Thursday, 30 April 2009

Film Ramble: The Whole Wide World

I recently finished reading Robert E. Howard's tales of Conan the Cimmerian, as part of the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks series, which I'm steadily working my way through. I can't say I got to the end wanting more, or believing that Howard was a master writer, but they did convince me that he was a skilled and occasionally brilliant tale-teller who - had he lived longer - would have been truly great.

They also left me interested in Howard himself, a man of obvious flaws and much raw talent who died a terrible, premature and self-imposed death. He was an archetypal writer in many ways, a fiercely driven recluse who wrote with such speed and ferocity that he succeeded in making a living from short fiction whilst selling exclusively to the poor-paying pulp markets of the time.

The point of all this is that I just watched The Whole Wide World, a 1996 film adaptation of Novalyne Price Ellis's Howard biography One Who Walked Alone, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renée Zellweger, and was absolutely blown away by it. It's remarkably faithful to the facts of Howard's life, (as I understand them, anyway), but also a charming and thoughtful film in its own right. It gives a real insight into the pulp period too - Lovecraft gets mentioned a couple of times, and at least one copy of Weird Tales makes an appearance. Anyone with the faintest interest in Howard or the pulp hay day should take a look, I can't imagine them regretting it.

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