Horror Review: Misery (1990)

Few days after being rescued and sheltered from a car crash caused by a blizzard by a nurse who claims to be his number one fan, a well-known author begins suspecting the mental health of his savior.

Yes I know that this film is more of a Thriller than Horror but that doesn’t make it any less gripping or scary.

We all have that small selection of films that we never bore of watching no matter how many times we watch them, this feature is one of mine and for very good reason.
The cast is truly exceptional, James Caan and Kathy Bates have great on-screen chemistry and they give so much depth to their characters that they just burst with charisma, it’s so close to perfection.

Jack Nicholson was offered the role of ‘Paul’ but passed because he wasn’t sure he wanted to do another Stephen King movie after what he had experienced with Stanley Kubrick on “The Shining”, Also Jessica Lange was up for the role of ‘Annie’, that would’ve been interesting.

Director Rob Reiner does another brilliant King adaption, he proved this with “Stand By Me” but defined it with this movie. The pacing is spot on and you really get a sense of the isolation, very unsettling.

I’ve always classed “Misery” as a must see and that’s not changed. If you haven’t seen this classic yet then make it a priority to do so.
If you want to see the “Misery” trailer then just click on the video below:
Miscellaneous facts about the film:

After refusing to speak about his motivations for writing Misery for two decades, Stephen King finally came out and stated that it is indeed about his battle with substance abuse. Kathy Bates’ character is a representation of his dependency on drugs and what it did to his body – making him feel alone, separated from everything, while hobbling any attempts he made at escape. In his statement he said he didn’t come out with it at the time because he wasn’t ready and because he was afraid it would detract from the story.

Misery was almost turned into a Broadway play with Julia Roberts as Annie Wilkes. King vetoed the idea because Annie is (in his words) “a brawny woman who can sling a guy around, not a pixie.”

The “guy who went mad in a hotel nearby” is a reference to The Shining (1980), also based on a novel written by Stephen King.

As of 2014 this is the only Stephen King adaptation to receive an Academy Award.

One of Stephen King’s first typewriters had a malfunctioning “N” key, just like the one used by James Caan in the movie.

Stephen King was quite impressed with Kathy Bates’s performance in this film, so much so that he later wrote two more roles for her. The title role in his novel Dolores Claiborne (1995) was written with Bates in mind. King also wrote the script for The Stand (1994). His original novel featured a (male) character named Ray Flowers. Upon hearing that Bates wanted to be involved in the mini-series, King re-wrote the part as a woman, just so Bates could play the part.

In the original idea for the novel “Misery”, Annie planned to kill Paul Sheldon by feeding him to Misery the Pig, and take his skin to bind the book he’s written. The title would have been The Annie Wilkes 1st Edition.

Stephen King was initially reluctant to sell the film rights to “Misery” because he was skeptical that a Hollywood studio would make a movie faithful to his vision. However, King was impressed with one adaptation of his works, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986), and agreed to sell “Misery” under the proviso that Reiner would either produce or direct the film.

According to the director Rob Reiner, Annie Wilkes’ killing spree is loosely based on that of Genene Jones, a nurse who is believed to have killed as many as 50 children who were in her care over a two-year period.

Stephen King had originally planned to release the novel under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. While writing it, however, it was discovered that King was Bachman. King subsequently published the novel under his real name, and announced that Bachman had died from “cancer of the pseudonym.”

Annie Wilkes is Stephen King’s favourite written character because she was always surprising to write, with unexpected depth and sympathy.

After seeing The Shining (1980). Rob Reiner was immediately inspired to direct a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

According to William Goldman’s book “Four Screenplays”, the main character role, Paul Sheldon, was offered to William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, and Warren Beatty, all of whom declined.

In 1991, Kathy Bates became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a horror/thriller for her role as Annie Wilkes. The first performer to win an Oscar for a horror film was Fredric March for his performance as the title character in the 1931 version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The only other winners for acting in a horror film were Ruth Gordon for her performance as Mia Farrow’s new neighbor with a hidden agenda in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (best supporting actress of 1968) and Natalie Portman for best actress in Black Swan (2010).

In a recent interview with Melvyn Bragg, William Goldman revealed that few actors wanted the role of Paul Sheldon because Annie Wilks overshadowed him so much as a character. Warren Beatty commented before declining that the hobbling scene made Paul Sheldon “a loser for the rest of the film”. Goldman was determined to keep that scene in the film as it was his favorite from the Stephen King novel.

The main character Paul Sheldon’s novels are published by Viking, the same publishing company that published Stephen King’s books at that time.

Anjelica Huston was offered the leading role, and was interested, but was unable to accept it due to her commitment to The Grifters (1990). Bette Midler also turned the role down before it went to Kathy Bates.

James Caan accepted the lead role after Jack Nicholson turned it down. Caan had previously turned down Nicholson’s role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), in which he also is the victim of a psychotic nurse, who also won an Oscar for her role.

Annie was always intended in the novel to be an amalgam of King’s scariest fans.

In the movie, Annie forces Paul to burn his manuscript which is “untitled” (as seen in the closeup). In the novel, Paul titles it “Fast Cars” and is a story reminiscent of 1950s detective dramas and 180 degrees away from the Victorian Era set “Misery” novels that made him famous.

Mary Tyler Moore wanted the role of Annie Wilkes.

The character played by Frances Sternhagen was created entirely for the film and was not in the novel.

Stephen King novels are criticized for having a lot of swearing in them, something Annie berates Paul for in his latest novel, which is an obvious dig at King himself.

A video of When Harry Met Sally… (1989) (also directed by Rob Reiner) is visible in the general store.

George Roy Hill was at one point considered to direct.

A dress worn by Kathy Bates in her role as Annie Wilkes is on display at Planet Hollywood in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Kathy Bates; and four Oscar nominees: James Caan, Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall and Rob Reiner.

William Goldman adapted his script for the stage, for a limited run on Broadway during the 2015-2016 season. The play stars Bruce Willis as Paul Sheldon and Laurie Metcalfe as Annie Wilkes.

Blizzards are in Misery and The Shining, another Stephen King novel.

Kathy Bates reportedly was disappointed that a scene was cut in which she kills a young police officer by rolling over him repeatedly with a lawnmower. Director Rob Reiner was afraid that the audience would laugh at it.

Annie (Kathy Bates) places a wooden block between Paul’s (James Caan) ankles and uses a sledgehammer to “hobble” him. In the book written by Stephen King Annie cuts his left foot off with an ax. The scene was changed so that there wasn’t too much gore.

In Stephen King’s novel “Misery”, Annie cuts off Paul’s foot to prevent him from escaping. Screenwriter William Goldman has stated that the reason he decided to adapt the book to film was because of this gruesome scene and the effect it would have on the audience. However, Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman’s script revision changed the method of torture to Paul getting his ankles broken with a sledgehammer. Goldman was opposed to the change until viewing the film.

When Annie demands that Paul burn his manuscript, she lights the paper and we see a close-up of the words on the paper, an article about Cameron Crowe and how he is an amazing scriptwriter. It talks about his movies, but mostly offers praise for Say Anything… (1989).

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