Since I haven’t been gaming as much as I’d like, I haven’t been able to post any session notes lately. I’d really like to update this blog more, but life hasn’t afforded me a lot of opportunities to do that lately. This is, of course, a cop-out. I could be making lemonade with all these lemons, but I haven’t been. Anyway, I digress. I’d like to get to a point where I am updating this blog at least once a week, so I’m going to have to get creative when it comes to posting.
A few days ago, I was scrolling through Netflix and I noticed a lot of fantasy/mythology movies that I’ve never heard of. There were a few in there that I had heard of, and a couple of those that I had even seen, of course, but the majority were mysteries. So I thought I would watch and review some of these movies, hopefully pulling some humor and something tangentially related to role-playing games out of the experience.
The first movie I decided to watch was The Minotaur. This movie is from 1960, and loosely tells the story of Theseus and his battle with – you guessed it – the Minotaur. This retelling focuses mainly on the interplay between Ariadne, her evil twin sister, Phaedra, and the heroic Theseus. In this version of the classic Greek myth, Phaedra learns that she has a twin sister who was spirited away at birth, so that she might be spared as a sacrifice to the Minotaur. As heir to the ailing king Minos, Phaedra would prefer have her twin sister killed rather than have a rival to the throne. To this end, she dispatches Cero, who is apparently a general or something, to kill Ariadne. Cero takes a bunch of soldiers to the village Ariadne is purported to be hidden in, and decides that the best course of action is to just slaughter everyone in town. He would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling Theseus and his best pal Demetrius, who just happened to be nearby.
Ariadne is spirited away to Athens, were she instantly forgets about her whole village being slaughtered and falls in love with Theseus. Meanwhile, Cero goes back to Phaedra to report his failure. Phaedra, not one to let appalling incompetence bother her, sends Cero to Athens to make another attempt at killing Ariadne. Cero figures the best way to accomplish this is to get Demetrius, who is from Crete, to do the dirty work, telling him that if he does not kill Ariadne then his father and sister will be put to death. But Demetrius is no murderer, and after a half-hearted attempt to kill Ariadne, he tells Theseus everything. The two then travel to Crete so they can sort things out. While there, Theseus meets with Phaedra, and promptly humiliates Cero by smacking him around like a child. This guy must have tenure or something, because it seems like he just can’t fuck up enough to get demoted or even admonished. Phaedra offers Theseus the crown of Crete, and the promise of ruling at her side. Theseus says he will think on it. Meanwhile, Cero and his goons manage to do something right, and go to arrest Demetrius.
The next morning, a host of virgins is due to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, and Theseus is on a dais by the side of Phaedra, ostensibly still contemplating her offer. Theseus decides he can’t abide this whole sacrifice thing, and decides that the best way to proceed is to leap from the dais and rush headlong into an overwhelming force of guards. Inexplicably, Demetrius is present, presumably a prisoner but not shackled or restrained in any way. Theseus tosses the sword of the first guy he kills to his pal, and the obligatory goon-slaughter fight scene gets underway. I don’t know why in the hell Demetrius was even there, let alone unshackled, but I have to chalk this up to some executive decision that Cero was still allowed to make for some reason. Demetrius’ sister is killed in the fray, and Demetrius himself takes an arrow during their harrowing escape. Demetrius dies in the woods while he and Theseus are being chased by a pack of soldiers, and then Theseus himself takes an arrow in the back after getting chased to the edge of a sea cliff by his pursuers.
Fortunately for Theseus, the sea goddess Amphitrite takes a shining to him, and spares his life. He awakes in some strange sea cave and asks how long he’s been there. Amphitrite tells him that time has no meaning in this place, and that furthermore she loves him. She offers to wed Theseus and share her watery kingdom with him. Theseus wants none of this of course, being in love with Ariadne, and begs Amphitrite to return him to the world of men so he can avenge his friend and marry the woman he loves. Anfitrite tells him he is too late, and proceeds to show him a bunch of things that have happened, including the defeat of his father’s armies at the hands of the somehow-still-in-a-position-of-authority Cero, and the capture of his beloved. Apparently Amphitrite was just lying when she said all that about time not having any meaning in this place.
Theseus is of course sent back to the mortal realm, and the inevitable “Phaedra dies in the dungeon while confronting her twin sister and Ariadne must assume the role of Phaedra to get them out of the situation” thing happens. Cero the Worthless fails to notice that Phaedra is wearing the clothes her sister was wearing only moments ago and vice-versa, and has Theseus arrested at “Phaedra’s” command, rather than just murdering him on the spot.
Eventually everyone ends up in the chamber where the sacrifices take place, and Theseus vows to kill the Minotaur. Apparently someone saying this was all that the people of Crete needed to rebel against the whole virgin sacrifice thing, so the room erupts into chaos. Theseus heads into the labyrinth and Ariadne follows him in the confusion, unraveling her cloak or something as she goes. The Minotaur is quite a comical looking beast, even by the standards of 1960. He looks like a cross between King Kong and a saber-toothed tiger, and his big sad eyes make you feel kind of sorry for him rather than terrified. Theseus slays the beast and he and Ariadne emerge from the labyrinth. Everyone cheers and the credits roll.
Moment Most Like an RPG
In the big fight/escape scene, our hero doesn’t come up with anything more clever to do than leap into combat against overwhelming odds, throwing his hit points and armor class at the problem. His friend dies in the debacle, and Theseus himself is only saved through divine intervention.
Moment Least Like an RPG
Theseus turns down the chance to be a god so he can go back to being a regular guy and marry the girl he met a couple of weeks ago.
Interesting Plot Hooks I Thought of While Watching This Movie
1. The PCs have to intervene on the behalf of a bumbling general or government official, who keeps failing upwards as a result.
2. The party does “the right thing” by stopping some sacrifice to some monster or some such. This actually has dire consequences, angering the gods or otherwise bringing misfortune upon the people who were engaging in the sacrifices.
This movie wasn’t exactly great, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Most of the acting wasn’t that bad, and the fight scenes (aside from the climactic Minotaur fight) were decent. There were a few weird plot holes and the monster makeup was appalling, but for an older, low-budget movie it was alright. I recommend this film to anyone who likes to see Greek mythology butchered, and who enjoys non-sequitur harem dance scenes.