There are some that might say that doing a big screen version of Stephen King’s The Stand is a bit superfluous. After all, there was quite good six-hour ABC miniseries that did the tome justice back in 1994, one which could be bought at Amazon for $24.99 (and contains a copy of The Langoliers and The Golden Years as well).
However, Hollywood being what it is and the miniseries being almost 20 years old, Warner Brothers is dead set on bringing the novel to the big screen. At least they have gone in a good direction for…well…a director.
Deadline is reporting that Warner Brothers has tapped Ben Affleck to helm the big screen version of King’s seminal work. Harry Potter‘s David Yates was recently said to be in negotiations for the director’s chair.
While Affleck might have been the bomb in Phantoms, yo, he has made his name in recent years as a director, receiving good notices for Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Those good notices were well deserved, but he is entering new territory. The Stand is a sweeping epic that had trouble fitting into a six-hour TV miniseries. You can’t imagine Affleck having any more than half that amount of time to tell the same amount of plot. Good luck to you sir.
In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we’ll continue our look at EC Comics with a number of films the company inspired in the 1980s and 1990s.
If EC Comics helped redefine horror for the 1950s (and beyond), then you can make the argument that George Romero did the same for the 1960s (and beyond) and Stephen King did it for the 1970s (and beyond).
Romero’s 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, revolutionized the world of film horror, creating a still existing zombie craze but also showing, like the EC books, that you can slip social satire and commentary into a film about cannibalistic ghouls. The prolific King changed the way the world looked at print horror with works such as Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, amongst others, much of which was adapted for both the big and small screen.
Naturally, both men would be influenced by the EC books, and they showed their love for the company’s offerings when they collaborated on the 1982 film, Creepshow.
While Creepshow was not directly adapted from any particular EC comic, the tone and style of the film has EC written all over it. The film has a similar structure as the Amicus Productions adaptations from the 70s, with five independent stories joined together by a framing sequence (with a “Creepshow” comic book serving as an instigator for each of the segments). The segments themselves, all directed by Romero, were either adapted from King’s short stories or written specifically for the screen by King himself.
But those stories were essentially love letters to the EC Comics that were published three decades before. They consisted of many of the staples that made EC Comics great— gallows humor, the wronged dead coming back to life to exact vengeance, and plenty of O’Henry-esque twists.
The pair reunited five years later for Creepshow 2, with Romero stepping down as director and instead acting as a screenwriter who adapted King’s stories for the film:
There are only three stories this time instead of five, but the “Creepshow” comic book plays a role once again in the framing sequence.
There was a Creepshow III made in 2007…
but this film was a sequel in name only. Neither King nor Romero had anything to do with it, the comic book framing sequence was removed, and replaced by an interwoven narrative connecting the various segments, ala Pulp Fiction. Tom Savini, friend and frequent collaborator to George Romero, has stated that 1990’s Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, was the ipso facto sequel to Creepshow 2.
Stephen King and George Romero do reunite for the film, which was a big screen adaptation of the syndicated TV series of the same time, but only on one of the three segments (“Cat From Hell”) and only as writers (the film was directed not by Romero, but by John Harrison). The film does feature a similar framing sequence to the first two Creepshow films, but without the comic book framing sequence.
In 1985, another story from an EC book was adapted for the big screen, although it is a bit hard to make the connection. The film? Weird Science.
Wait! That's not the way Wyatt and Gary did it!
The film, written and directed by John Hughes, loosely adapts “Made of the Future” from Weird Science #5 (1951). Very loosely.
The original story is about a man, just jilted by his fiancée, who inadvertently bumps into a tour group from the future. On a lark, he returns to the future with the tourists and finds that men of the future are able to buy kits to construct their own wives. He brings a kit back home and, well, creates his own wife.
The film centers on a pair of unpopular teenagers named Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall). Their answer to improve their social standing involved a computer, data concerning their ideal woman, hacking a Government computer for more power, and a Barbie doll. These elements combine to form Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), an incredibly attractive woman who exhibited super powers and existed, literally, only to serve Wyatt and Gary.
The two stories were so different that I, for many years, wasn’t able to put two and two together and realize that they were connected. But connected they are, apparently.
In the 1990s, HBO created a TV series based on the EC books called Tales from the Crypt. Every episode of the series, which ran from 1989 to 1996, was adapted from an EC book. The series was produced by an all-star lineup of Hollywood heavyweights, including Richard Donner, Walter Hill, Joel Silver, David Geffen and Robert Zemeckis and many Hollywood stars appeared in the series, either in front of the camera (Demi Moore, Joe Pesci, Whoopi Goldberg, Brad Pitt) or behind the camera, as director (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael J. Fox, Tom Hanks).
Due to the popularity of the TV series, the Tales from the Crypt brand was brought to the big screen in a planned trilogy of feature films. These films acted essentially as longer episode of the TV series, with each film being introduced by the show’s host, the Crypt Keeper, yet none were directly adapted from an EC comic book. The first film in the series was 1995’s Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight.
The script for Demon Knight was bouncing around Hollywood for years before the Tales from the Crypt name was attached to it. The plot involved a supernatural and long-lived guardian (William Sadler) who exists only to kill demons, and a stand-off between the guardian and a high level demon (Billy Zane) in a small New Mexico town. The follow-up was 1996’s Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood.
This installment was originally planned to be a zombie film set in New Orleans called “Dead Easy,” but that film morphed into a vampire flick where an acerbic private eye (Dennis Miller) takes a case of a woman (Erika Eleniak) who is searching for her missing brother (Corey Feldman). The trail leads to a bordello housing a legion of vampire prostitutes led by the “mother of all vampires” (Angie Everhart). The most memorable part of the movie, for me, was Miller’s character going into battle against the vampires with a Super Soaker loaded with Holy Water. I thought that was inventive.
Bordello of Blood was a box office failure. The third film of the trilogy, named Ritual, was never released in the U.S. and was only released overseas with all mentions of Tales from the Crypt removed from it (they were replaced for the U.S. DVD release). The film centered on a voodoo cult and zombies and starred Tim Curry, Jennifer Grey and Craig Sheffer. A company by the name of EMO Films had picked up the rights to the EC Comics line in 2009, so perhaps we’ll see more adaptations in the future.
Next time, we’ll cover some underground comix entering the world of underground film.
Although one ambitious Stephen King adaption has recently withered on the vine (The Dark Tower over at Universal), another ambitious King adaption is starting to show signs of life.
Warner Brothers is in negotiations with screenwriter Steve Kloves to begin work on bringing King’s apocalyptic epic The Stand to the big screen as a series of films. Kloves will be working alongside director David Yates who is also in negotiations with the studio.
The two had previously shepherded the last four Harry Potter films for the studio. With this summer’s finale of that franchise, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, having already pulled in $1.1 billion at the world wide box office, it is clear that the studio is hoping that the pair can work similar magic with the material here.
A multi-film Stand adaption would definitely fit into Warner’s desire to have a number of blockbuster tentpole features on their release calendar for the next several years. They are also currently working at developing many of the superhero characters owned by corporate sibling DC Entertainment for films as well.
The one question that hovers over this proposed franchise concerns its rating. Dealing with the apocalypse and such things, it would be very easy for the films to stray into an R rating territory. Such a rating would, of course, impact the films’ box office receipts, something the studio would obviously wish to avoid. (For a similar instance, see Guillermo del Toro’s clash with Universal over the rating for his proposed adaption of H P Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness.) Granted the television mini-series adaption of the book back in the 1990s managed to tell the story with the far greater restrictions placed on that medium, so a PG-13 rated Stand could be done. But will that water down things too much for fans?