I grew up watching Stand By Me, and despite being a big Stephen King fan for almost my entire life I only found out that he wrote the book behind that movie just a few years ago. I remember because it was around the same time I discovered that he wrote Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, so between those two titles my mind was officially blown. It’s funny, people often dismiss Stephen King as nothing but a fluff writer, and yet The Shawshank Redemption is considered one of the best films ever made and people go around quoting Stand by Me like it’s gospel. I guess people have no idea that King is behind them both.
A lot of the dialogue and commentary read by narrator Richard Dreyfus in Stand by Me was taken word for word from The Body, and so many of the classic scenes from the film, like the leeches, running from the train, and even barf-o-rama, are taken directly from the book. One major difference between the two is that the ending of the book, which has Ace and his crew of jerkoffs returning to find the boys and beat the crap out of them, kind of dragged on a bit. I liked where the movie chose to end the story, it seemed more poignant. Another difference is that Gordie’s relationship with his brother is presented differently in the book, and his relationship with his parents is much darker than how it was portrayed in the film. In the book you get to read Gordie’s short story “Stud City”, but you miss out on seeing River Phoenix’s perfect performance of Chris Chambers.
Probably the main reason that I wanted to read the book was to find out if Stephen King wrote my favourite line of the movie (it may actually be one of my favourite lines from ANY movie, come to think of it). Not surprisingly, he did. Well, sort of. In the middle of the book, Gordie says, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” In the film, the line comes in at the very end and is changed slightly, I think for the better: “I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
It’s hard to compare such an iconic movie to the novel it was based on, but I’d have to say that while they are very similar, the movie is actually better. Although, the novel is still worth reading, even if you’ve seen the film a million times, because Stephen King really is an incredible writer and The Body has some amazing passages that didn’t make the film version, including this line that really stood out to me: “The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them. It’s hard to make strangers care about the good things in your life.”