Two Davids Carrie Special!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  The Two Davids are joined by Bronwyn Knox and John Froehlich for an intense discussion of the three film adaptations of Stephen King’s novel, Carrie.  The first movie, directed by Brian De Palma, was released in 1976, followed by a made-for-TV version directed by David Carson in 2002, and the 2013 remake directed by Kimberly Peirce.

© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “Two Davids Walk Into A Bar” is not affiliated with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM, MGM Video, United Artists, Screen Gems, Misher Films, Red Bank Films, or Stephen King. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

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Vintage Cable Box: Firestarter, 1984

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“John, the friendly orderly, will make her happy because he’s the only one who can. And when John feels she has reached the moment of her greatest happiness, he will strike her across the bridge of the nose, breaking it explosively and sending bone fragments into her brain. It’ll be quick. And he’ll be looking at her face at the time. He will know her power. And when he dies, which I hope is very soon, perhaps he can take that power with him… into the other world.”

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Firestarter, 1984 (Drew Barrymore), MCA/Universal

We pick up in mid-story. David Keith and daughter Drew Barrymore are on the run from nefarious government agents working under the auspices of “The Shop”, a kind of CIA Science Branch that specializes in chemical warfare and drug experimentation. Some ten to fifteen years before, a drug called Lot 6 is tested in a double-blind study. Andy and soon-to-be wife Vicki (Heather Locklear) are participants in the study. While some are not affected (by means of placebo), and some have extremely violent reactions (one poor bastard gouges his own eyes out), Andy and Vicki begin communicating telepathically.

They marry and have a child, Charlie, with pyrokinetic powers, but members of “The Shop” (short for the Department of Scientific Intelligence) have been watching and studying the child’s growth, subjecting them to harrassment. Eventually they murder Vicki and attempt to abduct Charlie, but Andy has the power to push people; that is, he can manipulate them to do what he wishes, but his power comes at a cost. He suffers hemorrhages that will eventually kill him.

For a year, Charlie and Andy stow away in motels and keep running from “Shop” agents, who want to exploit Charlie’s power, and perhaps assemble a race of firestarters for use in future war campaigns. The scientist (Freddie Jones) involved in the original Lot 6 tests discourages any further study of her, while “Shop” head Captain Hollister (a wicked Martin Sheen) and psychopathic assassin Rainbird (George C. Scott) want to kill Andy and train Charlie to control her powers, where her father has always discouraged using them.

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They hitch a ride with kindly farmer Art Carney, who takes them back home to meet his wife (Louise Fletcher), but “The Shop” is right behind them. Carney does his best to fend off the enemy agents, and Charlie and Andy escape. They hide out in an old lakehouse, but are then quickly captured by Rainbird. Once imprisoned in a “Shop” facility, they are separated. Testing begins on Andy, while Rainbird ingratiates himself to Charlie, and pretends to be her best friend.

Under the tutilege of Hollister and Rainbird, Charlie’s powers increase. She is able to selectively set fires with her mind. Andy has not been taking the medication he has been prescribed to dampen his own telekinetic activity. He pushes Hollister into reuniting him with his daughter, but Rainbird has other ideas (he wants to destroy her and, in my view, gain her power – “the power of the gods”), and the movie ends with an incredible and violent showcase of fire effects (a variation on the climax in Carrie) in which Charlie destroys the “Shop” facilities.

Stanley Mann’s screenplay is slavishly faithful to the Stephen King book and Mark Lester’s direction is spot-on.  Tangerine Dream’s memorable score is one of the best I’ve ever heard.  Keith and Barrymore are incredibly believable as a desperate father and his precocious and dangerous daughter, and Scott and Sheen make excellent, mustache-twirling villains.  Barrymore was such a gifted young actress in this movie that King wrote a part specifically for her in 1985’s Cat’s Eye.  Reading King’s books, I’ve noted his distrust of authority and government (The Stand and Under the Dome spring to mind) as well as his fascination with children (Carrie, The Shining).  Several movie adaptations of King stories played on cable at this time, such as Cujo, The Dead Zone, and Christine.

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On a personal note, enjoying this movie as a kid (as I’ve said before, I love stories about kids with insane, god-like powers), I never thought I’d have a daughter of my own.  Barrymore, in this movie, reminds me so much of my daughter; not that she has the ability to summon fire, but the sweetness, the innocence of childhood imparted.  Firestarter is one of the very few movies out there to stress and comment upon the importance of fathers and their daughters, and for that reason, this movie earns very high marks from me, and it is one of my favorite adaptations of Stephen King.

Anyone who listens to a child’s crying with understanding will know that psychic forces, terrible forces, sleep within it, different from anything commonly assumed: profound rage and pain and lust for destruction.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Thanks for reading Vintage Cable Box’s Halloween 2016 Horror Movie Coverage.  I had a lot of fun watching these movies and I hope you had fun reading! 

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

 

“Creepshow, 1982”

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“Come on Harry, the maiden fair waits for her knight in shining corduroy.”

To mark the occasion of the one-year anniversary of my association with Mark Jeacoma and his wonderful VHS Rewind! podcast and blog, I am adding a previous review I wrote for the 1982 horror anthology, Creepshow, and adapting it for this Vintage Cable Box review.  This was a movie I absolutely fell in love with when I first saw it on cable television in 1984.

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Creepshow, 1982 (Leslie Nielsen), Warner Bros.

It seems most movies these days are based around comic books and toys, but in 1982, the double-whammy collaboration of Stephen King and George A. Romero, produced the original comic-book adaptation, Creepshow, one of the great horror movies of the early 1980s. Inspired by Max Gaines and Educational Comics’ Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and later, Mad Magazine, Creepshow gives us five fun stories loaded with graphic violence and intended for adults only.

George A. Romero, best known for Night of the Living Dead, the grandfather of the modern zombie movie, had directed cult favorites, The Crazies, Martin, and Knightriders. King, reportedly a fan of Romero’s work, suggested they collaborate on The Stand and wrote Creepshow as a sample screenplay to see if the two could successfully work together. This was due to the disappointment he felt from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s The Shining.

Creepshow is an anthology of five stories about familial revenge, hapless hillbillies, a Tasmanian devil in a crate, the consequences of infidelity, and cockroaches (lots of freaking cockroaches!). What really propels the stories is a wicked sense of humor, dark comedy, and lots of gore. A great cast (Ted Danson and Ed Harris in early roles, Leslie Nielsen in one of his last dramatic roles, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, and E.G. Marshall) round out the carnage, and though the film only earned modest receipts at the box office, it did very well in pay TV and home video markets.

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“Free to be you and me! It’s okay for boys to play with dolls!”

Romero’s lighting, use of shadow and bold primary color along with the continuity device of using comic book cells and the framing story of an abusive father and his sociopath son (played by Stephen King’s son, Joe) deconstruct the horror genre and places it in a post-modern context, much like Romero would do with Day of the Dead, the underrated Monkey Shines, and Tales From The Darkside (an anthology television series based, in part, on Creepshow).

Creepshow was followed by two lackluster sequels, Creepshow 2 in 1987 (based on stories, not a script by King), and the “unofficial” no-budget Creepshow 3 in 2007. Romero would later work with Stephen King for The Dark Half in 1993, but that film was shelved for two years due to Orion’s impending bankruptcy.

The entry was written prior to the beginning of my Vintage Cable Box articles to tie-in with the release of a VHS Rewind podcast with Mark Jeacoma and Chris Hasler that has still not seen the light of day.  I volunteered to edit the episode, and I am grateful to Mark for giving me the opportunity, but I think I cut too deep, removing a lot of the spontaneity that is a hallmark of that fine podcast.

Happy Halloween Everybody!

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

Vintage Cable Box: “The Sender”, 1982

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“The sleep of reason breeds monsters.”

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The Sender, 1982 (Željko Ivanek), Paramount Pictures

Young men and women with strange powers, usually manifest at the onset of puberty, made for a much-loved, though often critically-derided subgenre of horror movies starting with Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie. The strange powers might be telekinesis, an ability allowing a person to influence a physical system without physical interaction, ESP, or “sixth sense”, the ability receive information through no other form than brain power, or telepathy, the ability to read minds and communicate by way of the mind.

In The Sender, Željko Ivanek plays such a disturbed young man. His amnesiac John Doe #38 arrives in a mental institution after trying to drown himself in a lake. He makes the resident nut-jobs nervous. His doctor (played by the lovely Kathryn Harrold) is intrigued and tries to get inside his head through recall and trigger effects. She becomes submerged within his psychic nightmares and fears, which leads to impressive gore and graphic effects, including an electro-shock scene straight out of an early De Palma film.

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Željko is revealed to be a “sender”; that is a person with the ability to project his dreams and nightmares into other people’s minds, and make them come alive. As you can imagine, it can be quite distressing. Željko Ivanek creates a sympathetic brand of monster, similar to Roland, a mentally-retarded janitor Ivanek portrayed in an eponymously-titled episode of The X-Files. “The Sender” plays like an extended X-Files episode, with Harrold subbing for the intrepid agents, Mulder and Scully.

Željko Ivanek appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street as criminal prosecutor Ed Danvers. Kathryn Harrold appeared in Albert Brooks’ Modern Romance. Paul Freeman (one of Harrold’s colleagues) will always be known as Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Shirley Knight (playing Ivanek’s mother), appeared on the stage, television, and several high-profile films, including As Good As It Gets. The Sender is a disturbing, thoughtful, and provocative blend of science fiction and graphic horror.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.

Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.