Regarded as one of the best of the Stephen King film adaptations, 1990’s Misery, based on King’s 1987 novel, revolutionized how King’s work was perceived in Hollywood. A box office and critical success, Misery brought the first, and so far only, Academy Award to the King cinematic universe, when Kathy Bates won the best actress Oscar for her memorable portrayal of Annie Wilkes. The prestige that Misery attracted transferred itself to the King-inspired films The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, two Oscar-nominated films that further enhanced the credibility of King’s work in Hollywood and in the minds of audiences.
Misery highlights one of King’s essential gifts as a writer, which is his uncanny ability to connect suspense and tension to seemingly ordinary settings and situations. In the film, Paul Sheldon, played by James Caan, is a best-selling novelist who, as the film opens, finds himself incapacitated when his car spins off a road in the midst of a blinding blizzard. Paul is rescued by Bates’s Annie Wilkes, a seemingly pleasant woman who nurses Paul back to health in her secluded home. Trapped in bed, his legs badly broken, Paul discovers that Annie is his “number one fan,” someone who is completely infatuated with Paul’s writing, to the point where she’s unable to distinguish fiction from reality. As his attempts to make contact with the outside world are rebuffed, Paul eventually discovers that Annie is a demented, unhinged woman who intends to keep Paul as her prisoner.
More than a quarter of a century after its theatrical release, Shout! Factory has immortalized the film’s legacy with their new Blu-Ray release, Misery: Collector’s Edition, which documents every element of the making of the film, from page to theatrical release. Along with a 4K restoration of the film, which was culled from the film’s original elements, the Blu-Ray contains new interviews with director Rob Reiner and special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero.
Anchoring the Blu-Ray are the commentaries provided by Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman, both of whom go into painstaking detail regarding the challenges they faced in bringing King’s novel to the screen. For Reiner, who had previously directed Stand by Me, based on the King novella The Body, Misery was a transforming moment in the director’s career, allowing him to fully make the transition from comedy to broader material. In addition to the commentaries, several documentaries explore the elements and themes contained within in the film, which are mostly-related to stalking as it relates to Annie Wilkes’s twisted psyche.
Although Misery has long been a staple of cable television, Shout! Factory’s release serves as the last word on this now classic film and is a recommended addition to any genre fan’s library.