Happy Horrorthon!!! I decided to do a bit of a hybrid review of one of my favorite stories: “Battleground” by Stephen King. This book is part of a short story anthology in Night Shift. Battleground was written in 1972 by King. This was back in the days when he wasn’t just hungry, he was starving. He was working in laundries, substitute teaching, maybe even a paper route. This particular work was published in Cavalier, which was a low-rent Playboy. In those days, he would sell stories to Swank – a low-rent Penthouse as well. Many of these stories were real gems or at least gems in the rough. For example, Night Surf (Cavalier and Night Shift) evolved into his opus The Stand about a decade later. Battleground was made into a 52 minute long episode of the above short-lived series (watch them on youtube before they are taken down!!!).
This episode starred William Hurt and like the short-story there is ZERO dialogue, giving the episode a silent movie feel that is very compelling. Throughout the episode, you only hear ambient noise or grunts or yells, but no spoken dialogue. In fact, even when a newscaster is announcing that a murder has taken place, it’s done with subtitles. This is as close to genius television as it gets. I was truly saddened that it was not renewed.
The episode depicts William Hurt as a nameless hitman who is taskered to kill a toymaker. He does. When Hurt goes back home to his San Francisco condo, he receives a package. Inside the package is compilation of army men and “additional surprises”. These aren’t your grandpa’s plastic army men; however, they are alive and they have cruel intentions for Mr. Hurt!
Within moments of opening the package, the army men attack William Hurt in very Army like fashion. They take a covered position under Hurt’s couch and open fire, forcing William to flee to the bathroom. This solace is short-lived because they have mini-howitzers. Yes, I was primed to like this one. There are even mini-helicopters that attack Hurt and they send nasty notes to one another demanding and refusing surrender.
The battle to avenge the toy maker’s death continues even out to the ledge of the building, which is likely an Easter Egg to another King story “The Ledge”. Hurt prevails against the army men, but there are two more “Additional Surprises” 1) a commando who very resourceful and 2) a mini thermonuclear device. The mini thermonuclear device is the only dumb part of the story because there is no such thing as a tiny Thermonuclear reaction – these are atoms we’re fusing or splitting afterall. If detonated (regardless of its “mini” nature) , it would’ve destroyed all of San Francisco, but let’s give King- a liberal arts major- a break on that one because it’s still a fun story.
I will review a few more of these stories that were in Night Shift or episodes from this show.