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Admin 8
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Why why why are books that are made into films so sh*t. The whole essence of reading a book is that it stimulates the mind and you create your own image of what the story/characters/background are.

Only Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and 2001 count as great books made into great movies.

Jurassic Park - Great book, think Westworld with dinosaurs. The film itself is not bad but it could have been a classic if Spielberg hadn't decided to lop off various parts from the book (inlcuding a failry decent prologue) so that it would appeal to younger audiences.

Red Dragon - This was adapted into a movie called Manhunter. Thing is this book is going to be made into a movie again with Anthony Hopkins replacing Brian Cox's character of Dr Lecter (Brian Cox played Hannibal in Manhunter). Manhunter was utter balls, the book itself is quite enjoyable, with characters which are not so linear as their movie counterparts.

Lord of the Rings - Sorry but I loved the Tolkein novels to bits, the film pales in comparison.

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Diamond Broon
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I think it's true that the picture on the screen can never match the one in your mind.However,one of the better adaptations is L.A. Confidential ,even if it never came anywhere near the complexity of the book.Russell Crowe's portrayal of Bud White was,for me,spot-on.Ride With The Devil was also an excellent adaptation (it's based on Daniel Woodrell's novel Woe To Live On)and put across the language and imagery of the book brilliantly.Do you think it makes a difference if you read the book before or after you've seen the movie?
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Wyatt Earp
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There have been some good Elmore Leonard adaptations, such as Get Shorty. The first Harry Potter film succeeds for my money. The Godfather manages to stay faithful to a poor book while being a great film. Some good Western novels, like Shane, have been made into equally good movies. And The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is one of the best spy novels ever, and by some distance the best spy film.

I agree that these are the exceptions though.

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Diamond Broon
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Just thinking of some others - The Maltese Falcon;Farewell My Lovely;Last of The Mohicans(Michael Mann's version);A Simple Plan(which is on BBC2 tonight,if you've never seen it).One of the worst adaptations I've seen lately is Terence Malick's version of The Thin Red Line - a great novel turned into a pile of hippy dross.Do you think that a movie can improve a book?I'd put Fight Club forward as an example - the movie is much better than the book.Any others?
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Leningrad Cowboy
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Manhunter is the best Thomas Harris adaptation by some distance. I doubt Brett Rush Hour 1 + 2 Ratner can improve upon M. Mann's film.

You are right about Jurassic Park though. The book was surprisingly thoughtful and virtually all of the scientific stuff was binned by Spielberg so he could dry run a Universal Studios theme park ride.

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SurfsUp
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Zorba The Greek was a movie that surpassed the book, perhaps it was Anthony Quinn's outstanding performance that made it so.
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Gangster Octopus
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Whisky Galore's a cracking book, and a good fillum as well. Then again, only Andy C will know this.
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Diggedy Derek
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I can't believe Manhunter is getting slagged off here. It's one of the best movies of the 80s, and surely the best thing Michael Mann has ever done. Terrifying, stylish, utterly compelling.

Really, it's sheer class, what on earth are you talking about LFF?

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Andy C
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Even though Compton Mackenzie has a small role in the film of Whisky Galore, the storyline of the film is very different from that of the book. (The basic premise is the same, mind.)Both are very fine, though.
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Mat Pereira
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'Manhunter' is great, I agree. Seconded.

It reminds me a lot of Nic Roeg. 'The Man Who fell To Earth' in particular. The way it tells essentially a gothic tale, but refuses to use gothic style trappings the way that 'Silence of the Lambs' did and instead wrenched the maximum amount of effect from the shiny, open spaces of a modern American city.

The difference between the two films, I think, is best presented by looking at the way they present Lecter's cell. In 'SOTL' it's the decaying Victorian brickwork of a standard Hammer film. In 'Manhunter' it's a blindingly white and pristine Kraftwerk style laboratory.

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Diggedy Derek
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I think with Manhunter the camera shots are very well chosen, there's hardly a shot wasted. The aesthetically beautiful settings and stylish shots give it a feel of an epic, but a because of the subject matter of the movie, it's specifically a psychological epic.

I think the villan of the piece is incredibly scary too- the detour into his private life (his affair with the blind woman he plans to kill) is tender/terrifying in equal measure. that particualar aspect of the film is a bit like what Mann was trying to do in Heat, but in the latter film it's just background detail, in this one it illustrates in stark detail the choice the killer must make between being a real person with real relationships, or on the other hand being a socio/psychopath.

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Ted Pikul
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It's also good that William L. Petersen is finally getting some acclaim with CSI because To Live And Die In LA is another underrated 80's gem he appeared in.
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Croute au fromage et oeuf au plat
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Rot, in my arms man, I could not agree more with you!

I'll also add my voice to the chorus clamouring in favour of Manhunter. Mann made this at the height of experimental phase, after working on stuff like The Keep or even Miami Vice which was certainly ground breaking in term of visuals. I have not read the book so I can't compare but the movie itself is great. His other adaption however, did not work out and The Keep is a bit like Dune, a kind of glorious failure.

LA confidential left me in awe as I could not believe for a second anyone would come close to replicate the atmosphere in the book but Hanson, despite cutting a lot of stuff, manage it very well.

The Pledge which I liked a lot is also a pretty good adaptation of Durrenmatt novel despite changing the setting from Switzerland to the USA. Again, I have not read it but those who did were pretty positive about it.

Interview with the Vampire was a good adaptation. Choosing two very pretty boys like Pitt and Cruise was very shrewd as vampires are supposed to be seducing. Very good reconstitution of decaying south of the US. A lot of non-sense was thrown at the movie but the base material was pretty average goth stuff and not the kind of revolution in horror those fans were clamouring about.

Anyone read The Shinning?

[ 16-07-2002, 13:48: Message edited by: Moitie-Moitie ]

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Lipper
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I think I'll have to differ with you on this one, Le Feu Fartle, at least based on the slim list of selections you've cited to state your case. You might have put it better by suggesting that very few filmmakers these days seem to either have the interest or commitment, or else, possibly are even allowed to see projects of adaptation through to a competent and proper conception due to the interference of producers and executive producers and snivelling, grease-slicked studio money-men (and women, I suppose; it is the age of equality, and they can wallow with the best of them), all anxious to pander to the lowest common denominator and his backwards hillbilly step-brother-father-sister-uncle.

[Hypothetical Pre-Production Meeting:]

Producer: Well, who bothers with these things anymore anyway? (Puzzles over a book, turning it end over end.) How do you turn it on? Or does it plug into something? I'm not even sure I have a player for this.

Exec. Producer: Exactly. And since nobody reads them, nobody'll give a damn what was in it. Go ahead, change the whole thing, front to back, use a different title, set it in space, who'll know?

Studio Overlord: My old man used to like books, back when they were a thing, so you just make sure he likes it. Mind you, he's stuck in a home and senile as ducks, so keep it simple. Nice, slow moving, pretty pictures. Don't confuse it with all the talking, or a bunch of stories that won't make any sense to the old guy.

Internationally Acclaimed Director: (Looonnnng-suffering sigh.) As you wish, masters. It is your money, and I am your faithful servant. It shall be dull as mud, as inoffensive as God's grandmother, and, when it's ready you'll be surprised I've ever heard of War and Peace, let alone based the picture on it.[/Hypothetical Pre-Production Meeting]

Or something similar. Worse, probably.

Touching on the reasons for bothering at all, as mentioned in your initial post, is another question altogether, spanning the bottom-feeding troughs of commerce to the highbrow artistic instinct. Film companies want money, story (allegedly) to some extent is the commodity they have on offer at the heart of their medium. The theory goes that it is easier to get people into the large darkened room with a recognised property than without one, and either recent best-selling or time-proven works of fiction have long been among the most recognisable properties around. Whether we get a classic or a turd out of the process, or even just something that we don't mind having spent a couple of hours of our lives watching, is all down to the desires of that same group of people I've described above.

Does the studio want a reasonably competent adaptation, or do they think they can scrape by on cannibalising whatever the requisite pre-existing recognisable elements and change the rest to suit their focus groups? Does the director have not only enough intelligence to understand the book and translate it well, but does he love it, or at least respect it enough to want to, and if he wants to refashion it to say something new, does he comprehend the original enough to know if it's a proper fit, if it will play? Too often, these answers come out negative, but sometimes, everything clicks and you get a gem.

Yes, reading a book is an intensely personal experience, as the vivid imagining of a world inside your head by definition has to be. Sometimes, though, it's interesting, occasionally exhilarating, to see other people's takes on something you yourself have loved, to see that world brought, if not to life, than to at least a remarkable facsimile of it. Also, and, frankly this is probably one of the last things on the minds of studios and filmmakers when they bring us these sorts of projects, the adaptation can expose the reading viewer through a well-executed film to the works of an author they might not otherwise have read.

Anyway, my point is that though standards have indeed fallen, and drastically, there are numerous exceptions to Fartle's hard and fast rule of book-into-movie=sh1te. You would think it would have to be due to more than just the reasons I've playfully mentioned earlier that most of these examples are from years and years ago, but since I'd be hard pressed to figure out just what else has changed in the intervening time, I'm willing to accept such bits of speculation as a working answer at this time.

That it is still possible is clear, though it seems to take either some measure of extraordinary vision, and a clear understanding of the heart of the text to be able to strip it down to its basic elements and reassemble them so that they work on screen.

Over the last thirty years, to sample just a few (including some already mentioned) we've had Godfathers I & II, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, A Clockwork Orange, L.A. Confidential, Apocalypse Now (wildly built on and altered, but the origins are still there), Blade Runner, Goodfellas (though, never having read Pileggi's book, I can't speak to the quality of the source material), The Princess Bride (Goldman's script based on his own novel, which likely made things easier), The Silence Of The Lambs, Robert Altman's revisionist The Long Goodbye, and the Coen's Miller's Crossing (although not a straight adaptation of a single work, it takes its plot from Hammett's The Glass Key, and its tone from his Red Harvest, among at least several others. Even if these turn out to be the only ones, and surely we can come to an agreement that most, if not all of these to some extent or another, are acknowledged classics of cinema, these alone must stand as proof enough that the job can be done.

Frequently, the argument is put forth that it is somehow more easily carried off to adapt a mediocre to middling work of fiction (or non-, as in the Pileggi case) rather than tackling a frontline acknowledged literary masterwork, and to some extent, this might be true. However, examining the list above we find Anthony Burgess, Philip K. Dick, Joseph Conrad, Ken Kesey, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Thomas Harris, Dashiell Hammett, even Mario Puzo and William Goldman, all of whom, if not quite icons and luminaries of the printed word, are no lightweights either, nor are we scraping away at the bottom of the hack barrel. Though the list does seem to suggest that quality genre fiction will stand better than its straighter literary counterpart.

Going back even farther into film history, we come upon an entire era where it seems they were eminently capable of getting it right nearly every time, if not actually committing a moment by moment reproduction of the events of the novels to celluloid, than at least nailing the feeling of the original work. Another representative list (rather than comprehensive), could consist of Lolita, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes Of Wrath, From Here To Eternity, To Kill A Mockingbird, Frankenstein, Dracula, Gone With The Wind, The Third Man (although Greene's novella was written expressly as a road map for the subsequent script), Cain's Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, Chandler again, with The Big Sleep, Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man, as well as the loose take on Hemingway's To Have And Have Not, and, finally (for now) Baum's The Wizard Of Oz. Classics all of both page and screen, all successfully adapted. And there's plenty more where that came from, as I'm sure some of you will be happy to point out.

So, basically, it's not that it can't be done, hasn't been done, it just seems a rarity that anyone either wants to or gets to do it properly anymore.

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ale
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Somewhat contrarily Stephen King has always denounced Kubricks version of his book....a later version was made which was more faithful to the novel and gained Kings approval but came nowhere being a cinematic experience in the manner of Kubricks movie...

Its probably a great compliment to both King and Kubrick that you can still read the novel without feeling cheated by the absence of Jack Nicholson...

And on the subject of movies made from Kings stories theres been plenty of criticism levelled at the quality and quantity but most of the reputed big name directors have lined up to have a go....not many authors can boast credits such as Carrie The Shining Misery Stand By Me Shawshank Redemption

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