Wednesday, 18 August 2010
In memory of Michel Strogoff
I want to share my earliest experience of erotic romance. Specifically the television programme that first jumped out at me and said: THIS IS ROMANCE! THIS IS SEXY! YOU ARE MY SLAVE FOREVER, ASHBLESS! I don't expect it to ring any bells with most of you, because the programme in question was Michel Strogoff, a series dubbed into English from the French, and it aired in about 1978, at a guess.
I can make no claims to accuracy for the following description of the story, given that this is my memory as filtered through my 12-year-old perceptions and several decades of decaying braincells.
Okay: Michel Strogoff is a Cossack and the Tsar's top agent. He is huge and manly and omni-competent and just a tad irritating, and everyone thinks he is awesome. He has a beard. He is sent off on a long journey across Russia on the Tsar's business. On the way he falls in with a simpering blonde girly, whose name I do not remember. She is the Lurv Interest, but it takes till the end of the story for them to get off together.
Opposed to Michel is Ivan Ogereff, who used to be an officer in the Imperial Army but has now betrayed the Tsar because he is half-Tartar, and is now formenting some sort of Tartar invasion. The Tartars are all barbarians with big moustaches. Ivan looks like a mean version of Legolas and has floppy hair. He is Bad but has some code of honour. He has a girlfriend, Sangarre, who is simply the hottest thing in all the Russias: she has wild curly red hair and is Fiery. She likes to knife-fight. When all the Tartars tell her to shut up because she is Just a Woman, Ivan tells them to can it because he Respects Her Opinion. Ivan and Red are all over each other, in contrast to Michel's chaste affair.
I thought Ivan and Red were soooooo hot.
Michael and Ivan fight, and Ivan gets scarred across the face, thus rising by several million points up the Hot Scale. My twelve-year-old brain was going into meltdown by this point.
Michael gets captured by the Tartars, tied up and threatened, and then they blind him by holding a red-hot sword in front of his eyes. He is then released or escapes somehow, and Simpering Blonde leads him across the Russian wastes. At one point she undresses (very coyly) to bathe in a river while Michael sits on the bank, but that's okay because he can't see her.
Except he's not blind at all, ho ho. He's been lying, or maybe just got better.
Stuff happens. Michael fights and kills Ivan. Red goes crazy over his deathbed and runs to the fortress of Kiev where she smashes her fists against the closed gates, screaming in anguish. Probably Michael and Simpering Blonde live HEA, but I don't care by that point. I am devastated by the death of Ivan Ogereff.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I discovered Romance, with all its suffering, torture, racial tension and violence. The number of tropes from that TV series that have turned up in my own work since ... Honestly, my entire erotic romance career could be viewed as an attempt to rewrite a naff seventies teatime drama with a catchy theme tune.