Or – “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”
It was two o’clock. The wind outside had died down, and I knew the rain was soon to come. The rain… like some harsh mistress that keeps mocking me; for the coming rain means yet another day the landscapers won’t be able to work on my sorry excuse for a yard.
The scent of whiskey still hung heavy in the air, and heavy on my breath, as I opened the tome that told the tale of Sand Saref. Sand Saref – what a dame. Word on the street is Frank Miller’s Spirit movie will be his interpretation of the Eisner comic from 1950. From Volume 20 of the DC archives, this isn’t an early story of Denny Colt, was written three years after I, The Jury debuted, and smacks of noir crime. San-Saref is a tale of murder, germ warfare, and most of all love. I’m no stool pigeon, but I thought I’d spill the beans on Sand Saref, in this Major Spoilers Retro Review.
Most people are worried Frank Miller is going to really turn the Spirit into some Sin City rip-off that will do nothing but sully the reputation of Mr. Eisner’s creation. After reading Sand Saref, I have to say, I hope Frank Miller makes the movie even more gritty, dirty, and rough than Sin City.
Holding back during the troubled times of the red scare, and the ever encroaching paranoia that comics were “nothing more than a way to seduce the innocent children of America with sex and violence”, Eisner was still able to deliver as much adult content as he could wile keeping the mob at bay. Sand Saref starts off with a police officer being shot down at the Central City’s Mud Flats, and throughout the 12-page story, at least six people are murdered or shot at. How many bodies stack up in Miller’s Sin City in that many pages?
Note: Will Eisner’s Central City shouldn’t be confused with DC Comics Flash Central City.
While digging around for clues, The Spirit stumbles upon a scrap of paper with Sand Saref’s name on it, and he proceeds to narrate, in typical Noir style, the tale of how the two grew up in the slums. Her father was a cop, and Denny’s uncle was a punch-drunk ex-fighter who always wound up on the wrong side of the law. Fortunately, it was Sand’s father that looked after the uncle. That is until one fateful day.
From that moment their paths went in opposite directions; Denny working with the law, and Sand obsessed with the bad boys; always looking for ways to make something of herself, and not worrying if her current fella gets off as long as it leads to something better. Even as young adults, Denny’s attempt at keeping Sand safe cause her and her gambling buddies to hop a boat to Europe to escape from certain arrest.
And as the war began, Sand found herself making the most of any bad situation.
Fortunately, the cop shot the Mud Flats survives and is able to provide a vital clue to The Spirit and Commissioner Dolan as to what Sand and her band of criminals were looking for. It isn’t pretty either, a ship sunk off the coast carried a Nazi virus, deadly to anyone, and it is obvious Sand is selling it to the highest bidder.
Of all The Spirit tales out there, it is no surprise Miller chose this one to adapt to film. The threat of terrorists using germ warfare is a worry to many people in this day and age and to make the film relevant to the movie-goer, this is a slam dunk story.
Even though she has been hanging around with the bad crowd, this villainess still has a heart of gold.
Following a convenient clue provided by Sand herself, The Spirit shows up to the hotel, to find Sand’s henchmen and the evil Dr. Vitriol looking for the dead body of the lab rat Sand used to prove to the buyer the virus was the real deal. A gunfight breaks out, which should translate very well to the screen, and Dr. Vitriol escapes.
He’s headed to the pier where Sand and her cronies are attempting to leave the country. Vitriol arrives shooting, hoping to get the money he feels he’s owed. Fortunately, The Spirit is hot on his trail and keeps anyone else from dying.
Sand knows Denny is the Spirit, and the childhood friends know the reunion is short lived.
It is a bit melodramatic, bordering on the closing scene to Casablanca, but it works here. Denny keeps the police detained long enough for Sand to make her escape. In the end, the bad guys are captured, the virus is safe, and Denny would just as soon to forget the entire ordeal.
Fortunately, this isn’t the last time Denny Colt would run into his long lost love. Sand Saref made her next appearance a month later in The Spirit: Blood of the Earth (February 26, 1950). But that is tale for another time.
As a modern day noir tale, Sand Saref is going to make one heck of a movie. Knowing Miller and Eisner talked at length about the Spirit, and knowing Miller has a desire to keep the story as near to the original as possible, I have a feeling this movie is going to be as good as or better than Sin City. Yes, there will be blood, violence, and probably sex, but why should that be shocking to anyone? Eisner did it; it was just toned down for the times. I give Will Eisner’s The Spirit: Sand Saref 5 out of 5 stars.