For my sins (sic) I had never even heard of Solomon Kane – neither the movie starring James Purefoy as Hugh Jackman as the Puritan Avenger, nor the pulp magazine on which the film is based. I stumbled across it, literally by accident, but was drawn in by two themes of current and somewhat eclectic interest – the Barbary Moors, and the emigration of religious separatists to North America at the start of the 1600s. Solomon Kane adds something else of course: the supernatural. He’s trying to save his soul from Hell in a world that’s populated by demons and unenviably-altered human hosts.
So it’s a moving comic book, really, but I mean that as no criticism; within the limitations of the genre, Solomon Kane feels authentic, as if it’s treating the source material and Solomon Kane fans with a modicum of respect. In good part, this is assisted by the earnest performance of Purefoy (Jackman, in this role, would have ripped his shirt off and preened and tossed his hair, Purefoy is all just grim resilience) but also by the consistency in the recreation of 1600s England whilst filming in the Czech Republic.
But surely not just a happy coincidence?; the Director apparently has said that the last scenes of the film were shot in Devon, on an Estate (Moreton House?) owned in the past by Sir Richard Grenville. Grenville was a cousin of Francis Drake, who having fought the Turks in Hungary, became admiral of the fleet that brought settlers for the first ever English colony in North America, off the coast of North Carolina in 1585. When he returned in 1586, the disgruntled colonists had packed up and shipped out on a passing boat, leaving the colony unoccupied until 1587, when 115 men, women and children arrived on Roanoke Island to found the second colony – a colony which famously vanished without trace. (Yes, I know you solved the mystery, Lee Miller, I’ve read your brilliant book eleventy times and still can’t get enough of it.)