Posts tagged ‘Stephen King’

October 1, 2019

#154) Heeeeere’s Robin: The scariest movie that never was

09ac848b123c077ab6370a5eb7fa93aeIt’s officially horror movie season, so in this post we are going to celebrate a very scary film. However, it cannot be streamed on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or Youtube. You also won’t find it on BluRay, DVD, Laserdisc or even VHS. That’s because this film doesn’t exist. It is a hypothetical movie: Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “The Shining” – starring one Robin McLaurin Williams.

Yes, it’s true: Kubrick originally considered Mork from Ork to play Jack Torrance, the writer gone mad who terrorizes his wife and son in the cavernous Overlook Hotel. However, Kubrick–the same director who had Malcolm McDowell sing “Singin’ in the Rain” during the most infamous scene in “A Clockwork Orange”, had Marines marching through a burning battlefield singing “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” in “Full Metal Jacket” and who choreographed nuclear bombs exploding to “We’ll Meet Again” in “Dr. Strangelove”–ultimately shied away from Williams, thinking he was too crazy for the part.

“The Shining” is one of the most heavily debated horror films. Did its many changes from the book make it better or worse? Is Shelley Duvall convincing as the terrified wife or is she just annoying? And just what exactly is the deal with that bear costume? Given how many horror geeks have weighed in on the film, it’s surprising that there isn’t more discussion about what the Williams version might have been like.

My opinion: much scarier.

In fact, just the idea that “The Shining” could have been made with Williams is scarier to me than the actual movie was. That’s not to take anything away from the existing film – while not perfect, it’s still scary, eschewing the then-new slasher formula for genuine suspense – but it is scary in spite of, not because of, Jack Nicholson.

Just as people are funniest when they don’t realize they are being funny, villains are scariest when they don’t realize they are being scary. Nicholson knows that he is playing a villain. “Heeeere’s Johnny” is good marketing, but it’s not scary. (Maybe first-time audiences soiled themselves, but if you are under 50, that moment has always been a movie poster, in the same way that Vader has always been Luke’s father).

Would Williams have played Torrance as a sneering villain – or, as he did in “One Hour Photo”, a lonely man who truly believes he is doing the right thing as his desperation drives him to evil? The combination of Kubrick’s slow, brooding pacing, the endless halls of the Overlook, the ominous score of music by Wendy Carlos and other modernist composers and what Williams would have brought to the role is as creepy to imagine as it is tantalizing.

Of course, it could have bombed. In his late 20s, Williams might not yet have developed the acting chops necessary for the demanding role. He also might have cracked (and not in a good way) under Kubrick’s notorious pressure. For forty years, it’s been Jack Nicholson who sulks over his typewriter, approaches the woman in Room 237’s shower and smiles from the center of the old photograph in the film’s final scene. Many fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ultimately, imagining how Williams’ Jack Torrance would have turned out is a question of nature vs. nurture. We now know a lot about Williams that we didn’t know forty years ago, from his ability to seamlessly incorporate his manic comedy into a leading role (“Good Morning Vietnam”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”) to his convincing portrayal of villains (“Insomnia”, “One Hour Photo”) to the personal pain that he felt unable to escape. Was the darkness of Williams’ later years the result of burnout from excess or was it there all along? Kubrick seemed to think it was always there; it says something about him that he saw Williams as a possible villain long before most of the world did. It also says something about Williams that Kubrick was unable to pull the trigger. Perhaps Kubrick thought that Nicholson, as a seasoned actor, would be easier to work with. Maybe he believed that Nicholson, who is 14 years older than Williams, would have been more convincing as the grizzled, alcoholic writer. But there just might have been something about the young Robin Williams that took even the intimidating auteur aback.

The deaths of both Williams and Kubrick left their fans wondering what might have been (would “Eyes Wide Shut” have been watchable had Kubrick lived to see it to the end?) However, sometimes what might have been is better left to the imagination.

August 18, 2013

#58) A response to the 13 Utterly Disappointing Facts about Books

A couple of years ago a list of 12 disappointing facts about the music business appeared online, inspiring me to write this response.  Back in June, a list of 13 “utterly disappointing” facts about books was published and–in keeping with the D-Theory Blog’s tradition of touching on topics well after interest in them has peaked, I am weighing in.  As with my response to the music list, my goal isn’t to convince my readers that it’s a good thing that “50 Shades of Grey” is the best-selling book of all time in Britain; it’s simply to inspire people to read (pardon the pun) a little more deeply into the list and to realize that, while not encouraging, these facts aren’t the end of the world.  Like the music list, this list can also be seen as a call to action.

#1) In a 2012 survey, almost a fifth of children said they would be “embarrassed” if a friend saw them with a book.

Truthfully I’m surprised it’s that low; I’d bet that if the survey was given 20 or 30 years ago the results would have been similar.

#2) 54% of those questioned said they’d prefer watching TV to reading.

Same comments apply.

#3) 50 Shades of Grey is now the best selling book of all time in Britain.

And in two years, it will probably be outsold by something even worse.  Lots of things are hot for a while and then they’re forgotten.

#4), #5) & #6)

Snooki, Jessica Alba and Justin Bieber are all best-selling authors.

When times are stressful, some people just want an escape; “War and Peace” isn’t for everyone.  At least these books probably gave some hard-working ghost writer a well-earned gig.  Sidebar: Jessica Alba?  She’s harmless enough; is it really that upsetting that her book sold well?

#7) Book and eBook sales are down 9.3% in the U.S.

9.3%?  Not exactly Black Tuesday.  All products experience fluctuations in sales.

#8) The last Borders bookstore closed in September 2011.  Barnes & Noble…has been closing about 15 stores per year.

Yeah, I miss Borders.  I also miss Acres of Books in Long Beach, CA and the other independently owned bookstores that suffered by the presence of Borders and B&N.  It’s evolution; don’t cry too hard if you ever browsed Borders but actually bought the book from Amazon.  (Guilty.)

#9) eBook sales have officially topped printed book sales as of 2011.

And automobile sales have officially topped horse-drawn carriage sales.

#10) Forks, Washington now has Twilight-themed stores to cash in on tourists.

Graceland cashes in on tourists too.  Does that make Elvis disappointing?

#11) The four-book Twilight series has sold over 116 million copies, almost half as many as Stephen King’s entire canon.

Just as many facts from both the music list and this list have to do with evolution of technology, tastes, supply and demand, opinion plays a role in several of these facts as well, including this one.  Twenty or thirty years ago, many people said the same thing about Stephen King as they now do about the Twilight books.  My American Studies teacher said that for our term project we could do a report on “any American author except Stephen King.”

#12) It’s gotten so bad, books are now being MASSACRED for crafts.

Hmm, haven’t really noticed much of this going on, but I’m not always up to date on hot new trends.  (That reminds me, I need to buy a new spindle for my wax cylinder player.)

#13) One in four Americans said they read ZERO books last year.

A bummer, but truthfully I’m surprised it’s only one in four.

So what do we do with this information?  Like the music list, it is a call to arms of sorts to–like AA members–accept what we cannot change (the relationship between digital and print media; the idea that for a certain segment of the population crap will always be king) and change what we can (volunteer at the local library; donate books to the neighborhood school; find funny pictures that joke about Twilight and Instagram them.  It may be an uphill climb, but books are worth it.