Word Processor of the Gods (1984)

Rating:

I’LL HAVE WHAT HE’S HAVING

Main Cast: Bruce Davison

Director: Michael Gornick

I remember my first word processor.  I still have it, in fact.  I don’t use it anymore; haven’t for over 20 years.  In all that time I’ve gone through another word processor, a computer and 2 laptops.  Now I’m on my third laptop, but that word processor, a Brother, is in the closet in the comic room.  I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.

The laptop, the computer, the word processor, the typewriter is one of the most important tools to a writer.  Hell, a pen and paper.  Whatever it takes to get those stories down in words.  Stephen King’s story Word Processor of the Gods is a writer’s wet dream.

Originally from his collection SKELETON CREW and adapted in 1984 for the first season of Tales From the Darkside, Word Processor of the Gods is the story of Richard Hagstrom, a struggling writer who has just received a gift from his recently deceased nephew Jonathan. 

Richard’s brother has just died, taking with him his wife Belinda and son Jonathan, but before the accident, Jonathan–beloved by his uncle Richard–had been building a word processor for his dear uncle, from scratch.  A neighbor of the brother helps Richard bring it over and when he gets it set up in his basement study, the thing is ugly as anything.  The keyboard has been scavenged from half a dozen places while the monitor is housed in a big wooden box.  The CPU section looks like a flat metal cage with circuit boards and wires running everywhere, but no structure at all.

Richard has always dreamed of a word processor, insisting it increases a writer’s output by 50%.  But he could never afford one before.

He turns the thing on and gets to work.

Meanwhile his creep of a son, Seth, is upstairs blasting his guitar so loud Richard can’t concentrate.  And Richard’s own wife Lina is no help, she’s off making money at her job.  “I play bingo,” she tells the neighbor Mr. Nordhoff.

Richard can’t concentrate, but he plows forth anyway, testing the word processor by typing a few random sentences.  One is about his wife’s picture on the bookcase.  He hits the DELETE button and glances over.  The picture is gone.  He types the sentence again and hits the EXECUTE button.  The picture has returned.

This is the kind of machine a writer could do some damage with.  He starts small, creating a bag of 12 Spanish doubloons.  The bag becomes a reality.  He then tries to give himself 20 best-selling novel ideas, but before he can hit EXECUTE, Seth’s guitar playing blows a fuse and the word processor dies.  So once the power is back on and the machine is running again, Richard decides on a different route.

He types his son’s name, then hits DELETE.  The noise is gone.  And so is everything else of Seth’s.

Michael McDowell (writer) and Michael Gornick (director) have done an excellent job adapting King’s original story.  The script is tight and well-paced, and you get an excellent sense of the love Richard had for his nephew–and his sister-in-law. 

Bruce Davison (WILLARD) as Richard fleshes out the parts the script can’t and creates a believable character we can sympathize with immediately.  Davison really is one of the unsung greats, probably because he has a tendency to be an incredible ham at times.  But in Word Processor of the Gods, he hits all the right notes.

I think this story best exemplifies all the things that are great in King’s stories.  There’s a great emotional element, a strong character we feel a connection to, and in a short dream-like sequence after deleting his son, Richard experiences a jarring moment of terror that, even 40 years later, is quite effective.

Even though Word Processor of the Gods may be one of the great unknown King adaptations, it really deserves more notice as a classic moment in speculative fiction on television.  Tales From the Darkside may have been cheap television, but it was quality stuff nonetheless.

King on Film

Carrie (1976)

‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Shining (1980)

Creepshow (1982)

Cujo (1983)

Disciples of the Crow (1983)

The Woman in the Room (1983)

The Dead Zone (1983)

Christine (1983)

Children of the Corn (1984)

Firestarter (1984)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Tommyknockers (1993)

Needful Things (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Thinner (1996)

The Shining (1997)

Ghosts (1997)

Chattery Teeth (1997)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

Trucks (1997)

The Night Flier (1997)

Chinga (1997)

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

1922 (2017)

The Stand (2021)

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