When Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining was released in 1980, King took the opportunity to make the talk show rounds, viciously lambasting both the film and the renowned director at each stop. Granted, no author is ever fully satisfied with any film adaptation of his work, but very few writers have the power, arrogance, fan base, or sheer classless balls to go on national TV to bitch about it. Even at the time I recall thinking “Christ, what an asshole.” Kubrick admittedly did take a number of liberties with the novel, but despite King’s best efforts the film still went on to be considered one of Kubrick’s best, as well as one of the greatest horror films ever made.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that while it’s nearly impossible to make a good film from a great book, it’s very easy to make a great film from a bad book. Examples of the latter are plentiful, from Hitchcock’s own Psycho, to The Godfather, The Exorcist, Jaws, and, yes, The Shining. Not that King’s book was bad, exactly (I like it a bunch myself), but let’s just say it wasn’t Ulysses. You might’ve hoped that King might take the hint and let that initial gut reaction fade away, but nope. In a wildly ill-conceived act of hubris, in ‘97 he authorized a TV miniseries based on The Shining that, at his insistence, remained very true to the source material. He was clearly trying to make up for all of Kubrick’s profound failures. Most viewers agreed that it was painful and embarrassing to watch, and was quickly forgotten.
Again, you’d think that fiasco would’ve been enough to shut him up, but this week in a BBC interview to promote his forthcoming sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, he was at it again. He said precious little about the new book, but had an awful lot to say about Kubrick’s film. The Characters were cookie-cutter, he said, Shelly Duvall was “the most misogynistic woman ever put on screen,” and Kubrick himself had a “prissy voice.” Hoo-boy, how he went on. When he called Kubrick “compulsive,” I was waiting for someone to remind him that he’s the one who’s been stewing about all this in public for thirty-three years now. It was kind of sad really, because I do admire the guy a great deal. No one in the business works harder and along the way he’s written some very decent books, but jesus.
All right, though, it was his book and he didn’t like the artsy-fartsy movie it was turned into. Fair enough, a simple matter of taste. But it still strikes me as odd that over the past, oh, roughly 40 years since the first Stephen King adaptation (Brian DePalma’s Carrie) hit movie screens, you never hear the wealthiest author in history (thanks mostly to movie deals) bitching about, say, The Langoliers. Or The Stand. Or Children of the Corn. Or Needful Things, Cat’s Eye, Firestarter, Sometimes They Come Back, The Tommyknockers, Graveyard Shift, Pet Sematary, Dreamcatcher, Silver Bullet, Sleepwalkers, The Mangler, The Running Man, IT, Creepshow, or Creepshow 2.
For that matter, you also never hear him bitching about Hearts of Atlantis, The Lawnmower Man, Apt Pupil, Cujo, Golden Years, the Dead Zone series, his 2004 version of Salem’s Lot, that original version of Salem’s Lot, Bag of Bones, his directorial debut Maximum Overdrive, or any of the other 160-plus features, TV movies, miniseries, shorts, remakes, sequels, and television episodes adapted from his work.
Guess he considers all those brilliant forays into the cinematic arts, works of depth, beauty and intelligence that have reintroduced audiences the world over to the glorious possibilities of film. Especially Maximum Overdrive, with its groundbreaking camera work and a subtle, Oscar-worthy performance from Emilio Estevez. That Shining, though? Man oh man what a stinker THAT loaf was, eh?