Illustrating the Act of Fantasy Role-Playing, 1981 – 1982

D&D Basic Set 1981

D&D GW 1981

D&D Basic 1982 French

The illustrations are from (top to bottom) the 1981 D&D Basic Set (Moldvay), a 1981 Games Workshop ad, and the 1982 French edition of the D&D Basic Set (Moldvay). I find it fascinating that the concept of role-playing was once so alien that it had to be explained with thought balloons. And I still can’t get over how awesomely bloody the GW sketch is.

If anybody knows of similar illustrations, please let me know.

Usborne Guide to Computer and Video Games (Usborne, 1982)

Computer Games 1982-1031

Computer Games 1982-3033

Computer Games 1982-4034

Computer Games 1982-5035

Computer Games 1982-5036

Computer Games 1982-5038

Computer Games 1982-5039

Computer Games 1982-5040

Computer Games 1982-5041

 

 

 

 

 

 

Computer Games 1982-5044

Computer Games 1982-5045

Computer Games 1982-5045 Computer Games 1982-5046

Computer Games 1982-5047

Computer Games 1982-2032

Just a few pages I scanned from my copy—this particular book is not yet available at the Usborne site. Note the “long distance game” predicted “by the year 2000,” somewhat anticipating the internet. The irony is that the internet has enabled an attention deficit disordered culture that, with few exceptions, no longer has the patience or smarts to play a game of chess.

Write Your Own Fantasy Games for Your Microcomputer (Usborne, 1984)

Fantasy Games Usborne 1984

Fantasy Games Usborne 1984-2

Fantasy Games Usborne 1984-3

Fantasy Games Usborne 1984-4

I’m happy to say that Usborne has made this wonderful book available, along with several other early computer and coding books, right here.

Sirs, since when is a scholar a good fighter?

Tunnels & Trolls Ad, 1980

Tunnels and Trolls 1980

I found this at RPG Geek. “Blast away the fiends of Boredom”! I would have gone with even more alliteration: “Blast away the beast of Boredom!” Not quite as amazing as the “Tired of Reality?” Games Workshop ad, but close.

Micronauts: Emperor and Megas (Lion Rock, 1981)

Micronauts Emperor 1981

Micronauts Emperor 1981-2

Micronauts Emperor 1981-3

Micronauts Emperor 1981-4

Micronauts Emperor 1981-5

Micronauts Emperor 1981-6

Micronauts Megas 1981-1

Micronauts Megas 1981-2

Micronauts Megas 1981-3

Micronauts Megas 1981-4

Micronauts Megas 1981-5

Micronauts Megas 1981-6

Micronauts Megas 1981-7

Micronauts Megas 1981-8

Emperor and Megas were among the last original Micronauts produced, and they are beauties. Mego went bankrupt before most of Series 5 could be released, and the toys were bought up by GiG in Italy (GiG also distributed large quantities of Eagle Force and The Black Hole toys) and Lion Rock in the U.S. The torso of the Emperor could be detached and put on the body of Megas, as seen at Micro Outpost.

It’s interesting that Mego veered into mythology and fantasy for these final ‘magno‘ designs. Had the company invested more in similarly creative concepts, as opposed to banal efforts like The Greatest American Hero and The Love Boat, who knows?

The box art is not by Ken Kelly, though clearly his revolutionary style is being copycatted.

Movie Reviews: Hawk the Slayer (1980)

—Review by Richard McKenna

Hawk UK Quad

Beware: spoilers ahead.

1980’s Hawk the Slayer is what a semi-cynical British attempt to crossbreed Star Wars mania with the cover art of Wishbone Ash’s Argus looks like, and its channeling of Roger Dean by way of Roger Corman is—in its small way—as awesome as that sounds.

The film flopped when it came out, and if it made it to the grim provinces I inhabited at the time, it didn’t stay long, more’s the pity. It would be nice to be able to claim that the ten-year-old me who spent most of his waking hours trying to wish a copy of Tunnels and Trolls into his possession envisioned fantasy film (or “Sword and Sorcery,” as we then knew it) as being possessed of the production values of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and the socio-political nous of Game of Thrones, but that would be a lie of the most egregious kind: this is how I envisioned fantasy—an insane soup of lasers, elves, disco, tacky props, and plenty of folk in capes running through chilly woods tricked out with plastic skulls, dry ice, and green lights while swinging a sword. It’s exactly the type of film that I would have made in 1980, had I only been given the opportunity. Oh, and no girls allowed!

HTS 1980-1

Britain’s Starburst magazine panned Hawk the Slayer at the time, disappointed that the first film “with a sword and sorcery slant” should be such a “cheap little” one, so I never bothered trying to see it in subsequent years, and perhaps that was wise—it’s definitely the type of thing best seen before you hit twelve or after you hit forty. Hard to believe that within two years of its release, films like Dragonslayer (1981) and Conan the Barbarian (1982)—which seem almost to come from another decade, if not another century altogether—would appear, though there are echoes of Hawk the Slayer‘s cheap pleasures in The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), and, weirdly, Excalibur (1981).

A prologue in a golden sauna sets things up: brooding Hawk (the disconcertingly Mike Oldfield-like John Terry) is good, while his disfigured brother Voltan (Jack Palance) is evil (obviously—his name starts with a ‘v’). Voltan kills their father after the “old man” (who looks a lot younger than Palance) refuses to give Voltan “the last of the Elven mind-stones,” which goes instead to Hawk after it lights up green, floats through the air, and is grasped by the cool living-hand pommel of Hawk’s sword. Hawk announces that he will kill Voltan and avenge their father.

HTS 1980-4After titles which tell us that we have Chips Production to thank for what we are watching (and what, to a Brit, could be more inviting, more dreamy, than the cosy domestic pleasures of a plate of chips?) come credits so dense with Harrys, Erics and Bernards that they look like something from the late 1940s: a good third of the crew seem to be actually called Terry, and the cast list reads like a postprandial fever dream of parochial British TV and cinema, although strangely it was the two American stars, Terry and Palance, who were singled out for criticism at the time for their respective lack of animation and overacting. In the second case, at least, that seems a little unfair—how the hell do you want Jack Palance to play an evil warlord in a no-budget fantasy world?

In blurry flashbacks which include one of the oddest tracking shots I’ve ever seen, we discover that a jealous Voltan killed Hawk’s beloved bride (City of the Living Dead‘s Catriona MacColl) before setting off on a rampage of cruelty around the land, and, flash forward, learn that he has now taken hostage the mother superior of a monastery (seemingly and incongruously a Christian monastery), promising that she will be put to death unless his demands for gold are met. Thus begins a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in the woods as a wounded survivor of Voltan’s cruelty seeks out Hawk, who, with the help of a handy witch, reassembles his crack squad of elf, dwarf, and giant. In the meantime, Palance bickers with his headstrong son and repeatedly pops off to another dimension to have the scars on his face laser-anesthetized by the evil entity protecting him. You can practically smell the heat coming off the d12s.

HTS 1980-2As it turns out, Baldin the dwarf and Gort the giant are useless except for some laboured comic relief, and even Hawk himself does far less slaying than you might expect, given his name. It’s Crow the rapid-fire elf, Ranulf the crippled warrior with the hundred-rounds-a-minute wrist-crossbow, and the Sorceress with her polystyrene storms and crazy-string mummify spell who contribute most to Voltan’s eventual downfall in the film’s absurd denouement.

The soundtrack, written by the film’s producer and co-writer, Harry Robertson, who scored several Hammer films starting in the late 1960s, runs the gamut of inappropriateness, from spooky baroque harpsichord riffs to disco space-rock, and each time Hawk appears, his signature synth trill is heard—even the synth sound that starts Jon and Vangelis‘ virgin romance anthem “I Hear You Now” is in there. The matte paintings seem to have been taken from some completely unrelated book of fairy tales, there’s a laser hula-hoop teleport device, Patrick Magee (!) as a druid, and, were proof of metal intent needed, what must be a tip of the hat to Judas Priest’s 1978 Killing Machine in the line of dialogue, “What manner of man are you?”

HTS 1980-5

Director Terry Marcel’s assertion that he wanted to create “something to top spaghetti westerns and kung-fu films” was obviously hugely optimistic (unless he was talking about the Foley work, with its incredible crushing-a-polythene-bag punch noises), and yet, for all its faults, the damn thing is just so enormously entertaining: enthusiastic, pacey, and ridiculous, its garish joke-shop world is engaging enough not to outlive its welcome, in part thanks to the almost total lack of character development, subtext, or anything except battles, magic, and Medieval/Renaissance/D&D yo-ho-hos, the naive cardboard-cut-out shallowness of the whole undertaking somehow serving to reinforce its archetypal power. It’s also, for anyone British, a weird window back into a country which was so much less sophisticated and demanding than it is today—though given the short shrift the feature got at the box office, perhaps not quite that undemanding.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that the whole thing seems to have been improvised in a British wood one overcast March that lends it peculiar resonance for those like me, who were acting out our longed-for fantasy worlds to even smaller audiences in similarly wintry and provincial woods at the same time.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Richard McKenna grew up in the visionary utopia of 1970s South Yorkshire and now ekes out a living as a translator among the crumbling ruins of Rome. He dreams of being one day rescued by the Terran Trade Authority.

Behind the Scenes of Hawk the Slayer (1980)

HTS 1980 BTS

The only behind the scenes shot I could find, which is a shame. That’s John Terry (Hawk) on the far left, and director Terry Marcel to his right.

Yes, all of these Hawk the Slayer posts are leading up to something. I’ve convinced a clever chap and kindred spirit by the name of Richard McKenna to write some movie reviews for the site, and his first one—can you guess the film?—goes up tomorrow. I’m excited and lucky to have him.

(Image via SciFiNow)

Leigh Took Painting a Matte for Hawk the Slayer (1980)

HTS Leigh Took-2

HTS Leigh Took-1

HTS Leigh Took-5

I found these at a wonderful site called Matte Shot, a tribute to golden age special effects artists. The third image shows the matte as it appears in the film, and you can see a lot more at the link, including a miniature of the castle. Took got his start at Britain’s Pinewood Studios, and his first mattes appear in Warlords of Atlantis (1978), the oft-forgotten (and still unreleased on DVD in the U.S.) fourth fantasy-adventure directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure.

Took went on to work on classics like Clash of the Titans (1981), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), and Batman (1989). More recently, he has worked as Miniature Effects Supervisor on The Wolfman (2010) and The Monuments Men (2014). He was also Visual Effects Supervisor on my favorite horror film of the last 15 years, Neil Marshall’s The Descent (2005).

Flash Gordon and Hawk the Slayer Novelizations: `A Bargain Bumper Double’ (New English Library, 1981)

HTS Novel 1981

The Hawk the Slayer novelization can be yours for a mere $1,259.85.

(Image via Pinterest)

Far Out Space Nuts and The Lost Saucer Iron-On Transfers (Roach Studios, 1975)

Space Nuts 1975

Lost Saucer 1975

Sid and Marty Krofft: fucking with the minds of children (in a good way) since 1969. If you’ve forgotten these shows, watch here and here for a refresher.

(Images via eBay)


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