When most folks think of Robert E. Howard, those that know who he is, they think of Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, and maybe Red Sonja. They think of pulp tales of barbarians, monsters, and lost empires. They rarely think of his oddest and one of his least known creations – Solomon Kane. I’ll take a look at Howard’s most mysterious hero, after the jump.
Solomon Kane first appeared in Weird Tales in 1928. Inhabiting the late 16th century, he was a wanderer in a cloak and slouch hat shielding cold inhuman eyes. He travels Europe and Africa of this dark age righting wrongs and fighting evil with swords, guns, and staff. Through almost a dozen pulp tales of dark heroism, Kane defended the weak for brigands, witches, vampires, pirates, wizards, and ghosts.
While it might not seem very Howard-like, it should be noted that the man is remembered for his contributions to fantasy, and being the father of the sword and sorcery genre. That doesn’t mean it was all he wrote. Howard probably wrote as many if not more detective, boxing, and western stories for the pulps than he ever did Conan tales.
The movie was made waaaay back in 2009 but didn’t show up officially in the United States until fairly recently. Writer/director Michael J. Bassett intended it to be the first in a trilogy of Kane films, but so far we only have this. Solomon Kane stars James Purefoy in the title role, which makes me very happy. He’s one of my favorite actors, from “Rome” to John Carter to even “The Following,” he is always terrific.
Though delayed in the US for unknown reasons, Solomon Kane did get UK and European theatrical releases that proved rather successful. This is a fairly new tale of the character as he tries to remain on a righteous path, and retrieve his damned soul from a wizard and a demon, our Puritan swashbuckler anti-hero killing his way across pre-Enlightenment Europe to do it.
In the spirit of The Lord of the Rings films, and perhaps the more serious aspects of Pirates of the Caribbean, is a very atmospheric movie, and as historically accurate as a fantasy about that time can be. This us a dark and gloomy film of a dark gloomy time, it fits and it works.
And of course, it’s an origin story, and folks who know me, know how much I despise origin stories. Get on with the story, that’s how I feel. And although Solomon Kane could work just as well like a Man with No Name, Clint Eastwood style, this origin story is so powerful, it’s worth the telling. When the hero gets in ‘costume,’ you almost want to cheer, something I did with neither Man of Steel nor The Lone Ranger this summer.
Solomon Kane is definitely worth seeing, an epic tale of adventure and horror. Hopefully we might someday see the rest of the trilogy, and until then, seek the original stories, or even the comics, as well. Kane is a Howard creation deserving of the same fame as Conan, Kull, and the rest.