A big studio offered Frank Darabont 30 million to adapt Stephen King’s story The Mist, IF he would change the ending – He refused to do it their way and made it for half the money instead
“The human race is fundamentally insane. If you put two of us into a room together we’re soon gonna start figuring out good reasons to kill one another.”
That’s a quote by one of the characters in director Frank Darabont’s latest film, The Mist. I have to declare an interest here: I love the original story by Stephen King – and I distrust movie adaptations from stories, so I’m not sure I will even see the movie when it does come to a theatre near me.
I might though. Firstly, Darabont also made the Shawshank Remdemption and The Green Mile, both of which I really liked but maybe even more importantly, he already convinced me of his good intentions for this movie.
The ending of ‘The Mist’ is bleak, to put it mildly and the film script reflects this. So, when Darabont got a great offer from one of the big companies: $30 million dollars to play with if only he would change the ending, he refused and went with a company that offered half the money but left the story alone. First blood for Darabont, so to speak.
Anyway, I got all this info from a Guardian article, which you can find here. You should read it: it’s an excellent piece. The article also briefly discusses the political undertones that went with those old fifties B-movies, like The Thing (both the 51 and the 82 versions.) How all the radioactive monsters and the alien invasions were conscious or unconscious metaphors for the madness that was the Cold War.
The argument in the article being that each political period comes with its own metaphors – which you can easily spot when you look at remakes of old movies. So, the fifties version of The Thing has that Cold War sub-theme, while the remake is informed by the political climate of that later time.
I would certainly not disagree with that – nor with the article’s observation that King’s story and any subsequent true adaptation have that fifties’ B-movie feel, including a very rich soil, from which these metaphors can spring. It’s a great story (I think) partly because it doesn’t waste much time trying to explain stuff. There’s people trapped inside a supermarket; there’s a strange mist outside, in which monsters hide. That’s it, basically and then the author (and hopefully, the director as well) just lets those people get on with dealing with this situation.
When handled well, this sparcity of (background and back story) detail works admirably well. The best stories are those where we can – and must – fill in some of those blanks ourselves. Obviously, the details we then bring to these stories come from our personal ‘back stories’, the private ones and the communal/societal ones. Which, of course, also explains why those monster/alien stories worked so well as metaphors for the Cold War. The viewers lived that Cold War and they used that to fill in some of those blanks in the movies. Again, sometimes the director made these spaces consciously – sometimes it was a much more subliminal process. The effect was the same, of course.
Obviously, one should be careful not to overanalyse these things. One of the most discussed movies of that Cold War era is, of course, ‘The invasion of the body snatchers.’ I’m now definitely talking of the 1956, Don Siegel version and not the bloodless (and clueless) 1993 remake. For most movie commentators this one is the ultimate Cold War B-movie/metaphor – with some seeing the very scary and evil pod people as a metaphor for communist infiltrators, while others say they stand for the Joe McCarthy crowd and their witch hunts. Something for everybody, in other words.
However, when, much later, people asked Don Siegel to explain himself, he just shrugged and said, somewhat irritated, that it simply had been this very cool story about an alien invasion that he had taken a shine too. Of course, one could say that on a subconscious level he did want to make a political statement as well. That might be true: the beauty of such arguments is that there is no way in Hell that you can either prove or disprove it – but still, as even Freud once admitted, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
As for the movie version of The Mist: Well, I think I will give it a shot after all. As I said, it’s a great story and Darabont has already proven that he can work with Stephen King’s writings. Both the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile started as Stephen King stories, of course.
In truth, I won’t care too deeply whether the monsters in this post 9/11 movie will turn out to be metaphors for the War on Terror: either as shades of Bin Laden or the Bush White House gang. Both would be possible, of course, but me, I just want an honest to God, Hell-raising story, with people who react like real people and monsters that are real monsters – but then, I’m easy. I’m a sucker for anyone who, like old Ishmael, says to me, “I’ve got a tale to tell – and you bloody well bloody listen!”
If you enjoyed this post, subscribe today to get free updates by email or RSS.