Happy 100th Birthday, Errol Flynn!

Errol Flynn – by George Hurrell 1938

The centennial of Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn’s birth is upon us, cialis dear readers. There will be those benighted types who are indifferent to the occasion. There will be others who feel, medicine wrongly, that today is best commemorated by seeing The Adventures of Robin Hood. And still others, misguided, but with inner compasses not yet completely demagnetized, who will gather together to sip rosé and watch Captain Blood.

But not us. Unlike Nietzsche, we understand that aesthetic arguments ultimately collapse into ethical ones and not vice versa, at least where Errol Flynn is concerned. That there are right choices and wrong ones, and that it isn’t all just a matter of taste. There is no godless moral vacuum for us. For us, God still moves over the face of the waters, and Spanish galleons beware!

Beware…The Sea Hawk!

OK, I’ll admit it. Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood are pretty great, too. So is The Black Swan, starring Tyrone Powers. And so is Peter Weir’s Master and Commander, for that matter. But The Sea Hawk is unquestionably my favorite swashbuckler movie—which isn’t the same thing as saying it’s my favorite movie, but the distinction is so small it changes position whenever you try to observe it.

Because of their many similarities, as a child of the 1970’s and 80’s I am tempted to describe The Sea Hawk as the Star Wars of its era. But fuck that. Star Wars is The Sea Hawk of its era. Borges is right that an artist creates his own precursors, but just because George Lucas asked John Williams to model his music after Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s classic score doesn’t mean we should forget which is the cart and which the mule.

From the Continental Shelf: Dylan Dog

In every Italian railway terminal there is at least one newsstand. Invariably, physician its stock breaks down like this: half of everything is daily papers—Communist-leaning, Northern Separatist-leaning, Social Democrat-leaning, ten flavors of Berlusconi-leaning, et al.; of what remains, one third is sports-related, a third is girlie magazines (wherein the pneumatic risk pneumonia), and a third is Dylan Dog. Old issues in piles—sold and re-sold, bindings mostly broken, costing a few Euros apiece for a hundred black and white pages. This long-running horror comic, which reportedly sells half a million copies per month in Italy, is like plaque accumulating in the arteries of their national transit system.

Every issue is commute-sized: fifteen local stops long at most. First you can’t put them down, and then you throw them away. They’re like episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker by way of Arthur Conan Doyle and Dario Argento. But with a light touch. Despite all of the Jungian unpleasantness, there are plenty of wisecracks and visual gags to go around.

In the almost three hundred issues published since Tiziano Sclavi created the character in 1986, a dozen writers and illustrators have tried their hands at the series. There have been fat years and lean years creatively, but throughout it’s been the confection of choice for a whole generation of Italians with a sweet-tooth for the macabre. No less of a gray eminence than Umberto Eco once declared, “I can read the Bible, Homer, or Dylan Dog for days without being bored.”

I See a Darkness: Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur


Before Val Lewton died of a broken heart (a figurative and then literal one), look he produced a string of nine films for RKO Pictures from 1942 to 1946. None of them cost more than $150, cialis 000 to make. None ran longer than 75 minutes. All of them were saddled with lurid, buy focus group-tested titles like Isle of the Dead, The Curse of the Cat People, and The Ghost Ship. “They may think I’m going to do the usual chiller stuff which’ll make a quick profit, be laughed at, and be forgotten,” he told writer DeWitt Bodeen, “but I’m going to fool them…I’m going to do the kind of suspense movie I like.”1

The kind that I like too. Atmospheric2, stylish, literate—I might squeeze two of his films onto an all-time Top Ten list of horror favorites. So the news that Twisted Pictures (the people responsible for the Saw franchise) is in the process of re-making four of Lewton’s RKO classics—including my favorite, I Walked with a Zombie—makes me nauseated. I’m finally old enough to appreciate why critics bemoaned the oversexed Cat People remake in 1982. That film, at least, had a twenty-year-old Nastassja Kinski going for it. All we have to look forward to now is snuff porn. So, rather than look ahead, I thought I might take a look back—at Lewton’s meteoric career, and at a few scenes from his movies that still haunt me. The past is no vaccine for the future, to be sure, but in the here and now it can act as a topical salve.

Remembering Gary Gygax

Gamers everywhere are mourning the loss of Gary Gygax, godfather of RPGs. After recovering from the initial shock, my thoughts turned immediately to an old friend, author Wayne Chambliss, who knew the man personally. I’d like to thank Wayne from the bottom of my polyhedral heart for taking the time to share some of his memories of Gygax here on Coilhouse. ~Mer

E. Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, died on Tuesday. He was 69.

I can’t say I was surprised to hear the news. Last July, Gary told me he was already a year over his “expiration date”—the six months doctors gave him upon diagnosing his abdominal aneurysm. So, I wasn’t surprised. But I am hurting.

I don’t know why I miss him so much. I didn’t know him well. I spent maybe sixteen hours with him altogether. Sixteen hours on the porch of his house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Two long, summer days. Even so, Gary was an easy guy to like. He looked like a cross between Gandalf and Stan Lee, with a Lucky Strikes voice and a big laugh. He was a marvelous storyteller, an autodidact with wide interests, and, of course, the developer of an incalculably influential game system millions of people have been playing all over the world since 1974—including myself and at least 33% of this blog’s masthead.

The original Dungeon Master.

There are plenty of obituaries online right now that cover the basic facts of his life. The one in the New York Times seems representative: it contains no misspellings, but also very little of the man I knew, however slightly.

My friend Paul La Farge does a much better job. In a 2006 issue of The Believer (“Destroy All Monsters”), he tells the story of our first trip to Lake Geneva in a way that gets Gary Gygax right. For anyone even vaguely interested in Gary’s biography, Dungeons & Dragons or TSR, I strongly recommend Paul’s article. In my opinion, it is the last word on the subject. Moreover, its postscript is a more fitting eulogy for Gary than anything I could write myself—or have read anywhere else about him.

Maybe it’s simple. Maybe losing Gary is simply part of losing something even larger I will not, cannot, get back.