo appearance, our heroes entering the Thither stronghold and Gulliver flying off into another adventure.

So far I've been enjoying this crossover between the two Martian heroes and this issue does a good job, if a little too briskly. As mentioned before writer Robert Napton wrapped up the adaptation of Gulliver of Mars in the first two issues and before this issue ends wraps up the story here. While I'm all for a fast read, it might have benefited from slower moments. That said this issue does have a tearful reunion between Dejah and the aforementioned cameo and some rousing action, including Carter kicking Thithers all over the place.

Artwise I'm really enjoying artist Jack Jadson's take on the characters here. In fact this maybe the best Carter and Dejah have looked in any of Dynamite's comics to date, combining some pleasing character designs and even some homages to their looks from the John Carter, Warlord of Mars series from the 1970s. Gulliver and the Thithers are also handled well and the backgrounds for once really pop. Just take a look at the first three pages-it's really great work.

I'll conclude by giving this a big thumbs up. For fans of Barsoom and Gulliver Jones its a fun series. Next time we'll see how another Edgar Rice Burroughs character's comic book arc ends. Until then...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Review: Master of Adventure


It's been a while since I did one of these. I'm also reading another book-well sort of book-that I'll write about later. But for now...

First published in 1965 and republished ever since (the most recent being a 2005 edition put out by Bison Frontiers of Imagination), Richard A. Lupoff's Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure was the first serious book to delve into the literary output of one of the most influential and popular novelists of the 20th century. In that respect it's not a standard biography (Lupoff only spends one chapter on Burroughs' life prior to his writing career) but instead a run down of his novels and stories at least until the book's publication (my edition comes from 1975).

Lupoff breaks the book into two sections. The first one deals primarily with Burroughs' science fiction writings, with chapters bouncing back and forth between the Barsoom and Pellucidar series. There is also devoted chapters to such books like The Land That Time Forgot, The Moon Maid and Beyond the Farthest Star, taking a look at the plots and how each book fares. The second section deals with Tarzan, who gets a full five chapters devoted to his adventures, his literary ancestors and "Descendants of Tarzan" which looks at homages and ripoffs of the character and other Burroughs creations.

Having not read this book for a long time I began reading it to see what I had missed in my own reviews and evaluations of Burroughs' books on this site as well as refreshing my memory about some of his lesser known work. Some of Lupoff's opinions I agree with whole heartily. For example he holds up the Barsoom series as Burroughs' most sustained achievement, maintaining a quality that the other series don't (the only one Lupoff dislikes is Synthetic Men of Mars). I also agree with his comments on The Moon Maid and even his picking of Tarzan and the Ant Men as one of the top six in his picks for an ERB library for newcomers to his work. On the other hand Lupoff-at least in this edition-is dismissive of the Carson of Venus series and most of the later Tarzan novels which I don't agree with. But that is part of the fun, seeing which books I would have picked over the ones he does.

The book also spends some time on one of the more debated areas of ERB fandom-the inspirations of his work, in this case Lupoff's oft repeated claims that Edwin Lester's Lt. Gulliver Jones, His Vacation inspired Burroughs as well as the aforementioned chapter on Tarzan. I know some ERB fans have questioned this but until someone has definitive proof it will remain just speculation and will always divide fans.

Concluding this, for those who are new to Burroughs' work after seeing John Carter, this book is a definite recommendation as you can get some information and possible suggestions for future reading. For long time fans I'm sure you've read this and either agree or disagree with Lupoff. Still it's a good book for the new and old ERB fan. Rating: **** out of 4.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Director Kevin Connor on 1970s ERB Films


I'll just skip to it: The web site Hey U Guys has posted an interview with director Kevin Connor to help celebrate the British DVD release of several Amicus Films, including Connor's film versions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot and At The Earth's Core http://www.heyuguys.co.uk/2012/08/07/the-studio-that-time-forgot-an-interview-with-amicus-director-kevin-connor/. For fans of those films its a good talk as Connor discusses how he got the job to direct them, working with the 1970s visual effects and actors Doug McClure and Peter Cushing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity Lands on Mars! (Or Barsoom!)

A little real science for your Monday morning. NASA has landed the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars and it has sent its first photo, as shown above. You can catch up the news and NASA excitement at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html. The major question is what will Curiosity reveal about Mars' past. Or if there is any hot Martian princesses? Stay tuned to find out!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #20


Another weekend, another comic book review.

When we last left our heroes, John Carter and Carthoris had discovered that a High Priest of Issus had activated a "Doomsday Device" that will destroy Barsoom's already fragile atmosphere. As this issue opens, they are working feverishly to discover the location of the device and shut it off. Helping them is Linea, the granddaughter of Issus, who hopes that her actions will lead her people to make peace with the Red Men. But there is some obstacles to overcome-including sea creatures, violent First Born and time running out.

Serving as a brief bridge between his adaptations of The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars, Arvid Nelson has made a pretty good and short linking story that at least keeps the reader interested. Granted I wasn't crazy about building up the romantic tension between Carthoris and Linea since we know that it wasn't to be. Also there is a brief scene where Carter himself suggests a union between the two could bring peace. He must have seen the movie John Carter where his (movie) father-in-law suggested the same thing to a reluctant child. Still the story moves briskly and that's what counts here.

It also helps that artist Vicente Cifuentes brings a nice touch to the characters and designs, even if the colors seem a little off-Carthrois for example is about as white as his father. Still the work is nice and colorful and maintains the issue well.

I've run out of clever wrap-ups so I'll just end by giving a Thark four thumbs up. See you next time.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

John Carter: Battle for Barsoom!

How about some fun and games? While Disney decided not to make a video game for the Playstation/XBOX/WII market, they have added a few games to the still online John Carter website. In this case Battle for Barsoom, a single player game that allows you to be Carter or Dejah Thoris starting out as you slash and fight for Barsoom. Hit http://disney.go.com/johncarter/#/games/battle-for-barsoom and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

David Yates Close to Directing Tarzan?


Until there is an official word I guess take this with a grain of salt. But for the moment Deadline Hollywood is reporting that "things are getting serious between Warner Bros and Harry Potter director David Yates on Tarzan, the long gestating film about the tree swinging ape man." You can see the article for yourself here http://www.deadline.com/2012/08/director-talk-david-yates-for-tarzan-christopher-mcquarrie-for-without-remorse/. Previously a story was making the rounds that Yates and two other directors-including Hunger Games director Gary Ross-were interested in the project so we'll see where it goes from here.

Gore Vidal On The Influence of Tarzan


With the recent news of the passing of author Gore Vidal at age 86, I remembered that he had written an article talking about his love of Edgar Rice Burroughs in his youth. Luckily Esquire's web site has the article online http://www.esquire.com/features/gore-vidal-archive/tarzan-revisited-1263 and its a good read for fans of both authors. May Mr. Vidal RIP.