Friday, March 24, 2017

Pleased to Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name, or Thoughts on Needful Things

Needful Things (1993), an underrated but one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s 1991 novel of the same name (yes, I’ve read the book, and yes I am one of those insufferable people who will tell you I did), is effective at distilling a 690 page novel into a twisted, Twilight Zone-y 120 minute movie.  Stephen King’s greatest strength as a writer is his characters, the intimate portraits he creates an emotional bond with the reader that cannot be reproduced in a movie, though he has had better results on TV.  We don’t have access to Alan Pangborn’s hopes and dreams in Needful Things, we have to make do with Ed Harris as the small town, Castle Rock police chief in over his head dealing with a mysterious shopkeeper who may or may not be the devil.
Max Von Sydow, with the same accent he used as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980, maybe it’s his real accent) is Leland Gaunt, who rolls into town in his beautiful vintage Mercedes  (a 1958 300d Adenauer in case you care, and I know you do) and opens Needful Things, a store that sells you the item you most desire, for a price.  The needful things range from a signed Mickey Mantle baseball card (in the book it was Sandy Koufax, what did i tell you), to a magic locket and a first edition of Treasure Island. The price involves a seemingly random, mean-spirited prank against one of the locals.  The pranks escalate quickly as old rivalries and resentments are stirred up, until the town de-evolves into anarchy and the local church gets blown up.
With Bonnie Bedelia, Holly McClane from Die Hard (1988) as Polly Chalmers and the aforementioned Man in Black Ed Harris with hair (at least from some angles).  Also watch out for quirky indie star Amanda Plummer as Nettie Cobb and Don S. Davis as Reverend Rose, you may remember him as General Hammond from Stargate: SG1 (1997).
The movie was filmed in British Columbia, which I suppose is a good enough stand-in for Stephen King’s beloved and fictional Castle Rock, Maine, even though it’s a completely different ocean.  That may seem like a minor detail to you but little details matter, and they add up.   Directed by Fraser Heston (yeah, that Heston, he’s Ben Hur’s son, which makes him Hollywood royalty), Needful Things currently holds an unappreciated 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.


my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).