Monday night 24 June 2013 we get to see the start of the mini-series Under the Dome giving us a chance to look through the glass darkly with the horror meister himself Stephen King. The pilot airs tomorrow on CBS.
King himself is an executive producer on the show and that hopefully means that this is an adaptation that works damn it.
The track record for Stephen King movie and television adaptations isn’t a good one. Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Carrie was the one shining example of how you should bring King to the screen and it was only a lack of budget that kept De Palma from rigidly following the book.
The worst adaptation of all time is a close tie. Stanley Kubrik’s 1980 film was a brilliantly scary and intense film, but it was not, as advertised at the time, “Stephen King’s” The Shining. Kubrick used so much poetic license on his version of the King novel that a lot of cinema goers who’d made the mistake of reading the book first, were disgusted with the film.
The other adaptation that ties The Shining for the abysmal version of the century award is Tobe Hooper’s 1979 mini-series Salem’s Lot. Rather than list all the reasons why it ties with The Shining, I will instead say only two words: Reggie Nalder.
The 1990 mini-series, IT, for all it’s failings; the constraints of television being the biggest one, had Tim Curry playing the only other character in his career that reached the same iconic proportions as his Dr Frank-N-Furter. When Curry put on the white-face makeup and intoned, “We all float down here, Georgie,” as Pennywise the clown, he scared an entire generation and more. Now we know where that clown phobia came from.
This summer sees the start of a new mini-series that’s been adapted from King’s 2009 novel Under the Dome. Stephen King actually started writing the novel in 1976. But according to him, he shelved it because it overwhelmed him at the time.
He actually tried once more in the 1980s to write the book, under the title The Cannibals, but again had to put it aside. He finally managed to bring the story to life the last time he stepped up to bat, and fan’s of King would all agree that the third time, he hit a homerun.
His story is about the fictional town of Chester’s Mill which, one Saturday on October 21, (after 2012, but we’re never told when) get cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome. The residents of the small town are the focus of the book and the television show.
The chance to see the Under the Dome characters in three dimensional life in a sort of through the glass darkly vision via the amalgamations of Stephen King and Brain K. Vaughn looks like a winner. Like most King fans, I loved the book and Vaughn must have as well.
In the book, the longer the denizens of Chester’s Mill stay under the dome, the more skeletons come tumbling out of closets and the nature of the small “homely” town turns increasingly sinister and deadly. The facades of the people who are really in charge crack and erode and they realise that they can rule without fear of retribution.
The book had me on the first page and looking at the trailers make me feel, perhaps foolishly, optimistic about this particular mini-series.
It has an impressive cast, I would never thought of making Mike Vogel “Barbie” but damned if he doesn’t look and sound just as I’d imagined him and Jeff Fahey as the Sheriff, looks like he could have stepped breathing off of the pages of the book.
King supervised the shooting and he’s worked with Lost’s Brian K. Vaughn to work out a happy medium between King’s vision and Vaughn’s.
The number one horror writer in the world said that his first attempt at writing Under the Dome looked a bit like what Dome creator Brian Vaughan is doing in his version.
King said, “My original plan is pretty much what they’re doing here. These people would be under the dome for months. You would see the whole thing about depletion of resources, gas (and) food running out, people using wood fires because there’s no electricity. And you can see the grit building up on the dome the way it does in the atmosphere of the earth.”
But as King said in an interview with USA TODAY, “Sometimes you have to let go a little bit.” The 65 year-old writer pointed out that the TV show’s creators used the book as a “springboard.” Vaughn said that King encouraged them to keep going with their vision. And the creator of the television mini-series said that Mr King approved of his (Vaughn’s) version of the ending.
So all in all, it’s looking pretty good. It certainly can’t be as bad as Salem’s Lot and if King was on set as much as he appeared to be, it must be a pretty good adaptation. But time will tell.
So starting Monday night, June 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, we’ll all get a chance to look through the glass darkly, or dome if you will as we get to spend a “Stephen King summer.” I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to see it.
By Michael Smith