January 1929 saw the release of the second installment of Solomon Kane’s adventures.
And it is interesting to see this action hero mashup of Keanu Reeve’s John Wick and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-1000 spring up crystal clear in a time when people might suspect something that awesome couldn’t exist yet.
But what’s truly intriguing are the things this tale contains that have been gone for so long, they are almost unimaginable today.
There above the dead man’s torn body, man fought with demon under the pale light of the rising moon, with all the advantages with the demon, save one. And that one was enough to overcome the others. For if abstract hate may bring into material substance a ghostly thing, may not courage, equally abstract, form a concrete weapon to combat that ghost? Kane fought with his arms and his feet and his hands, and he was aware at last that the ghost began to give back before him, and the fearful laughter changed to screams of baffled fury. For man’s only weapon is courage that flinches not from the gates of Hell itself, and against such not even the legions of Hell can stand.
Here you get not just horror with its metaphysical aspects still intact as opposed to being reinterpreted through a materialistic or naturalistic frame… but you get a surprisingly profound take on the nature of truly transcendent courage. Platitudes that might seem patronizing coming from the pulpit of some small town church are here made viscerally real.
More surprising than that is the reactions of the town folk to Kane at the conclusion:
“Life was good to him, though he was gnarled and churlish and evil,” Kane sighed. “Mayhap God has a place for such souls where fire and sacrifice may cleanse them of their dross as fire cleans the forest of fungus things. Yet my heart is heavy within me.”
“Nay, sir,” one of the villagers spoke, “you have done but the will of God, and good alone shall come of this night’s deed.”
“Nay,” answered Kane heavily. “I know not—I know not.”
Now, this final scene here is very reminiscent of the famous ending to the 1979 Mad Max film where the title character has finally tracked down the last nomad cyclist responsible for the deaths of his best friend, his wife, and his child. It takes an entire film, but this guy finally snaps and becomes at least as brutal as the cycle gang that was terrorizing pre-apocalyptic Australia.
And we all loved that movie, right? Max was not some goody two shoes “white hat”. He was an anti-hero. He was cool. He was… well… Mad!
But now jump back to 1929. When Solomon Kane is working through almost precisely the same sort of scenario (ie, “sentencing a man to death in cold blood”)– not only does Kane have the unanimous support of all the townspeople, but when he expresses his regret about it the townspeople flat out tell him that he is doing the will of God.
That’s how much our culture changed in the span of a mere fifty years. What was almost self-evident in the twenties could only be perpetrated by a madman in the seventies.