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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Stories I Skipped

Happy (Late) Halloween from your friendly blogger and family; a witch, her familiar, a vampire, and most frightening of all, George RR Martin (I look nothing like Stephen King)
Well, I'm getting close to finished with 'Salem's Lot (okay, so it didn't take a month afterall) and I'm happy to report it's still among my favorites of King's works. In the meantime, I thought I'd do a post talking about the material I've read thus far that I've skipped, and why.

To begin with, I skipped many of the earliest works King produced for the simple reason that they've never been professionally published. A couple of his earlier works that were, such as his very first, The Glass Floor, I have also skipped, mainly because I simply can't get my hands on a copy. They are not commercially available, unless you happened to get your hands on a magazine that happened to reprint them. I'm not especially keen to do it for this blog, though, because what I know of those stories tells me they are not exactly adaptable material. If the purpose of this blog were to review every piece of written material produced by King, I would be more interested. As it is, such a blog already exists and you can find it here. I do recommend you check it out, because it's far more than just reviews. If you're a King fan, I guarantee you'll love it.

Anyway, I also want to clarify that the purpose of this blog is to cast adaptations of King's work for the screen, both television and the Big Screen. If a story doesn't lend itself to feature-length-or-longer adaptation, I won't be adapting it. Short films, TV anthology series episodes, even anthology films; I'm not here for that. Maybe another blogger can take that one up, but not this one. I kinda broke that with Night Surf, which I admitted is more ripe for a short than a feature, but again, the exception there was due to its connection to The Stand and how a film of that story could be a companion piece to the adaptation of the latter. There might be a few more exceptions down the road (such as One for the Road) but I won't necessarily make a casting each time. We'll see how that goes.

Because I'm not counting his pre-professional stories, I also am not including Jumper and Rush Call, despite them being available in the mostly non-fiction collection Secret Windows. I pretty much decided early on that I would only include King's stories that are commercially available. As in, they have to be something I can purchase at a book store, second-hand or otherwise, or find on Amazon. While this is true of Secret Windows, both stories contained therein are:

A) From his youth, and included mainly to highlight his and his brother's early publishing attempts and

B) Not really adaptable.

But there were still many that I skipped, and in this post I will go over these stories and the reasons why I decided they weren't fit for this blog. Spoilers will abound, so consider yourself warned.

And so, without further ado:

Cain Rose Up (Short Story) (1968) (Collected in Skeleton Crew)
Short reason why I didn't cast this: it's too short. You can read this thing in five minutes. I took ten, because I tried very hard to visualize all aspects of it. Cain is a harrowing tale told from the perspective of a college student who decides to start shooting up his campus. The subject matter will probably keep it from ever being filmed, but it could conceivably make a decent half-hour episode of an anthology series.

Here There Be Tygers (Short Story) (1968) (Collected in Skeleton Crew)
What a weird little story this is. It gets less weird if you think of it as the kind of tall tale one child might tell another. "Okay, so there's this kid, see, and he's in class but has to go to the bathroom, like, really bad. His teacher lets him go but he's really embarrassed. Only when he gets to the bathroom, there's, like, a really big tiger in there. So now he can't go or the tiger will eat him. But this other kid comes to check on him and, like, the tiger eats him up. And then..." You see what I mean. This story is cute, kinda silly, contains the oddest euphemism for "bathroom" I've ever seen, and not at all adaptable. This one will never be filmed because there's just not enough real story there. It's a perfect example of the idea that not all King stories need be adapted.

The Reaper's Image (Short Story) (1969) (Collected in Skeleton Crew)

This is one of King's earliest published short stories. He wrote it at age 18. And it shows. It's not a bad story at all, it's just...there. The story concerns an antiques collector who visits a museum hoping to get a glimpse at a rare mirror that supposedly has a curse on it. He's not interested in the curse, just the rare mirror, which he's hoping to make an offer on. I'm not describing the rest, not because I wish to avoid spoilers but because I think you can guess what happens. I understand that there have been attempts to adapt this, but I don't see how because there's not enough here to even make a good segment of an anthology film.

Graveyard Shift (Short Story) (1970) (Collected in Night Shift)
And now we come to the first story I've read thus far that has already been adapted. While this is one of the longer stories in the collection, there isn't much to it, and there's not much to the film based on it, either. The film itself is mostly remembered for Brad Dourif's performance as a weird, intense exterminator, and would you believe this characters isn't even in the story? So ultimately, while it's a bit creepy and a fun read, I don't think this one deserves two adaptations.

Suffer the Little Children (Short Story) (1972) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)

It breaks my heart to skip this one. I love this little creeper about an elderly teacher who suspects that her students are turning into monsters. It's genuinely well-written (perhaps helped by the fact that King likely re-wrote it before it was made available for mass consumption) and genuinely scary. It would make a truly excellent segment of an anthology, either in film or TV form, provided the budget was there to do it right. Some of you may wonder why, if I like this one so much, I don't suggest a cast for an extended version of the story? Because unlike Strawberry Spring or Gray Matter or even The Lawnmower Man, everything that happens in this story is shown in great detail. The previous stories all hint at other stuff that might happen off-camera. This story pretty much has it all happening before our eyes. Try to extend this story and it won't be as frightening.

The Fifth Quarter (Short Story) (1972) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
Another one I loved. No supernatural elements to this one: this is a crime story about a small-time con man who takes revenge for the murder of his former cell mate by going after the four-man criminal ring who did him in. This one was adapted as an episode of Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, which I haven't seen, but this story, which gripped me something fierce and even crossed into genuine scares with the introduction of the last member of the ring, almost assuredly wasn't as good on film as on the page. The problem with adapting this one is that what made this one so good is how King wrote it, and I don't know that this would translate to the screen. If it did, it would be just another crime drama, and while those always seem green-lightable, there's not much on the surface to set this one apart.

Battleground (Short Story) (1972) (Collected in Night Shift)

Another one that already has been adapted, and as an episode of the same series. William Hurt took the role of a hitman who offs a toy maker only to have a mysterious package delivered to him; little army men. The episode, which I also have not seen, achieved some acclaim because of the fact that it is entirely without dialogue (the story almost is, as well). This is the episode's most noteworthy feature, but wouldn't work if you tried to do it as a feature film, and if you added dialogue to it...well, I have two words for you: Small Soldiers. Did that movie scare you? Did it even really work? So, I passed on this one.

The Mangler (Short Story) (1972) (Collected in Night Shift)
Like Graveyard Shift, this one was adapted as a feature film. Much like Graveyard Shift, I have to wonder if that wasn't due to its length; it's one of the longest stories in this collection. I have no idea what other reason there might be to adapt it; it's about a haunted laundry machine. I'm not even kidding. The title refers to all the hooks, rods and arms in a steam ironer/folder. In this case, such a steam ironer gets possessed by a demon. Yep. Shaking in your boots yet? Oddly enough, King almost makes this plausible, but divorced from his writing style, it looks just like it sounds; plain silly. In addition to the feature based on this, two sequels that have nothing to do with it were produced straight to video. So really, I don't see a need to adapt this again.

Trucks (Short Story) (1973) (Collected in Night Shift)
For the life of me, I cannot figure out how this inconsequential story ended up with not one but two screen adaptations; one for the big screen and the other for television. And as for the film version? It was directed by Stephen King. I shit you not. I already mentioned it, but I'm repeating it because I want you to realize the full extent of weird here. The one time King decided to bring one of his own stories to film and take such control of it that he got in the director's chair himself wasn't to direct an adaptation of The Dark Tower or Pet Sematary or even Cycle of the Werewolf. No, it was this silly little story. What's it about? Oh, yeah, I guess I should mention that. It's about trucks. Yeah, trucks that, uh, come to live and terrorize some people at a rest stop. How's your heart rate? Pretty normal, right? In all fairness, as a story, it's not terrible. I know I called it lame in my first post, but that's because on no level does this work as a horror story, and yet King himself pronounced that with his film version, he will "scare the hell out of you." And again, this one was adapted twice. How this one gets two adaptations before Gray Matter even got one is beyond me.

It Grows on You (Short Story) (1973) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
This one just left me cold. It was fine for what it was, but it kinda reminded me of stories by Faulkner or Oates where they just tell you "This, this, then this happened, and then some more stuff happened. The end." In this case, it's a story about a house where strange things kept happening like cattle deaths, a monstrous stillborn child, et al, and with each new horror, the owner added a new addition to the house. Now the house seems to be growing new additions on its own. Creepy, sure. Adaptable, not really.

Sometimes They Come Back (Short Story) (1974) (Collected in Night Shift)
I liked this story, but I'm not sure how it formed the basis for a horror film, despite already being one once.. It's just not all that scary, nor all that original. Like The Mangler, this one ended up with two sequels that had nothing to do with King's story. I've already talked about it and why I don't think it needs a second adaptation.

Carrie (Novel) (1974)
As I've said numerous times, the main reason I am not blogging this one is that I see no reason why this film should be remade a third time. I don't have a problem with remakes, clearly, nor do I see it as a sign of a lack of creativity. More like just giving a new director/screenwriter a chance to do their take on the material. Of the three Carrie films we've already gotten, the first one, which starred Sissy Spacek, is probably the best, despite some weak points, such as the laughably over-the-top performance of Piper Laurie and the hopelessly dated look. But then, any time you set a film in high school it won't take long, like two years, tops, for it to look dated. The 2013 remake with Chloe Grace Moretz was pretty good, but it, like the original, cast an actress who started off beautiful and got more beautiful, rather than a girl who starts off looking plain, even ugly, and then gets prettier later. However, no ugly-duckling-to-swan film has ever actually started off with the girl looking ugly, so I don't think there's a need to remake it based solely on that.

So that's my take on material skipped. I'll do one of these every so often to let you know what else I'm reading but not blogging about, mainly because I appreciate my readers and don't want to lose your interest.

See you soon with my 'Salem's Lot post!


  1. First of all, thanks for the plug! I can't quite claim to having gotten around to reviewing every single King book and story, but my goal is to do so eventually. I'm super slow, though, so it's gonna be a while.

    "The Glass Floor" -- You aren't missing much there, to be honest. It reads like a piece of juvenilia. It's interesting in terms of glimpsing what King was up to at (literally) the dawn of his professional career, but apart from that, it's a nonsensical and poorly-written story.

    "Cain Rose Up" -- I definitely think it's safe to say that one will never be filmed, unless some fan does it without permission.

    "The Fifth Quarter" -- I wasn't a fan of the "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" tv show. Some of it was okay, but some of it was really bad. And some of it was merely boring, such as "The Fifth Quarter." I'd stick with the story on that one.

    "Battleground" -- Everyone loves that episode, except me. I thought the lack of dialogue felt really forced; it came off like exactly what it was, an experiment.

    "The Mangler" -- I think you are dead on the money when you suggest that what makes it work is King's voice. Take that away, you've got nothing; unless you replace it with a really strong directorial voice, which rarely happens with King movies, and dang sure didn't happen with the movie version of this one.

    "Carrie" -- I'd like to see another remake at some point, but only because I feel like they still haven't captured the novel. It will never happen, though; not for another few decades, at least.

    Looking forward to reading what you have to say about "Salem's Lot"!

    1. No problem, I really do enjoy your blog and I think others would too. For that matter, your blog is the reason this one exists, as you already know.

      'Salem's Lot is up now. I'm eager to see what you think of it.