Old pulp crumbles into cultural irrelevance, alas

Prehistoric Pulp, my source for all pop culture with dinosaurs, reveals that there will be a new direct-to-video (not promising) animated (could be bad) movie of Turok, Son of Stone (awesome!) And it’s not the stupid bastardized version that was corrupted for video games to include cyborg dinosaurs!

Yeah, yeah, it looks a bit cheesy and cheap and it’s got cultural stereotypes run amuck, but it’s personal. Back when I was a tiny young fella and my father was a blue-collar wage slave working long hours, when he got home he’d sometimes ask me to read to him, and there were two things we both got into: Edgar Rice Burrough’s Mars stories, and Turok comic books. Both of those have faded considerably from the Great American Memory Collective, you have to be of a certain age to actually appreciate them, and they just seem a little quaint and peculiar and dated if you read them now, but hey, they were part of my childhood landscape, so I like ’em.

I’d also like to see A Princess of Mars made into a movie, but I think it’s impossible. The special effects are doable, but the tone couldn’t survive: they were all about old-fashioned gallant heroism, naked people with swords and radium pistols, and exotic, unbelievable Martian landscapes, and nowadays the casual chauvinism would get in the way, and nobody could write it straight as Burroughs did. The titular Princess is a voluptuous Martian mammal … who interbreeds with a human and lays eggs. It couldn’t be done now without cracking a joke.


  1. Cappy says

    You can’t make an omelet without cracking a few….jokes? I liked Burroughs, too. Later I got into “harder” science fiction and his stuff started to seem rather quaint, but deep down there’s that longing for bold heroics and scantily clad Martian princesses.

  2. Sarcastro says

    John Carter of Mars movie slated for 2009.

    “Now being reimagined at Pixar as a half animation/half live action project.”

    The Wiki entry for the film gives a release date of 2012 and notes that Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) is to be the director and Mark Andrews (The Incredibles) is to write the screenplay.

    What I don’t get is why no one has just made it already. A Princess of Mars was published in 1912, it should be in the public-domain.

  3. Fnord Prefect says

    I loved the Martian Chronicles, Usher II: April 2005 is probably my favorite sci-fi short story ever. Never got a chance to read a lot of Burroughs Mars stuff though but now seems as good a time as any.

  4. Damon B. says

    For those who have not read the Burroughs Mars books, do yourselves a favor and go to the Gutenberg Project and download them immediately. If you think you might be interested in the very least, I think (hope) that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  5. says

    On a purely rational plain, going into the sciences has utterly corrupted my taste in SF… the harder, the better.

    Yet, deep down, where the fondness for 80s TV dwells, including mustachioed Hawaiian detectives, a fall guy and a group of men, accused of a crime they did not commit, there is that caring about all the other stuff that might not truly make sense, but is utterly enjoyable nonetheless. I would be looking forward to a movie about John Carter’s exploits, and I don’t mind an occasional cracking of a joke… as long as they don’t turn it into a camp-a-looza.

    But, alas, with Robert Rodriguez having left the project, and the nose-dive it took following his departure, there might be little hope for the immediate future.

  6. Sivi Volk says

    Heh. I’ve been reading the old Robert E. Hoawrd Conan stories for the first time. They’re pretty good, if you ignore the old-fashioned racialism.

    Funny to read about how he and Lovecraft were buddies and used to use things from each others’ work.

  7. Cappy says

    Land of the Lost was just a ripoff of Burroughs’ Pelucidar. But did you see Jay an Silent Bob Strike Back? Will Farrel plays Marshal Willenholly, a Land of the Lost reference.

  8. Kaitlyn Stuart says

    If you like Conan, there’s a animated version of “Red Nails” currently under development; Conan’s voice will be provided by Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast, Hellboy). I’m also fond of Howard’s puritan hero, Solomon Kane — with similar caveats as applies to Howard.

    And I am now reminded that I still haven’t picked up a copy of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril

  9. Brian says

    Wait a minute!

    “And it’s not the stupid bastardized version that was corrupted for video games to include cyborg dinosaurs!”

    I grew up on the video game version. I thought the video game was absolutely AMAZING! It had one of the top ten weapons for an FPS, the Cerebral Bore. It locks on to neural activity and attaches to the head where it begins to drain the victim’s cerebrospinal fluid. After this, it then explodes, decapitating the enemy. I thought this would be something you’d appreciate PZ?

  10. Joe says

    You can complain all you like about bastardisation, but if I’m playing a videogame that involves shooting stuff, it’s got to be either time-travelling cyborg dinosaurs or space pirate ninjas.

  11. Denis Loubet says

    In my opinion there are a few perfect genre movies. Perfect meaning that it’s obvious that the persons responsible really loved the genre, and completely “got it”, even though they may have forgotten it later. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the perfect pulp-action adventure, Aliens the perfect Space Marines, the original Star Wars was the perfect Space Opera. Right from the opening credits you know they nailed it.

    But genres like Sword and Sorcery and Burrough’s stuff has yet to be done.

  12. Joe says

    OH GOD YES the cerebral bore. The only better videogame weapon I’ve ever seem was in some oddball PC shoot-em-up I played once where one of the weapons fired a live and hungry shark at its target…

  13. Josh says


    Ripoff or not…that show rocked. Well, ya know…when I was 5 or whatever.

  14. Josh says

    Ok, this is off topic for all threads probably, but this one is at least tangentially about dinosaurs and the clip is the funniest thing I’ve seen in weeks. It just got sent to me. Scroll down to “Snowball the dancing cockatoo.”


    My apologies if you’ve already seen it.

  15. Humbert Dinglepencker says

    Wholly sheepdoodle! Turok! Yes! My local mind-rotting emporium (candy/comic-book store) carried three faves: Turok, Dr. Solar (Man of the Atom) and Magnus: Robot Hunter – all of them Gold Key as I recall. Best of times.

  16. Hairhead says

    Yes! Magnus, Robot Fighter would be a great popcorn movie. Ninja/karate/kung-fu moves, futuristic buildings, evil robots getting trashed and exploding in sparks as Magnus dismembers them . . “Dave, don’t do this, please, Dave . . . ”

    And my guilty caveman pleasure from my youth was the short-lived “Anthro” series from the ‘sixties. It was improbable in that Anthro was a tall, slim, handsome, elegant Cro-Magnon whose father was a squat, brutish Neanderthal. Upon reflection, another aspect of the series was its emphasis on non-violence and the brutality and uselessness of both individual physical conflict and of war.

    Mmmm. Couldn’t be done today . . .

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    Mars schmars! The Carson of Venus tetralogy showed Burroughs at his sword-swingin’ finest.

  18. fusilier says

    www. erblist. com (Close up the spaces, of course)

    You can even vote for your favorite Burroughs heroine!

    What more needs to be said?

    James 2:24

  19. says

    Oh, Yes! “Princess” laid out the map for modern adventure fantasies. What a great movie that would make. In the back of my mind, I have a snippet of memory that says that the Burroughs estate is run by a bunch of constipated victorians, and neked boobies are out of the question. I think they sued the makers of the BO Derek “Tarzan” movie because of the limit of Mrs Dereks talents started and ended at her breasts.

    To quote John Carter “We are not dead yet!”

  20. BruceJ says

    If I were to have my cinematic wish granted, I’d wish for Fritz Leiber’s Fahfrd and Grey Mouser series made into a film.

    In one of the stories, Fahfrd recounts how he made his living for a while as a living God, until he got bored, and then had to flee from his angry followers…

    Of course, while we’re doing this, I’d vote for a movie based on Poul Anderson’s SF character Dominic Flandry

  21. says

    I, too, enjoyed the Carson of Venus novels more than the Barsoom books, but I devoured everything Burroughs wrote when I was in high school back in the sixties. I had stacks of Ballantine and Ace editions (costing thirty-five or fifty cents at the time).

    PZ is right about trying to render the Mars novels literally. Dejah Thoris was a naked red-skinned beauty and John Carter was a brilliant swordsman who left stacks of bodies and oceans of blood at intervals of no more than a few chapters. Not sure I’d care to see that rendered too specifically. Liked the six-limbed Barsoomians, but wonder how Tars Tarkas would end up looking.

  22. says

    Magnus: yes! two hours of random electronic carnage, with everything going “squeeeee!”, and not in a good way. That one sounds like a great premise for a video game, too.

    I would also love to see a Fafhrd and Mouser movie, with the concern that it is intelligent, sardonic fantasy, and the movie would have to be done intelligently. Can you imagine how those guys who made the Dungeons & Dragons movie would rape Leiber’s books? Or worse, if it fell into the hands of Uwe Boll?

  23. says

    Oh, and you people who like the big high-tech weapons in the video game version of Turok — real macho is fighting T. rex with a flint-tipped arrow.

  24. Hairhead says

    With the world-famous PZMyers on our side, how can we not be successful getting producers to begin a Magnus: Robot Fighter movie. I’d vote James Cameron for director.

  25. trrll says

    I’d go for the Magnus movie–although I confess to a sneaking desire to see it given the ending from Richard Corben’s “Mangle, Robot Mangler.”

    Perhaps John Carter could be done as a period character, and keep the Victorian style.

    But we know how they’d really do it…Wounded policeman John Carter, dying in an urban alleyway, looks up into the sky…

  26. allium says

    Bob Clampett (of Beany and Cecil fame) actually worked with ERB in an attempt to produce an animated Princess of Mars feature back in the 1930s. The “Beany and Cecil: The Special Edition” DVD has a few minutes of test footage (featuring sword-fighting and a Green Martian on a thoat at full gallop). Very reminiscent of the Fleischer Superman cartoons.

    Naturally, the suits at MGM ticked off Clampett and Burroughs by trying to turn it into a slapstick comedy and the whole thing fell apart. Feh.

  27. Hairhead says

    Yes, trrrl, I am familiar with the Corben take on Magnus. Who’d play the robot in the sex scenes, I wonder? Would the current governor of California re-re-reprise his Terminator role as the “Sperminator?”

  28. John Bode says


    Ripoff or not…that show rocked. Well, ya know…when I was 5 or whatever.

    I picked up the DVD of the first season fairly recently, and the show has actually held up fairly well. Yeah, the effects are cheesy, the acting’s horrible, and the claymation is downright cringe-worthy, but the writing was pretty intelligent for a Krofft Saturday morning kiddie show (David Gerrold was the main story editor). I’d love to see an up-to-date treatment of the original idea.

    We’ll pretend the second LotL TV series never happened.

  29. says

    It was your title that first grabbed my attention, and it’s a statement that I categorically and completely disagree with. Pulp is more relevant now than it ever was; pulp set the parameters of what became popular culture.

    But that’s not what your post was about, really. It was about Dinosaurs, which are never out of fashion, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, who may be slightly out-of-step at the moment, but will a little spit and polish, could be served up as high fantasy with little trouble. Most people would have said that The X-Men and Lord of the Rings were unfilmable–and most people did, until the movies got made. It’s all about vision. Give the right project to the right person and it can’t miss.

  30. Brandon P. says

    Actually I enjoyed the video games, especially the whole “past meets future” theme (imagine azhdarchid pterosaurs armed with rocket launchers and blasting dromeosaurids with grenade launchers). Nonetheless, I didn’t like it when they sometimes spent too much time away from the jungle and focused more on the aliens and cyborgs than on the dinosaurs. At least there’s no danger of that happening here—and the concept of pre-Columbian Native American warriors vs dinosaurs is every bit as awesome a premise as guys with big space-age guns vs dinosaurs.

    I just hope they don’t call the dinosaurs “honkers” like they did in the old comics. That was just insipid.

  31. wright says

    Ah, Turok, Magnus, the Land of the Lost… Yes, great stuff to grow up with. Many fond memories. The Turok movie… we’ll just have to see.

    Thanks for the heads-up, PZ.

  32. Russ says

    The Turok games were based on Valiant Comic’s (and later Acclaim’s) remake of the original comic.They took old classics like Turok, Magnus robot fighter, Solar, etc. and put them in the same universe, with new twists to the stories. The Lost Lands in Turok became a temporal sinkhole for different times, Magnus fought in a dystopian future run by robots, while Dr. Solar was a newly minted god barely able to grasp his potential.

    I wouldn’t discount the new versions that casually. I found these newer stories to be deep and riveting, and they drove me to read the originals. I am glad that these stories are still finding new outlets, and I highly recommend all the variations that I have read.

    As an aside, the Campaigner: definitely a villain to remember.

  33. antaresrichard says

    Holy honkers, Andar! One of my early memories was asking my dad to bring me back a comic book about dinosaurs and volcanoes (20th Century Fox’s release of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ was most likely responsible for my craving). When my father asked me what I would like from the magazine store, I thought my request a wild wish. To my surprise, he returned later that evening with my first issue of ‘Turok Son of Stone’. I was in kid -ahem- heaven!

  34. Kaleberg says

    I’ll vote for Princess of Mars. It was a real groundbreaker. The biology in the Mars books may have been apeshit, but they weren’t racist. Hell, given the attitudes of the era, and even our own, they aren’t particularly sexist. ERB always liked the spunky gal, no matter how many arms she had. (Then again, I’m a sucker for space princesses. I’ve been living with one for over 30 years now so I know.)

    I think Turok was a after my time, but I may check it out on the rebound.