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Another great adaptation of a Stephen King work which turns 30 this year is The Dead Zone, from King’s 1979 novel.
Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is a schoolteacher who gets into a horrible car accident one evening which sends him into a coma for five years. Upon awakening, he learns that he has lost his love Sarah (Brooke Adams), but gained the power of second sight, which allows him to foretell a person’s past and future just by making physical contact with them.
While Johnny could not care less about his new abilities, he still uses them for benevolent purposes, such as assisting a sheriff (Tom Skerritt) in catching a killer.
But, despite support from Johnny’s doctor (Herbert Lom), the use of his power takes great physical toll on him.
This gift/curse is put to the ultimate test when Johnny encounters an overly ambitious politician (Martin Sheen).
Like director David Cronenberg’s follow-up movies The Fly (1986) and Dead Ringers (1988), this movie is a great showcase for its lead actor. Although he is best known for his bizarre roles in films like A View to a Kill (1985) and Sleepy Hollow (1999), this movie gives Walken a rare chance to play someone instantly sympathetic. Offhand, the only other sympathetic roles to his name that I can think of are The Deer Hunter (1978) and Catch Me If You Can (2002).
Walken also has a great supporting cast to back him up, especially Lom in a role that is as far from The Pink Panther’s Chief Inspector Dreyfus as you can get.
The success of this film led to a TV series of the same name, which ran from 2002-2007. It starred Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny.