Stephen King has that rare, and spectacularly profitable, skill to suck you into his world and compel you to flip to the next page. And when you’re hooked, his words have the uncanny ability to simply unfold like a movie in your head. So it isn’t surprising that his books have been widely adapted to the silver screen. Some are flat out masterpieces. Others are most decidedly not. This appreciation by filmmakers of King’s storytelling chops isn’t just contained to this side of the Iron Curtain. In 1986, Soviet animator Mikhail Titov — whose previous work includes How the Cossacks Played Football (1970) — turned King’s short story “Battleground“ (1972) into an animated movie, titled simply Сражение or Battle.
The short is about a noirish hired gun who dresses in a trench coat and a fedora and bears more than a passing resemblance to Vladimir Putin. He is contracted to kill a toy maker. When he returns home, he discovers that there’s a box on his doorstep and makes the completely unwise decision of taking it inside. Soon, toy soldiers start to tumble out of the box. They have live ammo, rocket launchers, tiny little helicopters at their disposal and they are on a single-minded mission to kill him. The killer soon finds himself pinned down in bathroom, waiting for the next attack.
The film is a lot of fun. Titov relies heavily on rotoscoping – an animation technique you probably remember from A-ha’s music video Take On Me. The killer’s form and movements feel realistic as the rest of the movie’s heightened, brooding world bends and bulges as if rendered through a fisheye lens. And like A-ha, the film’s synth and saxophone soundtrack might sound painfully 80s to some. You can watch Battle with subtitles above or without subtitles below. The dialogue is minimal throughout.
Battle will be added to our list of Free Animations, part of our larger collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. The Veeptopus store is here.