Stephen King's Golden Years

Stephen King's Golden Years

Stephen King's Golden Years is a worthy
addition to the Sci-Fi shelve of any collection

Stephen King's Golden Years

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For most of us, time is a one-way street. Suppose you were able to make a U-turn on that street. This is the predicament that Harlan Williams (Keith Szarabajka) finds himself.

You see, Harlan was a janitor in an agricultural station that is really a front for secret government experiments. The scientist in charge, Dr. Richard X. Toddhunter (Bill Raymond) ignores a red light warning and the subsequent explosion covers Harlan in a strange green substance and radiation. Harlan begins to experience reverse aging. While this may seem like a boon to most of us, especially for those of us facing their later decades, it turns out to be a nightmare for Harlan. The hand of Steven King, a man that knows how to balance horror, government conspiracy and real life, penned the story and screenplay. While many have come to feel that King has become uneven with his plots of late, this vintage, 1991 story hits the mark.

For one thing there is genuine character development. The relationship between Harlan and his wife of many decades, Gina (Frances Sternhagen) is beautifully developed. They are like two old trees whose branches have entwined over the many years together. They still love each other very deeply, are fully committed to each other and willing to see each other through these bizarre circumstances. In charge of the installation is General Louis Crewes (Ed Lauter), a military man of limited understanding and ambitions of his own design. Nominally assisting him is Terri Spann (Felicity Huffman), the head of security. Young and beautiful, Terri has legs and knows how to use them. In her short skirts and classy business jackets she knows that while men are looking at her body her mind is free to ascertain the darkest of secrets. Then there is Jude Andrews (R.D. Call), a special agent of the Shop, a covert government department concerned with strange applications of even stranger technologies. A line of dialogue best summarizes his character; "If you are keeping anything from me I may have to perform some dental surgery with a drill and a number two bit. Sometimes I go in through an open mouth, other times through the check." He is brutally determined, a master at covert operations and as heartless a character as possible. The Shop is a favorite theme for King and is well placed here. Stephen King's Golden Years blends multiple genres like the flavors of a fine meal. The audience can readily identify with the Williams, understand the military mindset and accept the government conspiracy.

For the most part the casting of Stephen King's Golden Years was effective and imaginative. As noted, the chemistry between Szarabajka and Sternhagen is incredibly tender, considering the two decades that actually separate the actors. The audience will immediate accept them as parents or grand parents, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. There is just a sense of familiarity about these characters. Personally I enjoy the theme of a reasonable pushed beyond reason and rarely have I seen this played out as well as it is here. Huffman nails her role on the headin Stephen King's Golden Years. Wife of actor William H. Macy, she has a varied and successful career. The character of Terri could have degenerated into a stereotypical hard-edged career woman. Instead she plays the role with a lot more depth. Terri has worked for the more nefarious aspects of the government and had hoped this posting would be a place to clear her head and redefine her life. Instead she is pulled into a vortex of sanctioned murder, scientific wonder and the personal lives of two very nice people. Call as Shop agent Andrews also brings a bit more understanding to the role than is usually present in a TV mini series. True he is a cold-blooded killer but there is a sense that he feels himself to be a necessary evil to ensure the success of the country he loves. The one part in Stephen King's Golden Years that was over done in my estimation was the mad scientist Richard X. Toddhunter (Bill Raymond). He plays the role too over the top, submitting to far too many clich├ęs. One notable example is during the explosion he literally scurries out of the lab on all fours in a comic emulation of the lab animals he uses in his experiments.

There were two directors listed for Stephen King's Golden Years, Allen Coulter and Kenneth Fink. There is no breakdown available as to which director was responsible for which episodes of the series but their styles meshed incredibly well. Both directors have made good careers in the direction of notable TV shows. Coulter was at the helm for many of the more critically acclaimed episodes of the Sopranos. He has also done episodes of Sex in the City, The X Files and Millennium. His fundamental stylistic approach is to bring the audience into Stephen King's Golden Years. He uses a number of two shots, playing the reaction of one actor off another. Between the two directors the pacing of this Stephen King's Golden Years series is very well done. With a total running time of just less than four hours the story seldom lags, you are swept from one scene naturally it the next.

Stephen King's Golden Years is a very well done disc up to the usual standards of Artisan. True to its TV roots the presentation is in full screen with a modest Dolby stereo audio mix. Originally, the Stephen King's Golden Years series was presented with a 90 minute first episode followed by six hour long ones. The DVD has over 50 chapter stops but no breaks to indicate the placement of the original episode breaks. Stephen King's Golden Years is a novel approach by Artisan. They consider the whole Stephen King's Golden Years series in its entirety not bothering the viewer with repeated displays of the opening sequence or closing credits. While the Stephen King's Golden Years series is just over a decade old the video is shows absolutely no signs of degradation or flaw. There was a laser disc of the Stephen King's Golden Years series some time ago and apparently the digital source used then is employed here. The stereo audio does lack a bit of separation presenting more like two channel Dolby mono than true stereo. Still, as with many of the little gems from Artisan you should buy the Stephen King's Golden Years for the story and acting and not hold the lack of high tech bells and whistles against it. Stephen King's Golden Years is a worthy addition to the Sci-Fi shelve of any collection.

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