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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Movie Review: "Dolores Claiborne" from the book by Stephen King
By Milt Gross
May 5, 2013 - 12:05:31 AM

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After reading Stephen King's book, (book review) I was anxious to see the movie Dolores Claiborne.

But they were totally different, although, having read the book, I recognized the scenes.

The big difference to me was that the story in the book was told by Claiborne in the police station, and it went from start to frightening climax, and on to the conclusion.

In the book, I thought Clairborne would never get around to killing her abusive husband. In the movie, that part of the tale came sooner but wasn't as inclusive, didn't tell the total terrible tale.

The movie appeared to me to be a series of flashbacks to tell the same story a little differently. I thought the story itself was a bit hard to follow on the DVD, but that was probably because I'd read the book version of it. So the sequence of events in the movie at first didn't make sense.

I guess the movie version was best handled as a series of flashbacks, as it would be hard to imagine the movie's having Clairborne telling the entire story from beginning to end while she sat in the police station. Probably not enough viewer interest -- too much time for the bathroom and popcorn.

But the movie conclusion, when Selena, Claiborne's now grown-up daughter, confuses the state police detective who is questioning Claiborne, pushing her to appear guilty, was quite dramatic. Selena explains dramatically the detective's motive for bullying her mother to admit guilt in murdering her long-time employer and friend, who had accidentally fallen down the stairs in her mansion. The detective was sure Claiborne had somehow killed her abusive husband by making sure he fell into the well during an eclipse of the sun. That death had never been actually investigated as a homicide, and the detective was trying to find Claiborne guilty of the accidental death of the employer so she wouldn't have gotten away with murder.

But she did, thanks to Selena's confusing the state police detective.

I thought the scene, when the movie finally got there, of the abusive husband falling in the well was not as dramatic as the book's version. In the book, the husband begged Claiborne several times to help free him from the well, but she didn't, finally walking back to the house. But in the book, before walking back to the house, Claiborne had picked up a good size rock and smashed the husband over the head as he was nearly successful at climbing out of the well. The book's version dragged out enough to add suspense to suspense.

Also, the book's version of Claiborne and Selena on the ferry boat from Jonesboro to the island, when Selena told the mother that the abusive husband had repeatedly touched her inappropriately was gripping. That ferry scene in the movie was split so you saw and heard parts of the awful tale twice, but it wasn't as dramatic.

The movie version was overall dramatic and gripping as well as being full of suspense. But the book version was more so.

If you haven't read the book or viewed the DVD version, I'd recommend them both. But read the book first, so you'll understand the story enough to be a bit confused as you view the DVD.

But enjoy thoroughly the climax in the DVD, when the grown-up Selena exposes the state police detective's motive in pushing the innocent mother to admit guilt in her employer's death.

Both were good and horrible, as anything carrying the Stephen King name should be.

The DVD, produced in 1995, two years later than the book had been published, and lasted 131 minutes. Taylor Hackford directed the movie with veteran actress Kathy Bates playing Dolores Claiborne in a masterful performance.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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