The Blog

A little ditty about "The Doctor's Case"

So, here's a bit of info on the project:

Robert Harvey's Room, Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, British Columbia |

Robert Harvey's Room, Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, British Columbia |

For a couple of years now I have been looking to direct a dramatic film that will satisfy my growing professional association with (and interest in) Victorian history, while at same time stay true to my eclectic interests and fanciful imagination. I happened to re-read Stephen King’s short story "The Doctor’s Case" a while back, and realized it would be the perfect vehicle for me right now.

If you’re not familiar with "The Doctor’s Case," it is essentially Stephen King’s non-canonical gift to the Sherlock Holmes multiverse. Originally written for an anthology called The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, "The Doctor’s Case" was later republished in King’s early-1990s Nightmares & Dreamscapes collection.

The premise has Watson, now in his nineties, relating to the reader a story of the one and only time he can recall solving a serious case before his famous companion, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is 40 years in his grave at this point and Watson is nearing the end of his own life, so he feels it’s finally time to tell this tale 'out of school.'

"The Doctor's Case" is basically a traditional locked-room murder mystery in a house full of felines, with an Agatha Christie-like twist in its third act, crafted around the conceit that Sherlock Holmes is allergic to cats. Because of this, Watson spots an important clue that Holmes initially overlooks, and is finally able to enjoy some astonished respect from both Holmes and Inspector Lestrade (of Scotland Yard) for his own 'deductive' reasoning, and ultimately save an entire family from certain ruin.

In April of last year I became aware of a program that Stephen King has administered, since 1977, called Dollar Babies. In a nutshell: a pitch is made to adapt one of King's currently unlicensed short stories, and if the Dollar Babies team accepts the pitch, King will grant permission to adapt his work for $1.00 USD. The catch is, the rights are non-commercial. Dollar Baby candidates are permitted to raise money to make the film, and can show it at festivals and some non-profit venues after the fact, but any commercial rights to the product are moot – unless, as precedent has set, King likes the finished film.

The key here is that King has, historically, watched all of the completed Dollar Babies projects, regardless of quality. As he himself has said: "Many of these adaptations weren't so great, but a few showed at least a smattering of talent... in many cases one viewing was all a person could bear." ["The Essential Stephen King" Spignesi, Stephen J. Career Press / New Page Books 2001]. Several of them seem to have been worth a closer look, however, and at least four of the films have enjoyed commercial distribution as a result of rights negotiated after the fact (one of the early recipients of a commercial deal through Dollar Babies was a young filmmaker named Frank Darabont).

To make a long story just a little bit longer… I made a pitch to the Dollar Babies program this past November, and have successfully secured permission to film "The Doctor’s Case." Based on this, my Northern FanCon-producing friend from Prince George, Norm Coyne, has come on board as producer and we are on our way to securing a relatively small budget to make the film.

Everyone currently involved is aware of the fact that we can’t expect to make money off the final product, but the sheer novelty of working on a film that Stephen King is pretty much guaranteed to watch, coupled with the carrot of it maybe, just maybe going a little further than that, has drawn some very talented people to the project already, on both sides of the lens.

We also have several amazing historical locations and heritage properties throughout the province of British Columbia onboard as authentic shooting locations (including Craigdarroch Castle and Emily Carr House in Victoria, Barkerville Historic Town & Park and Cottonwood House Historic Site in the Cariboo) and the script is being adapted quite literally as I type this.

One of the key players on our team is my good friend Michael Coleman, an actor and voice-over artist from Vancouver, BC. Michael plays Happy on ABC’s Once Upon A Time, and has voiced several high-profile animated characters over the years. He also happens to operate a major film and video-game production facility called SchoolCreative - Institute of the Arts in the city.

Michael will play Watson, and has graciously offered some of the considerable production resources behind SchoolCreative to help ensure "The Doctor’s Case" is one of the most striking Dollar Babies to date. We have several veterans of the Canadian film and television industry in key creative and production positions, and I am confident that our take on "The Doctor’s Case" will prove itself worth a second look, or more.

In a way, it’s the perfect situation to find ourselves in: if the movie is terrible (which it won’t be) no one but us and the author will ever see it. If it’s good, well... who knows?

 James Douglas | Producer, Director