Setter’s ‘Spectives: Whatever Happened to Sword and Sorcery?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Not too long ago (only about 30-odd years), it looked like the epic would be replaced in Hollywood by fantasy pictures. It wasn’t just Conan the Barbarian that we were seeing, but also stuff like The Beastmaster, Krull and The Sword and the Sorceror. The genre was going to conquer the world.

OK, what happened?

I guess a good fantasy film is really, REALLY hard to find. Especially nowadays … as the generally awful 2011 remake of Conan suggests. Have we grown up and/or out of this genre? Are we gravitating toward sci-fi more than fantasy?

Or are we putting them together, with hybrid works such as Avatar?

I’d like to think the standard sword-and-sorcery flick isn’t dead. It’s kind of a fun breed, despite a portfolio lacking in, well, high quality … something we can’t say about science fiction. To tell you the truth, I miss those silly old ’80s adventures. We don’t get so many of them today.

And it’s not as if there isn’t enough literature to support them.

I’m not saying we need something scriptless, with just a muscle-bound hero slicing his way through the reels. But I do think we could use something that brings back that 30-year-old spirit, the energetic aura that infused so many of those violent, magic-filled pictures. We could still use a dose of that, no? Or are we too old and wise to enjoy it?

Speaking for myself, old I may be. But too wise? Nah.

Skip’s Quips: Not Quite Lost on Cinema’s Battlefield

Blog Sketch 082813While watching Lewis Milestone’s 1930 World War I epic All Quiet on the Western Front last night on TCM, I had a revelation.

It went like this: “Wow, this movie’s pretty good.”

In particular, those brutal battle scenes. Great, great cinematography, especially those tracking shots showing the hordes of soldiers rushing to their death across enemy lines. They really captured the idiocy of this conflict, where men would kill to obtain just a few feet of barren real estate. And there was terrific editing, too, with quick cuts between shots of machine gunners cutting down waves of doomed soldiers.

This was startling, not stirring. It wasn’t supposed to be rah-rah-rah. This was as anti-war as you can get, with a focus on the impersonal modernity of conflict and its unsympathetic mechanization. These images will be hard to forget for me.

But there were other wonders, too. A scene where the infantrymen try to console a dying man whose legs have been amputated. Sequences with men shrieking madly within their bunkers. And a part where some of the soldiers ply three French women with food, suggesting the desperation felt at this time … not only for sustenance, but also for love.

A fine film. Some of the acting was a bit stilted, yet it was beautifully done overall. Not easy to get through, though. But like any great anti-war movie, it shouldn’t be.