King's Highway pt. 26: Some Odds and Ends

I got one of those "Arriving Later" emails from Netflix with regards to the Tales from the Darkside series disc that has "Sorry, Right Number" on it, so although most of the rest of my Nightmares and Dreamscapes blog is ready to go, it will be delayed until I get a chance to watch it/ type it up.

But in the meantime, some odds and ends...

I finally got a chance to see Secret Window.

which I enjoyed very much. This was actually one of the first things I read when I started down the Highway back in May, but it took me until last week to see the movie. The ending is re-arranged from the novella - and I prefer the way the page dealt with it over the screen - but solid performances, good pacing.

(Although Turturro does a fine job, part of me wishes not only had they cast Jim Shooter for the role of "Shooter" but also changed the part/ story to accommodate making the character Jim Shooter to begin with. I hope by writing that here, it happens in some alternate universe.)

I watched "The Cat from Hell" segment from the Tales from the Darkside movie starring the always-weird and vaguely-menacing William Hickey and equally-so David Johansen. It's not bad.

Not Hellcat. Sorry, Big Boy.
The story on the page is better (and makes more sense - as much as a story like this can or should make sense, that is), but it has its moments.

What is this, all links night? Only a couple more: "In the Tall Grass" is a collaboration published in Esquire over the last two months between SK and his son Joe Hill. I'll only spend a moment on it, but if you've read it or want to know more, here's the link to more info on pt. 1 and pt. 2 over at The Truth Inside the Lie.

I liked it. I felt the ending was a bit tacked on - or didn't add much to it, beyond a frisbee-toss to "Further." But it's a good, unsettling story that reads well - what more could you want?

For some reason when I sat down to write about "In the Tall Grass" tonight, I had the distinct image of a mid-80s trailer. Stephen King is returning to the grasslands, but THIS time (enter Joe Hill, who carries a shotgun) he's brought a little help from back home... I didn't say it was funny, but I hope father and son do one, somehow someway, in the spirit of the Maximum Overdrive trailer.

(If someone made this a movie. Which they probably will.)

I watched The X-Files episode written by SK, "Chinga." It's basically the Talky-Tina episode from Twilight Zone but with Scully and Mulder (albeit over the phone), which is to say, it's fantastic.

Chinga: Let's have fun.
I'm Talky Tina and I don't like you.
Great stuff. It was fun seeing King-isms like "Ayuh" pop up in the Scully/Mulder-verse. (Although perhaps it was used a bit too much.) The "Hokey Pokey" is the go-to sonic cue for supernatural hi-jinks in this story, much as the Glenn Miller et al is for Rose Red, and other examples recounted elsewhere.

Probably one of the top 10 X-Files openings? Even when this originally aired - when I watched X-Files religiously - I thought so; re-visiting it again, it holds up, as does the rest of the episode.
Finally, I finished the mini-series Kingdom Hospital at long last. I'm conflicted.

I was heavily into the original i.e. Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom back at film school.
I haven't seen it in years, but it trails off at the end a bit, if memory serves. Still - worth checking out.
Parts of this really hum along. It starts strong, and the overall plot is compelling enough. It's scattered, to be sure. Maybe that's it - along the way it takes a few too many Mister-Toad's-Wild-Rides. Not the least of which is this:

Which got stuck in my head for days and days, thank you very much. After the first couple of episodes, it veers wildly from the narrative to barrel through three admittedly-nicely-constructed-enough episodes involving a drug clinic gospel, and a doomed baseball player's salvation. At that point, for me, I'd invested something like six hours and was getting annoyed.

After Lost, my time is precious, and my patience is defensive.
But there is plenty to be enjoyed here, let me make that perfectly clear. It's just... there's a whole lot of plenty altogether.

Andrew McCarthy deserves kudos. I wonder if he's like Timothy Hutton and only accesses different depths of his persona on King projects? Based on his performance here, and their ages, I'd cast either for Edgar Freemantle if someone ever gets around to making a film for Duma Key.
The four discs could probably be crunched to one, to be perfectly honest. I like the fact that there's so much of it, though. King's mini-series work, with the exception of Storm of the Century, seems to fall into this category. I'm glad there's an abundance of fat to trim, but the overall punch of the story is softened somewhat as a result.

This might be King's greatest cameo, though. Throughout, both the staff and faculty of Kingdom Hospital keep trying to get Johnny B. Goode on the phone, but he's never around. He finally shows up near the end. A mild-mannered Bill Brasky, of sorts. I'm up for a spin-off of Johnny B. Goode's Memories and Adventures re: Kingdom Hospital.
Most of the performances are worth noting, actually - there's just a whole bunch. I'm not sure if this was meant to be an ongoing series or just what it is, but it seems to take way too long to get to the events of the last twenty minutes. Which are, actually, pretty cool, reminiscent of It, somewhat. Anyway - recommended with reservation.

(MARCH 2013 edit: Watched this one again and enjoyed it much, much more. Just thought I'd mention it.)

Next time, the rest of Nightmares and Dreamscapes and then vacation-time for your humble narrator.


  1. "Secret Window" -- I liked it a lot. Depp is great, Turturro is great, it's got excellent cinematography and music; a solid package all the way around.

    "Chinga" -- That's not one of my favorite "X-Files" episodes by any means, but it's perfectly good. I remember the episode airing at around the same time -- either just before or just prior, can't remember which (and too lazy to consult my DVDs) -- the episode guest-scripted by William Gibson. Gosh, that was a great show for a while there. Hmm... I'd better stop this reminiscence in its tracks, because otherwise I'll become even more tempted than I already am to rewatch the entire series and post an episode guide on my own blog. I've got to do that for "The Dead Zone" first!

    Speaking of my blog, thanks a bunch for the mention. And I agree with you about the ending of "In the Tall Grass": it felt utterly tacked on and pointless. Great story overall, though.

    "Kingdom Hospital" -- What an odd series. I think the parts of it that work (for example, the "Red Dragon Tattoo" scene in the first episode) work beautifully, but the parts that don't work fall flat on their face. For example, the orderlies. I appreciate the idea behind hiring mentally disabled people to play mentally disabled people, but ... well, these two particular people simple aren't competent actors. They stopped that show dead in its tracks every time they showed up. But the show overall is not too bad at all; I really like the baseball episode, and the "Jesus" episode, too.

  2. "Kill Switch" is one of my favorite X-Files episodes, absolutely. While "Chinga" is not, that opener in the supermarket is just great.

    Like you say, that show was really great... for awhile. I'm still pissed at how they screwed the pooch with the X-Files! But for a few seasons, there, it was the best thing on tv. Not sure what my favorite would be... Kill Switch? Bad Blood? Folie a Deux? Like you say, I'd best stop before I get any ideas...!

    No problem on the blog-link. I reap the hyperlink-benefits from the hard work you've already done! It's a win-win.

    Yeah, I liked Kingdom Hospital. It's a lot to process. I was wondering how they'd handle the mentally handicapped duo. They play a similar role in the Von Trier original.

    I forgot to mention that Tabitha King wrote or co-wrote one of those "Jesus" episodes. Not that you wouldn't know that but for the non-King-blogging public out there! Yeah it's a good story (the baseball one, as well - which really felt like an X-Files, come to think of it) it was just a bit of a side-road from the main narrative at a time when I was itching for the main narrative to sort itself out. But, like all King mini-series, it takes its sweet time to get where it's going. I did enjoy it, overall, though.

    1. Still waking up - I added far too many exclamation points. I grew up reading Stan Lee and Stan Lee imitators; I'm amazed I don't affix "true believer!" to the end of every sentence, come to think of it.

    2. I had a Facebook conversation about Batman with a couple of friends recently, and I noticed that I was using exclamation points seemingly every other sentence.

      I guess sometimes we all just need that extra added emphasis!

    3. I watched "The X-Files" live up until some point early in season six, at which point in time I got so annoyed by it that I gave on it and never returned.

      Until a few years ago, when my Stephen King OCD kicked in and I decided I needed to buy the season 5 DVDs so that I would have "Chinga" in my collection. It seemed silly to only buy that one season, so I decided to buy at least the first four, also. Then, my general OCD kicked in and demanded that I had to just buy the whole shebang, and so I did.

      Then, I started watching with the series with a friends who'd never seen it and was curious. I told her it was great, but started sucking mighty ass around season six, so we watched it and loved it, and got to season six and ... still loved it!

      So I told her, "Well, I guess I remembered it wrong -- but I know from people who told me that it gets terrible in season seven." We kept watching ... and STILL loved it!

      At this point, I was feeling kinda stupid(er). So I told her, "Well, spoilers, but Duchovny leaves the show soon," and there is NO WAY the show didn't start sucking then. Except we both thought Doggett was a great character, too, so while the show felt a bit skewed in his absence, it was still really quite good on an episode-by-episode basis during season eight!

      Even the final season is decent. The standalone episodes are still quite good, and I don't despise the finale the way a lot of people do.

      So, in short, I feel like a major dumbass for bailing out of watching it live back in the day. Oh, well; sometimes, I get it wrong.

      But boy, that second movie sucked. I don't think I got that wrong at all.

    4. That's interesting! I skipped the last couple of seasons myself. I remember the finale pretty well, which I didn't like at all. People give Lost a lot of crap (rightly so, I feel) for throwing too many balls in the air, but for me, that charge will always be most fairly applied to the X-Files. I was very disappointed with what they did with the mythology.

      But, it's been a good ten years or so since I saw it. Dare I try again? Damn you for putting this idea into my head... must... resist...

    5. Resistance is not, in fact, futile. Resist!

      I agree with you about "Lost." For the first five seasons, I thought it was one of the absolute best things that had ever been produced for television. Then the final season just dropped the ball utterly. With "The X-Files," it was a sort of long, slow slide; I firmly believe that if you now watch the series knowing that at a certain point (not clearly defined, but somewhere after the first movie) the mythology falls apart and never recovers, the show automatically becomes more acceptable than it would have been watching it live.

      Maybe it's similar with "Lost." I've been wanting to go back and watch it all again, but never got around to buying the last couple of seasons, and haven't really felt like doing so. In any case, my sense is that that last season simply won't stand up at all, and in fact will be even worse. Example: it'll be even more evident than it already was that all that time spent in the temple was an utter waste. Example the second: it'll be even more evident that Sayid, Sun, and Jin will seem even more poorly-used than they already seemed.

      I'll give it another look someday, though, and maybe this is another of those occasions on which I simply got it wrong. I'd love for that to be the case, in fact!

      But my gut tells me it ain't so.