I was checking out the new Paradox website last night when I came across a webpage labeled “Entertainment.” On that page were a number of proposed and/or upcoming Robert E. Howard projects. To say I was shocked at what I found there is an understatement; it was more like a feeling of pure horror.
The movie and other media projects listed for characters and stories included (in addition to Conan): Almuric, Dark Agnes, El Borak, James Allison, John Kirowan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, “Pigeons From Hell,” Cormac Mac Art and “The Vultures of Wahpeton.” Some of these projects I was aware of, but most were new to me. While I’m very happy with what Paradox is doing with Howard in print, the movies are a different story altogether. Moviemakers have always mangled Howard’s work and will likely continue to go so. In order to keep my head from exploding, I will only address two of the proposed projects here, but you can check them all out at Paradox’s website.
Here is the blub for the Francis X. Gordon movie:
Untitled El Borak Project (Action /Adventure New Media Series)
Jason Bourne meets Lawrence of Arabia. Disillusioned after years of U.S. black ops, lethal CIA operative Francis Gordon disappears. Years later, he resurfaces as a mercenary for Afghani warlords and seeks to keep U.S., Russian, and British influence out of the region. In their quest for power, these nations bid for the services of shadowy gun-runner “El Borak,” once known as Francis Gordon.
Okay, first of all you know you are in trouble when the blurb for a movie begins something like: “think Godzilla meets The Parent Trap.” Summing up the entire plot of a movie in this way must mean the money guys who are pitched these movies have the attention span of a gnat, which also calls into question the intelligence of those pushing the concept.
Second, the CIA wasn’t around during the time of El Borak’s adventures. It was created in 1947 and by that time Gordon would have been a senior citizen.
Thirdly “mercenary; shadowy gun-runner” to me spells “criminal element” and the El Borak I know is far from a criminal. He is a good guy adventurer, not shady at all. Also, it appears, Gordon has discarded his real name and become simply “El Borak.” So, assuming they cast Matt Damon in the role of El Borak, he will doubtless be a highly-skilled chop-socky jockey instead of a master swordsman and deadly gunfighter like the real El Borak. In other words, more of the same old watered down pap Hollywood has been feeding us for years.
Fourth, judging by the description, this mish-mash of a plot takes place during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979 -1989). Also, the British left Afghanistan in 1919, so other than returning after 9/11, they have no real interest in the country. The whole premise of this movie makes no sense at all, which is par for the course.
Fifth, I’ve seen this move before – it’s called Rambo III.
Moving on to the second project in my sights:
Pigeons From Hell (Gothic Horror)
Stephen King called Robert E. Howard’s tale “one of the finest horror stories of the 20th century.” Tonally like The Shining and The Others. When a construction crew is hired to renovate a dilapidated mansion in post-Katrina New Orleans, they become trapped when the basement collapses and releases an unspeakable evil. The mansion holds the grisly legend of its previous owners, an influential family who performed grotesque experiments on their servants before a revolt sent them into hiding. One of the construction workers becomes possessed and sabotages all means of escape. The group must then survive the night while being hunted by the wraith of the former owner.
While it is unclear what type of project “Pigeons From Hell” is, I assume it is a movie.
Okay, for starters they threw out 90% of the plot, leaving only the “dilapidated mansion” part. The traveling friends became construction workers and the “horror” moved from the upper floors to the basement.
This is actually sounds more like a famous New Orleans ghost story than “Pigeons From Hell,” so why not just tell that story and leave “Pigeons” out of the equation altogether?
Again, I’ve seen this movie before – it’s called Session 9.
So the $64,000 question is will these concepts become movies? Perhaps, but this is one moviegoer who is holding out for the real deal. Something tells me I am going to be holding out until Delhi the cow comes home.