Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Jimmy Smits.
The Tommyknockers “Part 1” (1993)
Directed by John Power
Teleplay by Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on the novel by Stephen King
In the small little town of Haven, Maine, a pile of bricks that occasionally glows green wreaks havoc in the two-part miniseries, The Tommyknockers. If you’re looking for a threat for your next horror movie, look no further then cement. There’s something grand about how completely cheap and effortless this formation looks. Bobby (Marg Helgenberger) calls her discovery an amazing thing but you couldn’t have made something appear more unamazing if you tried, to the point that you must be missing something. She spends hours digging it up. It doesn’t even warrant a bored second glance.
But here we are. Evil blocks. The rules around them are satisfactorily inconsistent. For its first victim—Bobby’s dog—a green eye zap does the trick. Bobby touches the blocks to become infected. Other times the green light is more subtle. Allyce Beasley, as Deputy Becka Paulson, is the camp queen of this miniseries, out acting everyone as consequence. Her infection doesn’t appear to involve any green contact and it’s only during the final stretch of her revenge plot, against an adulterous mailman husband (her favorite dating show tells her to do it), that we see any shots of green at all (yep, the best part of this miniseries is getting cheated on AND she talks to her TV, Life On Mars style).
The victims seem to be primarily female (when the green light shows up under the car of mailman, Joe, and his mistress, Nancy, Nancy alone starts making green light-powered inventions the next day) but then you have little boy, Hilly, under the influence and all is right and inconsistent again. The child acting is on the wooden side but when Hilly’s little brother wakes up in the middle of the night, afraid that the Tommyknocker man is in his closet, and Hilly checks without a grumble, I’m the big sister mush I always become when there’s a supportive sibling narrative. A lot of characters find themselves with the inventing bug after being infected. I will say this: if the green light helps makes a telepathic typewriter a reality (Bobby is able to write a whole novel while fast asleep) let it shine, Haven. Let it shine.
Jimmy Smits is Jim Gardner (not to be confused with the newscaster), a poet whose hit a writing block and fights to stay sober. Stephen King has said that The Tommyknockers is the last book he wrote before seeking help for addictions. Projecting characters onto their authors is always a crooked path, but Jim is the most complete character in the miniseries and Smits does a great job bringing pathos to the role of the funny, self-destructive drunk (“Yeah, oh god, I shouldn’t have done that.” “What, hit him?” “No, open the umbrella in the house. It’s bad luck.”) who wants to quit drinking. First he has to save, his girlfriend, Bobby. With a metal plate in his head that makes him impervious to the green light (apparently other people don’t need a reason to be unphased), I think we have our hero in the making in Jim.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Before TV miniseries became prestigious award bait, they looked a lot more like The Tommyknockers, cheesy, flawed sci-fi that was entertaining for those exact reasons. Will Haven be able to escape the influence of glowing green cement?
Check back tomorrow for “Part 2” of Jimmy Smits’ performance in The Tommyknockers.