Monday, August 22, 2005

Once Upon a Time in the West

Anyone who reads the Dark Tower series will quickly learn that Stephen King gleaned a lot from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He calls the Mohaine Desert, in The Gunslinger, the apotheosis of all deserts, and because he partly created Roland while watching The above mentioned film, the desert and Roland are recognizable as both a mix of King and Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name, though in the film he is called 'blondie' by the character Tuco. Eastwood's character remains without a name for the duration of the three films. He carries his guns with him where ever he goes, two heavy pistols with silver snakes coiled on the handles. Not at all like the sandalwood grips that Roland uses. No, the snakes on Eastwood's guns tell the tale of the man with no name.
What else is interesting is the fact that in the Videogame Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, many references to other media are used. The use of Solid Snake, the protagonist, as a man who deals with whatever is thrown his way. He resembles Eastwood with his blue eyes and also with his speech, sparse, deep throated and deliberate. He doesn't speak unless he has to. The Man with No Name is much the same. Both become injured, and both are excellent fighters. The game's creator has said several times that the Man with No Name Trilogy and of course, Escape From New York were huge influences in his creation of Solid Snake.
From the trilogy, King lifts insignificant characters and expands their roles in the novels. He doesn't actually use the same names or characters, but situations and characteristics he does use. The interesting aspect of the whole series is that the Man with No Name moves on from town to town, most often he thinks only of himself, but does occasionally do what is right. It is these shining times that allow the hero in him to shine and that is why we root for him when he hunts down the men who helped to injure him to the point of death, why we root for him when he gets shot and doesn't die. But he is also searching for something far out along the horizon, something that we can no longer see because the mythical West is long gone from this world. But through those films the West is alive and also through King's work.
Throughout the novels there is a sense that Roland's world is one giant empty desert. Despite moving into the hill country and cities, there is no one around and the whole world is like a ghost town. As King explains it further along in the series, some of this is from the great war that brought about the ruin of Midworld, along with the effects of the SuperFlu from The Stand. King began incorporating the various places and characters he's created over the years and it is in the Dark Tower Series that he connects all the dots.
Next: The Wizard of Oz...


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