PITTSBURGH MADE: The Dark Half (1993)

Shot at Washington & Jefferson College and in Edgewood, right across the bridge from Tateh Cuda’s garden, The Dark Half found George Romero again working with a big studio and adapting a Stephen King book.

It has Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) trying to escape the lowbrow horror books he writes under the name Goerge Stark for the highbrow world of literature, even burying Stark in a fake grave. The problem is, well, Stark is real, the soul left behind by a vestigal twin — the brain surgery scene in the beginning is astounding — making his way to Castle Rock to destroy all of the goodness in Thad’s life.

King knows all about this, as his Richard Bachman pen name came from writer Donald E. Westlake, who wrote his more violent fiction as Richard Stark.

Sherriff Alan Pangborn, played by Michael Rooker in this movie, is the same character Ed Harris played in Needful Things. As you can imagine, he has a hard time trying to understand the fact that Thad has a dark version of himself because he’s a man who believes in facts.

I wonder if the extended time Romero spent with Dario Argento led to him portraying Stark as a bandage covered, black hat and cloak wearing giallo killer, complete with a razor blade. He’s always surrounded by swams of loud birds, which is a great tension builder.

Beyond Hutton and Rooker, Romero has a great cast here, including Amy Madigan as Thad’s wife, Julie Harris as a friend who knows Thad’s secret, Chelsea Field as Alan’s wife, plus Royal Dano and Rutanya Alda.

While I like Romero’s smaller productions, I really ended up liking this way more than i thought I would and plan on going back in to watch it again.

One thought on “PITTSBURGH MADE: The Dark Half (1993)

  1. This is a Romero film that I wasn’t keen on originally, but I’ve come to think is a strong entry in his filmography. It’s a compromised and damaged film because of Orion’s bankruptcy. (The bankruptcy judge had to approve giving money to Romero to finish the film. That’s why the special effects at the end aren’t that great.) Romero said that Tim Hutton was tough to work with. Seeing his dual performance, perhaps he was seriously method acting to get into the role of Stark. In any event, I think he’s terrific in both parts. The wonderful Amy Madigan, obviously cast because Romero basically discovered Ed Harris, her husband, was another good choice. She’s natural and down-to-earth. Ditto Julie Harris and Michael Rooker, both pros. It’s also beautifully filmed on some nice Pittsburgh locations by Tony Pierce-Roberts, the usual Merchant-Ivory DP. While not top-tier Romero, it’s close. This, like The Dead Zone and Cujo, is another of the rare instances were I think the film is actually better than the King novel.

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