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The Dark Tower: One View From Keystone Earth

Stephen King addresses his most loyal and longstanding fans with the moniker “Constant Reader” and to be one of these means holding a depth of knowledge of the author’s work that is well-beyond the norm. I count myself as one of these people but I will steer clear of spoilers, point out some fun tidbits, and clarify a major issue of that may be a cause for some King Fans to look down their nose at the new film, The Dark Tower.


The Dark Tower Series has been at King’s fingertips since his university days in 1970 and is the center of the King universe and appears throughout some his most famous works. Threaded throughout many notable works, the world, characters, settings, and themes of the Dark Tower are central to the varied works of Mr. King. Sometimes brief and at other times existing as major components of a written work or film, the references appear as cameos and reminders that there are “other worlds than this.”


Similarly, while watching the The Dark Tower, the quick-eyed viewer will see appearances of King’s other famous works. According to the mythos of the Tower Series, the spacers between the worlds is thin in spots and sometimes things find their way through from one to the other.


The “Thin Kingies”:


  • As the young boy characters have a discussion on the floor in their apartment, one of them absent-mindedly pushes at a metal car replica of a 1958 Plymouth Fury. The same make and model as “Christine”, the vehicular villain in King’s novel of the same name.
  • The number 1408 is rumored to appear above a door that tips a hat toward the short-story and film.
  • Another paired rumor is that the family featured in Cujo and the “Hallway Twins” from The Shining also appear.
  • Twice, a movie marquee announcing a “Spaghetti Western” showcase appears in the background as a reference to the basis of the character of the Gunslinger himself. King has often acknowledged that Roland The Gunslinger’s character is heavily influenced by characters played by Clint Eastwood in the westerns of this era.
  • Jake Chambers himself is a linchpin character and shares a first name with a pigeon in the short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption as well as a raven in the film adaptation. Jake shares the same last name with Chris Chambers of Stand by Me and the original short story The Body.
  • Also slipping through from Shawshank is the infamous poster of the beautiful Rita Hayworth from both story and film that appears on a wall during a chase scene.
  • One of the more obvious appearances is the rusted rollercoaster with clown-faced cars and the collapsed sign reading “Pennywise”. One of the trailers that I virtually guarantee preceded your viewing of the film (whether you covered your eyes or not) will alert you to the source of this nod.
  • A storefront identifies the proprietor as having the same name but, we should hope, not the similar taste in meals as a major character in Salem’s Lot.
  • Toward the conclusion of the film, a store entered by the characters is identified as “King’s Jewelers” and a very familiar symbol appears in graffiti scrawled across the security door. The rose that is shown there is a reminder that this is not the same version of events that is presented in the book series. It is a prequel perhaps but most likely a sequel. Those who have even finished the first book of the series will understand that a major event involving Jake Chambers and the Gunslinger did not occur in the film. Yes, it was important enough to mention and remain cryptic so as not to spoil a reading of the books.


How this continuation of the story of Roland Deschain and his connection to the Dark Tower will fit exactly into the rest of the existing stories should be exceptionally exciting for the Constant Reader instead of drawing ire and disdain. The ongoing discussions by producer Ron Howard concerning the development of a TV component to the franchise should provide a wider view of the potential. For perspective’s sake, it should be noted that King was not pleased with the film adaptation of The Shining done by Stanley Kubrick and took great pains to develop and produce a much more complex mini-series version of the story that reflected his personal emphasis and even going as far as returning to The Stanley Hotel in Colorado where King actually wrote the novel to film. This is important for Tower purists to understand and contemplate that perhaps what you are witnessing is only the beginning, and King and Howard may have plans to delve backward or forward in greater depth and in pursuit of versions of the story that have been told previously.


My urging is for those who have not read the books to understand that there are different versions of this story, these characters, and that universe that are much deeper and well worth your time to explore. I also implore the Constant Reader to remember that this is different Gunslinger than we know, that Jake is much different than his other self, and that Walter is always more than he appears. Watch this film for the story that it is and not the story that it was last time. This is another turn of the wheel, indeed.

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