Stand by Me, a Stephen King movie

By: Darren Lambert

Stand by Me is a 1986 movie, adapted from Stephen King's story The Body. The Body appeared as a novella in King's collection Different Seasons. Different Seasons also contains the stories The Shawshank Redemption, and the Apt Pupil, both of which were made into movies.

Often described as a coming of age film, the story is of four boys who take a journey through the woodlands near their homes to find the body of a dead boy. The story is told by the main character Gordon Lachance, who is a budding writer.

Vern, one of the boys, hears his older brother talk of the missing boy, whose body is alleged to be in the woods. The boys decide to undertake the journey, to find the body of the boy. The journey takes two days, because of which the boys lie to their parents, telling them that they are staying at each others houses.

The boys experience many difficulties along the way, which reveal the past and present struggles of the characters. Chris Chambers, played by River Phoenix, is from a family of criminals and alcoholics. Chris is stereotyped because of his family. However he proves to be intelligent and has a desire to break his stereotype. Teddy Duchamp, played by Corey Feldman, has a physical deformity, after his mentally-unstable father held his ear to a stove. Teddy now has to wear a hearing aid. Vern Tessio, played by Jerry O’Connell, is overweight and timid. He is easily scared and often picked on. Gordon Lachance, played by Will Wheaton, is the narrator and thus the primary character of the story. Gordie is a quiet boy with a passion for books and story telling. He is rejected by his family after the death of his football star older brother. The end of the story reveals that Gordie has become a writer and we have just witnessed the story as he was writing it.

The film has a reoccurring theme of showdowns. These occur between two or more characters in the film. The first brief showdown is between Chris and Ace on the sidewalk when Ace threatens to burn Chris's face while he has him in a headlock. Chris "gives" and Ace releases him. The next is when Teddy faces off against an on coming train at the beginning of the boys' trek. He says he wants to make a dramatic "train dodge," and just before it hits him, Chris grabs him and forces him out of harms way. The third showdown that happens is between Teddy, once again, and the junk yard man and his dog. They yell and call names, but when the junk yard man brings Teddy's unstable father into the picture, Teddy breaks down and starts to cry. Another showdown occurs when Ace pulls up to some locals who seem to have a history of racing cars with him. They remain neck to neck for a short period before a truck appears in the other lane coming toward Ace. Ace and two of his buddies (who seem petrified) do not change lanes, but decide to stay on the wrong side of the road and face off with the on coming truck. The other car in the race looks scared for them. Before they crash, the truck swerves off of the road, spilling all of its supplies while Ace goes on to win the race. The final showdown is between the younger gang and Ace's crowd at the body. The two groups trade harsh words before Ace pulls a knife on Chris, but is soon too skittish to use it after Gordie fires a shot in the air with Chris's gun. He then points it at Ace, which chills him and scares him away, along with his group. These are only some of the major showdowns that occur in the film.

There are several minor changes to the movie script from the original Stephen King story. However, the story is faithful to King’s original. Stephen King told cast and crew after a private screening of the film that it was his favorite adaptation of any of his works up to that point.

Stephen King is said to have witnessed a child being killed by a train, whilst he was a child himself. It is easy to conclude that the story was influenced by King’s experience.

The title of the film comes from the Ben E King song of the same name. Stephen King’s original story is called The Body.

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Darren Lambert is a keen fan of Stand By Me. Read more about Stand By Me on Darren's website

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