Posted by Sam Plank @samplank
"You have to be what you are. Whatever you are, you gotta be it." -Johnny Cash. Tweet a tweeter at my twitty twitter, @tw1tterintw1t
Sam Plank

No, I haven't been drinking. And I promise I'm not confused, and mixing up different movies! The movie I speak of is Apt Pupil, starring Ian McKellen as a Nazi war criminal, and Brad Renfro as the high school student who discovers his secret.

Here's the trailer:

The Movie

Renfro plays Todd Bowden, a 16-year-old boy who is just a little too fascinated by Nazis, and all the horrific things they did. Imagine his joy when he discovers his neighbor, Arthur Denker, is really Kurt Dussander, a wanted war criminal hiding in his Southern California neighborhood. What follows is some pretty scary psychological manipulation, from both the boy and the old man. Todd blackmails Kurt by threatening to turn him in, in exchange for stories from his days as a murderous Nazi. Todd even makes Kurt wear an Nazi uniform he bought at a costume shop, and, well, that scene is creepy as hell, to say the least.

We assume Kurt has been living in relative peace, until twisted little Todd finds out about him. As their weird relationship progresses, Kurt's torturous ways start showing, and he drunkenly takes his aggressions out on a kitty. It ends badly, just not for the cat.

Todd's grades start suffering, so Kurt turns the tables, blackmailing him into getting his grades back up by threatening to out him and his love of Nazism to his parents.

In the end (spoiler alert), Kurt tries to kill a homeless man who saw him in the uniform, but has a heart attack while doing so. He calls Todd, who comes and finishes the job and gets help for Kurt. At the hospital, Kurt's luck runs out, as he shares a room with a Nazi death camp survivor who recognizes him. He's arrested, and his past becomes public news, forcing him to commit suicide.

Todd is questioned about his relationship with Kurt. He lies his way out of it, but because Kurt posed as his grandfather while they talked to the school counselor, Edward French (David Schwimmer), French questions Todd and his lies. This, of course, does not end well, with the porn-stachioed Schwimmer not standing much of a chance with the future serial killer.

Here's all of that in a nutshell:

The fun facts

The Life of Bryan

Bryan Singer later went on to direct a series of fairly popular movies starring Ian McKellen, about a bunch of X-Men...you may have heard of them! Ian was Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto, a man whose childhood was slightly scarred by Nazis.

Singer Toned The Violence Down For The Movie

Not a big surprise here, but King's book was pretty vicious! It originally had Todd murdering all sorts of people, homeless vagrants being his favorite choice. He also takes aim at passing cars on a nearby freeway with a hunting rifle. At the end of the movie, instead of just threatening his counselor, Todd from the book kills him, which ends up driving him over the edge. One psychotic break and freeway shooting spree later, he's killed by the authorities.

Pacey Witter!

Apt Pupil also stars Joshua Jackson as Joey, seen below:

Sorry, I've been a fan of the guy since The Mighty Ducks (and yes, Dawson's Creek).

Bonus Book Fact

Apt Pupil, like Shawshank Redemption, was originally a Stephen King novella! The same Stephen King, whose twisted mind gave us Pennywise the Clown and the Langoliers, also wrote some surprisingly non-horror books that later became big movies. With the book titles in parentheses, Stand By Me (The Body), Shawshank Redemption (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption), and Apt Pupil, to name three!

But that's not the fun bonus fact. Did you know that Andy Dufresne, the main guy from Shawshank, made a cameo in King's book, Apt Pupil? He handled Kurt's investments! I hope Kurt didn't hear Andy talking about Randall Stevens at any time....

Fan Theories! Fan Theories Everywhere!

Some people have theorized that the novel Jack Torrance is writing in The Shining is actually Apt Pupil! Here's the trail of breadcrumbs they follow to get there.

In Apt Pupil (the book), the high school counselor mentions a hotel room number, 217. Room 217 of The Overlook Hotel in the book The Shining is featured heavily, since that number is the same room number where King and his wife stayed one night in 1974, in The Stanley Hotel. That hotel stay inspired him to write The Shining! That's clue number one.

Clue number two is, in Jack's book, there is a character named Denker. Arthur Denker is Kurt's fake name in Apt Pupil!

Clue three is revealed in the afterword of Different Seasons, which originally featured the Apt Pupil story. King says he wrote Apt Pupil right after writing The Shining.

Love those theories!

Poll

Who's seen Apt Pupil, and what did you think of it?