Episode 13: Misery


Misery the film was released on November 30th, 1990. It was based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King and directed by Rob Reiner. It's budget was $20 million and it grossed over $61 million.


The movie is a psychological horror that focuses on a psychotic nurse named Annie Wilkes who takes in her favorite author by "coincidence" after he drives his car off the road in a blizzard. The author, Paul Sheldon, is known for his Victorian romance novels featuring a character named Misery Chastain. He kills off the character in an attempt to focus on more serious stories. After his capture, Annie reads his manuscript for a new book outside of the Misery world and burns it, demanding Paul writes a novel bringing her favorite character back to life.



She decides to hold the man captive until she gets what she wants and convinces herself the two are meant to be together. The movie is not traditionally scary, but if you can put yourself in Paul Sheldon's shoes, it's an absolute nightmare. It was ranked #4 on Bloody Disgusting magazine's 10 Claustrophobic Horror Films. There are no small spaces, but you can feel the cabin fever throughout the film. Like Paul, you are itching for him to escape the scenario sitting on the edge of your seat at all times.


Stephen King stated, "The inspiration for Misery was a short story by Evelyn Waugh called "The Man Who Loved Dickens." It came to me as I dozed off while on a New York-to-London Concorde flight. Waugh's short story was about a man in South America held prisoner by a chief who falls in love with the stories of Charles Dickens and makes the man read them to him. I wondered what it would be like if Dickens himself was held captive"


Summary:

"Living far within the Amazon forest for sixty years, Mr. McMaster rarely encounters anyone that is not a native so when a disheveled white man arrives, he takes a keen interest. Once given food, the man, Mr. Henty explains that he was part of the Anderson expedition, a curse adventure that started with and continued to have innumerable troubles until he was the only survivor, wandering through the Amazon entirely lost. McMaster's is a generally agreeable man and says that he's happy to help. He provides food and dialogue with Henty, explaining how long he has been there and that the local inhabitants treat him like a father. He also explains how he really likes to be read to and that his favorite is Dickens. The last non-native person to visit him also read him Dickens and he asks that Henty read him Dickens. Henty agrees to but as the days past he becomes restless. He keeps inquiring about leaving but McMaster never answers him directly. When Henty refuses to read, McMaster takes away his food. As the weeks past, Henty becomes hopeful that a rescue party will arrive but little changes until one night when McMaster asks him to come to a party that night with him. At the party with the natives, he is given a drink to enjoy, warning that it has quite a punch. When Henty awakes the next day, he makes his way back to McMaster who explains that he has been asleep for nearly two days. When Henty notes that his watch is missing, McMaster explains that he gave it to the nice men who had come by looking for him to give to his wife at home. Henty realizes that not only has he missed the rescue mission but with the watch, they will take him for dead. The story ends with McMaster excitedly thinking about re-reading Little Dorritt."


He also stated that it is indeed about his battle with substance abuse. Kathy Bates' character is a representation of his dependency on drugs, and what it did to his body, making him feel alone and separated from everything, while hobbling any attempts he made at escape. In his statement, he said he did not come out with it at the time, because he was not ready, and because he was afraid it would detract from the story.

The movie has been widely accepted and now holds a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for several awards. Kathy Bates who played Annie Wilkes won a golden globe and academy award for her performance.



The movie has inspired season 2 of Castle Rock, an anthology type series that focuses on a different Stephen King novel each season. The season is midway and shows the fictional life of Annie Wilkes before Paul Sheldon. Although some aspects don't match up, the Annie Wilkes in Castle Rock is a near perfect match to Kathy Bates's character in Misery.


It has been reported that a woman named Genene Jones was the inspiration behind Annie Wilkes. The director Rob Reiner subtly included her case into the script by having Kathy Bates (who played Annie) read about Genene Jones case.



Genene Jones was born on July 13, 1950 in San Antonio Texas. She was adopted and raised by Dick and Gladys Jones and grew up with three brothers. Her father was an entrepreneur, professional gambler and nightclub owner. He ended up being arrested when Genene was 10 for stealing $1,500 in cash and thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from someone who went to his nightclub. When Genene was 16 she found her younger brother Travis dead in their garage from a homemade bomb he had built. In 1968 her father died, and Genene was further devastated and traumatized.


As soon as she graduated from high school she married Jimmy Harvey DeLany Jr. In 1968 he enlisted in the Navy and while he was gone, Genene cheated on him and slept with many men. She also enrolled in cosmetology school as a way to make money while Jimmy was gone. They ended up having two children together but four years later, Jimmy got into a boating accident and while he was recovering in the hospital, Genene left him and left her kids with her mother.



She went on to start a year of training to become a vocational nurse. In 1977 she got a job at San Antonio's Methodist Hospital but was fired 8 months later for unprofessionalism towards her clients and coworkers. In 1981, she got a new job in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit of Bexar County Hospital. Soon after she was hired, infants started dying at an alarming rate. In the few months of May to December, 20 babies had died. The hospital started looking into these deaths, but Genene was never a suspect because she was apparently a loving, highly professional, dedication nurse and therefore no one suspected she would be capable of this. Other reports state that Bexar Hospital had proof that Genene Jones was endangering these infants but did not act on it. They never alerted proper authorities about the alarming rate of odd deaths that were occurring and threatened a medical auditor named Joyce Riley who voiced her concerns.


In January 1982, Joyce audited medical records and said in an interview, "one child was bleeding in 500 parts of his body including his eyes". She examined all their times of deaths and found that they all occurred during the 3-11pm shift which is the shift that Genene works. She went to management to voice her concerns. They responded by saying, "I'm sorry Joyce, if you say that again, you'll be fired, sued for slander, and you'll never work again". Joyce stated in this interview that she believes the hospital had an inkling of what was going on but did not act on it in order to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits and other potential legal issues.


In March of 1982, the hospital "upgraded" the PICU to RNs only. This removed Jones from her position in the unit without having to directly single her out or fire her. Instead, Genene had no choice but to resign because there were no longer any positions available on the pediatric floor. Joyce stated, "in January of 82 they knew this, they dismissed Genene of march of 82 and in September of 82 Chelsea died." They even went as far as to write her a letter of recommendation.



Due to this letter of recommendation, Genene was able to get another job at Kerrville Clinic in Kerrville, Texas as a nurse in the pediatric ward. Once again, infants started to become ill very quickly, but luckily, they all recovered quickly. In 1982, a 14-month-old named Chelsea McClellan was brought to the clinic for her routine mumps and measles immunizations. Genene gave her the first injection in her left thigh and Chelsea immediately started gasping for air and was sent into a seizure. She gave her another shot and she went limp and stopped breathing. She was rushed into an ambulance and sent from the clinic to the hospital but somehow Genene was able to sneak into the ambulance and give her a third shot. This is when the injection caused short term paralysis and stopped her heart. Other children began having seizures as well and health authorities became suspicious of Genene.


On September 24, 1982, the Texas Rangers were notified of the suspicion surrounding Genene. On September 26, 1982, Dr. Kathleen Holland found a bottle of succinylcholine (a muscle relaxant) was found with pinprick holes in the rubber stopper. Only the doctor and Genene had access to the drug storage room, so Genene was fired. Succinylcholine was also found in Chelsea's blood and authorities were finally able to connect Genene to these deaths. Genene was injecting infants with these drugs such as succinylcholine, digoxin, dilantin and heparin to induce seizures, major organ failure and heart failure.


On January 12, 1983, Bexar County Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent DiMaio informs District Attorney Sam Millsap about the suspicions surrounding Genene. The next day, the Pediatric ICU Committee reviewed reports on Genene and recommended judicious silence on the issue, so the committee did not take its findings to law enforcement even after knowing about Chelsea's death.



On May 7, 1983 investigators found evidence of succinylcholine in Chelsea's system which was enough evidence to convict Genene. On February 15, 1984, she was convicted of the murder of Chelsea McClellan and was given the maximum sentence of 99 years in prison. During her trial, her motivation became clear. She wanted to take the infants as close as she could to death and then bring them back so she could act as a hero. This gave her the nickname, "angel of death". That October, she was also convicted of the murder of Rolando Santos and her sentence was now 159 years but with the possibility of parole.


She was said to have killed between 11 and 46 babies but the exact number is unknown because Bexar County destroyed four and a half tons of medical records which got rid of any proof that she had ever worked there and any proof of who she had treated. She's said to maintain her innocence but one testimony contradicted this. In September of 2017, Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Jason Goss revealed evidence that Genene confessed to killing multiple babies. He says that in 2011 there was a memorandum of a parole meeting conducted by board member on the board of pardons and paroles, Lynn Ruzicka , that said Genene said "I was not a sane person, I did inject the little girl." She said she admitted it the first time during a routine parole review in 1998 to Marcie Ferguson at mountain view. Marcie Ferguson reported that, "contrary to prior reports and file material inmate Jones repeated she committed the present offenses". Apparently when she was leaving Jones turned around and said, "I just want to get this on the record, I really did kill those babies." Marcie started to flip through the files they were discussing, and Genene says, "you won't find them in there". Which meant she's not talking about the babies she was convicted of; she's talking about the other babies who died.


A fellow inmate also wrote a letter that claimed that jones had blamed the voices in her head for the murders. The inmate wrote that Genene told her, "I didn't kill those babies. The voices in my head did." One of Genene's coworkers also spoke out. A former pediatric nurse named Cheri Pendergraft at Bexar County Medical Center said that she noticed a troubling pattern in infants deaths as well and that medical records showed they were occurring on Genene's shift.



She was scheduled for mandatory release in 2018 due to a Texas law called the Mandatory Release Law which was enacted to combat overcrowding. The law allowed inmates convicted of violent crimes between 1977 to 1987 to be automatically released if their good behavior credit plus their time served equaled their sentence. This meant she would only serve 34 years of her 159-year term.


On May 25, 2019, in order to prevent her release, District Attorney Nicholas LaHood presented five cases that took place in San Antonio at around the same time as Chelsea's death and Genene was indicted for all of them. These five deaths were Joshua Sawyer, 4-month-old Patrick Zavala, 8-month-old Richard Nelson, 2-year-old Rosemary Vega and 3-month-old Paul Villarreal. On Monday, September 9, 2019, judge Frank Castro decided that she will be tried on murder charges early next year. The judge set the deadline for pretrial motions to November 1st and told the state and defense to be ready to go to trial in February. As of today, (November 12), this is the most recent information I could find on the trial.

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