STEPHEN KING WEEK: Needful Things (1993)

Leland Gaunt has come the whole way from Akron to Castle Rock to open an antique store called “Needful Things.” Everything he sells gives you exactly what you want, but you need to pay him back with a favor. If that’s not the most Stephen King sentence ever — minus 50’s slang like daddy-o or references to comics and rock and roll — then I’m not sure what is.

This 1993 movie was directed by the baby Moses. No, seriously, director Fraser C. Heston played that role alongside his father in The Ten Commandments.

Anyways, Leland (Max von Sydow, who will forever be Ming from Flash Gordon) gets the townsfolk to play pranks on one another, like when Brian Rusk has to play one on Wilma Wadlowski Jerzyck (Valri Bromfield, former comedy partner of Dan Ackroyd and one of the first Second City stage members) for a Mickey Mantle card. Or how he helps Danforth Keeton pay off his gambling debts. From books that people have always dreamed of to helping continue the rivalry between a Catholic priest and a Baptist minister, Leland’s objects get into the hands of nearly everyone in town.

This brings everyone into conflict with one another, in particular, the battle between Nettie Cobb (Amanda Plummer, So I Married an Axe Murderer) and Wilma, which is so intense that they end up killing one another.

Leland even cozies up to Sheriff Pangborn by giving his fiancee Polly (Bonnie Bedelia, Die HardSalem’s Lot) a necklace that cures her arthritis. When Pangborn tries to warn Polly that Leland may not be what he seems, Gaunt ends up seducing her and reveals to her that the Sheriff has been stealing money from the town, so she breaks off their engagement. 

Keeton becomes afraid that everyone — including his wife Myrtle– is out to get him, and Gaunt convinces him that he is his only ally. From attacking deputy Norris by kicking him in the dick to killing his wife with a hammer, Keeton takes things a bit too far to say the least.

Paranoia takes over the town and people start to kill one another with the guns that Leland sells them. Oh yeah, they start blowing up churches, too. A riot breaks out and only the Sheriff can stop the insanity.

Even after Keeton gets redemption by strapping a bomb to himself, blowing up the Needful Things shop, Gaunt walks away unscathed. He even tells Pangborn and Polly that they make a cute couple and promises to see their grandson in 2053. He gets in his black car and leaves.

While it’s not in the movie, the novel featured the return of Ace Merrill, the bully played by Kiefer Sutherland in Stand by Me. And Ed Harris’ character also appears in The Dark Half, where he was played by Michael Rooker.

The theatrical version of this film is about 2 hours long, but there’s also a TNT version called More Needful Things that is over three hours in length. It has never be released on video.

I’ve always wondered why King wrote this book, especially after Salem’s Lot, which is also about a mysterious shop opening in a small New England town. But hey — I’m writing a blog and that dude makes millions every time he types something. And if he was writing this blog, this would have about ten thousand more words in this review.

That said — this is another of Becca’s favorite movies.

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