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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

My Life And Roleplaying: Movies, Movies, Movies!

Four movies in particular shaped my early Dungeons & Dragons games - namely Jason & The Argonauts from 1963, Sinbad And The Eye of The Tiger (which I saw at the cinema with my parents when it came out in 1977), Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated (and unfinished) Lord Of The Rings and the legendary Hawk The Slayer (from 1980).

Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger, being the first Dungeons & Dragonsy film I saw after discovering the game, was a major source of material.

One of my first characters was actually called 'Sinbad' and most of the ship's crew and other supporting characters from the film appeared as non-player characters at some time or other in my games.

It was also this film which inspired the epic trans-oceanic adventures that young Gublin and I mapped out on seemingly neverending rolls of paper, making up the islands and continents as our characters' ship discovered them.

As I've already said several times on this blog, it was Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation in Jason & The Argonauts (and later in Clash Of The Titans) that really decided the 'look' of Dungeons & Dragons monster fighting for me.

But it was Hawk The Slayer that had the closest overall feel of pure Dungeons & Dragons as we actually played it, even with its micro-budget and B-movie mentality.

I certainly wouldn't put it above any of these other films, but it's easy to see why it's so popular with old school gamers.

It has everything a classic game of Dungeons & Dragons requires! The party's charismatic leader Hawk (John Terry who also happens to play Jack's dad in Lost which just adds to the geek cred of the film) has a magic sword and a feud with his one-eyed Darth Vader-like brother Voltan (Jack Palance).

He takes a mission to raise the 2,000 gold pieces needed to ransom an abbess (Victor Meldrew's wife, Annette Crosbie) back from Voltan.

To aid him, Hawk teams up with adventuring friends old and new including a giant (who is basically just the tall bloke from the Carry On films, Bernard Bresslaw), the coolest elf in cinema history (Crow - Ray Charleson - could whoop Legolas anyday of the week with his superspeed archery), a dwarf, a one-handed fighter with a machine-gun crossbow and a magic-user called, simply, "Woman" (whose spells strongly resemble smoke, snow and wind machines, luminous ping-pong balls, silly string and assorted 70s disco lighting effects).

Set this all in a land permanently enshrouded in fog, with a funky synth music score and spaghetti western whistly bits; enough name dropping to give the impression of a full-developed country; and more than enough chewy, cheesy dialogue to satiate the diet of both a giant and a dwarf and you've got a "realistic" depiction of 99 per cent of how I viewed every fantasy roleplaying game I played back in the day.

If it isn't already compulsory for those about to start a Dungeons & Dragons campaign to watch this film... it should be!

2 comments:

  1. Shortly after this was released, my dad ended up sitting next to the late Mr. Palance on a flight.

    Knowing that I really liked the movie, he really wanted to ask him for his autograph, but said that he looked like the guy that "you don't bother unless he asks you for something."

    It's the only time I ever heard of dad being intimidated by anyone.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hawk the Slayer! Now there's a blast from the past. I loved that film when I was younger but I bet if I watched it now I'd be very disappointed. And yes the elf was just the coolest character going.

    I also saw Sinbad And The Eye of The Tiger at the cinema with my dad. Was it really in 1977? So roughly the same time as Star Wars and Superman? I'm surprised my dad took me - I was only seven!

    I also quite like Krull (sp?) as a D&D-type film. Ah, memories!

    ReplyDelete

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