Writer Paul Sheldon is planning on ending his current series of novels based on a character named Misery by killing the main character. When Sheldon is involved in a car wreck, he is saved by his number one fan. When she learns Sheldon is killing off Misery, she makes his life a living hell until he promises to bring the character back to life.

The Lowdown

Stephen King moves have always been hit or miss. For every Carrie, there is a Needful Things. Even older classics, such as Salem’s Lot do not hold up as well today as many of us may remember. There are bonafide classics, such as the adaptation of The Shining, which King hated, but it seems as if it wasn’t until Frank Darabont that King movies started to be considered great. He brought us one of the greatest movies ever made in Shawshank Redemption and created a truly horrific movie in The Mist.

Dare I say that Rob Reiner was Frank Darabont when all Darabont had going for him was a short film called The Woman in the Room. Reiner, once simply known as Meathead on the sitcom All in the Family, was once one of Hollywood’s premiere directors. His debut film, This is Spinal Tap, remains a beloved classic and he is the man who brought us The Princess BrideA Few Good Men and When Harry Met Sally… He also brought us two of King’s greatest adaptations, Stand By Me and Misery.

Misery was the second King story Reiner turned into a film. Screenwriter William Goldman remembers that King was worried about selling the rights for this novel because he hated most the movie adaptations and Misery was still one of his favorite novels. King had nothing to worry about.

It may have been the right time and the right place, but the movie has a fantastic cast of characters. Rob Reiner had become a cult favorite director and already won over King’s fans with Stand By Me. Screenwriter William Goldman was the Hollywood Go-To Guy at that time, a two-time Oscar winner for All the President’s Men and his debut script Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld was an up-and-coming Hollywood sensation, having worked with the Coen brothers, although he was still a few years from his directorial debut The Addams Family.

With these key behind-the-scenes players in place, the cast was the most important step to determine if this movie would succeed or be “just another King adaptation.” For the role of author Paul Sheldon, James Caan was cast. Caan is the perfect choice to play the author held captive by a crazed fan. Having proven his acting chops in The Godfather, he took his normal bravado and toned it down into a perfect pitch of fear and helpless abandon.

Once you get past the writer, director, cinematographer and protagonist of the story, what really sets this movie apart from the pack is the antagonist, the crazed Annie Wilkes, played perfectly by Kathy Bates. There have been a number of psychotics portrayed in movies over the years but Annie sits at the top with the likes of Travis Bickle and Max Cady as a perfectly deranged, dangerous individual. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say Bates has never been able to better her performance from this film.

This story has to be important to a man like King, who I am sure has seen his fair number of stalkers over the years. The movie is a claustrophobic horror film that is truly frightening. I had problems with the movie when it first was released because Annie shattered Sheldon’s feet instead of cutting them off but over time that seems to be the better visual choice. The scene still sends shivers down my spine.

Stephen King has had more books adapted into movies than almost any other writer and they travel the stratosphere from the great (ShawshankShining) to the good (CarrieStand by Me) to the horrible (The ManglerSleepwalkers). When you look back at his filmography, Misery has to sit right up at the top. It is not only one of King’s best adaptations, but is a great movie in general.

The Package

The picture and sound quality on this Blu-Ray is magnificent. That is important because it is the only reason to buy this version. The package comes with the Blu-Ray and DVD but the DVD is the original special edition and all the special features are on it, with none on the Blu-Ray. If you want to listen to the commentary, you have to watch the Standard Version. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

There are two commentary tracks. The first is with director Rob Reiner and is a very conversational track, giving lots of information but never tiring to listen to. It is the first time he watched the movie in ten years so it comes as a nice recollection of the making of the film. The second commentary track is with screenwriter William Goldman. It is hard to discuss this because I am a huge fan of Goldman, the man who made me make the decision to go into filmmaking to begin with. However, Goldman is hard to listen to. Part of it is his actual voice but a lot of the time he describes what we are seeing and then just gives random observations. I am very disappointed with this track as a fan of Goldman.

Misery Loves Company is a making of documentary that covers everything about the making of the movie. It covers much of what we hear in the commentary tracks but adds in more info to make it an invaluable feature for those wanting to learn about the making of this movie. The downfall is that we never get to hear from Stephen King. Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour talks to the music composer about how he created the music for the film.

Next up are some featurettes over the themes of the movie. The first is Diagnosing Annie Wilkes, where a PhD discusses how she is psychotic, delusional, manic, depressive, bipolar, sadomasochistic, and grandiose. It is an interesting little feature. The next four features are all about stalking. The first comes across as a PSA on how to handle the situation if you have a stalker. The second describes the profile of a stalker. The next is about celebrity stalkers. The fourth and final feature explains the anti-stalking law. It is interesting that there was never a stalking law until California passed the first one in 1991, the year after Misery was released. The four stalking features are just fluff.

There are two trailers, the regular theatrical trailer and the second a “Seasons Greeting” styled trailer. I have to ask one more time – why can’t the special features be on the Blu-Ray disc? It’s like they had lots of the special edition copies left and just threw them into this Blu-Ray case.