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Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo (Book)

Written by Lee Gambin

Published by Bear Manor Media


From the bestselling novel by Stephen King, came the 1983 feature film Cujo. Now, in 2017, the story comes full circle from celluloid to page in Lee Gambin’s new book Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo. The acclaimed film historian and author has written one of the most exhaustively researched tomes of terror I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot!).

Cujo is a film every 80s kid knows and loves. Director Lewis Teague’s terrifying big screen adaptation of King’s bestseller is a classic, and this book explains how and why it came to be… and it does so in dogged detail. Gambin traces the film’s production from the shaky start (the firing of original helmer Peter Medak and replacement by Teague) through to the film’s foothold today as one of the most successful and well-regarded onscreen visions of King’s work (it sells briskly on Blu-ray to this day).

Gambin’s academic approach and reverence for the topic makes it essential reading for, um, rabid fans and cliquish cinefiles alike. Gambin describes Cujo as “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 sub-genre usually socially and politically motivated) and a perfectly realized example of the power of circumstance. It also thoroughly scrutinizes fear – both real and imagined – in a sharp and magnetic manner.”

The book follows the movie scene by scene, starting with the opening sequence showing how Cujo gets bit by the bat. There’s extensive info throughout about how the late great animal trainer Karl Lewis Miller worked with the canines (Daddy being the top dog, with several lookalikes – and even a man in a St. Bernard suit) and worked his magic as told by his daughter, Teresa Ann Miller. There’s also tons of info on alternate versions and takes, not to mention a wholly different script by Barbara Turner which was written prior to Medak’s firing. Gambin reveals many tidbits on how different a movie Cujo could have been in these other hands, and it’s fascinating!

Peter Medak: “When I came onto the project, the original script by Stephen King was not very good. The producer Dan Blatt came to me and had this lady he was good friends with who was an excellent screenwriter, and this was the very talented Barbara Turner, who eventually refused to use her name on the project after I was fired, because she and I were incredibly close. I mean we were very, very close – we were best friends. So she was pissed off that I was fired and used an alias for the movie, which was Lauren Currier. She was so angry about that because she was so proud of her work on the film, and her writing was just perfect. The script she wrote for Cujo was excellent.”

This towering tome features over thirty candid (very candid! I was shocked to learn some of these secrets – we’re talking sex, drugs, backstabbing, skullduggery and much more) interviews with cast and crew such as stars Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro, directors Teague and Medak, composer Charles Bernstein, and so many more (Gambin even got the grips to gripe!).

While most of the pages consist of quotes (and over 200 photos – many never-before-published), there are insightful asides from Gambin throughout. He mainly focuses on the sociopolitical undertones and how the story presented horror as metaphor for deeper subject matter. He writes passionately about the subject, but clearly and with an academic (but not boring) slant. The bottom line is, everything you have ever wanted to know about Cujo, and stuff you didn’t even know you wanted to know about, is in Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo!

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Staci Layne Wilson

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