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Monday, February 12, 2018

Skipped Stories: The Revenge

My eyes! MY EYES!!
It's time once more to have a look at some of the stories that won't be getting their own adaptation. I considered leaving this post a bit longer as I'm quite sure I'll be skipping some others down the road, but I'm also sure I'll be making posts for the next three or four big ones coming up, so I'll split these posts into smaller chunks.

We're about to close out the 80's, here. In fact, the next full post I do will be for the last thing published by King in the 80's. I feel like we've been in the 80's forever, mostly because I took that year-plus pause right at the start of the 80's latter half.

I was also surprised at the number of stories that I felt needed their own adaptation. I didn't think I'd be doing one for a majority of them, but instead once I was finished with Popsy, The Doctor's Case and Home Delivery, I felt they had to get their own films.

But these won't be. So, for the first time in two years, here's some stories that didn't merit their own post.

The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson (Short Story) (1986) (Uncollected in its Original Form)
As I mentioned in my post on The Tommyknockers, this story was eventually re-written and enfolded into that book. This isn't the first book this happened in, either. The Body, another story I skipped, had two full (and possibly unaltered) stories in it; Stud City and The Revenge of Lard-Ass Logan, both of which had appeared in previous publications (Ubris, King's university journal for Stud City and The Maine Review for Lard-Ass Logan). I say they might have been left unaltered because both were changed into stories written by Gordie LaChance, the narrator of The Body, who was giving the reader examples of the kind of stories he wrote when he was a kid, and how he looks back on them and doesn't think much of them now. But The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson is different, because well after its initial publications in Rolling Stone and the anthology I Shudder At Your Touch, it was incorporated into the actual plot of The Tommyknockers, and altered significantly. I can't honestly say which version I liked the most (though I was far more irritated by this story's version of 'Becka, who kept referring to sex as her husband "putting his man-thing in her woman-thing", which even the most repressed of housewives probably wouldn't say), but as far as adaptations, there's just no need to do a full adaptation of The Tommyknockers and then do another for this story by itself. The central conceit is the same; 'Becka starts having things revealed to her by a picture of Jesus that begins to talk to her. Like I said in the post for The Tommyknockers, in this story the cause is a gun she fires into her forehead by accident, which by itself is intriguing because of how in real life apparently this has happened a few times; people surviving gunshot wounds to the head, sometimes for years afterward. In the case of 'Becka, it causes her to hear people speaking to her that shouldn't be, like her dead father and a picture of Jesus. I've also mentioned that this story was adapted as an episode of The Outer Limits, which is actually available to watch on YouTube, and as I said, in the SKCU, it really doesn't need to be there twice. That said, it's kinda cool to think about this story and The Tommyknockers both being part of the extended canon. Different levels of the Tower, for sure.

The End of the Whole Mess (Short Story) (1986) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
This was the first short story I read after coming back from my break. It's been adapted before as an episode of Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, and as I read it, I really tried to picture how it could be expanded into a movie. And the truth is, I don't think it can be. This is a story about two genius brothers (one of whom is our narrator), the younger of whom becomes so affected by the idea of ending wars for good that he sets out to literally cure humanity's need for violence. Here's the problem; this kid is so brilliant, and knows it, that he has developed a fatal flaw. He never once considers the possibility of unintended side effects. So, yes, he finds a cure. But the cure is, naturally, worse than the disease. It's an interesting, engaging story, but to lengthen it would be to essentially be 80 minutes of research, research, research. I'm more than okay with this one remaining in short form.

Misery (Novel) (1987)
It breaks my heart to skip this one, and at the same time, it doesn't. The reason I'm skipping it should be obvious; there's already been an adaptation of this one, and it was perfect. I mean perfect. It stands with It, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Green Mile and others as proof that you can adapt Stephen King--and stay faithful to the story--and produce a damn good film. Kathy Bates won a deserved Oscar for it. Does it need a remake? Absolutely not, and for that matter, any remake would have to be a period piece as there's almost zero chance such a plot could work in a modern setting. But damn if I didn't love this book, and movie. Aside from providing me with the single most horrifying thing ever to come out of a Stephen King book (see the page image), it also gives us one of King's best villains in Annie Wilkes, a psychotic nurse who stands in for two of King's biggest demons; his fans who would write him nasty letters whenever he would produce something non-horror (specifically those who wrote him about The Eyes of the Dragon, specifically saying they hated it not for being bad but for not being horror) and, even more so, his drug addictions. This also has the distinction of being the novel King was working on when it was made public that Richard Bachman was Stephen King. This would have been the next Bachman novel had King not been outed, but I think it would have been even more obvious than Thinner that this was a King story, mainly because the writer-as-protagonist thing is a very King-ian trope, and one that Bachman notably never used, even with Thinner. So, I'm not adapting this one, but I am recommending that if you haven't read it  (or seem the movie) do both, and do it now.

The Night Flier (Short Story) (1988) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
Another I thought I'd be adapting, but mainly because the villain in this one is, according to King himself, also Popsy from Popsy. I'm not sure I can really agree to that, because Popsy didn't seem to be evil, though he and Dwight Renfield (the alias this vampire uses) both like to dress like typical Lugosian vampires. In this story, a tabloid reporter feels like he's got the scoop of the year; a pilot who flies his tiny private Cessna from small airstrip to small airstrip, feeding on whom he finds there. That's...pretty much the story. I was waiting for a twist ending or some revelation, but none comes. In fact, it ends on a very typical note. The one thing that I liked about this story, or at least, the one thing that struck me as unique, was the scene where Dees, the reporter, watches in a bathroom mirror as a vampire (who, naturally, isn't reflecting) empties his bladder. This was already adapted once as an HBO movie that did air in some cinemas, starring everyone's favorite "where do I know him from" actor, Miguel Ferrer, as Dees. I don't see a need for this simple little story to be adapted twice.

Dedication (Short Story) (1988) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
One question CR's must ask themselves is "how far is too far?" What's too gross, when coming from the master of macabre himself? What crosses the line? As far as I'm concerned, the sewer scene (you know the one) from It crosses the line. This story comes pretty close itself, if it doesn't actually cross it itself. This story is just...icky. It's unpleasant in almost every way, and it doesn't even make a lot of sense. It also underscores a real problem with some of King's early writing when it comes to how certain stereotypes are represented. A black person in a King book (at least, at this point in his career) can't just be a black person. They have to be either a "Magical Negro" (like Dick Halloran or, later on, John Coffey), or they are presented about as stereotypical as it gets. They're always poor, grew up in the wrong neighborhood, usually were involved with, or threatened by, gangs and/or drug lords, et al. This one's no exception, and for that matter, I could tell the characters in this story were black even before it was mentioned just by how King made them talk. Because a black person can't just speak normally. They have to drop their g's and call people "child" and whatnot. I'm not calling King a racist, because he isn't, but he was someone who didn't know how to write a black person as just a person, at least not in the 80's, he didn't.

The Reploids (Short Story) (1988) (Uncollected)
This story was one of three stories collected in Dark Visions, an anthology that actually included three of King's works, the other two being Dedication and Sneakers. This was the only one of those three that's never appeared in one of King's own collections, and I can't say I blame him for leaving it out. This story looks like it's going somewhere really interesting and then it just...stops. It's like King didn't know how to finish it so he just didn't. I did my best to see if perhaps it was just that the copy I got (from a private collection) was incomplete, but as near as I can tell, it wasn't. The tale, which connects somewhat distantly to some later works in The Dark Tower series, involves a strange incident where The Tonight Show opens as usual, but instead of Johnny Carson, a strange man comes out as if he was the one introduced. He has a big chin and a squeaky voice, no, that's too strange, no one would believe that. Actually, he's a guy named Ed Paladin, who comes out on stage as if he has every right to be there and gets ready to open the show, just as Johnny would, and when hauled out by security, seems genuinely upset and baffled that he's being taken away from "his" show. While being questioned by police, it becomes clear that Ed is from parallel Earth, where he actually is a Carson-like talk show host, and had no idea that he somehow ended up in ours. But again, this pretty neat set-up has no pay-off whatsoever. It ends literally just as the idea is revealed. How did Ed get to our world? What's going on? Has anyone else been replaced? This story isn't interested in telling us. While I certainly wouldn't be upset if a Dark Tower TV series made use of this story, there's no reason whatsoever it deserves its own adaptation.

Sneakers (Short Story) (1988) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
Once again, King introduces a long-victimized group in a problematic way. In this story, our hero is a music producer who notices during work on an album that the men's room on their floor always has one stall with a pair of filthy sneakers just sitting there, silently. Several years later, he's back in that building producing a new record, and the sneakers are still there. They begin to freak him out, even before he learns that the sneakers belong to a ghost that others have seen. What makes this story problematic is that this really is the first time King writes an openly gay major character (several minor characters have been gay but almost none had major roles) and he is a sexual predator. Honestly I can only think of three openly gay characters in King's canon and all three are from It. One was a character so minor he didn't have a name, and the other two were walking stereotypes. Now we get a sexual predator. Again, the character can't just be gay. Now, that isn't why I'm not adapting this one, though it doesn't help. It's that there just isn't that much of a story here. It might make a nice anthology episode, but I've said that about a lot of stories that I haven't adapted.

Rainy Season (Short Story) (1989) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
Now, this one not a bad read, but I can't help but think that any attempt at putting on the big screen would just look stupid. A young couple moves to a town that has a weird secret. In exchange for being prosperous forever, once every seven years it rains toads. Not just any toads but large, carnivorous toads. The couple, naturally, doesn't believe this, and they don't leave town when the offer is made. The story ends about how you'd think it does. So, not a bad read, but not an especially good one, either.

My Pretty Pony (Short Story (1989) (Collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
This one really did remind me of stories like the ones I was assigned to read in college, like The Lottery or A Rose for Emily. This is not a story to be read and enjoyed. This is a story to be studied. If I was in the business of analysis and dissection, this one would keep me busy for a while, because there's so much one can take from it, especially in a group discussion. I don't even really want to get into what it's about, because it's about many things, none of them actual ponies. The central theme is time, and how your perspective of it changes as you get older, but that's just scratching the surface. Remember how I said that at some point, and maybe already, King's stories will be studied in schools? Well you can bet this one will be on someone's syllabus at some point. In fact, I think it is already because I found a study guide for it. Do read it, do think about it, and I'd be happy to discuss it with you in the comments, or elsewhere. But while there's a lot to be gleaned from this, it's not exactly ripe for an adaptation.

More short stories are coming up, and I'm halfway tempted to add another I know I'll be skipping to this post, but I think I'll save them for the next one. I'm about halfway through The Dark Half right now, and yes, that one's getting an adaptation.

Next Up: The Dark Half!


  1. (1) The original version of "Lardass Hogan" is VERY different, primarily by virtue of having an entire short-story-length prologue to what happens in the version from "The Body." The original "Stud City" is mostly the same as the one in "The Body," although there is one huge difference toward the end.

    (2) I agree that there is no need for a remake of "Misery," but I'd still kind of like to see one, provided it's good. It'd be fun to see what different actors could do with those roles.

    (3) I always thought King was on shaky ground saying that the night flier and Popsy are one and the same. I just don't buy it; feels wrong.

    (4) Nope, it's not just your copy of "The Reploids." That's just how that story is. Apparently that's just a chapter from an unfinished novel King gave up on at some point. I kind of dig it, but it's definitely more smoke than it is fire.

    (5) I've got to correct you on one thing: "The Night Flier" was not in "Dark Visions." "Sneakers" was the third story. "The Night Flier" appeared in an anthology called "Prime Evil."

    (6) Another gay character in King's work: the narrator in the short story "Mister Yummy," which is a terrible title but a very solid story.

    (7) Apparently, "My Pretty Pony" was also an excerpt from an unfinished novel. I can't remember much about that story. But that's true of several of the others you mention here, too; most of these kind of fail to stick in the mind, don't they?

    1. (1) Hmm. I did not know that.

      (2) Who would you cast as Annie?

      (3) Yeah, like I said, Dwight Renfield seems evil while Popsy does not. Could just be the different circumstances, but I can't imagine Dwight taking his grandson to buy some Ninja Turtles at the mall. Or even having a grandson.

      (4) It does feel like part of a larger story. The larger story could even be interesting.

      (5) Fixed

      (6) That one came later in life, though. A Very Tight Place has a gay character as well and I think there are others.

      (7) MPP does stick in my mind, but I feel like discussing it would take a post of its own. I seriously could see essays being written by college students about it.

    2. (2) Cate Blanchett and Bryan Cranston are the first names that come to mind. Neither is all that correct for it if you're going by the book, but there'd be some sparks in that pairing.

      (4) I wish I knew anything about the plot of the intended novel it came from. As far as I know, that info is not out there anywhere.

      (6) Right! I forgot about "A Very Tight Place."

      (7) I haven't heard anything about it in a while, but there was a Dollar Baby short film starring Tobin Bell as the grandfather being filmed last year. I guess that would work.