Tag Archives: David Soul

The Exorcist to hit the small screen: The power of TV compels you

What with the success of such horror fare as The Walking Dead and American Horror Story in our living rooms it’s perhaps not unsurprising to hear the announcement that The Exorcist is to make the leap to the small screen in the form of a 10-part series.

Other horror franchises have hit the small screen in the past but these have just been in name only and effectively being loose reworkings of The Twilight Zone, step forward Freddy’s Nightmares, Friday the 13th (Voorhees free) and Poltergeist: The Legacy.

We of course hear lots about TV programmes being turned into films, some are good, such as The Fugitive ,The Naked Gun and Mission Impossible, some are bad, step up Wild Wild West and I Spy, whilst others are just plain ugly, Car 54, Where Are You? but less like this The Exorcist move.

Let’s have a flick through the TV Guide of yesteryear to celebrate and shake our heads at some of those franchises that made the leap, or in some case fatal stumbles, from our cinemas to the small screen.

Blue Thunder

I’ve always been a big fan of the Roy Scheider film on which this was based. I never realised it until yesterday but the main character, here played by James Farentino, isn’t even the same character as Scheider, he just has an equally big pair of shades. Daniel Stern couldn’t return due to him getting killed in the film (or really that doesn’t mean a thing, see what I mean later) so we had a similar sidekick in the form of Dana Carvey (yes, Garth from a future Wayne’s World) with support from two American Football legends, the fantastically named Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith, that’s right Hightower from Police Academy (and here I was under the impression he worked in a florists). Turns out that the sky wasn’t big enough for two helicopters and Airwolf – with its funkier titles, theme tune and flying machine) metaphorically shot it out of the sky after only 13 episodes. Still love Blue Thunder the movie though.

Alien Nation

Ah, the late 80s.After the success of Lethal Weapon we pretty much exhausted every mis-matched cop variation that we could (cop and dog – K(, American cop and Russian cop – Red Heat, cop and kid – Cop and a Half, cop and zombie ex partner – Dead Heat and cop and alien partner – Alien Nation.

The film starred James Caan and Mandy Patinkin and explored issues of race regarding a new alien species who were facing the same struggles that say black people were facing 15-20 years earlier when it was released in 1988. The TV series explored that theme a lot deeper and TV was the perfect place for it to draw out such issues. Even when the series ended it returned for several TV movies.

Stargate SG-1

At the current time of writing this is the longest constantly running Sci-Fi show (no, Doctor Who doesn’t count due to his long break). Spinning off from the hit film of the same title we have Richard Dean Anderson – almost shugging off all previous memory of MacGyver – bet he could have made his own Stargate – instead of Kurt Russell in the same role and crucially acknowledges, respects and significantly builds upon that original film world and did so for 10 seasons, its own spin off TV movie and two of its own spin of series, making it the most successful  Sci-Fi property since Star Trek.

Ferris Bueller

It could have only been more bungled if Principal Rooney had tried to make this himself. Sometimes a property works because of the writer and the actors involved, this had neither so was more a case of Ferris Bueller Bog Off rather than his still never bettered Day Off. It always seemed like Parker Lewis Can’t Lose tone and had Charlie Schlatter (liked him in 18 Again, hope he fired his agent after Police Academy 7 replacing Matt McCoy replacing Steve Guttenberg and perhaps most widely known for Diagnosis Murder) and an early turn from Jennifer Aniston and her pre operation nose. Talking of John Hughes properties, somehow, somehow Uncle Buck also made it to a series.

Working Girl

The film was Oscar-nominated, had a career best performance from Melanie Griffith who turned into Sandra Bullock for the short-lived TV version.

Tremors

After four films (don’t worry only two of them made them into cinemas) the Syfy Channel thought they’d Graboid some extra green stuff from the franchise and spin it out as a TV series, featuring Michael Gross, who has been a mainstay of all of the films (and played Michael J Fox’s dad in Family Ties). The Channel mucked about with the order so it made no sense, which meant sloppy re-editing and an audience that nose-divided sending the Graboids back into hiding never to be seen again.

Madigan

Richard Widmark lasted for six 90 minutes episodes of this TV series named after the 1968 film of the same name, which to be honest was some going as he got shot dead at the end of the film. The original film was directed by Don Siegel who would go onto make Dirty Harry.  In the same year as directing Madigan, Siegel also directed Coogan’s Bluff with a fish out of water cop played by Clint Eastwood. This also turned up on TV, this time as McCloud with Dennis Weaver in the role.

Casablanca

When Humphrey Bogart said “Play it again, Sam” I don’t think he meant the whole scenario, well amazingly that is what happened and more amazingly still it was with David Soul in the Bogart role in 1983, which also featured an early Ray Liotta and Scatman ‘Hong Kong Phooey” Crothers. Was also made for TV in 1955, the latter only lasted two episodes with the former shutting up shop after 6.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It’s often forgotten that Buffy started out as something of a so-so movie with a good idea with the lovely but oh so different to Gellar, Kristy Swanson in the role.

Robocop

Think it over creep. I really wish they had. One of those really odd things that happened (a similar think happened with a  Rambo kids cartoon) were an ultra violent film and is slowly eroded away over sequels (flying Robocop in part 3 folks), then a TV series – which still looked like that same world but just something of a cuddlier version and even a cartoon.

King of Kings: the top ten Stephen King adaptations

10. Carrie (1976)
Fittingly both the first novel penned by King and his first ever film adaptation, helmed by Hitchcock super fan, Brian De Palma. The split screen technique may have dated it all somewhat but that still doesn’t deny the film its power and ferocity. Nobody likes a bully and Sissy Spacek ensures we have a character that is both likable and much misunderstood.

A high school revenge coming of age horror, Degrassi Junior High was never like this; Carrie is note perfect in showing that bullies never prosper. The pig’s blood scene is truly iconic and disturbing whilst the scare the bejesus out of you ending has been oft-imitated but rarely bettered. With its soft focus at times it has a dreamlike feeling to it, but don’t fool yourself this is bonafide horror.

9. Pet Sematary (1989)
The film boasts some genuinely scary scenes, possibly the most frightening flashback sequence ever and Hermann Munster!

It’s undeniably creepy and raises some interesting questions about morality, death and how we deal with grief. Kings own screenplay adaptation, he even has a cameo at a funeral, blends supernatural horror with the ultimate real life horror of losing your family. The person you bury may return to life, but they aren’t the same person, there is something missing, something evil about them.

It also has an ancient American Indian burial ground, which is never, ever a good sign in a horror movie, even though it looks brilliant thanks to some excellent production design, a zombie cat, a murderous toddler with a scalpel that makes Chucky look like Maggie Simpson, and one helluva an ending. As former Munster, a fantastic Fred Gwynne, utters, “sometimes dead is better”.

8. The Mist (2007)
Also directed by Darabont this dark tale was pretty much ignored upon theatrical release, which is a crying shame as it’s a blinder. A small town is effectively cut off after a mysterious mist descends on it. Much of the town hole themselves up in the local supermarket until something starts attacking people and dragging them into the mist.

Essentially a classic 50s B-movie monster movie this has scares and effective special effects aplenty. To underline this fact it was even released on DVD in America with the option of you watching it in black and white, which it works in fantastically well.

Many of the towns folk are as terrifying as the creatures themselves and it has a real post 9/11 feel about it in places, as ever King showing us that people can be just as monstrous as actual monsters themselves. It could also be viewed in many ways as the anti-War of the Worlds and has a truly dystopian ending that will leave you reeling. An effective piece of film making that never loses your attention.

7. The Green Mile (1999)
After The Shawshank Redemption this is Frank Darabont’s second stab at a King adaptation and for me is the better, more absorbing of the two. I know for many they find it overlong and over sentimental but you cannot deny its power to grab you, to fall in love with a mouse, to hate that guy who played Tooms on The X Files, swear at the television as you release his actions and fall in love with the gentle giant of Michael Clarke Duncan.

Once again Tom Hanks proves why he is this generation’s James Stewart and is therefore rather fitting that although it deals with death row inmates and supernatural undertones it has a distinct Capra-esque feel to it. I defy you not to cry.

6. Misery (1990)
Kathy Bates even outshines Jack Nicholson here and is the only actor to pick up an Oscar for a role in a Stephen King film as the ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly as nice as pie’ Annie Wilkes. Dirty bird. Simple, terrifying and almost primeval in its horror.

James Caan’s character is ‘rescued’ from a car crash by his number one fan, just turns out she is a tad loopy and none too pleased he has killed off his lead character. Features one of the most wince-inducing moments in cinema, a tour de force, essential viewing and far more horrific than all of King’s possessed cars, vampires and children with strange powers put together.

5. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King has never had much time for this adaptation but this is the ultimate haunted house (well, hotel) movie. It’s not so much scary per se but with its astounding visuals, it being one of the first films to fully utilise the steadicam, symbolism and uneasy foreboding it certainly leaves you breathless. Added to that Kubrick really makes you feel the coldness and isolation.

Nicholson defines bonkers with his splendid turn, whilst his son, played by Danny Lloyd, criminally in his only film role, manages to make his finger one of cinema’s scariest things ever. Redrum, redrum, redrum. Lifts and indeed triple Grand National winners were never the same again.

4. IT (1990)
Another made for TV adaptation, this time directed by John Carpenter alumnus, Tommy Lee Wallace. Tim Curry is electric as Pennywise the Clown.

The first part is brilliant stuff, part Stand By Me, part your worst nightmares. It’s just a shame about the really lame giant spider in the (anti) climax. 

Soon to get the remake treatment. Keep Curry and the storm drain; squish the  spider in a giant tissue.

3.    Stand By Me (1986)

King isn’t just all about horror. Stand By Me is an adaptation from one of his novellas, The Body, and it’s a life-changing film that is right up there with It’s A Wonderful Life in the timeless classic stakes.

Semi-autobiographical, it recounts the tale of four young friends as they spend a summer holiday searching for a dead body. They set out eager to get a peek at the corpse but each of them grows and changes along the way.

The ending is now all the more poignant since the death of River Phoenix and those dullest tones of Richard Dreyfuss scattered throughout add gravitas. With dialogue like, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

2. Salem’s Lot (1979)

Made for TV in two parts but released theatrically in a shorter form in the UK, it’s the two-part version that is getting the thumbs up here. Directed by none other than Tobe Hooper this has to be one of the most jump inducing things to have ever graced TV screens.

Vampires taking over a small town are the order of the day as a best-selling author (David Soul) returns home but all is not as it seems. James Mason is kooky and his business partner, Mr Barlow, is clearly Nosferatu inspired and frankly disturbing. The scene where a floating vampire child appears at a window scratching and beckoning its next victim, with smoke and shot backwards to complete the eerie effect, still holds up as a classic scene to this day. You’ll never leave your curtains open again.

1.    The Dead Zone (1983)   

This sterling adaptation is one of Director David Cronenberg’s more mainstream, accessible films. Christopher Walken excels with a haunting performance as school teacher Johnny Smith who is involved in a car accident and awakes from a coma several years later to discover he is ‘blessed’ with the ability to see a person’s secret or future by touching them. 

It’s got an uneasy, claustrophobic feel throughout in everything from camera shots to lighting and especially Walken’s off-kilter turn. A fantastic psychological thriller with more than the odd jumpy moment which also sees fine support from Herbert Lom, Brooke Adams and Martin Sheen. A great ending.