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Trimark Home Entertainment presents
The Tommyknockers (1993)

Gardner: What the hell is it?
Bobbi: I don't know.

- Gardner (Jimmy Smits), Bobbi (Marg Helgenberger)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: July 19, 2002

Stars: Jimmy Smits, Marg Helgenberger
Other Stars: John Ashton, Allyce Beasley, Robert Carradine, Joanna Cassidy, Annie Corley, Cliff DeYoung, Traci Lords, E.G. Marshall
Director: John Power

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild sci-fi and horror violence)
Run Time: 02h:59m:58s
Release Date: June 30, 2000
UPC: 031398684237
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CB-B- C-

DVD Review

Like lemmings over a cliff, there is an endless procession of mediocre Stephen King adaptations. For every good cinematic version, like Carrie, The Shining, or The Green Mile, there are an exponential amount of just plain cruddy ones, like The Lawnmower Man, Silver Bullet, or The Langoliers. The publishing dynasty King has honed seems to demand film versions of his works, but translating the often lengthy plots of one of his creepy novels into a manageable and entertaining film property seems to be a hit or miss proposition, at best. His books might seem like simple pop-culture confections, but at his best the guy really knows how to slowly unfurl a dark and spooky tale like almost no other contemporary writer. A lot of his best moments rely on the inner thoughts of a character, as some seemingly normal but ultimately spooky scenario develops, and much of that just doesn't seem to transfer well from the written word to the screen.

Jim Gardner (Jimmy Smits) is an alcoholic poet in a bumpy, long-term relationship with writer Bobbi Anderson (Marg Helgenberger) in the perfectly Rockwellian town of Haven Falls, Maine. When Bobbi trips over a strange object buried in the woods during a romp with her pooch, her digging reveals it to be part of some massive, apparently alien, object. Not only that, it radiates a hokey green light, and it even manages to instantly cure her dog's cataracts. The mysterious artifact seems to exert some type of mental control over Bobbi, and in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it is not long before various townsfolk begin to fall prey to the unknown power and start to act very strangely. It's up to Gardner, who just happens to have a metal plate in his head as a result of an accident and is impervious to the weird telepathic vibes, to battle his own booze demons to save Haven Falls from turning into a second-rate zombie town.

Aside from television-friendy Smits and Helgenberger, this project is populated with a cadre of familiar faces. We have the meek police dispatcher wife (Allyce Beasley) of the adulterous mailman (Cliff DeYoung) having an affair with the uber-hot postmaster (Traci Lords). A kindly grandpa (E.G. Marshall) hunts for his missing grandson, the son of the nerdy diner owner (Robert Carradine). The lonely Derry trooper (John Ashton) clumsily woos the Haven Falls sheriff (Joanna Cassidy). Like all of King's books, there are an almost dizzying array of characters, except here they never really get fleshed out enough to be anything more than simple caricatures. It's a shame, because that's where his novels really come alive, and even spread out to nearly three hours the roles presented here are almost ridiculously one-note.

Rest assured, there are a handful of nice, moderately creepy moments, at least before the poorly executed climax takes place; eerie ceramic dolls attack, pop machines kill, and television game shows issue orders to kill. The problem is that even though the story is stretched to three hours, there still isn't enough time to properly deliver the same degree of chills that King (or any other decent writer) can do on paper. Ironically, screenwriter Lawrence Cohen is the same chap who penned the script for Carrie, but apparently it's not enough to just adapt one of King's books. Sometimes there has to be something more.

This 1993 two-part television adaptation of King's buried spaceship saga is not the worst thing I've ever seen, though it does hideously fall apart during the last thirty minutes. When you have invested a total of 181 minutes watching a film, you are really left with a bad taste in your mouth when the climax plays out like a remarkably silly Alien clone. If you haven't read King's novel The Tommyknockers, I would suggest you saunter down to the library and pick it up, rather than taking a chance on this adaptation.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Trimark has issued this disc in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio, as it was shown on television back in 1993. Other than an abundance of pesky white specks and some mild shimmer, the overall image transfer is reasonable. Colors and fleshtones look natural, though the image detail isn't overly sharp.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 surround track is nothing spectacular, and relies primarily on the front channels. Dialogue and score elements are clear and presentable, though there isn't much to make this track really stand out. Obviously this doesn't have the audio oomph and punch of a big theatrical release, but it's a decent rendering of a nearly ten-year-old television mini-series.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sometimes They Come Back Again
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Thankfully I wasn't looking for any extras, and I wasn't disappointed. A pair of trailers (The Tommyknockers, Sometimes They Come Back Again) and subtitles (French, Spanish) are about it.

The film is split into two parts, as it was on television, with one part per side. Part 1 runs 01h:28m:49s, while Part 2 clocks in at 01h:31m:09s. Each side is split into 15 chapters, as well.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

It's hard to distance myself enough to see this 1993 movie as anything more than a television sweeps piece, designed to draw sedentary viewers over a couple of nights. There are moments, especially during Part 1, where the story almost gels, but ultimately it crumbles.

The book is quite good. This DVD is not.


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