Book to Movie: The Fifth Quarter (2006)
From the miniseries, Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King
Teleplay by Alan Sharp
Directed by Rob Bowman
Based on the short story, The Fifth Quarter by Stephen King
Sharp took Stephen King’s shoot ‘em up tale of robbers turning against each other and wrote a donut around it to fill it out for television.
The short story is about a recently released ex-con whose former cell mate is shot by his coconspirators in a robbery. The dying man gives him a quarter of a map that leads to the loot taken in the robbery. Our hero then goes to confront the other three conspirators to get their quarters of the map. He shoots it out with them and gets the map. That is the story.
In Sharp’s teleplay, our hero is Willie Evans, recently released from prison to return to his wife and son who live in a trailer. The former cell mate has been shacking up with Evans’ wife, but vacates prior to Evans’ return. Evans promises his wife he’s going to stay on the straight and narrow.
One night, the former cell mate shows up at the trailer, gutshot by his former compatriots. He tells Evans his tale and gives him the piece of the map. Evans sets out to settle the score and gain the pieces of the map to ensure some financial security for himself and his family.
Here we enter King’s story as it was written. The choreography of the gun battles is about what King put down on paper. Evans, who introduces himself as the Fifth Quarter, kills the other three and puts the map together. However he is wounded in the process.
The police arrive the next morning looking for the cellmate. Evans is trapped. He gives the map to his wife and tells her to figure it out. He leaves with the cops, on his way back to prison.
The wife studies the map and tries to discover which of the coastal islands it might represent. As she does this, she sees a flyer for the amusement park where she works. As it turns out, the loot is hidden in a pirate island ride. She goes inside and finds the lock box with the money buried under the fake treasure of a pirate’s chest.
There were no supernatural elements in this story and the King story was rather pedestrian. I like the backstory, character development, and motivation Sharp supplied King’s character. Had this not been incorporated into the teleplay, we’d have watched 44 minutes of crooks shooting at each other inside various dwellings. That doesn’t make for good television.
Love triangles, crooks trying for that one last big score with the noble intentions of taking care of his family, and bad guys trying to screw him out of it while killing his best buddy – that’s good television.
Kudos to Jeremy Sisto for not turning Evans into a caricature of a tough guy. Evans is one tough hombre, but he’s soft spoken. He loves his wife and kid and is pained by the thought of his wife sleeping with his best friend while he sat in the stir.
This was not one of my favorite stories in the Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection. Congratulations to Alan Sharp who pulled off the rare feat of taking a King work, reworking it, and making it better.