Burnette: Stephen King On Blu-ray

I liked this  article by Bryant Burnette a lot.  I enjoyed his commentary on the movies, and generally agreed wholeheartedly. Besides, he took the time to track down all the links to Amazon.  Being that I liked it so much, there are two things I could do. . . 

1. I could recreate Bryant Burnette's post about Stephen King Blu-Rays and try to make it look like my own.

2. I could  steal his post and wait quietly in my cabin for him to come knocking on my door.  "You stole my story,"  he would say.  

So, here it is, I stole  his story.

Stephen King On Blu-ray

by Bryant Burnette

Recently, I bit a bullet: I purchased a Blu-ray player. I'd been saying I wasn't going to do this for a while, on account of the fact that I haven't yet been able to save up enough money to buy myself an HD-capable television. Nope; still stuck with my 1998 Zenith, which downscales Blu-ray to a glorious 480p. That's 600p less than 1080! Six hundred ps missing!

But, I was determined to buy the Bond 50 Blu-ray set while it was cheap as hell, since that would be WAY up on my list of the first purchases I would need to make when I finally do get around to buying that 3D-capable el humungo teevee I will eventually buy.

And so it is that now, my extensive collection of Stephen King DVDs feels just kinda sad and outdated. They'll all have to be upgraded at some point, of course, and I'm sure I'll complete that process just in time for the next leap forward in technology, whatever that ends up being. Ah, well; such is the life of a low-income collector.

It got me to thinking: how many King movies are actually available on Blu-ray? It's a question I don't know how to answer; deprived of HD as I've been, I've mostly opted to not pay attention to what's out there and what isn't.

So: research time! And I figured, why not pass along the fruits of that labor to you?

Naturally, Carrie -- the King flick that started the whole thing -- is available. I'm not the biggest fan of this flick, but it would be a travesty if it weren't on Blu.

(And in case you are wondering, no, I get no kickback of any kind from Amazon for these links. They are for your convenience only.)

(It's also worth noting that this research only takes Region 1 releases into account. I've got a few readers who will not be helped by this at all. Sorry, Australia!)

There are several other Children of the Corn flicks out there on Blu, too, but I won't be linking to most of those; you're on your own with that.

Creepy Nazi action for $11.97! Why you so creepy, Gandalf?

The Blue Mile on Green-ray for eight-freakin'-ninety-nine! Worth every penny! Buy two!

Secret Window for $10.99! Underrated!

1408 for $14.08 (plus an additional $0.41)! This movie sucks!

The Mist is worth more than $11.48! Send Amazon a few extra bucks! (Now that'd be stupid.)

I can't get Christine, but I can get Dolan's Cadillac?!? At least it's only $9.75.

No Storm of the Century, but the remake of Children of the Corn is a go! It's $7.79, which is half the budget of this piece of corn-laden stuff!

And finally, loath as I am to promote them, you can get seasons one and two of Haven; together it'll set ya back nearly sixty bucks, and surely you've got better things to do with sixty bucks than this...


I'm sure more King titles will go hi-def one of these days, especially if the floodgate of new King movies ever opens the way it's been threatening to lately. I'd love to see the original Salem's Lot on Blu, as well as Maximum Overdrive, for some reason. And maybe, someday, a complete-series version of Golden Years with the original and uncut episodes, plus Needful Things with the longer television edit as a bonus feature.

Make it happen, Hollywood!

The Shining Signed

Looking for a signed copy of The Shining?  stephenking.com just posted news hat Subterranean Press will  be printing a special edition of the classic novel.

King's site sates:

The luxurious hardcovers will be published in three formats and will feature over 40 illustrations by acclaimed artist Dagmara Matuszak. The signed editions will be signed by Stephen and the artist.
  • Signed Limited Edition of 750 numbered copies, housed in a custom traycase: $450
  • Signed Lettered Edition of 52 copies, specially bound, housed in a custom traycase: $2,500
  • Gift Edition of 1500 unsigned copies, cloth bound, housed in a custom slipcase: $95
Preorders for this offering will begin in January 2013. News regarding preorders will be sent first from Subterranean Press through their newsletter, so anyone interested is urged to sign up at their site. 

Drowned Zombies Hunger For Stephen King

I love Ain't It Cool's behind the scenes pictures.  Here is a repost from Quint at Ain't It Cool News:

I’ve made no secret of my love of Stephen King, so today’s picture shouldn’t be a surprise. Stephen King plus drowned zombie from Creepshow equals total happiness. Sorry for the curtness of this piece (and the lateness), but South By and spotty wifi internet downtown is playing hell with my timeliness on this article. 
Thanks to Barry Rubin for sending it along! Enjoy!

Thanks to Quint at www.aintitcool.com

The Drawing Of The Three Journal #1

I like this book a lot.  I am drawn to it.  It is fast paced, has interesting characters, and even Roland – who I found so difficult in the first volume – is more engaging.


Want to write a good book?  I’m learning something as I read Stephen King – one element that seems pretty important is: Make your characters bleed!

King starts the novel by doing something rather daring – he severely cripples his primary character.  Does this seem like a good idea when the tower is so far away?  As a reader, I love it.  I would think that this would give King pause as a writer.  He is limiting himself to writing around Roland’s missing fingers for all remaining dark tower stories.

In the Gunslinger, Roland seemed mythic.  The monstrosities he encounters on the beach humanize the ole chap.  Roland will be allowed to continue his quest, but he will do it as a wounded man.  This reminds me of Jacob wrestling with God. God pulled his leg out of joint, forcing the father of the Hebrews to walk with a limp for the rest of his life.  This knocks the arrogant Jacob down more than a few pegs!  It also forces him to rely on God and be kinder to others.  King does this with his creation.  By wounding Roland, the self confident gunslinger must now rely on others.  He is not so self-sufficient after all.

More than crippling Roland with the loss of a few fingers, King also allows Roland to experience deep guilt over his betrayal of Jake.  Of course, to really get the full impact of that betrayal, I think you have to read the original version of the Gunslinger – as it seems more tempered in the new version.  The Drawing of the Three reveals that Roland is a man in desperate need of redemption.

The people Roland will draw to himself are likewise very broken.  If people seemed healthy in the Gunslinger, that well being is no where to be found in this novel!  Not only is the gunslinger now in a world of hurt, but he will join to himself a druggie and a cripple.  Some gang!  But this is exactly what makes King’s writing so powerful.

Wounding the characters, limiting them in some way, makes them more interesting.  What makes the story of David and Goliath so memorable?  That David was small and weak.  If Israel had just marched out their giant, and the Philistines had marched out there giant and the Hebrew giant killed the Philistine giant. . . there’s nothing to get excited about.  It is only when little David comes out to fight mighty Goliath that his victory seems all the more incredible.  In this case, it is this weak cast of characters coming against the Darkman and the Crimson King that make the story interesting.  The deck is stacked against them.

Door Jam:

One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Roland steps through the door and into Eddie Dean’s head!  It’s brilliant! The first thing Roland sees is the horizon.  He realizes that he is in a sky carriage.  He has the good luck of stepping into someone’s body who happens to be smuggling drugs.  Drugs are exactly what Roland needs!

New problems arise for me as I read through the Dark Tower again.  These are problems I struggled with the first time I read this story.  (Actually, I’ve read the first few books many many times).

Here’s my problem: Where did the doors come from?  I don’t remember ever being told.

I once wrote a story – a very good story, in my 15 year old opinion of work – about a society cut off from the rest of the world.  The discovered a cave full of books.  The cave was lit by candles.  (It was actually a bomb shelter)  You see the problem. . . right?  My sister immediately asked the most annoying question in the world: “Hey, who lights the candles?”  I dunno!  Maybe an old man with a dog named Harry.  Beats me!  Who lights the candles was not important to my story.

I fear that in much the same way – the origin of the doors is not important to King’s story.  The doors simply move the story forward.

My wife says that the “how” is not important to the fantasy genre.  Maybe that’s why I have trouble with this.  At least in Science Fiction there has to be a bit of science. . . in fantasy, things just appear!

picture credit by PAV
lunchtime sketches

Carrie Still Grabs Us

Remember how at the end of the 1976 De Palma version of Carrie, Carrie's hand reached from the grave?  It  was great!  And in a way, it was a deeply symbolic scene.  De Palma was making good  horror, not intending to symbolize anything.  But the truth is, Carrie still grabs us, doesn't she?

There are still Carrie stage plays, a major Broadway musical just wrapped up -- even after a major flop -- the book has been made into an audio book and in 2013 it will be a major motion picture. . . again.

Sissy Spacek did the unabridged audio edition in 2005 -- Twenty Nine years after she starred in the original  movie.  It's like Carrie just reached out and grabbed her.

Question: Why all these editions of a young writers first novel?  
Answer: Because Carrie still grabs us.

The writer of Carrie has gone on to do many other things.  Has he outdone Carrie?  I think in strict terms of writing, he has.  King is a much stronger, engrossing writer now than he was when Carrie was written.  But the story itself has not been "outdone" by King.  It continues to engage us, draw us in and fascinate us.

Stephen King has gotten older, yet Carrie remains eternally young.  New editions come like waves, retelling this strange story of a kid with powers that could blow the entire town of Haven off  the map.

Here  are the raw elements that make Carrie so powerful:

1. We all identify in some way with Carrie.  We've all been tormented in some way, cruelly picked on in Junior High or High School.  It was "middle school" in the town where I grew up, and it was terrible!

Before Carrie reached from the grave, she reached from the trashcan!  Stephen King's wife saved the novel from the trash can.  She was moved by it, thought it was powerful, and convinced King to return to the book.  What's so powerful about it?  Why does it touch us so deeply?  Come on -- the thing starts in a locker room!  Who hasn't  endured that agony?  Worse, for girls, Carrie suffers her  first  period in a pubic and scary scene.  The sense of shame, embarrassment  about her own body and teasing are all things almost everyone can identify with (though women can identify more directly with the period thing).

2. We all identify in some way with Carrie's tormentors.  Many of us have found ourselves on the wrong side of picking on someone else. Belittling someone, joining in or piling on -- and in our hearts, we were disappointed in ourselves.

3. Crazy people really do exist.  Mrs. White might be nuts, but she is the kind of nut who is not so far out there that  we can't all say, "Yeah, I know someone a little like that!"  She has a twisted theology that allows her to hate (in her case, hate men).  She believes that being hard on herself, and Carrie, will result in God's approval, resulting in self-righteousness.

from www.facebook.com/CarrieMovie
Religious nuts have the ability to miss the full sweep of the Gospel and pick up on bits of minutia -- twisting them into their own strange doctrine.  They particularly love prophecy, since no one can "prove" them wrong (in their own minds, at least).  Did anyone see the postings recently for the new  Carrie movie on facebook?  They showed  notes from Carrie with quotes from Revelation.  No doubt this is the work of Mrs. White.  Revelation is the favorite book of the religious weirdo.  There aren't just a few of these people!  There are so many, most of us have encountered more than one.
SIDE NOTE. . . what does the note mean?  A lot  to crazy people!  But to sane people, not much.  Wormwood: Revelation 8:11 , Revelation 9:10 Scorpions.  You can make whatever you want of such symbols, if you don't worry about context. . . and when it comes to Bible exposition, Mrs. White does not worry about context. 
4. Carrie nukes her oppressors.  It's wonderful!  She gets even with those who hurt her.  We look forward to seeing everyone get what they deserve.  Or, put another  way, Carrie pays off.  Some books don't.  They tease  and play and then leave you empty.  (Try the Needful Things movie for an example of hollow endings).  But with Carrie, the bad guys get sunk!  In fact, she does what everyone wants to do from time to time -- she drops burning heaps of revenge down on her  tormentors.

Another  "Bully" book that gets remade a lot is Steinbeck's "Of Mice And Men."  The book also has a surprise ending that leaves us talking and rethinking things.  I wouldn't change the ending even if I had the power to . . . but I would like a choose your own adventure on that story.  How about Carrie White lend Lennie Small her powers for a moment and let him do in the big bad farm hands, who are nothing more than taunting teenage girls.

5. It doesn't take King long to get his work done.  Carrie is a short novel.  Any adaptation follows the  same pattern of torment and  then revenge.  But a nice thing about Carrie -- the revenge sequences are not a quick tack on at the end.  In Carrie, we get to relish her powerful revenge.  There are a lot of "oh yeah" moments as Carrie brings down the house.

6. Surprise -- We keep going back, partly, because we want to see HOW exactly she'll carry out her revenge in each edition.  I like De Palma's version best, where mama gets a strange form of crucifixion.  More than that, De Palma lets Carrie reach from the grave. . . very nice!

I asked my wife, "Why does Carrie continue to have such life?  Why does the story about a tormented school girl get so many editions?"  She said it is a timeless story, yet as years go by it lends itself to  new perspectives.  So the story remains essentially, but allows  room for creativity.  This is exactly why I am looking forward to the new Carrie movie.

For a novel written in 1974, Carrie continues to  have an amazing grip on us.

GRAMMA heads to hollywood

comingsoon.net has posted news that Universal will be bringing an adaptation of Stephen King's short  story "Gramma" to the screen. The short story has also served as an episode of "The new Twilight Zone", adapted by none other than Harlan Ellison.The film is slatedto be called  "Mercy."

Starring: Frances O'Connor
Director: Peter Cornwell (The Haunting in Connecticut)
Screenplay: Matt Greenberg

thanks to Bryant Burnette

Most Haunting Rides

MSN has a post titled, "Most Haunting Rides Of Film And TV."  Who should take center stage?  Christine. Now we're talking horror movies!  I liked both the film and the book (in that order, since I saw the film first.)

Sharing the road with King's own Maximum Overdrive won't be easy for Christine, as that one comes in #8 of 14.

About Christine the MSN article notes:
To say that "Christine" (1983) is about a bloodthirsty car is true. But it's more true to say that it's an utterly demented love story about a boy and his restored '58 Plymouth Fury. Like so many codependent high-school relationships, it ends badly, with Christine going on a bully-killing rampage, while her nerdy teenage paramour takes the hint and becomes a callous, beer-drinking bad boy. The Fury winds up compacted but unbowed; the epilogue shows her cubed frame stirring, beginning the long road to demonic recovery.
The article also mentions a movie called "Duel" (1971) -- which I found to be strangely engrossing.  I can't explain it -- but it was cool.

But, alas. . . my favorite has to go to The Munster Koach, which "is a cobbled-together Frankenstein monstrosity of parts harvested from the Ford Model T. George Barris, the Koach's creator, used three of Henry Ford's seminal cars to create an 18-foot-long chopped hot rod."

The MSN slideshow is HERE.

Houston Press -- 10 Best SK Movies -- SERIOUSLY ?

I'm suffering through the many lists of "10 best" that come out this time of year.  They're completely subjective -- but some of them are just ridiculous.

Take for instance Houston Press' article, "Top 10 Stephen King Movie Adaptations."  #10 is Creepshow 2, #8 Firestarter and #7 Children of the Corn.  Really?  Seriously?  Of all the Stephen King movies, these do not belong anywhere near the top ten!

The complete list has short explanations of why they are  super-duper movies along with clips.

10. Creepshow 2
9. Cujo
8. Firestarter
7. Children of the Corn
6. Carrie
5. It
4. Dolores Claiborne
3. Shawshank Redemption
2. The Shining
1. Stand By Me

About their top pick,  Stand By Me, Abby Koeng writes, "Everything about this movie is spot on perfect. It's as heartbreakingly sad as it is laugh-out-loud funny. There are so many beautiful shots, quotable lines and the pudgy version of Jerry O'Connell is so -- huggable. "Chopper, Sic Balls!"

I'm not arguing that The Tommyknockers or  Sleepwalkers be ont his  list. . . where is Themist or Pet Sematary ?  Really. . . Children of the Corn beat out Pet Sematary?  What about Christine -- it's  got to bebetter than Firestarter.  Finally. . . WHERE  IS MISERY?  IT was better than Misery?  And I thought The Dark Half was pretty great --but I seem to be alone in that  opinion.

The full article is HERE.

King Movies DOMINATE Scary Scenes

Kelsey Ackerman at examiner.com has posted TV Guide’s countdown of “Scream-Worthy Movies.”  It was interesting just how much Stephen King movies dominated this list!
  • #21, Children of the Corn.  What’s scary about that?  “For this list, it is the scene where a calm diner is taken over by murderous children who kill all the adults present in barbaric ways.”
  • #17 was the prom massacre in the Brian DePalma classic, Carrie. 
  • #12- MISERY!  Andin particular, the scene where Annie uses a sledge hammer to destroy Paul Sheldons legs.
  • #3- was none other than The Shining.  
“Here’s Johnny” screams Jack Nicholson in the moment number three from The Shining. As the innkeeper of the overlook motel, Nicholson’s character follows in the footsteps of Norman Bates as the psychotic innkeeper who attempts to kill his wife while she cowers in a locked room. After hacking away at the door with an axe, Nicholson sticks his head in the hole and says one of cinema’s most infamous lines.
So, four out of 25 movies were related to Stephen King – not bad Mr. King! But how did Children of the Corn get on a list of 25 best. . . anything?

The full article is HERE.

YOUTUBE: King Talking To Students

Here is a great video from Stephen King's visit  to students at  Sessex Regional High School.

"I came because of all those letters," King said to stunned students.  Listening to King talk to students is quite different.  He  hits new territory.  For instance  . . He admits to forging a report card.  He discusses writing with  the door "open" and "closed."

At about the 9:40 mark  the video shifts to a larger assembly.

This is morbid and great. . .
People like me are always going to die.  There's  always going to be room at the bottom because people at the top are going to croak.  I used to comfort  myself when I was starting out and when these old guys . . . one of them Herman Wouk,  another was James Michener. . . they were perennial best sellers  and my stories were rejected -- when I was in High School I had a nail in my wall and when I got these rejections slips from magazines I would stick it on the nail.  Before I sold a story, the nail tore  out of the wall because it had sixty or 70 of those things on it.  I was lucky it was that few.   
I used to tell myself Michener and Wouk  and  all those  people  are eventually going to die and they will have to consider me because I have the advantage  of  youth.  I've got to tell you one thing. . . Herman Wouk is still alive.  I wrote a story called that.  I got a letter from him, fiery handwriting, "I like your story."
He said he is called a horror writer, but what he really wants is an emotional reaction.   He's good with scaring people, or getting them to cry. . . so long as he gets a response.

He told the larger assembly that he doesn't remember a lot about writing particular books -- it is like moving through a dream.

My favorite  line:  "This is a little bit like  being crazy, except they pay you for it."

Youtube: Stephen King SHINING IN THE DARK

This is a 1999 BBC documentary about Stephen King co-produced by The Learning Channel.   (IMBd link HERE)

King Visits Canadian High School

Hold on. . . THIS IS COOL!

student banner asking King to come to High School

Yorkton This Week has a short article about Stephen King visiting a Canadian high school in Sussex, N.B.

According to the article, the students had put on a "yearlong campaign" to get King to visit the school.  And, how cool is this. . .He met with 18 students in the school library to "provide feedback on their writing."  Imagine how shocked the students were to walk in the library and discover King!
He then spoke to 80 students in the auditorium about his experience as a high school teacher and the inspiration for his novels. 
Matthew Beyer, a 12th-grade student who shook King's hand, told the Kings County Record in Sussex he thought "it was absolutely insane" that King showed up. (www.yorktonthisweek.com)
The Bangor Daily News that described the atmosphere: "Dressed casually in a gray T-shirt and jeans, King sat on the edge of the stage to talk about his writing and how he comes up with the macabre and sometimes twisted ideas that have made him one of the best-selling authors of all time"

According to the Bangor article,
  • He read  from his book Christine.
  • He discussed being a teacher and bullying.  Surely the reason for his choice to read from Christine.  “One thing I decided after teaching high school for two years was that secretly, most kids feel like they’re out, that nobody likes them,” he told the students.
  • Two students filmed King's visit. 
  • King left at noon and did not sign autographs. 
  • He did sign 10 copies of Different Seasons at the office, and collected some of the posters students had created. 
The Bangor article is HERE.  It has a lot of  info about the campaign the school put on to get King to come.  (Posters, letters so on).

The school created a website to lure King (HERE)

The school also made a blog with the letters to King HERE.  The blog is great,  and my favorite line: "You haven't written a book in a while and visiting Sussex might give you the next great book or movie."  And. . . "what drives you to write these crazy novels?"

Don't you know there is probably a kid who ditched school that day going, "MAN!  I missed it!"

EW: The Case For Letting Kids Watch Scary Movies

Anthony Breznican's article "Making The Case For Scary Movies For Kids" (family-room.ew.com)
has me thinking.  

He argues passionately  "Yes, we have to think about what’s appropriate for any given age, and yes, all kids are different. But to deny them access to the macabre entirely only creates a mind with a false sense of security. If we don’t let kids safely poke around the dark corners of their imaginations, how will they ever find out what’s hiding there?"

As a parent of four girls, I've often left my kids watch scary movies as my wife eyes me doubously.  Are we harming them for life or toughening them up?

Of course, no one is advocating the three year old watch Halloween!  But my kids did watch both versions of The Shining, and loved it (that is, the nine year old and eleven year old).  They all watched Thinner -- and they liked it.  They also liked Cujo and loved (I mean LOVED) Christine.

Three reasons to censor the movies: 1. Language.  2. Sex Scenes.  3. Gore.  A good parent watches the movie first so they know what their kid is about to see or hear.  But just because a movie contains scary scenes does not mean it is totally inappropriate.

Breznican laments, "as my generation of kids has turned into the parents, we’ve made a virtue out of sheltering our own children from any ghoul or ghostie less friendly than Casper."  

He argues that perhaps scary movies -- good ones -- speak more about life than we are ready to admit.  About Pet Sematary he says:
There’s a reason we crave scares, whether it’s the free-fall of a roller coaster or the dread of a Stephen King novel. As we clutch the edges of Pet Semetary, reading about a father resurrecting his deceased little boy, it’s the actual terror of losing a child that underpins the horror. The supernatural elements, if anything, are like those cushioned roller coaster straps that lock us in and make us safe before the plunge – this just feels dangerous, but it’s all pretend. It’s a defense mechanism as our psyches seek out the worst-case scenario.
Here's where I draw lines:
1. Kids don't get to watch movies with lots of naked people.
2. Kids don't get to watch movies with absolutely pointless killing or violence.
3. Really scary stuff!  Some movies are too scary for kids.  I think the Sixth Sense is terrifying!  Amityville Horror is pretty scary -- I think.  
4. Kids don't get to watch cartoons all day.  HA!  Some days I want to sick Pennywise on Caillou.

But most of King's work really is more story than fright.  Seriously. . . when was the last time Stephen King actually scared you?  

What I'm driving at is that horror falls into multiple sub-genre's.  There's the Texas Chainsaw stuff that is just cut ups -- not at all fun!  And then there's Christine, which actually has a story worth discussing.  One night after watching Needful Things (which I hate -- the movie) my daughter said, "That movie has a good lesson."  It does?  "Things aren't what we should worship."  

Here's another thing: I don't censor the Bible for my kids.  We read Exodus verse by verse -- and have been digging through 10 plagues.  That is far more scary than Christine!  A death angel actually moves through the land, taking lives.  Rivers turn to blood. . . you know the story.  

So, check out the EW article and tell me what you think.

The Gunslinger Journal #4

I have finished my first small leg of the Dark Tower journey; completing book 1, The Gunslinger.  It is a difficult journey for me.  First, it is quite different than I remember it.  Is that because I first read it via Stephen King’s audio version?  This time I read the revises with George Guidall.

Not Love At First Sight:

I still find the story hard to follow, confusing and at times down right frustrating.  It is not love at first sight.  I think I will buy the old tapes of King reading the story.  It would seem that with the major clean up King did to this story, it would be smoother.  But still, it is such a strange novel.  The action is slow, the characters are mostly unlikeable (I’m sorry) and the ideas seem incomplete.

Bev Vincent said the novel had a “dry, dark tone” that turned many away.  He also notes, “King’s revisions createa more internally consistent series of books for newcomers to the series.”

But just because it is not love at first sight does not mean I do not like the novel.  I do.  First, I know the series gets better!  Second, there is a flavor to both the book and the character Roland that is kind of fun.  He may not be immedately likeable – in the sense that I identify deeply with him – but he does possess traits that are fun.  Roland is stoic, strong, determined and pretty mean.  If he needs to take down the entire town of Tull to accomplish his mission, down they will go!   But he is charming, in a Clint Eastwood sort of way.  You don’t want to be on Roland’s bad side – or, get in his path to the tower.  Roland is a man driven by a single passion, to reach the Dark Tower.

There is another reason I find this book difficult – it requires scholarship.  This is not a novel to be read and enjoyed and tossed aside.  It has to be thought about, mulled over, studied.  For me that sometimes feels like work!  I spend my day as a preacher studying implications and meanings of Scripture.  Stephen King is not Scripture – he’s literature – but in this instance, literature meant to be taken at a deeper level.  A surface reading will miss a lot of what King is setting up.  So, my laziness in just wanting to read a good novel makes me a little shy when approaching this book.

Spiritual Symbolism:

Sin and Redemption: Here’s what I realized reading this time, Roland is a hero in search of redemption.  Not a new theme at all, but something I had somehow missed.  We’re not really supposed to identify or like Roland when we first meet him.  He is a man on a noble mission, but he is personally broken.

As the first segment in a redemption story, The Gunslinger goes to some pains to reveal Roland’s imperfections.  I’m working to avoid the word “sinner” – but there it is!  Roland is the sinner.  The Tower story runs like a long version of Pilgrims Progress.  He is a man bearing a great burden (very great burden!).

I’m not sure this analogy should be pressed hard, since I don’t think it was not in King’s minds eye when he wrote the book.  Is it fair to apply imagery beyond the authors intent?  I’m not sure.  But I can’t unsee some of this.

Themes from Christianity in particular play throughout the first novel, and become stronger toward the end.  It starts with evil being chased through the desert – the bad guy wears black!  Who is this man in black?  Flagg?  A servant of Flagg?  Walter O’Dim is. . . ?  Actually, it’s unclear in this novel.  

The man in black claims to serve a leader named “Legion.”  Not a reference to ancient Rome, but to the Biblical demoniac Jesus encountered.  Christ was confronted by the demon posessed man and demanded his name.  “Legon, because we are many.”  The demons begged Christ not to bring them into judgment before the appointed time (Judgment day).  Jesus honors the demons request, exorcizing the man – but instead of setting the demons lose on the earth, he sends them into a herd of nearby pigs.

JUDAS?: At first the sacrifice of Jake seems to be something like Abraham’s preparation to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Both know it will happen, yet like Abraham and Isaac they journey on. But Jake is not an Isaac at all.  He is not a willing sacrifice for Roland's tower!  Anything but.

Roland assures Jake of his protection, but later fails to save him.  Roland falls into the realm of betrayer in this novel.  Is he like a Judas then?  Not really.  Because what happens is unplanned.  Roland is aware things might go that way, but works to avoid a situation where he might have to sacrifice the boy.  When he is confronted with the options – boy or tower – he isn’t given time to think this through.  He acts on instinct, not deliberation.  This act will be something he is given opportunity to redeem later in the series.

GOLGOTHA: The man in black brings Roland to a place of bones – Golgotha.  This is the name of the place where Christ was crucified.  It is here that the man in black hopes to convince Roland to turn away from the dark tower.

The Gunslinger and the man in black have a final conversation that rambles into total confusion – Our universe could be nothing but a blade of grass, cut away and now dying.  What would you find if you came to the end of the universe, drilled a hole in the wall of the universe. . . what is on the other side?  This kind of talk goes on and on – stuff you expect to hear being tossed about in a dorm room full of seminary students.

When Roland falls into a trance, the Biblical metaphors return.  He sees the man in black as the creator, and experiences creation as the man in black calls forth light and planets.

“The universe was void.  Nothing moved.   Nothing was.”
Compare to Genesis 1:2, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep” only, instead of the Spirit of God hovering, Roland and the man in black are hovering.  It is not God who will call forth creation, but the man in black.

“Let us have light,” the voice of the man in black said nonchalantly, and there was light.   The gunslinger thought in a detached way that the light was good. (p.283, unrevised)
“God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good,” Gen. 1:3-4

So what is the vision?   It is meant to scare Roland off his quest.   (I’m not sure why the man in black doesn’t just kill Roland – but I’m sure that’s just a very primitive thought, right?)  The man in black wants Roland to be aware that there are things taking place beyond his understanding – things he cannot grasp.  Roland is unworthy to carry out the mission of the dark tower.

When Roland invokes the Name – seemingly as a curse – the man in black pulls away.
“Jesus no more no more no more–”
“The voice of the man in black whispered silkily in his ear: “Then renege.  Cast away all thoughts of the Tower.  Go your way, gunslinger, and save your soul.”

Bev Vincent argues, “At one point, the narration seems to expand beyond Wlater to some greater being, never identified, perhaps the Voice of the Turtle.  Later, in the presence of Black Thirteen, Roland will understand that he was sent todash by the residual effects of that Wizard’s orb, which was recently in Walter’s hands.” (The Road To The Dark Tower, p.44)

The man in black speaks of a “Beast” who guards the dark tower.  The idea of a “beast” who stands guarding a mighty tower (like tower of Babel) which connects all civilization is a Biblical one.  Does King intend this?  I think he does.  Revelation centers on an end time war between the Beast and the Lamb.

The Beast is the Crimson King.  This was a change King made when he revised.  (See the portion below on “intentional” as to why he might use “beast” for the first draft.)

Is Walter O’Dim really Randall Flagg?  Yes.  But there are problems with this!  In the original version, it seems pretty clear that after the long conversation and the passage of ten years, the man in black is nothing but a pile of bones.

“The remains of the wood he had carried had turned to ironwood, and the man in black was a laughing skeleton in a rotting black robe, more bones in this place of bones, one more skull in golgotha.”

The question in the first edition of the novel would have been: How did the man in black die?  Roland shot at him several times, but he seemed to be unharmed.  Unless he died, and it was Walter’s ghost.  King revises this to make it clear that this is nothing but a trick by the man in black.


So, does King intend to make all these Biblical references?  I think so.

Though the gunslinger bears the marks of a young writer – it also shows the workings of a young man who still possesses a working knowledge of Scripture.  Or, to put it this way: The Stephen King who wrote the Gunslinger had been to church and listened to sermons more recently than the Stephen King who finished the Gunslinger.  The Gunslinger sports the knowledge of a person who has been churched.

Take for instance the title “Beast” which is later changed to Crimson King.  The younger King is more familiar with the idea of a great Beast, because it is a symbol from Christianity.  Later he uses Crimson King, as this more directly ties things to the great evil in his novels.

I think (think) he is throwing everything he has at the reader, hoping some of the symbolism will stick.  And some of it does.  Why the strange creation sequence?  I’m not completely sure.   Does Roland carrying wood to the place of bones supposed to be symbolic? – like Isaac carrying wood, or Christ carrying a cross?  Probably not.  But maybe!

Fantasy mirrors the Biblical genre of Apocalyptic.  Used in Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation, it is quite different from the novel form of the genre such as “the Stand” or “The Road.”  Biblical Apocalyptic uses symbolism to paint pictures of the future.  It draws on previously used symbols, sometimes reinterpreting them, to tell the story of redemption.  In many ways, the gunslinger falls into this genre.  It is not just an end of the world book – but a highly symbolic book.  The problem with such a thing is the same one that Bible students encounter; knowing which elements the writer intended as symbol and which he intends to be read at a simple surface level reading.

What Is The Tower?

When Roland catches the man in black he shoots at him.  The man in black suggests that it is not a good idea to kill the person who has the answers he seeks.  They go to a campfire, where the man in black cooks a rabbit – Roland eats jerky.

If the end is supposed to provide answers, it does not.  What is the dark tower?  The axis of many universes – endless worlds.  The tower is the “nexus of time.”  It’s a good answer to stave off the reader.  Truth is, the reader (me) is a little suspect that at this point Stephen King has no idea what the dark tower is!  Saying is the “nexus of time” or “the nexus of size” make it worth pursuing without a lot further explanation of exactly what in the world is going on.

Here’s the thing: The Dark Tower itself, at least in this novel, is nothing more than what Alfred  Hitchcock would call a “McGuffin.”  A McGuffin is a devise that simply moves the plot forward, it doesn’t matter what it is.  If it’s a spy story, the McGuffin is the needed papers.  In this case, it is the mysterious tower.

I think The Dark Tower itself is a mystery to both writer and reader in this first installment of The Dark Tower.  The writer is driven by the concept, not fully aware of what it is or why Roland must reach it.

Interview with ANDREW RAUSCH

I am really excited to have the opportunity to interview the very prolific an energetic Andy Rausch.  Husband, Father, writer and producer. . . this guy is one busy fella.  

Andrew J. Raush is the author of The Suicide Game, Riding Shotgun and was the screenwriter for the movie Dahmer vs Gacy.  He is also author of Turning Points In Film History, Making Movies With Orson Wells, The Films Of Martin Scorsese And Robert De Niro.


Talk Stephen King: Hey, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell me a bit about yourself.

Andy Rausch: I'm 39, married and have five children. I love writing, and I write every day, from screenplays to novels to non-fiction books to film criticism. I read a lot, and I watch a lot of movies. I don't know, I'm pretty boring. Not really much to say here.

TSK: You've done everything from producing to casting to acting. What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process?

Andy Rausch: Nothing beats the first time you see the final film. It's a rush, even when the film is bad.

TSK: What is the most challenging aspect of filmmaking?

Andy Rausch: Dealing with fifty different people, all of whom have their own ideas of how the scenes should be shot and how the dialogue should be spoken. There are many egos at war on a movie set. Lack of sleep is pretty challenging, too.

TSK: Do you have an all-time favorite movie?

Andy Rausch: My ten favorite films in no particular order are: Pulp Fiction, GoodFellas, The Godfather Part II, Sunset Boulevard, Yojimbo, Rolling Thunder, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Thin Red Line, and Solaris. I enjoy chop-socky movies, chick flicks, spaghetti westerns, samurai pictures, horror, you name it.

TSK: You've written two books about Stephen King. Is he your favorite writer? What other writers do you read consistently?

Andy Rausch: Stephen King is in a three-way tie for my author along with Elmore Leonard and Kurt Vonnegut. I also read a lot of Max Allan Collins and Richard Stark.

TSK: Do you have a favorite work by Stephen King?

Andy Rausch: I love Pet Sematary. It was the first book that really scared the shit out of me. I was only eleven or twelve at the time, but it scared the bejeezus out of me. I've read it several times since, and have loved it just as much every single time. I'm also a big fan of The Shining. And Blaze. And Cujo... The list goes on and on.

TSK: What is your favorite Stephen King movie?

Andy Rausch: The Shawshank Redemption, hands down. I'm also a big fan of Kubrick's The Shining. I know that's blasphemy to King fans, but I really love that film. Stand By Me is pretty damned good, too. But if I'm being truthful, I have a soft spot in my heart for just about all of the King adaptations—even the crappy ones. Not the sequels, though. Most of those are garbage.

TSK: So long as we're dealing with Stephen King movies, I might as well ask: What King movie do you absolutely hate?

Andy Rausch: Hmm, tough one. How about the original Children of the Corn? And maybe all of its sequels. They're all pretty terrible.

TSK: The new Carrie trailer just came out. Did you see it? What do you think of this project?

Andy Rausch: I think it will be a good movie, but I think it's completely unneeded. The original is a very good film and the TV remake wasn't bad, either. Do we really need another Carrie film?

TSK: I see you've done some acting. If you could play any character from a Stephen King book on the big screen, who would you portray?

Andy Rausch: I'm no great actor, although I was relatively proud of my performance as a drug dealer in Evil Ever After, which virtually no one has seen... Usually I'm the guy in the horror film who gets one scene and then promptly gets killed. I got my heart ripped out and eaten in Zombiegeddon; I died a pretty gruesome death in Evil Ever After; I think I got killed by a scythe in The Ancient... So sure, if I had my choice I'd play someone like Jack Torrance in The Shining, but if I'm being realistic I would probably be that guy who shows up and dies immediately; the character whose name we don't even know!

TSK: Are there any King books that you think would adapt well to the big screen but just haven't made it yet?

Andy Rausch: Again, I'm really fond of Blaze. I know that one tends to get lost in the shuffle, but I think it's really great.

TSK: You seem to focus your writing energy on quiz books or compilations. This seems like it would be quite a different process from writing a novel. How long does it usually take you to put these projects together?

Andy Rausch: I've written almost 20 books. I'm currently working on my 18th and 19th books. Five of those are quiz books. I really hate to be pigeonholed as a quiz book writer, even though it's my fault for having written so many of them. Quiz books are kind of the ghetto genre of literature, maybe two steps below Harlequin romance novel. As for the compilations, those were interview collections, and I wrote those because I really enjoy meeting people whom I admire. For my book Fifty Filmmakers I got to meet all kinds of directors, from Budd Boetticher to Frank Darabont, and that was an amazing experience. I interviewed 79 directors for that and then whittled that down to the 50 that appear in the book.

I've also written some more serious books that I'm really proud of. I wrote a book called Turning Points in Film History that was used as a textbook in college film classes. Usually you have to be a professor to write something like that, so I really lucked out with that one. Another book I'm extremely proud of is The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Both of those were difficult books to write and they required tons of research.

Every book is different. I once wrote an entire book in six weeks. But then the Fifty Filmmakers book took eight years to complete. I worked on my first novel for seven or eight years. It really just varies. It could be six months or it could be six years, depending on the book.

TSK: What made you decide to write quiz-style trivia books?

Andy Rausch: Well, my buddy and mentor Stephen J. Spignesi had published a couple of extremely successful Stephen King quiz books. I was still trying to break into publishing at the time and I thought, I could write something like that. I was still trying to find my footing and was unsure at that time about my abilities as a writer. But I thought, I know I can do this. So I wrote The 100 Greatest American Films: A Quiz Book, and it sold to the first publisher who looked at it. I really didn't want to write anymore quiz books, but the publisher offered me a contract for two more quiz books, Hollywood's All-Time Greatest Stars and The Greatest War Films of All Time. I was still new to all of this, and I thought, well, I may never get the opportunity to publish another book. A bird in the hand, you know? So I wrote those books. Then years later I got suckered into writing a fourth quiz book, Obsessed with Hollywood, and that book made me a ton of money. You would not believe how much money I made from that book, and it was funny, too, because I initially considered turning the project down. So that's how all of that happened.
The Stephen King Movie Quiz Book was mostly written way back around 2001, but I had never published it. It would have been my second book, but my publisher hadn't been interested in the idea. So I tucked it away. Then, years later, I came across the manuscript and thought, Why hadn't I pursued publishing this one? So I convinced a writer pal of mine, Ron Riley, to watch the last ten or so films and write quizzes for them. He did it, we found a publisher for the project, and the rest, as they say, is history.

TSK: Which of the books you've written is your favorite?

Andy Rausch: My novel, The Suicide Game, which was published last year by Taylor Street Publishing, is my favorite. It took me nearly a decade to write it, and it is a much more personal experience than writing non-fiction. My favorite non-fiction book is Making Movies with Orson Welles, which I wrote with Welles' cinematographer, Gary Graver. That was a great experience and I had the good fortune of becoming close friends with Gary and his wife, Jillian, before they passed away.

TSK: Which of the films you've worked on is your favorite?

Andy Rausch: Dahmer vs. Gacy, which I wrote. That one just turned up in Maxim magazine this past month. That was pretty cool. Working with producer Chris Watson and director Ford Austin was a great experience.

TSK: Since you participated in the Welles book, I'll ask you this... I've always been fascinated by the 1938 War of the Worlds fiasco. Do you think anything like that could ever happen again?

Andy Rausch: No. Today we have so much information—maybe too much information—at our disposal at any given moment. I think you could maybe fool a few people here and there, but convincing that number of people that aliens are attacking seems unlikely.

TSK: What projects do you have coming up?

Andy Rausch: I'm currently working on books about both Ed Wood and Tony Scott, who passed away a couple of months back. I'm also preparing to write a screenplay based on my book Making Movies with Orson Welles. It will be about Gary and Orson's friendship and the making of The Other Side of the Wind.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Books By Andrew J. Rausch:
  • The 100 Greatest American Films: A Quiz Book
  • Hollywood's All-Time Greatest Stars: A Quiz Book
  • The Greatest War Films of All Time: A Quiz Book
  • Turning Points in Film History
  • Fifty Filmmakers: Conversations with Directors from Roger Avary to Steven Zaillian
  • Obsessed with Hollywood
  • Making Movies with Orson Welles (w/ Gary Graver)
  • Reflections on Blaxploitation
  • The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro
  • I Am Hip-Hop: Conversations on the Music and Culture
  • The Suicide Game (novel)
  • The Wit and Wisdom of Stephen King
  • The Stephen King Movie Quiz Book
  • Dirty Talk: Conversations with Porn Stars
  • Riding Shotgun (novella)
  • The Godfather of Gore Speaks (w/ HG Lewis)
  • Gods of Grindhouse

Movies (incomplete list, but the better ones)
  • Zombiegeddon, executive producer, actor
  • Minds of Terror, executive producer
  • Slaughter Party, executive producer
  • Evil Ever After, executive producer, actor
  • Dahmer vs. Gacy, screenwriter
  • Dead in Love, executive producer

De Palms Shares His Thoughts On Carrie Remake

This is cool!  Seriously, Fagoria is awesome.  Brian De Palma talked to Fangoria about the upcoming Carrie remake:
“I know Kimberly Pierce, I’ve known her for twelve years.  I met her in Paris when she was on a press junket for BOYS DON’T CRY. We spent some time in New York together, we used to go to the theatre together. She’s a bright, talented person. I tried to encourage her to make a movie very quickly after the success of BOYS and it took her years to find right material… 
but anyway, she contacted me when she decided to do CARRIE. We discussed the right way to approach it, who she was going to cast and we had a few discussions about it and basically I gave her my blessing. She’s a very talented girl and I’m really excited to see what she does. It will be more like the book, I think, which is Sue Snell’s testimony which puts Carrie in kind of brackets…”
De Palma's comments actually explain the Carrie trailer and the voice over.

The Fangoria article is HERE.

DEADLINE: Breathing Method the Movie

This is from Mike Fleming at deadline.com
Hot off an $18 million opening-weekend gross of Sinister that was six times its $3 million budget, Jason Blum‘s Blumhouse has teamed with Sinister director and co-writer Scott Derrickson on a screen adaptation of the Stephen King novella Breathing Method. They’ve secured an option on King’s work from the author, and the script will be written by Scott Teems. They haven’t yet set it for financing.
The full article, including a short synopsis, is at deadline.com

thanks to Bryant Burnette