“It’s not a monster . . . it’s just a doggy . . . .”
No American horror film did more to spike cat adoptions than Cujo (1983). Based on Stephen King’s psychological thriller about a rabid dog, the terror story remains forever etched into the minds of filmgoers, as well as in the grip marks on many theater seats.
Lee Gambin analyzes the film scene by scene, including exhaustive coverage of the production from its problematic early days with originally-assigned director Peter Medak to the final edit by ultimate director Lewis Teague. Drawn from interviews with Teague, screenwriter Barbara Turner, and cast and crew, including Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Danny Pintauro, Jan de Bont, Jennifer Jason Leigh, composer Charles Bernstein, and stunt man Gary Morgan.
With its sophistication and deep subversive intelligence, Cujo is a biting critique on the breakdown of the American family, an electric take on the “woman in the storm” story trope, a personal and introspective ecologically themed horror film (a subgenre usually socially and politically motivated), and a perfectly realised example of the power of circumstance. It also thoroughly scrutinizes fear—both real and imagined—in a sharp and magnetic manner.
- -the film’s problematic early days with originally assigned director Peter Medak being fired.
- -Lewis Teague being brought in to take over as director along with cinematographer Jan de Bont.
- -detailed insight into screenwriter Barbara Turner’s take on the source material.
- -over thirty candid interviews with cast and crew, such as stars Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kell, Danny Pintauro, director Lewis Teague, composer Charles Bernstein, and stunt man Gary Morgan.
- -remembrances from Danny Pintauro’s parents.
- -highly deserving and loving insight about the late great animal trainer Karl Lewis Miller from his daughter, Teresa Ann Miller.
Index. Illustrated with over 200 pictures (most never before seen).
About the author: Film historian Lee Gambin has written for Fangoria, Shock Till You Drop, Delirium, and Scream Magazine, among others. His previous works include Massacred By Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film, and We Can Be Who We Are: Movie Musicals of the 1970s. He is the director of Melbourne-based film collective, Cinemaniacs.
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"In the pantheon of great horror films, ‘Cujo’ seems a little out of place. Based on Stephen King’s 1981 novel, the film adaptation directed by Lewis Teague appeared when King’s ubiquity on the bookshelves meant that everything except his laundry list was made into a film. Released to modest reviews, the story about a rabid dog who terrorises a woman and her son who find themselves trapped in a car, ‘Cujo’ was seen as having some effective moments, though not in the list of great movies or even in the list of great King adaptations, though King himself counts it as one of his favourites. But time has been kind and the film has garnered something of a cult following over the years. Now, in ‘Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making Of Cujo’, Lee Gambin has created a very comprehensive and honest account of the creation of the film.
"Structurally, the book alternates between a scene-by-scene analysis of the film and recollections from the cast about the making of the film. On the former, Gambin veers between close examination of the film’s techniques, such as the use of low camera angles to emphasise Cujo’s point of view and praise. Gambin is an engaging and enthusiastic writer, though sometimes his praise for the film does drift into the realm of hyperbole. A more measured take on the positives and negatives of the film would sometimes be welcome.
"Gambin has managed to speak to almost major player in the film, from star Dee Wallace and director Lewis Teague to the daughter of deceased dog trainer Karl Lewis Miller. Perhaps the biggest omission is cinematographer Jan De Bont. Gambin is lucky in that the cast and crew are effusive with their recollections and anecdotes, with most remembering much about the film. Jerry Hardin, perhaps most notable for playing Deep Throat in ‘The X-Files’ is an exception, as he basically says ‘I don’t remember a thing’ about his small part."