While you might not think that given the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ long history of ignoring the Horror Genre, Stephen King’s adaptations have gotten surprisingly a lot of Oscar love over the years. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were nominated in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories for the breakthrough film in the canon, Brian De Palmas Carrie. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Rob Reiner’s Misery, and Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile received eleven nominations.
If Stephen King had his way, however, there would be another performance that should be emphasized in this impressive legacy: the turn of Dee Wallace in the cujo of Lewis Teagues.
Stephen King has long been a big fan of the 1983 film, which was only the fifth Hollywood adaptation of his work, and as the Film approaches its 40th anniversary, his praise continues. The author was recently invited to The Kingcast (where he announced the title and theme of a new novel he has written), and during a discussion about underrated adaptations, the author had the opportunity to sing the praises of Dee Wallace’s Cujo Turn. Said King,
In Cujo, Dee Wallace plays Donna Trenton, a married mother of a baby son who, early in the story, sees her relationship with her husband Vic (Daniel Hugh Kelly) take a devastating hit when he finds out she’s having an affair. While his marriage is in trouble, he goes on a trip with his business partner to try to save his advertising business, and she goes on a fast run with her boy to get the family car repaired.
What begins as an emotional drama turns into a monster movie when Donna discovers that the massive St. Bernard has contracted rabies in the auto repair shop and that she and her son are caught in the middle of a heat wave in their broken Ford Pinto.
Dee Wallace gives a phenomenal performance in Cujo, and it’s in many ways her performance that makes the Movie as good as it is. The filmy techniques and animal-torturing abilities that brought the title tooth to life are brilliant and horrible, but it’s Wallace’s performance that really sells the terror.
At the 1983 Academy Awards, nominations for Best actress went to Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger for Terms of Endearment, Julie Walters for Educating Rita, Meryl Streep for Silkwood and Jane Alexander for Testament (It was MacLaine who left Oscar Night with a trophy in hand). Stephen King feels Dee Wallace did better than anyone else in Cujo, but feels that the older vocal corps that makes all the big calls neglected the Film because of its genre. The elaborate king,
Dee Wallace’s turn was blood, sweat and tears, and at one point she was even bitten in the face by one of the dogs used during production and needed eight stitches. It was an eventful production behind a great movie, and you can read its full story in my latest Stephen King column about it.
For those of you who are now either curious about Dee Wallace’s Performance or want to review their work, the Film is available online. Subscribers of Hulu (to open in a new tab) and Epix currently find Cujo in their respective catalogs, and the Film can also be rented and purchased digitally at online outlets, including Amazon (to open in a new tab), Google (to open in a new tab), Vudu (to open in a new tab) and Apple (to open in a new tab).
Fortunately, no Cujo Remakes are currently in the works, but you can keep up with all the evolving film and TV projects via our upcoming Stephen King guide.