The King is Dead: Hollywood History

The King is Dead is a Hollywood (and Hammer Films) version of the 18th century.  I think one of the reasons the various Regency projects burned out is because I was taking it way too seriously.  I’ve got several bookshelves now of Regency romances and history books, and I’m not going to put that strain on my wallet again.  Thankfully, I already own or have watched a boatload of tricorn-bedecked movies.

My Five Favorite Movies:

Brotherhood of the Wolf
Screenplay by Stéphane Cabel and Christophe Gans
Directed by Christophe Gans
Corrupt nobles, martial arts, monsters, roguish heroes, and sexy sexiness – this film has it all!  In 1756 France, the naturalist Chevalier de Fronsac and his kung-fu fighting American Indian pal Mani track a mysterious man-eating wolf that leads them into a supernatural conspiracy.  Vaguely based on real events.

The Last of the Mohicans
Screenplay by Christopher Crowe and Michael Mann
Directed by Michael Mann
Freedom, marginalized heroes, sublime landscapes, two-weapon fighting, and war – this film has it all!  In 1757 New York state, tracker Hawkeye and his Native American family Chingachgook and Uncas guide a pair of city girls through the battle lines of the French and Indian War.  Vaguely based on real events and a goof-ass book.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead man’s Chest, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Screenplays by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Directed by Gore Verbinski
No, seriously, I really, really love all three of the original Pirates… films (and I think Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is pretty decent).  The timeframe’s deliberately vague, but at some point in 18th century when a George is on the throne of England and the East India Company is a major economic power, pirate Captain Jack Sparrow gets his revenge against pirate Captain Barbossa mixed up with the plight of star-crossed lovers and there follows a Byzantine series of double-crosses and triple-crosses that takes the principal players to Hell and back.  Utterly awesome if less straightforwardly inspirational for The King is Dead.

Direct Inspiration

The Brothers Grimm
Screenplay by Ehren Kruger
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Admittedly, this takes place in 1812, but that why historians speak of the “long 18th century.”  In the dark forests of Germany, human ingenuity works feverishly to defeat centuries-old evil.  Also, con artists.

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
Written and directed by Brian Clemens
Admittedly, this also takes place in and around the Napoleonic Wars, but it’s AWESOME!  A stoic vampire hunter (with a katana!), scholarly hunchback, and sexy gypsy girl not only have to fight a vampire – they’ve got to figure out what the vampire’s weird-ass weakness is because not all vampires are the same.  That’s going to add a wrinkle to life in Malleus.

Casanova (2005 motion picture)
Screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi
Directed by Lasse Hallström
A romantic comedy retelling of Casanova’s life that gives him a happy ending (get your mind out of the gutter).  Cross-dressing heroines, duels of rapiers and words, hot air balloon escapes, and the pure joy of outwitting the authorities. 

Casanova (2005 television series)
Screenplay by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Sheree Folkson
A much more melancholy version of Casanova’s story that alternates between a young David Tennant and an old Peter O’Toole, it’s not exactly realistic – visually, it’s much more stylized than the film – but it does get across a better sense of the highs and lows of the adventurer’s life.

Dangerous Liasions (1988)
Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Stephen Frears
This is what the vampires get up to when they’re not eating people… and also a primer on how social warfare can be used to destroy them.  A much more beautiful film than Valmont (based on the same novel and coming out at the same time) even if I do think San Antonio native Henry Thomas out-acts Keanu Reeves and Colin Firth is sexier than John Malkovitch.   

Story by Natsuko Takahashi
Directed by Mahiro Maeda
The Count of Monte Cristo in SPACE!  With MECHA!  This otherwise off-topic version of the Alexandre Dumas père novel wins because the Count and his crew are just plain menacing.  It’s fun to root for bad guys vs. worse guys. 

Interview with the Vampire
Screenplay by Anne Rice
Directed by Neil Jordan
What?  The majority of it is set in the right period.  And, y’know, vampires.

Le chevalier D’Eon
Story by Tow Ubukata
Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi
A supernatural thriller vaguely inspired by the exploits of a real-life 18th century crossdresser, this anime series gets the details all wrong even as it gets the generality so very right.  Cagliostro, Madame de Pompadour, occult conspiracies, revolution, undead…  If only the Japanese weren’t on the side of the aristos!

Screenplay by Doug Wright
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Was the Marquis de Sade a misunderstood rebel or a sadistic weirdo?  This film never really answers the question (heck, the answer is probably “both”) but it certainly provides an inside look at the creepier side of the 18th century.

Sleepy Hollow
Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker
Directed by Tim Burton
Cripes!  I nearly forgot about this despite the fact that I watch it annually on Halloween!

Screenplay by Jeffrey Bloom and Paul Wheeler
Directed by James Goldstone
Pirates Robert Shaw and James Earl Jones team up with thieves’ guild leader Geoffrey Holder to overthrow evil Jamaican governor Peter Boyle.  Acrobats, creepy lute players, and mysterious women in black add to the fun. 

Things I Need to Watch

No, I have not seen Amadeus.  It bugged me when I was younger, but I used to be a lot more uptight.

Fellini’s Casanova
The descriptions say it has a lot more to do with Casanova’s experimentations with the occult.  It’s in my Netflix queue.

Mozart’s Sister
Women’s issues interest me, as they did the Bavarian Illuminati. 

Plunkett & Macleane
I started watching this once on Netflix, but the stream was annoyingly fuzzy.  I know I need to get it watched.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh
Dang!  I wish I had bought this back when Disney released the special edition!


Any suggestions you have for films or shows on Netflix or Hulu Plus are welcome.  I tend to watch a lot more swashbuckling than I do horror, so if anybody has some ideas for more horror films, those are extra welcome.  I hope Netflix adds some Hammer Films Draculas or Frankensteins back on for Halloween.


  1. Dude, have you ever read the Westmark trilogy by Lloyd Alexander? Those books are right up your alley, and the plots fit near-perfectly into The King Is Dead. Just add vampires, magic and PCs.

    1. Yes! I still have the copies I got in middle school!

      Everybody keeps recommending books. Maybe I need to do a post about them.

  2. Interestingly enough, Le Chevalier d'Eon is not the first anime about a crossdresser in 18th century France. That would be Rose of Versailles, which has recently had a Stateside DVD release (sub only though). Haven't actually seen it myself.

    For the record, I once wrote up Savage Worlds profiles for the major characters in Le Chevalier d'Eon.

    1. Rose of Versailles is out stateside?! Yes!!!!

      Of course, it's the manga/anime that persuaded the Japanese that MRie Antoinette was the good guy.

      I'll check out those stats shortly! Thanks!

  3. Great recommendations here. I've seen about half of them. I'll have to add the rest to Neflix, as available.

    I know it's not a movie, but since we're discussing the topic of inspirational music on my blog--are you familiar with Alestorm?

    Looking forward to more posts on The King Is Dead. I too love this period dearly, and I haven't done nearly enough gaming in it. I think you're right--the period is at its best when not taken too seriously.

    1. I need more inspirational music. As awesome as the OST to Brotherhood of the wolf is, I can't put it on continual loop for more than a couple of hours. :)

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