Monday, July 17, 2017

Getting Started: Stuff You Can Show Your Friends

You're new. You've found your library card. You've got your e-reader handy. You've got an eye on the nearby used bookstores. What I said last week got you excited, but you're now wondering about other media. "Can I find the pulps in movies? Television? Games?"

Yes, Virginia, you can.

You're going to be watching a fair amount of movies, some of which I'd been covering (from a slightly different perspective) over at Superversive Press's blog, and some much older than those films from the late '70s to mid '80s. You can watch any of the films I reviewed there as being good for getting into the PulpRev groove. What I'm putting down here is just what else of that spirit that you can find while dazed and confused at a Walmart or Target store, and far from a definitive list.

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark, the other franchise Harrison Ford is famous for (and the one he actually likes). The sequels are very hit-and-miss, missing more than hitting as they go on, but the original still holds up as faithful to the pulps as well as being quality entertainment and film-making in its own right to this day.
  • Conan the Barbarian, the one that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger. Skip the sequel (it's trash) and the remake (ditto), and keep in mind that this is NOT Robert E. Howard's barbarian hero directly. It's the pastiche, filtered through Marvel Comics's ongoing books and magazines of the day, but you can see Howard's hero here and there.
  • The Original Star Wars Trilogy is still a standard for Space Opera and very pulpy entertainment that doesn't lie to the audience.
  • Where Eagles Dare, a 1968 film about a World War 2 commando raid that goes wrong- and then gets very interesting. Tense, especially at the climax, and you get to see Richard Burton in his prime as well as Clint Eastwood in one of the roles that made him famous (and weren't Westerns). The pace is swift, the plot is solid, and the conclusion is satisfying in ways that later attempts at this genre just would not dare to try.
  • Hard Boiled, the 1992 film by John Woo starring Chow Yun Fat as Inspector "Tequila" Yuen. Made in Hong Kong, this is a straight-up Cops & Robbers action film. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, the pace is frantic, and the conclusion is so satisfying. (If you want a double-billing, pair this with 1989's The Killer; same director, same star, same cops-and-robbers setting but it's about protecting a witness from murderous Triads.)
  • The Three Musketeers, the 1973 version alongside its sequel The Four Musketeers, is the best adaptation of the classic Dumas novel to date. (Also, read Dumas' books. If he were published in the 20th century, he'd be there with Howard and Gibson as a master of the pulps.) If you love romance that doesn't bore, swordsmanship that doesn't rely on flash and tricks, and a moral core that satisfies well enough you're good here.
  • Fine, one that takes an Amazon trip, a Japanese film: Sword of the Stranger. You would not believe that Japan is a stronghold of the Pulp Diaspora, but it is and you get that spirit of the Pulps in spades with this film. Moral certainty, great storytelling, fast pace, and nothing tacked on become some meddling executive got in the way (and was not immediately blasted in the brainmeats and tossed out a window).

There, something to show your friends. If they like that, start shoving those books I mentioned into their hands. If they like those, get more into their hands. If they read them all, and want more, come back. My colleagues and I will be happy to help them figure out how to write their own and pay forward the great entertainment that they enjoyed by contributing some of their own to it.


  1. I highly recommend reading The Three Musketeers, fantastic adventure story with even better sequels. Dumas reads almost contemporary. But, a huge sticking point that has to be mentioned. You have to make sure to get the superior Richard Pavear translation. The cheap stuff is based on dry and censored Victorian era translations. It's night and day in quality.

    The best edition is this one.

    1. Thanks for the link. Every small press and fly-by-night public domain mill has their own version of Three Musketeers. Trying to find a labelled Pevear translation has been like finding a needle in a haystack.

  2. If you are talking about films, may I add Gunga Din to your list? This is the 1939 version starring Cary Grant, Doug Fairbanks jr, Victor McLaglen and Sam Jaffe. Try to find the uncut version. Still a great movie even after almost 80 years.

  3. I haven't seen SWORD OF THE STRANGER, but I love all those other films (even though as a Howard purist, I know I shouldn't love the Conan film). And a big seconded to John Boyle's recommendation of GUNGA DIN. It always reminds me of writers such as Talbot Mundy, H. Bedford-Jones, and REH's El Borak yarns.

  4. Don't forget 1998's Mask of Zorro.

  5. Anything with John Wayne. Too many classic films to count. In the same vein as Dumas, anything by Rafael Sabatini.

    1. And if you want to read the French versions Jules Vernes Dumas Leroux and others Here's a link of free books