Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Castle Rock Companion - Word Processor of the Gods & Sorry, Right Number
Because TV episodes are shorter in length than features, I've combined two into one update this time around.
"Word Processor of the Gods" was an episode in the first season of the Tales from the Darkside television series. It starred Bruce Davison, who would later appear in King's adaptation of Kingdom Hospital. The story was originally published in Playboy and can now be found in Skeleton Crew. It's the story of a man, Richard, being gifted by his talented nephew with a word processor he made from scratch, and as Richard begins to use it, he realizes that the things he writes - and deletes - come true in the real world.
It's a very close adaptation with only some minor changes, the main one being that the word processor in the TV episode only starts steaming in the final scene, rather than right away like it does in the story. I think the fact that the word processor seems ready to explode almost as soon as Richard turns it on creates a little more tension, whereas on the episode it's used to build the climax.
I also think the fact that King mentions his son saying mean and nasty things about Richard provides him with a proper motivation for deleting him out of existence. In the episode it feels a bit more harsh. But I am glad that they played down King's rather offensive descriptions of Richard's wife and how obese she becomes after their son is gone. They're in rather poor taste and not really necessary. It's one thing to get rid of someone who treats you badly, but another to remove someone just because you don't like their eating habits.
I think the interesting thing about the story is that it's one of the few where a man uses a magical macguffin to make his world perfect and there are no repercussions to speak of - just the fact that the machine only lasts so long. Usually stories about items that grant wishes are all about teaching the user a lesson, rather than rewarding them. Of course Richard's life starts out pretty crummy so it's nice for him to achieve his happy ending. This is a well executed adaptation, so I recommend checking it out.
"Sorry, Right Number" appeared in season four of the Tales from the Darkside series, and it's not an adaptation strictly speaking. King wrote the script for the episode and you can read the original script in Nightmares & Dreamscapes. The episode stars Deborah Harmon, who I recognized as playing the mother on Just the Ten of Us. She plays Katie Weiderman who is chatting on the phone with one of her sisters at night when she gets a call on the other line. A tearful voice gets out "Please.. Please take-" before the line is severed. Katie is at first convinced it is her daughter who is away at college, but when a call to her proves she's fine, she makes her way through her other female relatives, absolutely positive that it wasn't a wrong number but actually someone she knew.
While I largely saw the twist of this episode coming pretty early on, the execution makes it worth it. Deborah Harmon's performance brought me to tears at the end, and I highly recommend this one.
There is also a second version of it out there. I'm not sure if it was a dollar baby or not, but it was made in 2005. It makes a few minor changes but is largely the same story. However the performances this time around just don't hold up. You're much better off watching the original episode.