Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Stephen, King of All Media

If you missed the premiere of TNT network’s “Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King,” you’ve got another chance tonight at 11pm to catch the ripping opening episode.
How fitting, too, that the teleplay for “Battleground” — a nearly wordless showdown between a hitman (William Hurt) and a miniature army — was adapted by Richard Christian Matheson, son of the prolific author and screenwriter Richard Matheson.

Matheson, senior, wrote the script for TRILOGY OF TERROR, the mid-1970s TV movie starring Karen Black (and Karen Black and Karen Black) in three tales that probably gave you nightmares if you were young enough to be traumatized by the medium’s Golden Age of original horror movies.
In the best of the three, the heroine unpacks a “Zuni fetish doll.” But the toothsome little warrior comes to life — and it wants blood. Now you can welcome your own Zuni friend into your home. Just don’t sent one to me, okay?

The Zuni doll makes a brief appearance in “Battleground,” but it’s a box of toy soldiers (“with extra surprises”) that bedevils a hitman/loner in this tale of terror. The King story begins with a bang: the hitman (William Hurt) knocks off a creepy-looking toy designer, but the job isn’t over. At home in his penthouse apartment, the hitman gets that special delivery from an unknown sender. What a great role for Hurt, who was so good in last year’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. He conveys all of the thug’s reactions (from bitter bemusement to rage) without saying a word.

The second episode “Crouch End” is an exercise in sustained eerieness without a really good ending. But the lead actress, Claire Forlani, has the sort of delicate face and haunted eyes that make for a perfect horror heroine — when in doubt, cut to her reactions of wide-eyed, awakening terror.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon