Roger Corman’s Game of Thrones
Despite its enormous popularity, most people don’t realise that HBO’s take on George R. R. Martin’s work is not the first time Game of Thrones has made it to the screen. Some decades before, in 1963, famed independent film-maker Roger Corman had his own crack at the material, with an adaptation that’s been virtually erased in the wake of its more famous, fresher-faced relative.
Corman’s ‘The Game of Thrones‘ — the change from ‘A Game…’ being far from the last deviation from the source material — is a forgotten piece of the GoT canon, much like the 1988 Bourne Identity film, which pre-dates the Matt Damon franchise, or Corman’s own, unreleased Fantastic Four movie. While a 21st century HBO had the budget, and advances in VFX, to fully render the scope and scale of Westeros as it’d been imagined, Corman’s adaptation saw five volumes crammed into 90, under-budgeted minutes of b-movie, resulting in a heavily condensed, and often nonsensical sprint through the material. That said, many of your favourite characters feature in some form, with surprisingly coherent retellings of major plotlines. Wobbly VHS copies were traded at comic conventions in the late 80s, before an original print was briefly released on DVD in China in 2012, until HBO’s legal team stepped in.
The first two acts cut between happenings in King’s Landing, Jon Snow at The Wall, and Daenerys’ story across the narrow sea. Corman’s film moves through the plot of the first book at a brisk pace, covering Robert’s death in the first ten minutes, with an unseen Ned killed offscreen.
The story then shifts focus onto the character of Tywin Lannister, thanks mainly to the big-name casting of Vincent Price.
Dany, played by a young Jane Asher, was initially to follow her book journey with the Dothraki, but when Bernard Bresslaw — blacked up as Khal Drogo — fell ill the day before shooting, hasty rewrites led to material from the second book/season making its way onscreen instead.
Following the introductory bath, Dany’s arc follows the familiar beats of travelling to Quath, losing her dragons, and encountering a mysterious masked figure (Quaithe), who leads her to the House of the Undying to reclaim her children.
Budgetary restrictions are obvious in this sequence, and though it’s imbued with a typically Corman sense of the dreamlike, the final reveal of the dragons as a pair of unmoving models is twee by today’s standards.
Meanwhile, a rather clean-looking Jon begins his training at the Night’s Watch.
He quickly rises to the rank of Lord Commander, and executes Janos Slynt.
The Wall itself, particularly during the Wildling attack sequence, is by far the biggest casualty of budget.
The battle is won thanks to the magick of Melisandre.
Though the lean running time left scant wriggle-room for subtle performances, actor Willy Creamer’s turn as Tyrion, a perfect blend of scheming dignity and sick burns, was surely a model for Peter Dinklage.
The relationship between Tyrion and Varys, which is much the same as would be later portrayed, is a particular highlight.
Though Tyrion’s make-up, when later disfigured during the Battle of the Blackwater, leaves a lot to be desired.
His marriage with Sansa did make it onscreen, and actually stuck closer to the source material, with Sansa much younger than her TV equivalent.
Ghost, the only other remaining Stark to feature, appears alongside the couple, but was recast as a tamer breed, after a real wolf bit a background extra’s knee off.
The Purple Wedding goes down, as it would some fifty years later.
After which, Tyrion eventually makes it to Daenerys’ side in Meereen…
…and accelerating past GRRM’s work, brings her back to King’s Landing. The casting of Price led Corman to play around with the timing, and see Tywin still living, to unveil Dany to the court of King’s Landing.
Before Jon arrives to ask for Dany’s hand in marriage, so they might rule the seven kingdoms together.
Anyway, I’m sure it’s out there on somewhere if you look hard enough, if you can drag yourself away from that video of the iguana farting in the bath for more than five seconds, you deviant.
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