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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

More Skipped Stories, Part II

"Do you love?"
As I am now about halfway through The Stand, I thought it might be an appropriate time to go over a few of the stories that won't be getting a casting from me and why. There were several this time, necessitating two different posts about it, and I'm reminded that not everything King wrote needs necessarily to be filmed. Sometimes this is true even if the story itself is quite strong and would make a kick-ass half-hour or so of television, or part of an anthology film. I don't understand why Creepshow 3 was entirely made up of stories King didn't write considering how many stories of his are still out there, unfilmed, and would be really cool to see on screen.

That's true of a couple of the ones I skipped this time around, and some of the others I've already talked about. One day I'm sure they'll get adaptations of their own, if we can bring back the anthology film. Or perhaps a channel like HBO or FX or Starz or Showtime will buy up a bunch of his short stories and produce an anthology television series that's actually worth watching, unlike Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King. I've seen more than one person bring that up. There are enough short stories out there, most unfilmed, several filmed badly, that with the right talent behind the camera it could make one bad-ass TV series.

Anyway, between The Shining and The Stand were several short stories and one novel, most of which I felt weren't ripe for adaptation, or perhaps had been given all the adaptations they were likely to have. I detailed about half of them in my last "Skipped Stories" post, and one of them managed to get a cast list from me. Then there are these, the stories leading up to The Stand, and I truly don't think any of these will ever be adapted to the big screen.

The King Family and the Wicked Witch (Short Story) (1977) (Uncollected)
There was a comedian I saw on TV years ago who made a joke about Stephen King having "small kids" at home. "Can you imagine how twisted his kids must be? 'You want Daddy to tell you a bedtime story?' 'NOOOOOOOOO!'" Well, here we get to see what happens when King does tell a bedtime story to his kids. This story was written specifically for his kids (this would be his eldest child, Naomi, and son Joey, known today as Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2 and well-healed heir to his dad's throne; youngest child Owen, who's about my age, and wasn't born when the story was written but had been born by the time it was published). The result is cute and funny, and in no way adaptable. As the title suggests, this is about King's family, and a witch who curses them because she hates happy people. I almost wonder if this wasn't in some way aimed at someone, like perhaps some activist who hated the fact that an author of such "immoral" content could be so popular, but I don't know of any campaigns against King, such as Patricia Pulling's campaign against Dungeons and Dragons or Terry Rakolta's campaign against Married...With Children, but there's always some misguided person who tries to instigate a boycott against something or someone, usually if not always achieving the opposite result of the one they wanted. But regardless, this story is just a cute way for King to have fun with his kids, and it's touching that they had this sort of relationship. But fodder for a film? Not hardly.

The Man Who Loved Flowers (Short Story) (1977) (Collected in Night Shift)
Another short one, this one kind reminded me of Strawberry Spring, except it's much shorter and has a different tone. This time, it's about a young man who seems to passers-by to be a young man in love. He stops and purchases flowers, hears a news report about the hammer killer, continues on his way, meets a woman in an alley and...sorry, spoilers. This story is only a few pages long, and can be read in minutes, so we're having the same problem with the idea of adapting it as we did with Cain Rose Up. Well, one of the problems. It's a nice story, but far too short.

Rage (Novel) (1977)
This novel has quite the history. It was one of the first he ever wrote, and the very first one he considered publishable material. It wouldn't see publication until 1977, when king invented the Richard Bachman persona in order to release some of his older material. So, when this was first published, and for many years after, no one knew this was a Stephen King novel at all. This is never going to be filmed, and it's too bad, because this is quite the story. It stars a mentally disturbed young man named Charlie Decker, who takes his class hostage, kills a teacher and then the story unfolds in a decidedly unexpected way. The rest of the class, minus one kid who wants to play hero, seems to undergo a sort of mass Stockholm syndrome, helping Charlie work through his issues as the cops and school staff gather outside and attempt negotiating with him. It's an intense book that's shocking, sad and ultimately riveting. So why won't it ever be filmed? Because King himself would put a stop to any attempts to film it. After copies of this book were found in possession of kids who had attempted their own versions of this story, King asked for it to be taken out of print. The only way you'll get a hold of this one is if you find it in a second-hand book store or order used online. My copy is part of the collection The Bachman Books, which packages it with The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man. The Bachman Books has been re-issued since then with this one left out. If you're a King fan and haven't read this one yet, I'd say go look for it and read it. It will make you sad and angry, but as it's supposed to, that's high praise.

The Last Rung on the Ladder (Short Story) (1978) (Collected in Night Shift)
This one, I am pretty sure, has been filmed as a short, which is about the only way it could be, because the story would lose some of its impact if you tried to expand it to a full film. Some day, I hope someone decides to make an anthology of King's non-supernatural, non-horror short stories, and focuses on the deeply emotional ones, as this story would be prime material for that. It tells the story of a young man and his little sister who grew up on a farm in Hemingford Home, Nebraska (I'd call that a connection to The Stand, except that it's a real place) and one day as they're playing on a rickety ladder to the hayloft in their barn, the ladder breaks while his sister is climbing it, and he saves her. The way the story continues from there is heart-breaking and even made me tear up a bit. I do recommend reading this one, but there's not enough material for a full film.

Quitters, Inc. (Short Story) (1978) (Collected in Night Shift)
I'm somewhat convinced that King wrote this one while trying to quit smoking himself. I'm not sure when he managed to kick the habit himself, but damn if the method presented here doesn't sound effective. Inhuman, but effective. This story was already adapted to film twice, once as part of the anthology film Cat's Eye, which stars James Woods as the man trying to quit smoking and Alan King as the man "helping" him, and once more recently as a Hindi film called No Smoking, which I have not seen. Ultimately, I just don't see a reason why this story needs adapting a third time.

The Woman in the Room (Short Story) (1978) (Collected in Night Shift)
Another candidate for that anthology film I mentioned above. Coupling this one with The Last Rung on the Ladder would result in a film that would necessitate theaters handing out boxes of tissues to the film-goers. This one's partially autobiographical, as King's own mother died of uterine cancer when he was still relatively young. In this story, a man watches as his mother gets sicker and sicker, suffering more and more horribly, and wondering what he can do to help her. His solution is both horrifying and understandable, and makes us wonder what we would do in those circumstances. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Dollar Baby short film that was made of this; Frank Darabont was the filmmaker in question, and it launched his career. I haven't seen the film myself but I understand it's very, very good, and I don't doubt it, seeing as Darabont is an excellent filmmaker. Ultimately, I think it's best to let the story and that one short film stand. I don't think there's any reason to try and film it again, especially if that necessitates expanding it.

The Night of the Tiger (Short Story) (1978) (Uncollected)
This one was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the same magazine that would later publish the novellas that make up the first Dark Tower novel. For whatever reason, it's never been collected in one of King's omnibus collections, which I don't understand because it's a very good story. It reminds me of the TV series Carnivale, which is actually a very King-like series in itself. This one involves a mad lion-tamer in a traveling fair, and his counterpart, a mysterious man who seems to be following him, and the narrator, a roustabout, caught in between them. This is one of those stories where it seems like there's a lot more going on than we're being told, and I think there is a good film to be found in here somewhere, but I don't think this one needs filming. I'd almost rather leave those questions up to our imaginations.

Nona (Short Story) (1978) (Collected in Skeleton Crew)
One thing King likes to do is get into the heads of mentally disturbed individuals with homicidal tendencies. He did it on a grand scale in Rage, but here the narrator, a young drifter who finds himself in rural Maine during a deep winter storm. There he meets Nona, a beautiful young woman with whom he seems to share an almost psychic connection, who brings out his inner murderer. The story ends on an ambiguous note that makes one wonder if there was something supernatural going on or if our narrator is just crazy (I lean toward the latter option). Nona would make a great short film, and in fact has (it's another Dollar Baby, and there are others). It's heavily atmospheric (the above picture is from it) but again, is there really enough story there to make it a long-form film? I don't think so, though if there are ever any more anthology films made of King's work, this one's just about got to be part of it.

I'm considering a few non-casting posts that concern King and his previous adaptations, so in the next little while something like that might come along. In the meantime, I continue to plow through The Stand, really enjoying being able to immerse myself in this world again, but also being reminded just how unfathomably long this book is. My copy is 1440 pages long, meaning that while I've already read the length of a respectably long novel, I'm not even halfway through yet. That just feels...weird. But still good, and I am enjoying myself. I just can't wait to be able to blog this one because it's going to be one of The Big Ones, which up til now there haven't been much of.


  1. "I don't understand why Creepshow 3 was entirely made up of stories King didn't write considering how many stories of his are still out there, unfilmed, and would be really cool to see on screen." -- Simple: the people who produced it didn't own the rights to any King stories! I'm assuming they didn't, at least. They also seem to have not owned the rights the use any professionals in the writing, directing, acting, editing, or marketing of the movie.

    Glad to see there's another fan of "The Night of the Tiger" out there! I think it's a real shame that isn't more widely known. Good call on the tonal similarity to "Carnivale," too. Oh, poor, poor "Carnivale"...cut down so far before it ought to have been!

    1. I guess I meant why make a Creepshow 3 without King on board? Ridiculous, and from what I read on your blog, it really was.

      Carnivale has the same kind of vibe that I get from reading King's books, which is saying something because plenty King-based movies DON'T give me that vibe. At some point Daniel Knauf is going to be chosen by me as a screenwriter. I just am waiting for the project I think he's best suited for.

      Something about how Knauf has a feel for the talismanic, both items and phrases, like "every prophet in his house", and the like. Maybe...It?