Advertisements

Tag Archive: Robert Louis Stevenson


Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of pulp novel cover art and the classic 1940s and 1950s steamy and smoky night scenes and dark places spotlighted on book covers probably already know about artist Reginald Heade.  His fans even refer to him as the best British artist–ever.  Heade created hundreds of striking and memorable images to sell the aura of a niche of fiction that reflected the times, and this master of “that by which readers are not supposed to judge the book” was previously featured in a 168-page work, The Art of Reginald Heade by researcher Stephen James Walker.  Telos Publishing and Walker have extensively revisited the material and historical archives to nearly double the volume of the book with newly found artwork and commentary to form a new expanded, giant 320-page edition, The Art of Reginald Heade: Special Edition.

In the word of the day, these novels featured covers spotlighting the “dames” of their story, femme fatales, sultry, sexy, sometimes in charge, and a lot of times beaten down by the gangsters and thugs of the story, often objectified, and in misogynistic situations.  Some of these could be called repellant by current–and contemporary–mores, created in the world approaching the pinnacle of criticism of blatant depictions of slavery, bondage, crime, and violence, a backlash that would gain a firmer footing in the 1950s of Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent.  Heade didn’t dodge the criticism, and in some countries Heade’s work was censored and the subject of scorn.  Some of his final artwork was pre-emptively censored by the publisher and ultimately not used in his lifetime, and the original art can be found in this book.  Sometimes referred to by the oddly incongruous “good girl art,” Heade’s art reflected an expert in drawing the feminine form.  A true working artist, he seemed to crank out new, unique, and fresh designs for his subjects as much as any great genre creator has ever done.  Seventy and eighty years after their publication, many of the books featuring Heade’s artwork have become grails for book collectors and mid-century pin-up art fans, with a few more obscure books practically lost and gone forever.

With beautiful color and black and white illustrations, The Art of Reginald Heade: Special Edition is the most comprehensive overview ever published of Heade’s life and work.  Walker includes his trademark paintings from the great Perry Mason writer Erle Stanley Gardner’s crime books, Stephen D. Frances’ Hank Janson books, covers for books by Paul Rénin, Roland Vane, Michael Storme, Spike Morelli, Gene Ross, David Hume, Carol Gaye, Margaret Pedler, Helena Grose, William Elliott and Zane Grey, plus hundreds more pulp fiction covers, as well as other works, like Major Charles Gilson’s well-known Robin of Sherwood, Nella Braddy’s biography of Rudyard Kipling, Son of Empire, and editions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe–including interior illustrations, and Heade’s comic art.  Yes, the artist known for his images of vixens in distress created equally impressive paintings for the covers of children’s books, plus mainstream novels and magazine covers (some under the nom de plume Cy Webb).

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you try to get a modern generation of moviegoers to explore the entertainment of the past, you may learn quickly it often just doesn’t work out.  One of the entertainment realms of the past that successfully spanned multiple generations is the Universal Studios monster film series.  The “Universal Monsters” began in the 1920s and stretched into the 1950s, beginning with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera and continuing on into the “modern” technology of 3D in 1954 with The Creature from the Black Lagoon (reviewed here previously at borg.com).  Kids who grew up in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s continued to watch and re-watch the film series years later.  As the horror genre is concerned, it doesn’t get more “classic” than the Universal Monsters.  Now that we’ve entered the month of Halloween, it’s time to start binge-watching the best of the horror genre, and for audiences of all ages the Universal Monsters is a good place to start.  But for the younger crowd not willing to go for the classics, especially black and white classics, you may want to give the new Universal Studios reboot a try–the new “Dark Universe.”  The introductory chapter to the Dark Universe, this summer’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, is now streaming on multiple platforms and available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD

The Mummy won’t be for everyone.  Purists loyal to the classic films are the first group that may not go for it–it doesn’t adhere very much by way look or feel to Boris Karloff’s 1932 original version, although the core concept is similar: resurrecting an ancient Egyptian royal entombed without being mummified, followed by a pursuit to resurrect The Entombed’s lover after The Entombed is brought back to life by an archaeologist.  The other group that may pass on the new film are fans of Universal’s more recent decade-long film series that originally starred Brandon Fraser and Rachel Weisz (and later Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), which spanned seven films in all and an animated television series between 1999 and 2008.  Ultimately the best audience for this year’s version of The Mummy will be audiences looking for a new film to rent or stream during this holiday season with a horror flavor.  The Mummy isn’t a romp like the recent film series or memorable like the original, but it is light as horror goes, full of action and plenty of monsters (actually zombies) without much actual gore, and overall it’s a fun way to step into the Halloween zone for general audiences.  And who doesn’t like a zombie movie?

The Mummy stars Tom Cruise as adventurer/soldier Nick Morton (along the lines of Matt Damon in The Great Wall) who, along with another soldier played by Jake Johnson (New Girl), tries to find buried treasure after Nick romances and steals a treasure map from an archaeologist named Dr. Jennifer Halsey, played by Annabelle Wallis (X-Men: First Class, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword).  Not among Cruise’s top films (see last week’s review here of American Made for that) fans of Cruise movies will still find this in the realm of his Mission: Impossible roles.  The mummy of the title is a woman in this incarnation of the horror tale, Princess Ahmanet, played by Sofia Boutella, in a performance that becomes the best aspect of the film.  As with her several recent performances (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service), it’s always exciting to see Boutella immerse herself into a role.  The actress who gained early fame as a dancer in Madonna and Michael Jackson music videos seems to easily take on the physical coordination required for this first monster of the Dark Universe.  One of Ahmanet’s powers is raising the dead into zombie defenders, and in several key action sequences the film becomes a full-scale zombie horror flick.  The zombie factor, plus big-budget production value and stars Cruise and Boutella may be enough to satisfy a broader audience’s desire for something new this Halloween.

Continue reading

14_et1743_v37_final-00088564_r

The Pirates of the Caribbean series is a rare franchise in Hollywood.  Any other film based on a game or something like an amusement park ride would have died after the initial movie.  But Pirates has withstood critical acclaim, and Jack Sparrow, the lead in each adventure, gave Johnny Depp one of several well-deserved Academy Award nominations.  The fifth installment in the series, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is coming next year, and we have the first trailer for the film, a brilliantly moody clip where we meet the new undead antagonist Captain Salazar played by Javier Bardem.  Call them ghost pirates or pirate ghosts, the inhabitants of this fantasy world continue to excite fans of a good adventure story.  Thank Sir Walter Scott and later Robert Louis Stevenson for getting generations excited about a good pirate story.  Add in a ghost story and just tell us the time and place to show up and we’ll be there.

The last Pirates entry, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, was such a visually stunning production with–more importantly–an interesting story, that it could be the franchise may just be hitting its stride.  On Stranger Tides kicked up the film’s action compared to the prior two films, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End.  Check out my review here.  It was almost as good as The Curse of the Black Pearl, which made my Top 10 fantasy movie list.

poc5_teaser_1-sheet_v10_lg

We just can’t get enough of Johnny Depp and the roles he takes on, especially with this character–a character he has been able to develop over a 14-year span.  Depp and Ethan Hawke, who we discussed here at borg.com last week in our review of The Magnificent Seven, are the best actors of their generation.  It’s hard to beat Depp continuing on with a recurring role like this.  And just look at the guest stars of this series:  Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgaard, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Keith Richards?   Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa in Dead Men Tell No Tales, and its rumored David Wenham and Paul McCartney will appear.

So check out this preview for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

Continue reading

Treasure Island banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

When you think of movie titles that immediately throw you into the action of classic favorites, you might think of something like Star Wars.  Originally to be titled The Star Wars, before the movie actually hit theaters this seemed like a pretty blah name.  Wars.  In the stars.  Got it.  But the movie surpassed its very simple title.  What did the reading public first think back in 1881 about a new serialized tale called Treasure Island?  Treasure.  On an island.  Got it.

Turns out, the original title for Treasure Island honed in on the key character of the story, the pirate Long John Silver, with the title The Sea-Cook.  Probably not as catchy then or now, but certainly a great idea for a character by one of the best adventure writers of all time, which has been used as a key element in modern adventures, from Steven Segal’s hero in Under Siege to the spy in Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October.

Wood and Izzard

In contention for the best Treasure Island adaptation in more than a century of adaptations is the 2012 British production starring Eddie Izzard as the famous pirate.  It’s saying a lot, considering competition like the 1934 Lionel Barrymore/Jackie Cooper black and white classic and the surprisingly good 1996 film Muppet Treasure Island (which Philip Glenister notes as inspiration for his performance in the DVD/Blu-ray special features) starring the always superb Tim Curry.  It’s not a stretch to see the cutting edge Izzard taking on the same roles Curry would be cast in.  Izzard has been featured in a groundbreaking catalog of productions, serving as the star of the TV series The Riches and now appearing in Hannibal, and on the big screen in Mystery Men, Shadow of the Vampire, Ocean’s Twelve/Ocean’s Thirteen, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Igor, and Valkyrie.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: