Created by Stephen King
Adapted by Shawn S. Lealo
“That’s not love…that’s rape.”
— Alice has concerns
Back in the late 1970s, Stephen King had the bright idea of selling the film rights to his short stories–any of his short stories–for a buck to any young filmmaker.
An actual dollar, to be mailed to Stephen King.
The films had to be forty-five minutes or less, and could only be shown at film festivals. The were other limitations, but It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it apparently worked. Over a hundred films (and counting) have been made since then, and the Dollar Baby program has, according to Anthony Northrup, who wrote a whole book on it, “made a serious impact not only on the Stephen King world, but the film industry itself.”
So I began to wonder… King’s no stranger to crime fiction, skirting the edges of the genre for years, in both short fiction (“Umney’s Last Case,” for example) and novels (Mr. Mercedes, anyone?) and for years threatened to write a straight crime story (which he finally did in Billy Summers in 2021).
But had any of these short stories had a private eye in it that I’d somehow missed?
Turns out the short answer was… “No.”
One of the short stories that has been adapted through the program (several times, in fact) is “I Know What You Need,” a story which first made an appearance in the September 1976 issue of Cosmopolitan, and no, it doesn’t have a private eye in it. Or even a lot of action in it. Mostly it’s people telling each other what happened.
It does, however, mention in passing that one of the major characters once hired a detective… and that gave budding filmmaker Shawn S. Lealos enough wiggle room to insert a private eye into the action, as a way of avoiding lengthy scenes of exposition and allowing for scenes of people actually doing something.
The original story has only three major characters, Elizabeth, Alice and Ed, and for a neophyte filmmaker with a non-existent budget, the lack of any major special effects must have been appealing, as well.
Anyway, the story’s told by an attractive and popular college-age student, Elizabeth Rogan, who finds herself being oddly attracted to an unattractive, unpopular geek, Ed Hamner, Jr., who seems to be always hanging around and somehow always seems to know what she wants. Exactly.
Her roommate, Alice, thinks he’s a manipulative creep, and decides to do a little background research on him. She soon discovers that Ed has actually known Elizabeth for years (they even attended the same elementary school), that he seems to be living well beyond his means and that he may have been stalking her for years.
We eventually discover that Ed has indeed been obsessed with Elizabeth for years and he’ll do anything, up to and including murder, using a variety of black magic rituals and spells, to win her heart.
There’s more, of course (it’s King, after all), but that would be telling.
It’s a good little story, but that doesn’t alway make for a good film. Lealos’ genius was in having Alice hire a private eye, SHANE MACK, and having the film follow him as he investigates the unsuspecting (at first) Ed.
Suffice it to say that when Ed discovers he’s being investigated, he’s not pleased.
Unfortunately, unless you attended these film festivals, you basically won’t ever see this flick. By design, the films have a limited shelf life, and DVDs or even YouTube showings are rare.
But according to Lealos, his little film, shot in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma with a miniscule crew (mostly his friends), has been shown in “the Netherlands, Argentina, King’s hometown of Bangor, Maine, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle…”
- “I Know What You Need” (September 1976, Cosmopolitan)
Later collected in King’s 1978 collection Night Shift.
- I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
(2005, Starving Dogs Productions)
Based on the short story by Stephen King
Screenplay by Shawn S. Lealos
Directed by Shawn S. Lealos
Starring Megan Harwick as Elizabeth Rogan
Valerie Jobe, as Alice Gibney
Kevin Real as Edward Jackson Hamner, Jr.
and Robert McIlrath as SHANE MACK
Also starring Mac McWilliams, Colin Warde, Adam Hale, Jeff Johncox, Kyle Dickinson, Michael Marley
- Dollar Deal:The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers (2015; by Shawn S. Lealos) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Stephen King Dollar Baby: The Book! (2021; by Anthony Northrup) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.