I didn’t mean to make Stephen King films a theme here, but several have been on when I was perusing the DirecTV guide and I hadn’t seen them in a long time. And, just like the books, when you have a pile of material, you know Stephen King will at least get the pages turning.
Nevertheless, The Dead Zone was a good early book by King and Firestarter came not long afterwards in 1980. The film came a couple years after the book in 1984 starring a young Drew Barrymore.
We get a promising start right from the beginning., Nothing says you’re in for a treat like ‘Music by Tangerine Dream’ in the opening titles! Maybe it’s me, but this soundtrack just doesn’t have the staying power like the immortal ‘Flash Gordon Soundtrack’ by Queen from 1980.
Andy and Vicky are college kids in need of some extra money. They entered into a study of a new drug, LOT-6 being developed by ‘The Shop’. We have no idea who ‘The Shop’ is other than a secret government lab. They don’t lose too much time trying to explain The Shop – it’s probably best that they don’t. I mean, really, is that what’s important? Just put Martin Sheen in charge, give him a frightening strongman (George C. Scott) and patrol the yard with Gestapo figures walking Dobermans. It’s all just fuel for the fire anyway.Did I mention Moses Gunn? Yeah, he’s fond is way into this one too (of course I’m more partial to his character, Bumpy, from Shaft)
So… what’s this about? Can we tease anything out of this story? The Dead Zone had some substance, what about this? Perhaps personal freedom? The evils of the government and menacing scientists trying to sully the world with their immoral deeds?
I’m not sure Stephen King really spent much time worrying about meaning. I think he is an extraordinary teller of stories and I’ve always enjoyed his books as great summer reading, but I’m not sure they mean much beyond the story themselves. Sure, Good vs Evil. Tyranny of the powerful over the weak, unexpected powers in mundane people or places. But these are themes, not theses. By the way, I found a blog that does a good job of isolating King’s themes and categorizing each of his films into them here , be sure to take a look.
The climax was virtually indistinguishable from Carrie, except the girl’s a little younger and instead of Sissy Spacek killing off a high school, it’s Drew Barrymore killing off a government lab that bears an uncanny resemblance to a southern plantation home.
The most powerful idea in this book / film is that the powerful might manipulate the weak, but they’ll get theirs in the end – or, put more plainly, revenge.
Firestarter came quick on the heels of Barrymore’s other major role in ET as Elliot’s sister.
Imdb gives firestarter 5.9 / 10, rotten tomoatoes gives it a 41% . Rotten tomatoes is right. I only like this film because it came out when I was a kid and I wasn’t allowed to see it because of its R rating. And because Drew was such a cute girl, and we know she needs the money, I hear she comes from really modest means.
6 down; 94 to go.