Unraveling Sam Raimi’s Forgotten Superhero: Darkman (1990)

Superhero films have become such an omnipresent part of our culture that it feels like there is a new one hitting theatres every month. That feeling may be warranted by the fact that in this year alone there is a total of NINE superhero movies set to hit the big screen. Most recently among 2022’s batch of superhero features was Marvel Studios’ newest entry in their shared cinematic universe: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The film serves as a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, but much more noteworthy for many film buffs, it marks the return of cult-film icon Sam Raimi.

Raimi, who had not directed a feature film since 2013’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, is no stranger to superheroes. In fact, the current status of superhero films can be traced directly back to Raimi’s first bonafide mega hit: 2002’s Spider-Man and its two subsequent sequels. Though Sam Raimi has always had a die-hard, cult following thanks to his beloved Evil Dead trilogy, his films before Spider-Man were all moderate financial successes at best. Even the Evil Dead films, arguably Raimi’s most popular movies before Spider-Man, remained as more of a niche item, never quite reaching mainstream success outside of its devoted community of fans. Spider-Man, on the other hand, was the film that finally broke him into the mainstream. It was so successful that it proved to major studios that there was a rabid fanbase for this genre, causing the wave of superhero, comic book adaptations that still grows to this day.

Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002)

This cultural impact made the idea of Raimi returning to this genre to an exciting proposition, but what many fans don’t realize is that this will not be the first time Raimi had returned to the superhero genre, but rather, the second. Before he dropped audiences into “the Multiverse of Madness”, before dazzling the world with the high flying action of the Spider-Man films, Sam Raimi made another another superhero movie; one you may never have seen or even heard of, but one that is well worth discussing. In 1990, Sam Raimi followed up Evil Dead II with what would be his fourth major motion picture, a scrappy little superhero movie called Darkman. You may be asking yourself, “Who is Darkman?” If you were, then the marketing for this movie was way ahead of you, asking audiences that very question, offering only one cryptive response: “Find out this August”.

Official Darkman Teaser Poster, 1990

This marketing approach, effective as it was, was also one born out of necessity. Nobody had ever heard of him. Nobody read any of the Darkman comic books or listened to the old Darkman radio drama. This was because none of those things ever existed. In fact, before the 1990 film, Darkman didn’t exist anywhere but in the mind of director Sam Raimi. To understand how the film Darkman came to be, it is critical to understand the context of the time in which the movie was produced.

One year prior to this film, the blockbuster phenomenon of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman hit theatres and sent out a pop culture shockwave that left people in a true state of “Batmania”. This is not hyperbole. The impact of Tim Burton’s original Batman film is practically unparalleled to this day, outside of other blockbuster successes like that of Titanic or Jaws. Not only was it “the biggest movie of 1989 — it remains one of the top 60 films ever in domestic gross, when adjusting for inflation — as well as the only major superhero release that year” (Canva, 2019, para. 28).

Before its release, most studios had balked at the idea of making a superhero film, viewing the success of the Richard Donner Superman films as something of its own separate anomaly. As someone who grew up as a child and teenager in this era, I remember the feeling that the general public considered the notion of a superhero movie as silly, cheesy, and embarrassing; all buzz words that seemed to scare off most major studios from even considering the cost of adapting one. However, once Batman hit theatres and shattered Hollywood’s preconceived notions about what the genre could be or, more importantly, how much money they could make, a flood of films about costumed crimefighters went into production. One of the oddest things about this wave of trend chasers was how deeply they seemed to misunderstand what made the 1989 Batman a huge success. Instead of making the arguably more logical conclusion, seeking out other popular characters from DC or Marvel Comics to acquire the rights from, studios seemed to interpret that audiences wanted more period-piece adaptations of pulp, noir heroes from the 30s. So instead of more movies based on DC comic book heroes like The Flash or Wonder Woman, what audiences got were film adaptations of The Phantom, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, and most notable for this retrospective, The Shadow.

If Hollywood did not see the difference between these pulp crime fighters and the popular superheroes most audiences were familiar with, ticket sales would certainly point it out for them. With the one possible exception of 1990’s Dick Tracy, no movie among these pulp crime fighter films was successful at the box office. Even in the case of Dick Tracy, which made a strong showing at the box office, primarily due to its star-studded cast featuring the likes of Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, and Madonna, it was still regarded as a failure in the eyes of Walt Disney Studios who were hoping for Batman-level hit.

The reason that The Shadow, which hit theatres in the summer of 1994, is paramount to this discussion is that it was the film which Sam Raimi had originally wanted to make. Raimi, already a self-professed comic book fan, was well-aware that Batman‘s success would draw interest to similar comic heroes and took great pains to make a live-action adaptation of The Shadow. Unfortunately for Raimi, at this point in his career, he was still seen by Hollywood producers as a relative nobody and didn’t get the job. Nevertheless, Raimi redirected all of his excitement toward making a Shadow adaptation into creating his own superhero. As chronicled by film journalist, Sergio Pereira, the influences of The Shadow are well on display, noting that “his 1990 hit film Darkman, starring Liam Neeson, was born as a homage when Raimi was unable to secure the film rights for The Shadow or Batman” (Pereira, 2020, para. 3). Pereira goes as far to state that “Anyone who has ever watched the film can attest to the obvious influence of the character in both Darkman’s look and traits” (Pereira, 2020, para. 3) On looks alone, the similarities are clear, as you can attest in the comparison below.

However, while the appearance of Darkman is heavily inspired by The Shadow, the traits of the character are cobbled together from a multitude of Sam Raimi’s other personal influences. In particular, Raimi’s Darkman is a character who shares much more DNA with the tragic characters from the Universal Monster movies than he does with any superhero. In fact, Liam Neeson cites his childhood love for the Universal Monster films of the 40’s and 50’s as not only inspiration for his portrayal of Darkman, but as a large incentive for wanting to do the film.

For those who have never seen the film, Darkman tells the story of scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), who is on the verge of a scientific breakthrough as he develops a new type of synthetic skin to help burn victims retain their original faces. Unfortunately Westlake’s experimental synthetic skin cannot get past one glitch that causes the skin to disintegrate after 100 minutes of exposure to light. Before he can perfect this experimental technology, Westlake is attacked by mobsters who are after an incriminating document which his criminal attorney girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) is in possession of. The gangsters beat up Peyton, burn his entire body to a crisp, and blow up his lab, destroying all of his research. Though assumed dead to the world, an unconscious Peyton is taken into a hospital as a “John Doe”, having no visible identification. The medical doctors have saved Peyton’s life through an experimental new procedure that renders him unable to feel pain, leaving him able to push himself further than before but also making him prone to violent outbursts. Now horribly disfigured, Peyton takes up residence in an abandoned laboratory where he uses his synthetic skin technology to make masks of the the same men who attacked him to infiltrate their mob and pull it apart from the inside. Meanwhile, Peyton uses a mask of his original face to show his grieving girlfriend Julie that he is still alive, but must keep their meetings short as the disguise still dissolves in sunlight after 100 minutes.

This plotline may make it sound like the film is at both times overly convenient in its structure and unnecessarily convoluted. However, the film wears the specificity of these details with pride, which truly feels like an homage to silver age origin stories that crammed as much exposition as they could into the limited page count that was afforded to them from their publishers. Truly, many of the first appearances of such beloved, classic characters as The Incredible Hulk, or The Amazing Spider-Man, were short, rapidly-paced stories that made huge leaps in time to fit the number of pages they could afford. Many of these origin stories were not even afforded a full issue to explore a new character and would often be told as a short story included in the back end of another comic.

In 3 short pages, The Fantastic Four discover their powers, name themselves, and decide to become superheroes. How’s that for economic storytelling?

This was a necessity for the comics industry as it was how they tested out the popularity of a new character with their readers before committing to publishing their own comic book. Like many forms of art, much of the trademark style was often born from the restrictions that were placed upon the medium. It is especially interesting to note the similarities between this style of the Marvel method of story telling and Raimi’s own style of film-making, which was greatly informed by the lack of resources at his disposal. In its structure, Darkman very closely adheres to the spirit of these pulp origin stories, embracing the heightened melodrama at every moment possible, cramming a love story, a mob story, a monster story, and a superhero story all into one package. It is this aspect that makes the film feel most closely aligned with comic publishers of the silver age who, desperate for a new break out character, would throw in everything and the kitchen sink to grab young reader’s attentions.

In reappraising this movie after over two whole decades of superhero films to compare to, there is a lot to love about Darkman. In particular, if you are a fan of Sam Raimi’s other films, then Darkman is a must-watch movie. From the first frame of film, Darkman is packed to the brim with Raimi’s trademark style and flourishes. Raimi has made a career out of squeezing a dollar out of a dime, often using creative solutions to solve issues that come with low budgets. Fans of Raimi’s filmography know that this approach has defined much of the filmmaker’s trademark camera techniques. Darkman is a wonderful showcase of Raimi’s first foray into getting a bigger budget to flex with. The result is a movie that truly takes Raimi’s kinetic camera movements and gives them a new playground to explore, truly feeling like comic book compositions come to life. In its best moments the film feels like it is torn from the pages of the earliest days of Marvel Comics; the days of “Tales to Astonish” and “Amazing Fantasy” that featured such tragic heroes born of the atomic age as The Thing, The Hulk, the X-Men, and Man-Thing. Just look at the clip below to see how Raimi shatters the background into flames and zooms into Peyton Westlake’s eye to symbolize his descent into madness! (All using practical, in-camera effects mind you)

A clip of Peyton Westlake having a meltdown on a Carnival date as shot by Raimi

It is choices like this that bring classic comic book panels to mind, where artists were not hindered by anything but their imagination to convey the emotional state of their characters. In comics, artists must deal with a static medium to portray a fluid series of events. Being a huge fan of comics as a child (Spider-Man being his favorite), Sam Raimi admits to having been influenced by the art compositions in many of the silver age Marvel comics in how he frames his shots. This is evident from his earliest of films, but is truly on full-display for the first time in Darkman.

Raimi’s evocative composition evokes some of the earliest Marvel Comics works such as this series of panels from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Incredible Hulk

In addition to this, Darkman is a film that offers Sam Raimi’s trademark brand of humor that you will not find anywhere else. If you consider yourself a fan of the Evil Dead films, it is highly likely that you enjoy a healthy heaping dose of “camp”. Never one to shy from a sight gag or slapstick beat, Sam Raimi finds moments in even the darkest corners of Darkman to wring laughs out of. In fact, I would argue that it is this special ingredient that makes the film more than another entry in a forgotten era of genre films. While many of its contemporaries have not held up with time, Darkman has survived largely due to the fact that so much of the film was injected with Raimi’s quirks and style. In contrast, movies like The Shadow or The Phantom come across as authorless works, feeling devoid of personality or signature. While that signature is undeniably Raimi’s, Darkman is a film that would not work as well as it does without the incredible performance of Liam Neeson at the center.

At that point in his career, actor Liam Neeson was not yet the household name that he is today. Before Darkman, Neeson had been working steadily in film and television for 12 years. Just three short years later, he would star in Steven Speilberg’s Schindler’s List which would forever change his career and set him off toward stardom. Watching Darkman, is a true testament to the level of craft and commitment which Neeson approaches the material. He truly seems to understand the exact tone, the exact flavor of pulp that Raimi is pulling from. His performance as Dr. Peyton Westlake/Darkman is genuinely operatic, expressing melodramatic levels of emotion that may make other actors feel silly or uncomfortable. You feel his love for Julie, you feel his torture and pain when he is transformed into Darkman, and you feel the boundless rage that incites him to exact his revenge. All of these extremes are portrayed by Neeson in a way that is both highly entertaining and totally authentic and, to top it all off, he manages to do so behind layers of prosthetics and bandages, often restricting him to expressing through only his eyes and his voice. It is a performance that is a worthy successor to the likes of such legendary monster men as Claude Raines, Lon Cheney, and Boris Karloff.

In addition to the cinematography and the performances, the film’s score is crafted by the greatest composer in all of superhero films: Danny Elfman. Elfman, who created the now iconic Batman theme used in the Tim Burton Batman films and even echoed in Batman the Animated series would later go on to write the score for many superhero films including Ang Lee’s Hulk and most famously Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. Elfman’s score for Darkman is appropriately tragic, moody and bombastic, elevating the story to a grandiose scale.

All in all, Darkman is a charming Frankenstein of a film; part monster movie, part tragic love story, part gangster film, part superhero comic, all lovingly stitched together by a director who truly felt like this would be his only shot to make a superhero film. With time and distance, Darkman has far more grit and personality than most superhero films of the modern era, save for Raimi’s own Spider-Man films which continue to stand above the rest as truly exceptional and timeless. As Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theatres this month, Raimi once again returns to a genre that feels like a true match made in heaven for his filmmaking sensibilities. But before going to theatres to see the new Doctor Strange, go back to see where it all began with Sam Raimi’s Darkman, now officially available at the Chester County Library!

By Eric


Cavna, M. (2019, May 31). How Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ radically changed the superhero-movie landscape 30 years ago. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-tim-burtons-batman-radically-changed-the-superhero-movie-landscape-30-years-ago/2019/05/30/9473bede-8233-11e9-95a9-e2c830afe24f_story.html

Pereira, S. (2020, April 15). Sam Raimi’s the shadow would’ve been a pulp fan’s wildest dream. CBR. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://www.cbr.com/sam-raimi-shadow-pulp-fan-wildest-dream/

June Adult Book Groups

The Chester County Library Evening and Afternoon Book Discussion groups have returned to in person meetings. The other groups are remaining virtual.  Please see our June titles and dates below. The online groups are being held via Zoom. We are requiring registration for these online book groups in order to send out the Zoom meeting information. Click on the date below to register. Information on our adult book groups can also be found on our website: https://bit.ly/chescolibs-bookgroups

Evening Book Group
Monday, June 6, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library.

Page Turners Book Group
Thursday, June 9, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Whodunits Book Group
Wednesday, June 15, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Afternoon Book Group
Wednesday, June 15, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel   
This session will be held in person in the Burke Room at the Chester County Library. 

Comics Unbound Group
Monday, June 27, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
My Brother’s Husband vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame

Registration is required for all book groups. Registration will close at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled start time of the book group. A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 2 hours before the book group starts.  Make sure to check the email address you registered with to receive the link.  You do not need a Zoom account to attend the virtual book group.

These programs support the PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy Initiative.

May Staff Picks

Eric’s Picks



My top contender for the most overlooked, great film of 2019! This is a movie that builds its tension and scares entirely on the shoulders of its two leads, both of whom deliver incredible performances (Moretz and Huppert). Directed by master film-maker Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with The Vampire), this film explores the horror and ugliness that resides within us all. Acting legend of French Cinema Isabelle Huppert, who plays the titular Greta, delivers a powerhouse performance that was truly robbed of an Oscar nomination. This movie will have you holding your breath until the credits roll.

Gorillaz/Plastic Beach

From their unique style of collaboration with a wide variety of musical acts, to their ongoing fictional storyline following animated characters who are treated as the real band members of the group, there is no band quite like the Gorillaz. While the Gorillaz have steadily built a strong discography ever since their self-titled debut album (Gorillaz) hit airwaves in 2001, their 2010 album Plastic Beach remains a true high-mark for the band’s career. Considered by many fans to still be their greatest album, Plastic Beach is a smorgasboard of catchy songs and high profile collaborations! Featured musical artists include: Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Paul Simon, Mos Def, and Lou Reed.

Kim’s Picks

Universe Revealed

As is common with BBC Earth, this is a state of the art, brilliantly-filmed, NOVA documentary. With our entire cosmos as the subject of this 5-part series, the specific topics are Age of Stars, Milky Way, Alien Worlds, Black Holes, Big Bang.  It’s 275 minutes long but holds the interest throughout.    

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

The author of outstanding nonfiction books (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck) constructs and deconstructs the events leading to the sinking of the fast and state-of-the-art steamship Lusitania on its way from New York to Liverpool in 1915.  The disaster was one of several incidents that propelled the United States into World War I.    

Felicia’s Picks

No One is Talking About This [eBook]

One of my favorite novels of the last year. This auto-fiction spans the bridge between poetry and prose throughout two parts; one focusing on life on the internet and another spent with the narrator’s real life, all told through brief snippets of her experiences.

The Lighthouse

One of the weirdest recent horror movies following two men completely isolated in a lighthouse by director Robert Eggers. A super tense film, with a surprising amount of fart jokes.

Jessie’s Picks

Some Like it Hot

This classic comedy is number 1 on AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Laughs list. It has a great cast (Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon) and a great director (Billy Wilder). Two musicians have to flee from the mob while disguised as women, and hilarity ensues.

Abbey Road/ The Beatles

This album deserves its #1 spot on WXPN’s All Time Greatest Albums list. There are so many great songs on it – “Something,” “Come Together,” “I Want You,” etc.

By Eric

CCLS/CCL Board Meeting

Due to the easing of COVID restrictions, the Board of Trustees of the Chester County Library System/Chester County Library will now be hosting their monthly board meeting as a hybrid offering. If you have always wanted to attend a meeting but haven’t had the time, this is your opportunity. Please click on this link at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday May 24 to join the Chester County Library System Board Meeting virtually; or attend in person at the Henrietta Hankin Branch, 215 Windgate Drive, Chester Springs, PA 19425. The Chester County Library Board Meeting will immediately follow. Find the Chester County Library Board Packet here.

If you are a person with a disability and wish to attend this meeting and require an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to observe or participate in the proceedings, please call Chester County Library’s Administration Office at 610-344-5600 or email mcrawford@ccls.org to discuss how we may best accommodate your needs.

World Dracula Day

“I never drink…wine.”

Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931)


          It now seems fitting that on May 26, 2012 The Whitby Dracula Society initiated World Dracula Day to commemorate the publication in 1897 of Bram Stoker’s extremely influential novel.  Whitby, on the east coast of England, was the site of the running aground of the schooner Demeter, on which the Transylvanian vampire had made his way to Britain.

          A first edition of the novel can go for up to $45,000.

          World Dracula Day has gained in popularity worldwide.  It’s now “a thing.” 

“You would play your brains against mine?  Against me who has commanded nations!”

Christopher Lee, Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

By Kim

Single Mission Team Players

One of the most exciting “plot devices” in movies is the agglomeration of a select team that embarks on a hazardous mission whose members generally expect to return in one piece.  Until the 1960s this phenomenon was rare.  The films in question cross genres.  Not included here are heist films (that began in earnest in 1950 with The Asphalt Jungle and Armored Car Robbery), which can be construed as a subgenre of film noir which itself is a subgenre of Crime, Mystery and Suspense.  Nor are superhero outings examined.  The Avengers, for instance, are always on hazardous missions, their skills well-known in advance. 

Perhaps the first example of the “single mission” team adventure is Northwest Passage (1940).  During the French and Indian War, Major Robert Rogers (Spencer Tracy) leads his wilderness savvy Rangers through the Maine wilderness and into Canada to destroy the St. Francis Indian encampment from which marauders have been despoiling Colonial homesteads.  The specialty of Langdon Towne (Robert Young) is map-making.  The mission accomplished, the Rangers split up to avoid capture by surviving tribesmen and French regulars.  (A “hidden” remake is 1945’s Objective, Burma!  One of the best combat movies made during World War II features Errol Flynn as leader of parachutists who land behind Japanese lines, blow up a radar station, and try to escape with minimal casualties.  As in Northwest Passage, the soldiers disperse during their return to Allied lines and half of them perish.)

A lengthy gap for this trope ensues but returns with a vengeance in 1960 with The Magnificent Seven, which was inspired by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai (1954).  Poor Mexican villagers hire American gunslingers to protect them from the imminent arrival of Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his numerous bandidos.  Chris (Yul Brynner) convinces six other gunmen down on their luck to join him and stop Calvera’s depredations.  Most do not survive.  (There are two sequels of lesser worth, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, 1969, and The Magnificent Seven Ride, 1972.  A major remake appeared in 2016, and as has become typical, adds high explosives plus a Gatling gun to cause carnage.)

Following on the heels of Magnificent Seven came The Guns of Navarone (1961), a monster hit and Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.  (West Side Story was the winner that year.)  After Major Franklin (Anthony Quayle) is injured, the small group of British commandos and Greeks are led by Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck), expert mountaineer who helps them scale forbidding cliffs on their way to destroy two gigantic German guns preventing approach by ships tasked with rescuing British forces on the island of Kheros.  Taking a cue from Magnificent Sevens knife-wielding expert played by James Coburn, Stanley Baker is the blade virtuoso.  David Niven’s forte is explosives.  (Force 10 from Navarone was a 1978 sequel.  Peck and Niven teamed for a somewhat similar mission in 1980’s The Sea Wolves, with a German ship targeted for destruction.)

The Secret Invasion (1964) was a low-budget but entertaining harbinger as the plot is eerily similar to both The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Where Eagles Dare (1968).  Stewart Granger leads convicts with special skills (forgery, murder, explosives) into Yugoslavia during World War II to rescue from German captivity an Italian general sympathetic to the Allied cause. 

Another large and hugely enjoyable western used the team approach in 1966’s aptly titled The Professionals.  Lee Marvin leads a quartet into Mexico to rescue Maria (Claudia Cardinale), wife of rancher J. W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy).  Maria has been ostensibly kidnapped by Jesus Raza (Jack Palance).  Burt Lancaster plays the demolition expert.  Robert Ryan is master of equines.  Woody Strode is a scout and archer who facilitates explosives ignition.  On the strength of his Academy Award-winning dual role in 1965’s Cat Ballou and National Board of Review win for the same year’s Ship of Fools, Marvin was now far from his apprenticeship as the fifties’ and early sixties’ greatest screen villain (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Big Heat, The Wild One, Violent Saturday, Seven Men from Now, The Comancheros, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).          

Like The Professionals, The Dirty Dozen (1967) are trained and led by Major Reisman (Lee Marvin), training a diverse but highly dangerous group of army convicts whose mission is to parachute into France before D-Day and blow up a chateau full of German officers.  This they do but like The Magnificent Seven, only a few survive.  (The Devil’s Brigade, 1968, seems unashamedly beholden to The Dirty Dozen but was released not long after the 1967 movie and was based on a 1966 book.)

Where Eagles Dare (1968, U.K.).  Ubiquitous today on TV, this high-powered WW II saga (like The Guns of Navarone, from writer Alastair MacLean) stars Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.  The latter, after his “spaghetti western” trilogy, plus Hang ‘Em High and Coogan’s Bluff (both 1968)was on the cusp of superstardom.  As Lt. Schaffer, a sometimes demolition expert, he and Major Smith (Burton) infiltrate a German castle holding an Allied general with secrets to the forthcoming D-Day invasion.  One could argue this is not much of a team, but they are assisted by Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt, who facilitate ingress and egress from the eyrie and make their escape with the men.  (Although she caused the screaming, in 1970 Pitt would claim title as Hammer Films’ signature scream queen in The Vampire Lovers.)  

Predator (1987).  Major “Dutch” Schaffer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and an elite extraction team enter the Central American jungle to rescue a cabinet minister held by insurgents.  Unknown to them, a space alien hunter lurks in the forest canopy and is soon picking off the humans and taking trophies.  At first glance the team members might seem like ordinary mercenaries but as the story progresses we see Blain (Jesse Ventura) operating a monstrous hand-held minigun that can sever small tree trunks and the scout Billy (Sonny Landham) choosing to confront the predator with a machete.  Richard Chaves plays a demolition man. 

The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).  The wizard Gandalf the Grey visits Hobbiton to inform young Frodo that he has a highly dangerous mission to perform with the fate of Middle Earth hanging in the balance:  return the “One Ring” to the volcanic pit of Mount Doom, thus foiling the evil Sauron’s quest for ultimate power.    Accompanying Frodo are three friends, a “Ranger,” an axe-wielding dwarf, an expert Elf archer, and the Gondor warrior Boromir.  Frodo’s perilous adventure continues in The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).  Retired adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) leads a coterie of disparate entities against the “Fantom,” aka “M” and “Moriarty” (Richard Roxburgh), one-time nemesis of Sherlock Holmes now bent on starting a world war.  Quatermain’s crew includes the ageless Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Mina Harker and Tom Sawyer.  The film made a bit of money despite being roundly criticized as an incoherent mishmash.   

Inception (2010)  Leonardo DiCaprio is a thief enlisted to form a team, invade an industrialist’s subconscious, and convince him to dissolve a company.  That’s the short synopsis of this heady science fiction action adventure, a sort of futuristic “magnificent seven.”

Films that some might include in this survey but I did not are The Wild Geese (1978; aging, no longer elite mercenaries), Aliens (1986; overconfident squad of Marines), Saving Private Ryan (1998; regular soldiers undertaking rescue mission). An outlier that could be construed as a Single Mission Player is the French classic of 1953, The Wages of Fear.  Four down-and-out men of disparate backgrounds marooned in South America drive—carefully—two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine to a distant oil well that is aflame and must be capped.  (Director William Friedkin’s 1977 movie Sorcerer is an unacknowledged remake.)

By Kim

Rags to Riches: the compelling life story of Julie Henning

Chester Springs at Henrietta Hankin Branch Library — This spring marks 90 years since author Pearl S. Buck was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her moving story of the joys and hardships of the Chinese peasant farmer Wang Lung and his family in her classic novel The Good Earth.  The celebrated author and humanitarian spent the last 40 years of her life living in Perkasie, PA.  During this time, she used her fame to shed light on the rights of marginalized communities including people of color, people with disabilities, women, biracial children, and immigrants.  Through her establishment of Pearl S. Buck International, many actions have, and continue to be made to help those affected by these issues.

On May 23rd from 6:30-7:30, the Henrietta Hankin Library will welcome the adopted daughter of Pearl S. Buck, Julie Henning, to give a talk on her life’s journey from an existence of hardship and poverty in the streets of Busan, South Korea, to a world of plenty, both spiritually and materially, in a house with a white picket fence in Souderton, Pennsylvania.  Ms. Henning gives her own unique perspective on Pearl Buck as a mother and guiding light.  As the daughter of an American G.I., whom she never knew, and her South Korean mother, Ms. Henning has also addressed issues faced by Amerasians through newspaper articles, radio interviews, national television, and U.S. Congressional hearings. 

At the urging of friends and family, Ms. Henning has documented her life story in a book, A Rose in a Ditch, which was published in 2019.  This book, which is now being made into a movie, will be available for purchase and signing at the event!  Come to hear the compelling story of Julie Henning’s life.  This program will be accessible virtually as well as in person in the Annex of the library.

We hope you will join us for this special event.  Register here. This event supports PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy.

Multimedia New Releases – May 2022