Firestarter (1984) Preview

“Wow, that was a really great memory,” Jamie says, wiping tears from his face. “It’s true, we had so many very good memories, but that was the most emotional and exciting of all of them,” Patrick agrees. They both wish other people could hear about the very good adventure they remembered, but alas, there is no one around to share the memory with. Suddenly they hear a familiar voice, “Hey, guys, do you need someone to share that very good memory with?” They whirl around and are stunned to see Kyle. “Kyle!” they exclaim in glee. “We’re so glad you’re here,” Patricks says, while Jamie nods his head vigorously, “there was a moment where we were concerned we were actually bad, but it turned out to be a false alarm.” They go to hug Kyle but he steps back, a look of concern on his face. “No really, share the good memory because the only thing I’ve seen from you lately is pretty gosh darn bad.” At that he pulls out his phone and shows them a viral meme of their Dino World temper tantrum. “They’re calling you the Tantrum Twins,” Kyle says solemnly. Jamie and Patrick hang their heads in shame, but also make a mental note to trademark Tantrum Twins, which is very marketable. “I don’t know what’s happening, Kyle,” Patrick admits, “It’s like we’re lost without our BMT true north. Being good is hard.” Kyle ponders this for a moment. “Well what made being bad so easy?” he poses. Jamie and Patrick look at each other, inspiration growing bright on their faces. “The rules! Rulez are coolz!” they say excitedly. “We just have to do the same thing, but for… good stuff… Good Movie Twins.” Patrick says, eyes gleaming. “Good Movie Twins,” Jamie whispers, “that’s fire.” That’s right! We are transitioning to a new year of BMT with “good” films. Oh ho, don’t get it twisted, these are still BMT films, just ones where the title suggests they could be good. We start off with the Firestarter twins, Firestarter (1984) and this year’s FIrestarter (2022). Both are not “fire” as the name suggests. Let’s go!

Firestarter (1984) – BMeTric: 30.8; Notability: 34 – BMeTric: top 6.4%; Notability: top 7.2%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 15.4%; Higher BMeT: Supergirl, Rhinestone, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Bolero, Cannonball Run II, Children of the Corn, Missing in Action, Sheena, City Heat, C.H.U.D., Conan the Destroyer, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Ice Pirates, Exterminator 2, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Protocol; Higher Notability: Cannonball Run II, Supergirl, City Heat, Protocol, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The River, Unfaithfully Yours, Conan the Destroyer, The Woman in Red, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Firstborn, Sheena, Rhinestone, American Dreamer, The Ice Pirates, C.H.U.D., Reckless, Exterminator 2; Lower RT: Bolero, Reckless, Thief of Hearts, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Until September, Exterminator 2, Crackers, Blame It on Rio, Supergirl, Cannonball Run II, Windy City, The Ice Pirates, American Dreamer, Rhinestone, Missing in Action, Tank, Mutant, Purple Hearts, Sheena, City Heat, and 13 more; Notes: I had to look up Protocol, the film with just a slightly higher BMeTric … I had never heard of it. It looks crazy. – 2.0 stars – “Firestarter” contains a little girl who can start fires with her mind; her father, whose own ESP causes him to have brain hemorrhages; an Indian child molester who is a CIA killer; a black scientist; a kindly farmer; a government bureaucrat; and a brilliant scientist whose experiments kill 75 percent of his subjects but leave the others with powers beyond the imagination of mortal man. The most astonishing thing in the movie, however, is how boring it is.

(Just to point out, I don’t think the killer is a child molester, although I could be wrong because it 100% reads that way. But at the end he suggests his odd quirks are similar to Renfield maybe? He wants to look into her eyes and kill her when she is at her happiest moment in order to, in his words, absorb her energy. It seems to be like he is fascinated by this girl’s supernatural powers and in his odd way hopes to take that power to the afterlife with him? Reading the wiki I think my reading is correct. Interesting that perhaps Ebert himself got that wrong, although as I said, he definitely reads like he is in love with Charlie.)

Trailer –

(Incredible that they showed a good chunk of the climactic scene in the trailer. These days I feel like they wouldn’t dare show off that big set piece for free. Not a chance.)

DirectorsMark L. Lester – ( Known For: Commando; Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw; Class of 1984; Stealing Candy; Showdown in Little Tokyo; Class of 1999; Poseidon Rex; Truck Stop Women; Roller Boogie; White Rush; Night of the Running Man; Pterodactyl; Betrayal; Extreme Justice; The Ex; Hitman’s Run; Steel Arena; Blowback; Stunts; Misbegotten; Future BMT: Armed and Dangerous; BMT: Firestarter; Notes: A big name producer and director, he’s somewhat slipped into semi-obscurity now as the end of his career was mostly producing and direction low-budget garbage.)

WritersStephen King – ( Known For: The Shawshank Redemption; Stand by Me; Mr. Harrigan’s Phone; The Green Mile; The Shining; It; The Mist; Doctor Sleep; Misery; Gerald’s Game; Carrie; It Chapter Two; The Running Man; Christine; Carrie; 1408; 1922; Pet Sematary; Dolores Claiborne; Cujo; Future BMT: The Dark Tower; Children of the Corn; Sleepwalkers; Creepshow 2; Thinner; Needful Things; The Mangler; Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice; BMT: Firestarter (2022); Firestarter (1984); Dreamcatcher; The Lawnmower Man; Maximum Overdrive; The Rage: Carrie 2; Graveyard Shift; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for Maximum Overdrive in 1987; Notes: Y’all know Stephen King. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award 15 times, and the Hugo Award one for Danse Macabre, which is a non-fiction book about the art of and influences on horror writing.)

Stanley Mann – ( Known For: Eye of the Needle; Damien: Omen II; The Collector; Meteor; Woman of Straw; Theater of Blood; The Mouse That Roared; Circle of Iron; Another Time, Another Place; Breaking Point; A High Wind in Jamaica; Rapture; Sky Riders; The Strange Affair; The Mark; Hanna’s War; The Naked Runner; Russian Roulette; Up from the Beach; Future BMT: Tai-Pan; BMT: Conan the Destroyer; Firestarter; Notes: Nominated for an Oscar for The Collector. He’s from Canada and died in 2016.)

ActorsDrew Barrymore – ( Known For: Scream; Scream; Donnie Darko; A Castle for Christmas; E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; 50 First Dates; The Wedding Singer; Ever After: A Cinderella Story; He’s Just Not That Into You; Charlie’s Angels; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; Never Been Kissed; Titan A.E.; Poison Ivy; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; Altered States; Music and Lyrics; Riding in Cars with Boys; Whip It; Everybody’s Fine; Future BMT: Bad Girls; Duplex; Mad Love; Lucky You; Home Fries; BMT: Batman Forever; Blended; Firestarter; Freddy Got Fingered; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actress in 2004 for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and Duplex; and in 2015 for Blended; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actress for Freddy Got Fingered in 2002; Notes: She had an amazing career as both a bona fide child actor and a bona fide adult movie star. The granddaughter of John Barrymore. Hosts the Drew Barrymore Show which has filmed 273 episodes.)

David Keith – ( Known For: An Officer and a Gentleman; Daredevil; U-571; Men of Honor; The Indian in the Cupboard; The Rose; The Two Jakes; Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain; The Great Santini; Brubaker; Raw Justice; Christian Mingle; A Family Thing; White of the Eye; Deadly Sins; Back Roads; Independence Day; The Further Adventures of Tennessee Buck; Take This Job and Shove It; All Saints; Future BMT: Raise Your Voice; Major League II; Heartbreak Hotel; The Lords of Discipline; BMT: Firestarter; Behind Enemy Lines; Notes: Looks like he does small time television films these days. He should not be confused with Kieth David.)

Freddie Jones – ( Known For: Dune; The Elephant Man; Wild at Heart; Young Sherlock Holmes; The Black Cauldron; The NeverEnding Story III; Zulu Dawn; Old Dracula; Erik the Viking; Royal Deceit; Far from the Madding Crowd; Ladies in Lavender; Juggernaut; The Satanic Rites of Dracula; Kidnapped; The Ship Sails On; Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed; Consuming Passions; The Man Who Haunted Himself; In the Devil’s Garden; Future BMT: Krull; Firefox; BMT: Firestarter; Notes: He was Thufir Hawat in Dune. Otherwise you’d probably only know him if you are into British television. That’s right, he was definitely in Midsomer Murders.)

Budget/Gross – $12 million / Domestic: $17,080,167 (Worldwide: $17,080,167)

(My god, they had the same budget! That is hilarious. Obviously, $12 million in ‘84 was something else entirely compared to now, but still. Also amazing that the ‘84 film beat the 2022 in total worldwide gross by quite a bit.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 38% (12/32): Firestarter’s concept hews too closely to other known Stephen King adaptations, though it’s got nice special effects (including scenery-chewing George C. Scott).

(Yeah out of everything in the film I think George C. Scott probably is my favorite? He’s just such an odd and specifically quirky character.)

Reviewer Highlight: Even before it begins laying waste to the reputations of cast members, “Firestarter” is promptly exposed as a derivative embarrassment of a conception. – Gary Arnold, Washington Post

Poster – Firesklogger

(Look at all those words. The whole thing still pops, but somehow they actually did make a much better poster for the new one. Removed the words, added some flair to the font, and made everything a little more professional. I’ll be kind for this one though, cause it still looks kind of cool. C+)

Tagline(s) – She has the power . . . an evil destructive force. (C-)

If you get on her bad side…YOU’RE TOAST. (C+)

Will she have the power… to survive? (B-)

Charlie McGee is a happy, healthy eight-year-old little girl. Normal in every way but one. She has the power to set objects afire with just one glance. It’s a power she does not want. It’s a power she can’t control. And, each night, Charlie prays to be just like every other child. But there are those who will do everything in their power to find her… or destroy her. (D-)

(Lot’s to parse because of all the words on the poster. The first is the worst of the short ones. Just not very clever, but not offensive. The second adds a little spice, but it’s pretty laughably lame. The third is the best. A play on expectations. It’s also short and gives you a sense of what’s going on. I actually didn’t even read the last one because life is too short. It only doesn’t get an F because it’s better than no tagline, but barely.)

Keyword(s) – Stephen King

Top 10: The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), The Shining (1980), It (2017), Stand by Me (1986), The Mist (2007), 1408 (2007), It Chapter Two (2019), Misery (1990), Secret Window (2004)

Future BMT: 60.5 The Mangler (1995), 59.2 Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992), 50.2 Sleepwalkers (1992), 47.8 The Dark Tower (2017), 45.4 Children of the Corn (1984), 36.5 Thinner (1996), 29.7 Creepshow 2 (1987), 24.0 Needful Things (1993)

BMT: The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999), Graveyard Shift (1990), Dreamcatcher (2003), The Lawnmower Man (1992), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Firestarter (1984), Firestarter (2022)

(I decided to pick out a good one for this with Stephen King. My god are there a lot of films of his left! We’ve seen seven and eight to go. Halfway.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 13) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Drew Barrymore is No. 1 billed in Firestarter and No. 2 billed in Blended, which also stars Adam Sandler (No. 1 billed) who is in Jack and Jill (No. 1 billed) which also stars Al Pacino (No. 3 billed) who is in 88 Minutes (No. 1 billed) which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 3 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => (1 + 2) + (1 + 1) + (3 + 1) + (3 + 1) = 13. If we were to watch Mad Love we can get the HoE Number down to 13.

Notes – Prophetically, a few years before she was cast in the film, six-year-old Drew Barrymore’s mother thought that Drew resembled the girl on the source novel’s paperback dust-jacket. Drew once said: “My mom had seen this book at the grocery store with a picture of a little girl on it and she said, ‘Gee, this looks kinda like you’. She said it was okay if I bought it, and so I did. When I read it, I came into the kitchen where my mom was making dinner and said: ‘I’m the Firestarter. I’m Charlie McGee!’ But she didn’t know what I was talking about.”

George C. Scott wears an eye patch over his left eye during the final half hour of the film which was due to the infection caused by the contact lens used earlier in the film. The eye was not quite healed and had to wear it to complete the filming of his scenes.

In a 2010 interview, director Mark L. Lester confirmed that this was the most difficult film that he ever made. He said, “That was all practical [effects]. The fireballs you see, that’s not CGI. Back then, we actually created fireballs that could fly through the air, they were on a wire and could crash into buildings. We had people on fire that were on trampolines that had to flip through the air. It was very dangerous. All the effects were done right on the set. It was a pretty intense thing to do then.”

This film was originally going to be directed by John Carpenter and Bill Lancaster, who wrote the screenplay for The Thing (1982), even wrote a draft for this film. But, according to Carpenter, Universal executives removed both of them from the project in the wake of the box-office and critical drubbing they received for The Thing. Carpenter had reportedly talked to Darwin Joston about taking on the role of John Rainbird, which was ultimately played by George C. Scott. Thirty eight years later, Carpenter, along with son Cody Carpenter and frequent collaborator Daniel A. Davies, would be brought on to compose the score for the Firestarter (2022) remake.

Martin Sheen took over at a late stage from Burt Lancaster, who had to withdraw following heart surgery.

Producer Dino De Laurentiis paid $1 million for the film rights to the book.

Mark L. Lester said he never understood why Stephen King hated this film. He said during an interview, “I knew he hated The Shining (1980), because that movie was not his book. But in case of Firestarter, he had approved the script. He even worked on it. He was on the set and we talked about everything we were doing. He loved everything. The one thing that he especially criticized, the wind blowing through Drew Barrymore’s hair, that was his idea to begin with! At that time he practically hated every movie that was made from any of his books. Finally, Dino got so fed up with him that he said: Okay, you direct your own movie. Well, that was the absolute worst Stephen King film ever. So there you go. But he’s a great writer and I don’t want to get into a fight with him.”


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