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Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.

Mr. Movie: The other Stephen King

Stephen King can do much more than just scare you. He is one of our best story-tellers.


Hearts In Atlantis (2001), with Sir Anthony Hopkins in his usual top form, is  based on a King story and there’s nary a monster to be found. It’s an excellent coming-of-age film with the merest hint of the supernatural. There are several other fine films based on King’s non-horror work available for viewing.         


In Misery (1990), James Caan is a highly successful romance novelist whose car crashes in the middle of nowhere. Kathy Bates (Oscar, Best Actress) comes to his aid, takes him into her home and begins nursing him back to health. She happens to be Caan’s biggest fan, and she also happens to be crazy as a bedbug. Very gradually we are made aware that she isn’t going to just release him back into the world when he recovers.  


Kathy Bates is back, and just as good, in Dolores Claiborne (1995).  When Bates is accused of murdering her aged employer, daughter Jennifer Jason Leigh comes home to help. Through flashbacks, layers in the story are peeled away and we are nicely surprised not only by the resolution of the murder accusation, but by whatever happened to Bates’ abusive husband.  


Stand By Me (1986) is simply as good a movie about young boys as has ever been made. Four pre-teen boys go on an expedition, chasing a rumor there is a dead body at their destination. Whether there is or not is beside the point; in this film, getting there is all the fun. Rob Reiner’s sure-handed direction and an excellent screenplay make these young guys achingly true. Kiefer Sutherland, the late River Phoenix, Richard Dreyfuss and John Cusack (now in his mid-50s along with Sutherland; Dreyfuss is in his mid-70s) are all good in this true and remarkable film.


In The Green Mile (1999), Tom Hanks is a prison guard and Michael Clarke Duncan is a condemned prisoner who may have a gift for healing. 


Best of all (so far) is The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Tim Robbins (who always seems to pick good parts) is a banker sent to prison for murdering his wife and her lover. Morgan Freeman (another consummate pro) becomes his friend and mentor. Robbins’ creative tax planning makes him very popular with the warden and some of the guards. There are several endings, so don’t go away before the credits. 


All of the movies in this column are available on DVD. None are suitable for children under 12.