I didn’t like Mary Astor in the lead role in the film, she wasn’t the sexpot to me that the character is in the book. And Effie was also much less sexy than she could have been, probably because they had to get someone who would make Mary Astor look good. Otherwise, I thought the film was a fairly faithful adaptation.
Speaking of Chandler, I LOVE the film version of The Big Sleep. The story is incomprehensible, and Chandler couldn’t even tell you who killed certain people.
C’mere Pete, and let’s hold hands and say it together. I was coming to this thread to make this very point. The book was a very scary experience and I liked it a lot. When I first saw the movie, like many people, I was appalled. Well, I let a few years go by and watched it again and saw that Kubric was up to a different agenda than King was. Honestly it’s been so long since I’ve seen it, at this moment, that I can’t discuss it intelligently … but I do remember being stunned at what a good movie it was.
I’ve been burning to rant about this for some time, so I guess since I have the floor I’ll go ahead – the ending of the movie Gone with the Wind annoys the crap out of me … It’s a complete misinterpretation of Rhett’s words in the book! He was tired and worn out, aggrieved by the years of Scarlett’s infantile love of Ashley. He no longer gave a damn; he had become a slack, sodden drunk who only had only left for Scarlett “pity, and an odd feeling of kindness.” Not the in-your-face, ‘fuck-off Scarlett’ line Clark Gable used in the movie.
Yet, it’s become a part our folklore and slang: “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn.” Everyone knows what you’re talking about and it’s still said today. So I’m arguing against myself, I guess! :o It works in a movie yet misreads the book.
[Which reminds me: someone once told me Mitchell plagarized some other work shamelessly for her novel. Is this true?]
One last point concerning Stephen King: I seem to recall him saying in Danse Macabre that Brian De Palma did a much better job at communicating what he’d intended in the movie version of Carrie, than he did in the book. That always struck me, that he’d admit this. It’s a movie of enormous impact. The book is a tad pathetic.
I was going to post what Atreyu did, but some of the other posts since then have made me see some other perspectives.
I guess I sometimes feel that filmmakers have an “obligation” to be faithful to classic works of literature, in part because the authors aren’t around to collect the option $$, give interviews about the adaptation, etc. A bigger issue is that some people don’t read classics, but think they don’t have to because they’ve “seen the movie.” That makes me want to gnash my teeth.
For an example, the recent “Last of the Mohicans,” while a damned beautiful film, made me mad because they changed the love story. Lots of people aren’t going to read LOTM (I don’t think it’s often assigned in basic lit courses) and that’s fine, as long as they don’t claim to know all about the literary work just because they drooled over Daniel Day Lewis for 2 hours. I didn’t see “the Scarlet Letter” or “The Crucible” but I understand those were abysmal. Same problem. On the other hand, however, some of the recent Shakespeare adaptations are purported to be amazing, even when the director took huge liberties. Maybe I don’t have a leg to stand on here.
I’m still fuming because in a literature class I was taking a few years ago, I brought up the possibility of Judith Guests’ “Ordinary People” being an example of modern romanticism. This one guy slapped my idea down and said that story was all about psychology. I realized later that dumbass was going off of the movie he’d seen! He’d never read the book. He probably didn’t even know who wrote it. It’s a good movie and pretty true to the book, but it doesn’t tell you ANYTHING about Guest’s writing style, dagnabbit! I wish the idiot who taught the course had backed me up.
Well, Shakespeare adaptations are another thing altogether, because a Shakespeare play is a performance text. Live theater and film are different mediums, but they’re more closely related than a film and a novel would be.
W.P. Kinsella has said the same thing about “Field of Dreams”, adapted from his wonderful book Shoeless Joe. Pierre Boulle had a different take on the adaptation of The Bridge on the River Kwai. He said in one interview that, after seeing the movie, he wished he’d written the story that was in the movie.
Though I agree that “Carrie” is a seminal work of horror film, I think the book was wonderful also.
OK, I’m going to respectfully disagree on this one.
Here’s the thing: the two experiences are inter-related - they’re different interpretations of the same story (except when they’re not - more later). So how can a really bad telling of the story not have an impact on our perception of the story? The fact that I have to go through the rest of my life saying “Yeah, I know that you think that story really sucked, but you should really read the print version. It’s much better, I swear!” casts a negative shadow across my reading experience. This is why I rarely watch movies made from books I’ve read.
It would be interesting to rate movies based on books according to their impact on the viewer. I have one of three reactions: the movie sucks and it taints my experience (probably 90%), the movie does a good job and it enhances my appreciation (8%), the movie rescues a really awful book and makes me appreciate the story more (2%, possibly because it’s awfully hard to convince me to re-experience a story that sucked). Needless-to-say, I have learned to avoid watching movies of books I’ve already read and enjoyed.
Occasionally a movies is so good that I read a book that I didn’t think would appeal to me. It’s interesting to me that rarely does reading of the book after viewing the movie make me think less of the story. “Forrest Gump” is probably one of the rare exceptions. Yale educated cannibals indeed!
Then there are the movies that have little or nothing to do with the book. The last 30 years of James Bond movies would be a good example. The director thought the character and/or setting was cool and made up his/her own story. Kind of the reverse of the Star Wars novels. I’m cool with this. I just consciously ignore the fact that in the credits it says “based on a book by…” and enjoy the movie as an independent event. It’s the movies that try to be faithful to the book, and do a really poor job, that taint my experience.
And to put the final nail in this coffin, I was unaware that anyone had ever made a movie out of Man of La Mancha, although I did see the play when I was in middle school, and attempted to read the novel when I was in college. But the movie? Who remembers the movie?
This argument is particualarly stupid when applied to the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie, because Tolkien has already survived a bad movie. Actually, a couple of them. Does anyone read the Hobbit and picture that Rankin-Bass animated monstrosity? Hell no! The only image I retain from any of those movies is Gollum. When I read Lord of the Rings, I see Ralph Bakshi’s Gollum. I don’t see his version of Legolas, or Gandalf, or Frodo. Why? Because Ralph Bakshi has the unique talent to make every character he draws, from Frodo Baggins to Kim Bassinger, look like an anthropomorphic toad. Coincidentally, this worked pretty well for the character of Gollum, but the rest of the movie is forgettable (and forgotten) crap.
Well, I guess that I don’t think that movies and books boil down to the story that they tell. In my experience, narrative art is as much about how it tells the story as it is about the story it tells. (I think that sentence makes sense.) Really good narrative art does both well, or at least makes sure that the tale and the way its told don’t trip over each other’s feet.
For example, The Shawshank Redemption and Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” tell the same story, but they’re different in tone and emphasis. Not radically, but enough that I’d imagine that there are plenty of fans of the movie who don’t much care for the story, and perhaps vice versa. I don’t see how one ruins the other, though; I like them both (although I prefer the story). And I certainly didn’t think that knowing the story interfered with my enjoyment of the film, just because I basically knew what was coming.
The thing is, it’s hard to take a story that’s really well told in one medium and translate it to another – because the medium shapes the story. Part of why I really admire Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet is because they cut Shakespeare’s text and replace it with cinematic fluorishes that work in its stead. (Neither of 'em’s Shakespeare, of couse, but how many artists are?)
That’s a place where I felt that Harry Potter the movie felt slack – it played as a series of highlights from the book. It was too faithful to the story, because Chris Columbus is a journeyman director who wasn’t interested in translating the book to the screen.
That doesn’t mean it was a bad movie, but it kept it from being great.
I’m going to preference my post with the statement that I haven’t particularly enjoyed watching movies for many years, not since the late eighties or early nineties, or just about the time I had to start earning a living for myself. Since then, the most typical reaction has been, “Gosh, wasn’t that a tepid experience.” I’ll go out to may two or three movies per year with Mrs P. to make her happy, and can go over a year without renting a film. So take it as you will, I’m not a fan of the Hollywood flicks.
That said, I’ve got a hard and fast rule: Never see a movie based on a book. Just don’t see the point of watching the film when there is a book that can be read. When I read a good book, the farthest thing from my mind would be, “Hey, this would be a great movie.” If a book is good, let it be, nothing further is required. The movie isn’t going to enhance the book in anyway.
There is possibly an argument that could be made the marking editions of a book, when the cover advertises the movie, can spoil the interpretation by having the ugly mug of action X in the role of character Y, especially when X in no way resembles Y. I’ll pick on LOTR, just because it is timely and but because it is or is not a grievous offender. I can’t go into any bookstore without seeing these dumb faces from staring out from covers; one of them, probably the hobbit characters, looks like a first class doofus, worse than any Norman Rockwell, and I can’t help but giggle derisively. I’m perfectly able to create of image of the character in my mind from the text with the superimposed image from actor X. (As a curious aside, a creative writing teacher ten or so years ago mentioned that it isn’t a good practice for modern writers to describe a character in too much detail because if the book is made into a movie an actor must be cast for the part. Go figure.) Maybe it doesn’t qualify for spoiling the book, but it can sped bad light on to the book that otherwise would be there.
Not necessarily so. Theater is a very different experience to film, though both might have a “performance text.” The mood and experience of a live performance isn’t at all the same as the static performance on film. And I don’t think theater and film are any more closely related than a novel to a film. (This is true of Shakespeare above all, IMHO. When you compare Shakespearian Theater to Shakespearian film, the film is so much more jejune.) I’ve read quite a few contemporary novels, especially genre novels, that read like the author is begging for a screenplay to be made out it
I agree with you and Ellroy, the book is not ruined. But SOMETHING is being butchered, most likely the movie, second most likely the hopes of the book’s fans.
I also agree that there have been GREAT movies that have been made that don’t at all resemble the book. I believe that the re-writer has some ethical if not legal obligation to identify the re-write differently.
My thread started with the question, “worst burchery in turning a book into a movie”, NOT “worst butchery of a book by a movie”.
Also: LA Confidential was great as a book and a movie. And I suppose Ellroy has the right to sell his property with any rights he wants to. I get really ticked when this is done with public domain stuff. I feel kind of like it damages our common history, though that’s probably going too far.
I agree. The method for doing so is by the screenplay credit. The author’s name is right there on the book, and the screenwriter’s name is right there in the opening credits. To expect two stories by different writers to be the same merely becuase they share a title is unreasonable, thus the “based upon” or “inspired by” credit indicating that this is not necessarily the story the author of the book told.
While this is essentially true, remember that this movie is primarily intended for kids, most of whom have read the book. Kids don’t want a new “vision” of Harry Potter. They want the story they are already familiar with, brought to life. Columbus did an excellent job at creating a movie that the kids (and adults; I very much enjoyed the movie) wanted to see.