I have written here many times of mine and Brent’s love for John Boorman’s “Excalibur”. It may have been Brent’s favorite film. Hard to argue with that. It certainly checked all the right boxes, but today I want to discuss something tangentially related that was something of a Holy Grail for my departed friend, and for me as well.
John Boorman gathered cast and crew together before filming began on his Arthurian masterpiece and had them watch a short written and directed by Roger Christian called “Black Angel”.
The film introduced us to a medieval knight, Sir Maddox, who had returned from the Crusades to find his family gone and plague and disease rampant throughout his homeland. After a near-death experience, Maddox had a vision of a strange and beautiful maiden who had been imprisoned by a black knight. Taking up the quest to rescue the mythic damsel from the skeletal clutches of the foul knight, Maddox sets out to confront the Black Angel.
“Black Angel”, made on a shoestring of £25,000, was shown with “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” for audiences in the UK, Australia, and Scandinavia. For those of us in the States, it was little more than a legend.
Back in 1980, the height of our Dungeons & Dragons obsession, “Black Angel” was this thing whispered of; this epic, revelatory, life-changing piece of cinematic magic. Brent talked of it often which is why it has stuck with me all these years.
As Dungeon Master, players often came to me with ideas for their characters, and I remember quite fondly one of Brent’s. Prince Korum Maddox was modeled, after a fashion, on what little we knew of Sir Maddox and the Black Angel film. Brent had read an article in one of the fanzines, complimented with a few black and white stills, and used it to give life to his creation. I used those grainy shots to build something of a campaign around them, loosely aping the plot, and we had a go of it.
As the years passed, that campaign was a fond remembrance between us. Much of it was played out, just him and I, and we revisited that world many times, in college and after.
“Black Angel” was never released in the States, never made it onto video tape or DVD. Brent never saw the film, but that didn’t stop it from inspiring him.
That short, which had achieved a sort of mythic, legendary status, was lost to history… until recently. Roger Christian and his co-horts shared the film with the world via youtube. It was everything I dreamed it would be and it broke my heart that Brent wasn’t there to watch it with me.
He would have loved it.
Now. it looks like they’re remaking the film and I can’t help but connect it so intimately with my friend who is no longer here with me. “Black Angel” has become something more than just a movie. It is the Chapel Perilous where within the Grail Cup waits, a Cup full of memories of a time long past, when my friend and I were legendary figures in our own right, and no fell knight could stand between us.
I plan to gather our little brotherhood and make a night of “Black Angel” once Christian’s reimagining becomes a reality. We will raise our horns and swords and laugh like Summer Knights again. And we will be joined in spirit by the one who left us far too soon.
I suppose there’ll be years of this to come, tallying all the little things that Brent won’t get to share with us. Some will sting more than others. “Black Angel”, for me, will take a bite.