Category Archives: Films Released in 1983
Directed by John Carpenter
Screenplay by Bill Phillips
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Now we come to Stephen King’s Christine. Oops, hold on, wait a minute, that’s not entirely accurate. If I were talking about the masterful novel by the aforementioned Mr. King that statement would be correct. But I’m not; I’m talking about John Carpenter’s Christine, screenplay by Bill Phillips. We’re talking about a movie that took everything that was cool about King’s novel and threw it in the garbage; this is one of the absolute lowest moments in the career of John Carpenter. The fact that it comes one year after the sci-fi horror masterpiece The Thing makes it all the more a complete failure. With this film Carpenter has taken three steps backward instead of one giant leap forward. If Carpenter and Phillips had only followed the novel he would had one of the scariest and one of the goriest horror films ever put to celluloid. Instead he has a shell of a film that only succeeds in making him look like a non-collaborative egotist. The main thing that Christine the film does right is in representing the love triangle between the nerd cum stud Arnie Cunningham, the beautiful Leigh Cabot and the evil 1958 Plymouth Fury, Christine. I got the same impression about Arnie from watching the movie that I did from reading the book and that was that if he were given the means and the opportunity he would have had sex with that damn car. Not the girl, the car. Other than that I found nothing with which to compare the two. I know what you’re thinking. What about the way the car could re-assemble itself and the way it killed all of Arnie’s enemies? Well, what about it? The deaths are so tame a Pinto could have committed them. For instance, in the novel the death of Moochie Welch is so brutal and bloody it stayed with me for days. Christine repeatedly runs over him until he’s nothing but human hamburger. In the movie it crushes him against a wall and there’s not one ounce of blood. I’m not saying the gore was the best part of the book, but it was a very important part of it and it should have been part of the movie. You know what? I’m ranting. The bottom line is that Christine the movie is a failure that should never have happened. If only the King had been involved; things would have been so much different.
Arnie’s nemesis, Detective Rudolph Junkins, also drives a Plymouth Fury. The car Detective Rudolph Junkins is driving when he meets Arnie in the high-school parking lot is a 1977 or 1978 Plymouth Fury – a popular police car of the late 1970s.
As a joke, Alexandra Paul’s twin sister, Caroline Paul, stood in for her during some scenes, most notably the ride on the bulldozer.
- John Carpenter’s The Thing (themoviereport.net)
Directed by Lewis Teague
For a long period of time it seemed like every writer or director or producer worth his salt was trying their best to put a Stephen King novel on the silver screen. As fast as King shat them from the keys of his word processor, the faster the studios processed them and made them (somewhat) palatable for us to swallow up alongside our money and our sodas and popcorn. I’m not going to lie; I was one of the millions of people who spent their dough on films like The Dead Zone, Christine, Children of the Corn and this one, Cujo.
Now, like all the other films, I read Cujo before sitting in the darkness of a theater to watch it. The one thing that stood out for me about the novel was that it was the first one of his books that I found myself becoming bored with. I just didn’t buy keeping the mother and her child trapped in this sweltering hot car for over a hundred pages. There’s only so much you can do with that small of a setting and King should have put it to rest after thirty pages, give or take a page or two. So, when I heard that there was going to be a film adaptation I began to wonder how they were going to pull this off. That is when I learned that great editing and great acting make for wonderful bedfellows. The film Cujo is just the opposite of the book in that it bogs down before they’re trapped in the car. I found myself not giving a damn about the fact that she had an affair or that the dad’s job was on the line because people were throwing up blue stuff or whatever color they were puking. I wanted to see what was going to happen when this huge, rabid Saint Bernard finally had this mother and her child trapped in that tiny little Pinto. In the hands of a lesser actress, the entire thing would have been a complete failure. Dee Wallace has always been one of the most capable and dependable actors I have ever had the pleasure of watching and Cujo is no exception. But it wasn’t just Wallace, but also Danny Pintauro as young Tad Trenton who impressed me within the confines of that Pinto. His performance is one of the best I have seen from a child star.
So, is Cujo the movie better than Cujo the book? Well, seeing as how I could very easily piss off a lot of tried and true bona fide hardcore Stephen King fans, I’ll just say that Cujo the movie is…
Based on the television series created by Rod Serling
Segment 1 Written and Directed by John Landis
Segment 2 Directed by Steven Spielberg
Story by George Clayton Johnson
Screenplay by George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson and Josh Rogan
Segment 3 Directed by Joe Dante
Based on a story by Jerome Bixby
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Segment 4 Directed by George Miller
Based on a story by Richard Matheson
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
It’s been over 20 years since I last saw this movie. In the years since its release it has been recognized more as a center of controversy and not as a science fiction cum horror anthology film. The Twilight Zone was one of the greatest series in the history of television. So, how does the movie stand up? I will review each individual segment of the film. If I should stray from my appointed task I will need someone, somewhere to call my wife and tell her that I have just stepped over into…the Twilight Zone.
Dan Akroyd and Albert Brooks star as two travelers on a dark winding road. With no radio for entertainment their only option is to talk to each other and play TV theme song trivia. This acts as an introduction to the film and does nothing to further the careers of either actor. Moving on…
Segment 1-”Time Out”
In the only segment of the film not based on an episode from the original series, Vic Morrow stars in his final role as an angry, bigoted man who believes that all the good things that he feels he deserves are being taken from him by minorities. His trip into the Twilight Zone is one based on his own intolerance. To the Nazi’s he is a Jew, the KKK a black man and the American troops see him as North Vietnamese. It was originally intended in the latter that he find redemption by rescuing two children from the US troops. Unless you’ve been without radio, television or newspaper for the last 40 years or so you know that’s not how it ends. This is the worst segment of the series and it’s sad that Vic Morrow, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-yi Chen gave their lives for this segment of the film. Honestly speaking it’s just not good enough to be worth it.
Segment 2-”Kick the Can”
You know that old trees just grow stronger,
and old rivers grow wilder every day.
Old people just grow lonesome,
waiting for someone to say
“Hello in there…hello”
You would think that with a segment of the film directed by Steven Spielberg that I would be reminded of more than just a song. But sadly, that’s not the case. Based on an original series episode, the segment feels as old as the residents of the Sunnyvale Rest Home instead of fresh in the fashion of their juvenile doppelgangers. Spielberg is usually an ace when it comes to directing children; but in this story starring Scatman Crothers as a man who knows that the secret to staying young is contained in a shiny tin can; the once and future best director Oscar winner kicks the can and misses altogether. Without Crothers this segment would have no redeeming value.
Segment 3-”It’s a Good Life”
Finally a segment of the film that plays not only on the strength of the episode that it was based on; but on the strengths of its director and its cast as well. I remember seeing this segment for the first time and thinking how truly beautiful Kathleen Quinlan was in her role. Watching it again after all this time I see that not only is she a visually striking woman but an incredibly talented actress also. In this Joe Dante directed tale, we meet Helen Foley, schoolteacher. Miss Foley is a woman moving on in life. But there is always the possibility of a detour in the Twilight Zone. That detour comes in the form of a boy with an amazing and frightening power. This is an example of a remake adding to the quality of the original story. It is a cautionary tale of what happens when we indulge our children without any structure or discipline in their lives. After the first two segments and their unintended boredom this segment is a breath of fresh air.
Segment 4-”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
Segment 3 played on the strength of its cast and director along with the original story that it was based on. Segment 4 does the very same thing only this time it amps the intensity up to 10. The expression ‘they saved the best for last’ was meant specifically for this segment. Director George Miller takes all the action of his open road Australian classics Mad Max and The Road Warrior and compresses it into a space no larger than the passenger section of a commercial airliner. Throw in a masterful performance by John Lithgow as a frightened, claustrophobic passenger, mix in a series of unfortunate events caused by a slimy little gremlin and you’ve got a recipe for terror that can only be found in the darkest corridors of the Twilight Zone.
The end of segment 4 finds John Valentine strapped into the back of the ambulance. He is presumably on his way to the hospital for mental evaluation after his little incident on the plane in Segment 4. But look, the driver is Dan Akroyd, the passenger from the prologue. Listen, Creedence Clearwater Revival is playing on the cassette deck. The epilogue is slightly better than the prologue. Say, you want to see something really scary?
See you in the Zone.
Mention is made of Lieutenant Neidermeyer getting “fragged” by his own troops. This was the fate given to Neidermeyer in the ending of Animal House, also directed by John Landis.
Segment 2, “Kick the Can,” features Steven Spielberg’s future mother-in-law, Priscilla Pointer, as Miss Cox.
In the diner, when Kathleen Quinlan is asked where she is from and where she is going, she answers with two town names that were used in old “Twilight Zone” episodes: “Homewood,” from Walking Distance, and “Willoughby,” from A Stop at Willoughby. The cook refers to “Cliffordville,” from Of Late I Think of Cliffordville.
In the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun, one episode has Dick (John Lithgow) meeting the Big Giant Head (William Shatner) at the airport. Lithgow asks Shatner, “How was your flight, sir?” Shatner replies, “Terrible. I could have sworn I saw a man on the wing of the plane!” Lithgow said, “The same thing happened to me.” This was an intentional tip of the hat to The Twilight Zone episode, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Shatner played the disturbed passenger in that episode, and Lithgow played the disturbed passenger in this movie.
Known for his meticulous preparation, John Lithgow had worked out certain scenes in his airplane seat in conjunction with the manufactured lightning outside the window. However, during filming, the crew member in charge of the lightning flashes would activate it too soon or too late, throwing off Lithgow’s timing. Although initially annoyed, he later came to value the experience after viewing the film, seeing that it added to his anxious, fearful character as he looked genuinely startled by the lightning.
- How They Write A Script: Richard Matheson (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- Matt Reeves Set to Direct ‘Twilight Zone’ Movie (screenrant.com)
- Warner Bros. Looking to Bring The Twilight Zone Back to the Big Screen (dreadcentral.com)
THE DEAD ZONE-United States-1983
Directed by David Cronenberg
Screenplay by Jeffrey Boam
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith
Brooke Adams as Sarah Bracknell
Tom Skerritt as Sheriff Bannerman
Martin Sheen as Greg Stillson
Herbert Lom as Dr. Sam Weizak
Colleen Dewhurst as Henrietta Dodd
Nicholas Campbell as Frank Dodd
The Dead Zone is about change. It is about changes in our lives and it is about the ability to make changes in our lives. A man tells his girlfriend he’s going to marry her. That changes. He awakens after a five year coma. His entire life has changed. His girl has married another man. Changes. He has to learn to walk all over again. Changes. He has the power of second sight. Changes. He also has the ability to change the outcome of his visions. He meets a politician and for a brief moment their hands are entwined in greeting. He sees the future this man has planned for us and it is not a paradise. He must make a choice, a change, even if it costs him his life.
The Dead Zone is a David Cronenberg film. His films are metaphors for disease. The power that Johnny Smith (played brilliantly by Christopher Walken) has is a disease of the mind. It is not something he asked for. He doesn’t want it. Cronenberg sees Johnny Smith as what he is; an ordinary man with an extraordinary ability who in the end would rather be more like Ichabod Crane whom ‘no one troubled to hear about anymore.’
Walken is one of the most talented actors and the perfect choice for Johnny Smith. He proves with this film that his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Deer Hunter was no fluke.
The Dead Zone as directed by David Cronenberg is one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel. It may be based on a Stephen King book, but it is a Cronenberg film through and through.