Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another in the Increasingly-Self-Indulgent Series of Magazine Reviews

I have good news, and I have bad news.  Which do you want first?

The good news, you say?  Very well.  The good news is that I'm looking over at the other side of my desk, at the stack of magazines which began this business, and if I am not mistaken, they are sufficiently few in number that this post will be the final one in the series.  So you won't have to suffer through them any longer!

The bad news is that the first mag out of the gate features a cover story on Sleepwalkers:




And it's got Leprechaun on the cover...?!?  Oh, brother...

And as if all that wasn't ominous enough, there's a story on The Lawnmower Man, too?!?!?!

It's all too much for me to take.  I can't bear the thought of summarizing any of it, so I'm going to eat up valuable bandwidth by posting the entirety of the issue's King-contents.




Your mileage may vary, but my opinion is that Leonard and Everett did a pretty capable job of imbuing the screenplay with Kingian elements, as discussed on this page of the article.



I love that photo of Clovis.

The bottom of this page and top of the next contain what I believe to be the only explanation I've ever seen for the movie's title: "they're monsters who walk in your sleep."  That is lame as fuck.

I wonder why that Clive Barker remake of The Mummy never happened?  I'm sure it would have been better than that piece of shit starring Brendan Fraser.

Fangoria was and is a pretty decent magazine, but that may be the single worst photo of Stephen King I've ever seen.  I can understand the need to run a set photo, but was that seriously the best thing their photographer got?



Mick Garris, here, continues his crusade to be so damn nice that it makes me feel too bad to say anything negative about his movies.  Now I find out he's a cat-lover!  
  
Amusingly, one of my own cats jumped onto my shoulder while I was typing that sentence.  This is one of his numerous ways of informing me that I have been remiss my feeding-him duties.  So, let's put this blog post on pause while I go crack open a can of food for the little sumbitch.


cover art by David Voigt


I was very excited to get this issue, since the movie version of Needful Things is one that I like and which King fans mostly seemed to not care about one way or the other.  That makes it a bit of an underdog, and The Truth Inside The Lie enjoys an underdog.

So, in that spirit, here is the whole seven-page article.  Go forth and spread it freely, my children.



Methinks Uncle Steve would be none too thrilled by Heston describing the scene in Kubrick's The Shining in which Dick is killed as being King "at his best."  Nope, don't think he'd be too fond of that AT ALL.

That described bit featuring the flashback to Nellie's life of being abused did not make it into the final cut.  I don't remember whether it is in the extended version.  Good luck finding a copy to check; but if you do, point me in the direction of where you got it, so I can get one, too.


I love this sentence combination: "One winds up with a knife in her and the other with a hatchet in her head.  It all went well."  Also, this single one: "We witnessed quite a few skinnings of bears."  Where in hell do you go for THAT?!?

I find it rather cheering that the filming of the movie upset certain religious institutions in Gibsons.  That's a nice synchronicity.



Unfortunately, things did not play out that way, and the movie was ignored -- by King fans, horror fans, and movie fans alike -- upon its premiere.  Today, it is mostly an obscurity.  A shame, that; it's a solid movie.

The issue -- the first ever issue of Imagi-Movies, by the way (from the publishers of Cinefantastique) -- also has a good write-up about the special effects used to create the aliens in The Tommyknockers.  Apparently, there was an attractive lady under that suit:




Who knew?

Speaking of "who knew," the article about The Tommyknockers also reveals that director Lewis Teague -- whom you might remember from Cujo and Cat's Eye -- was hired to helm the production.  Says producer Frank Konigsberg, "Teague shot a week's worth and was replaced, due to a different concept of the project."

The mag also contains a good article about the making of The Dark Half, but nothing in it stood out at me as begging for summary.  So, instead, here's some gory special effects for you:




If you were to show that photo on the left to somebody from an era prior to the invention of movie-magic special effects, do you suppose they would assume they were looking at a pack of degenerate, hellbound lunatics?  That's my supposition.



cover art by David Voigt


I bought this one just for the 2001 coverage (and cover), since that is one of my favorite movies.  So imagine my surprise when I found that there was eight pages' worth of articles about The Stand in the issue, as well!  The magazine's previous issue was its April 1994 one, which had The Stand as a cover story; after that, you'd think there'd be nothing else to talk about.

Not so.

The meat of this issue is a sit-down with King, in which he talks not only about the new miniseries, but about some of the other recent filmic interpretations of his work.  It's good stuff.  Here are a few highlights:
  • King talks about taking a greater creative control over the miniseries of The Stand than he had done with previous adaptations of his work.  "Well," he says, "if you try to control it completely, you go nuts, you go mad.  You have to start with the idea that things are going to change if you let it out of your own backyard.  Same way your kids are going to change when you send them off to school.  They meet other kids, you know?  And the kid that you sent off to school, when it comes back, it isn't the same.  Arbitrarily, what I do is split everything that I sell to films into two groups.  One are things where I talk to the book in the way that you would a kid you were sending off to summer camp.  'Enjoy yourself, have a good time.  I hope you don't get banged up too bad.  That you get homesick.  That you don't come home with poison ivy.  See you later.  Bye bye.'  The other group is the kind you get involved with.  And, with The Stand, because the book has been important to a lot of fans, and because the book has been important to me, in some ways it's the most important thing that I've ever written as far as a book's concerned.  I thought, if I'm going to do this, let me jump in the whole way.  I'll do the script.  I'll stick with it down the line.  I'll make the revisions.  I won't turn it over to anybody else.  I'll executive produce.  Mick asked me if I would play Teddy in the thing and I said, 'Yeah, I'll do that too.'  So, I worked very hard."
  • On the subject of the book's violence and grue being toned down for network broadcast: "Well, there is some gross-out in The Stand.  My favorite moment -- I don't want to spoil this -- but there's a sequence I just loved.  And again, I thought, maybe Standards and Practices is going to give us a problem.  But they didn't.  I think it's the second night, when they go back to the Sotvington plague place where Stewart has escaped and Harold Lauder is sick when he comes out and vomits.  He goes over to the bushes to vomit some more and he sees a nurse's legs sticking out and there are worms crawling all over them.  And it's really -- it's sort of a special moment for me."
  • On the subject of ABC's miniseries adaptations of It and The Tommyknockers: "I thought they did a great job.  The way It was adapted was largely instrumental in my decision to go ahead and run with The Stand with ABC.  I liked The Tommyknockers a little bit less, but I think it's adequate TV.  That sounds very snotty, doesn't it?  Adequate TV.  But I thought they did a pretty decent job with a book that wasn't top drawer to begin with."
  • He continues, "Well, some of it is my problem in trying to create things that will stand up to the visual image.  Some of it is, I would say, probably both with the climax of It and with a lot of the stuff about the spaceship in Tommyknockers, there's a problem with the story that I had to tell.  I had some problems with the climax of It."  [The spider] "looked like a Delco battery.  The problems, from my standpoint, with The Stand are not the same, partially because the elements of the fantasy in The Stand are woven into reality.  I'll tell you the truth, and this is no bull, of everything I've done, when I look at The Stand and I hear them say my words, at least I don't want to throw up.  I look at it and on the whole I'm pretty proud of it."
  • Talking about the permanence of books as compared to the impermanence of movie, King singles out an adaptation he disliked as an example of that impermanence: "I didn't care for the Arnold Schwarzenegger film that was made out of The Running Man at all," he says.  "It's not very much like the book and I like that book a lot.  I relate it to a period of my life I enjoyed and I remember the writing of it with great affection.  So I didn't like the movie, but I kept my mouth shut and now the movie's gone.  It shows up once in a while on cable TV.  It's going to show up once in a while on one of the Ted Turner stations.  But otherwise, the book rules.  It's in the bookstores, it's in print.  And a lot more people ultimately are going to be familiar with the book than they are with the movie, because movies don't have the staying power that books have."  I'm not positive that was true in 1994, but I'm certain it's not true in 2014.  I suspect WAY more people have seen the movie than have read the book, which is a shame, but hey, that movie played a big role in turning me into a Stephen King fan.  So the ascendancy of movies isn't all bad news.
  • "I'm not a very computer-savvy guy," says King later.  "I have a word processor that I do the bulk of my work on, and with something like The Stand, it was tremendous help, because you can regenerate most of the script and plug in the changes you want.  But it's a very old Wang word processor.  And sometimes people will call up, and my wife will say, 'Dteve can't talk to you now, he's pounding his wang.'  She gets a kick out of that because she's as twisted as I am.  And, I'm proud that I played a part in that."

The magazine also contains a good two-page visit with Mick Garris, whom mentions something that I don't think I knew: that . . . well, let's just let Mick say it for himself.
Whoopi Goldberg originally said yes to play Mother Abagail, for a fraction of what she usually gets, but had to back out for various reasons.

What a fascinating idea to consider!  I suspect that a great many people in 2014 would be horrified to consider the idea of Goldberg playing Mother Abagail, but you can rest assured that I am not one of them.  That woman could act when she chose to do so, and if you don't believe me, get thee in front of a copy of The Color Purple.  I suspect that her playing Mother Abagail could have been magic.




We have now arrived at our penultimate magazine: a 1999 Femme Fatales (another Cinefantastique affiliate) which has The Rage: Carrie 2 as its cover story.

As with Needful Things, I am a bit of a champion of The Rage, which, unlike -- arguably unlike -- Needful Things, is not a particularly good movie, but nevertheless captures my imagination in some way.  I actually feel a bit more protective of it than I do even of Needful Things, and I can't quite put my finger on why that is.  To be honest, it may be for no better reason than that I think Emily Bergl is hot in the movie.  Which, I suppose, makes it appropriate for me to be talking about an issue of Femme Fatales, a magazine that specialized in cheesecake photography of actresses from genre movies.  As a concept, I find it to be a bit on the distasteful side; this despite the fact that I'm probably among the first men in an audience for a film to see an attractive woman and do that thing where I turn into a cartoon and my eyes go popping out of my head and my mouth emits a sort of gaHOOgah!!! sound and whatnot.

That arguably makes me a hypocrite.  Yeah, I know.

Anyways, here's a back-issue ad page to give an idea of what the average Femme Fatales looked like:




I guess my thing about this is . . . it's one thing to watch a movie and think an actress is hot, and then to make mention of it (which I do, although I try to do it infrequently).  It's another thing to focus on that as being the draw for a movie.  I don't think I've ever done that.  Femme Fatales did it frequently, if only by implication.

The articles about the film are decent, but extremely sloppy.  "Its" is misspelled as "it's" at least once, a gaffe that annoys me when I see somebody do it on Facebook; when and if I see it in an ostensibly-professional publication, it goes a few steps beyond annoyance.  Elsewhere, there are other bungles, such as mislabeling a film still of co-star Mena Suvari as being a different co-star, Rachel Blanchard.  Oops.

There at least a few decent behind-the-scenes photos:






There is also an article about director Katt Shea, as well as a piece focused on co-star Amy Irving, the lone link to the original Carrie.  Speaking of Irving, I suppose I can't resist showing you this photo from the magazine, which shows her on the set of The Fury:




GaHOOgah!!!

*****

I can't in good conscience end the post on that note, so let's cover one more magazine.  It doesn't exactly fit into the format of what the rest of this series has been about; and it's debatable as to whether the item under discussion should even be counted as a magazine.  A periodical, yes; a magazine, well . . . I'd say no.

But let's do it anyways.




This is a recent issue of Tin House, a "magazine" (actually a trade paperback) which, as you can see, includes a contribution from Stephen King himself.

The contribution is "The Ring," a brief (nine paragraphs) reminiscence/essay that tells the story of the wedding ring King gave his wife, Tabitha.  It's a lovely piece, one that works in form -- if decidedly not in impact -- similarly to the way a joke works: all setup, with a punchline at the end.  It is, therefore, resistant to summary, which means that I have little to say about it other than recommending it.

Is it worth $13?  Eh . . . for me, I'd say it was.  But I'm an unrepentant Kingaholic, and I'm paranoid as fuck that a tiny little piece like this might never appear in any of King's collections.  If you are a bit less rabid, it might be worth it if you can find something else inside the issue to enjoy.  I've read none of the rest of it, but there are 200 pages' worth of short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and such, so the odds are that at least some of it has got to be good.

I'll let you be the judge.

And with that, my friends, we conclude our trip down Old Magazine Alley.  Such jaunts will likely continue at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, at least for a while.  See you there, if you're inclined to stop by for a visit.

Otherwise, it's farewell, but not goodbye.

7 comments:

  1. I'm going to have to track down Guilty as Charged. That picture on the bottom left of that Fangoria there is really cracking me up.

    I've bookmarked this Lawnmower Man article to read for the next time I get to watch that. Who knows when that will be, but it'll be interesting to see it through a different lens.

    Ga-hoo-gah indeed re: that Amy Irving pic! God bless the 70s.

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  2. While I can't say I place Needful Things high on my list of King's work (either as book or film), I still think it's decent enough. What interesting is that the final line of dialogue in the film does a good job of summing itself up.

    Sydow: This is not my best work, not by a long shot. Oh I admit, a few good murders, some explosions...(guilty pleasure shrug) What the hell.

    The irony is, while King doesn't enjoys Running Man, I'm finding it more interesting. True It's not King (let alone Bachman), but it's an honest to gosh nice 80s action flick. Plus it's the only place you can see Arnold square off against Jesse Frickin' Ventura!

    To be fair though, I wouldn't mind seeing a remake. I even thought Michael Beihn could make a good Richards (unoriginal casting perhaps but, oh well).

    In fact, I did find this one review by Scoot Summerton that labels out what makes RM such a ripe property for a remake at this time:

    http://blip.tv/guiltypleasurescinema/gpc-episode-16-the-running-man-1987-6371023

    As for cheesecake on big, small, or digital screen...G'night everybody! No, seriously. I'll admit, speaking as the number one Dave Barry fan of all time, my thoughts about women don't let's say, do me or any other guy any favors. Does that make me sexist? I've never really thought myself as such (of course!). However, I'll admit the minefield I'm walking through. For whatever it's worth, I think there's a line where the normal heterosexual way of thinking about women crosses over from normal to just plain wrong, and I am thinking of people like Norm Daniels from Rose Madder. As a stand up comic once observed while imitating Bill Clinton, such behavior "isn't even about sex anymore, this is something else. I'm a sick man, I need help."

    Knowing where that line is in terms of presentation of women dressed suggestively on film is a difficult course to navigate. For instance, I at least THINK it would be possible to, say, produce a Star Trek based around Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine, and yet still make people see past the cat suit.

    Perhaps the most interesting observation in all this comes from this article (written by an actual WOMAN, no less!) about the Elvira movie:

    http://www.agonybooth.com/movies/Elvira_Mistress_of_the_Dark_1988_Feminist.aspx

    To be fair, until reading this article, I didn't know about the Third Wave of Feminism. I didn't even know Feminism went through Waves. I also don't know what other women will think of such a view.

    ChrisC

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    1. In the specific instance of Seven Of Nine, I would say that the idea is that her character -- who is, in many ways, barely human -- dresses that way mostly because she has no real conception of how it is arguably inappropriate for her to dress that way. Or something like that. From what I remember, the series very rarely did much in the way of actually exploiting the character. ("Enterprise" did that with T'Pol much more frequently.) In other words, once the cat suit had been seen, I found it quite easy to see past; which, I think, was sort of the whole point of the thing.

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    2. That is an interesting way of looking at the character.

      My view of Seven would I guess have to be about the same, however I always saw her as fundamentally human, and yet she is the victim of a lifetime of abuse. Ironically, this abuse has nothing sexual about it, and is more in line with psychological brainwashing. However, just because it isn't sexual, or even strictly physical doesn't mean it isn't abuse, or that it can cause psychological damage to someone, which is how I always viewed the majority, if not all, of her behavior (at least during her early seasons).

      I saw her behavior as that of an abuse sufferer who was somewhere in the borderline area. In fact, one of the episodes during her first year revolved around her having to deal with the trauma of assimilation. I always saw her behavior and beliefs springing from those sources. None of that really takes the cat suit into account, though. As to why she wears it in the show, well, that's a network move, really (surprisingly one that sorta paid off, from one perspective at least). You may be wright though in that she has no real conception of her appearance though, at least until the final seasons where she starts to sort of loosen up a bit.

      Looking at that in terms of exploitation depends on the context of the word. I noticed one or two moments with the character that I thought might count as fan service (specifically I'm thinking of an episode that focused on her trying to learn to date); and here the ethics of it defeats me, really, as the arguments for where to draw the line are endless.

      In terms of exploitation of actual character development; I'll admit she's probably the most interesting Trek character, and whatever one says of Voyager, it's got to be handed to the writer's that at least they came up with an interesting character and a concept for her. However I still wonder what more could have been done with her.

      This is why I would have like to see her get her own spin-off (and ideally that Joss Wheadon could handle it, as he would know how to get the best drama from such a character). Still, I'd say in Seven's case it's a break even result, though I know there are many who disagree.

      ChrisC

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    3. I think your interpretation of Seven is just as valid as mine. She's both things at once, which is one of the main reasons why she's "Voyager" 's best character.

      I think Worf might get my vote as best Trek character of all. Him or Spock. Or Data. Or Picard.

      But I do like Seven, as well. Actually, I like "Voyager" in general. I don't think it was ever quite as good as its potential, but there were nevertheless a LOT of really good episodes of that series.

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  3. Have you seen the 4 hour version of Needful Things they only run on TNT? I always want to see it then I look on ebay to see if someone taped it and put it on a dvd and it's not on there, then I start looking for the longer Salem's Lot DVD then I'm like meh do I really want to spend $20 on this 70s mini series today? Then I go back to looking for cheap SK audio cds....So I haven't seen the long version but I would like to. I loved the fight with the 2 woman and I do remember that I liked the ending of the movie 10% better than the novel's which I thought was one of his worst endings ever.

    -mikeC

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    1. I've got a copy, but the quality is really bad; audio isn't even in sync. So I'm hoping to find a more watchable version one of these days.

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