Movie Adaptations

Where do our favorite movies come from? A fair few have been, and continue to be, the result of original scripts but many are adaptations. While a modern movie may credit a play, a TV show, a comic book, or even a video game as its source, the most traditional inspiration came from the pages of novels and stories. Now there’s an obvious advantage built in here – screenwriters have a fully formed narrative from which they can work. On the other hand, this also imposes certain limitations on creativity, depending on how faithful to or respectful of the original writer’s work it’s considered important to be. The greatest difficulties, from the perspective of the filmmakers, tend to rear up when the work being adapted is particularly well-known or well-regarded. Fans of the author or story have a habit of getting up in arms if they sense the filmmakers are straying too far, either in terms of plot or spirit, from their beloved piece of writing.

Yet that is a situation which is virtually unavoidable. When you get right down to it, we’re talking about different media here, with different aims and different aesthetics. Something which proves successful on the printed page may not, for a whole variety of reasons, translate well to the cinema screen. That may be a consequence of the narrative structure not being especially cinematic – lack of pace and urgency, too great a sweep, or too much stream of consciousness. The point here is that changes, maybe major ones, are frequently not only desirable but also entirely necessary for an adaptation to work on the big screen.

It also begs the question of what exactly constitutes a good source for cinematic adaptation. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that very often it’s safe to say that the more worthy or respected the book, the less satisfactory the resultant movie is. Generally speaking, that is. Hemingway was one of the finest writers of the 20th century, perhaps even the finest, yet the adaptations of his writing have all been somewhat lacking. F Scott Fitzgerald is another who could be said to have suffered a similar fate. Frankly, I’m sure we could all name plenty of renowned writers who have been poorly served by the films their work inspired. Conversely, there are countless highly entertaining, and sometimes artistically impressive, films derived from the kind of pulp writing I’m sure even its creators would cheerfully admit never aspired to being regarded as great literature. So those are my questions for anyone who cares to tackle them: What do think are the best literary adaptations? And why does the anomaly of poor books leading to good films, and vice-versa, exist?

 

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53 thoughts on “Movie Adaptations

  1. I find it particularly instructive to look at Hitckcock, who publicly was very disdainful of the published sources he used for 95% of his movies (there are very few original screenplays in his output once you get past TORN CURTAIN, NORTH BY NORTHWEST and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT) – but some of his best and most commercially successful, like REBECCA and PSYCHO, are among the most faithful – while THE 39 STEPS has very little Buchan in it really. On the other hand his JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK is very theatrical and faithful, and pretty damn dull

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    • As you’re something of a book-movie specialist Sergio, I thought you’d be interested in weighing in on this. Hitchcock seemed very pragmatic when it came to remaining faithful to the source – I agree The 39 Steps takes great liberties with Buchan’s novel but the result is very successful – if the material needed substantial changes to work on the screen, then that’s exactly what he did. Personally, I have no problem with that approach.

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      • LA CONFIDENTIAL is an example where I greatly enjoyed the film as a romantic evocation of the era and the genre and enjoy its storytelling technique – but have a lot of sympathy with those who felt it betrayed the source by changing it so much and largely removing the racial subtext. On the other hand, I have great admiration for the way that de Palma’s BLACK DAHLIA manages to cram most of the plot in but completely understand why it did much less well (though I do like it). I don’t buy the ‘better the book, worse the film’ idea as it presumes too much about what ‘good’ means. Many, many, many great films do terrible things to their ostensible source material – one should ask why, but only occasionally does this get int he way of my enjoyment. Frankly there are plenty of movie that improve on the book – I think this of REMAINS OF THE DAY for instance and I liked the book a lot!

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        • I think much comes down to how far you’re willing or able to distinguish between the two media in your mind. I understand those who feel short changed when a film radically distorts one of their favorite novels, but I don’t share the view myself – by using a different medium, the filmmakers are, for me anyway, creating a new piece of art. I’m able to view the book as the inspiration, the jumping off point – although I quite appreciate that others may struggle with this.

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          • Mostly I agree with that – but when things are changed so as not to offend the shareholders for instance, that can be very annoying – if you feel that the integrity hasn’t been compromised, I completely agree with you chum.

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            • Ah, well that’s a whole different ball game there. If changes occur solely for artistic, creative reasons, then I can accept them quite willingly. If, however, we’re talking about alterations driven by marketing considerations, or any other corporate interference, I couldn’t go along with it either.

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                • Yes, I’m aware of those changes and don’t care either. Of course, I never read the book so that’s obviously going to have an effect on the way I see it. I saw the movie first and loved it as it was – knowing that the book is radically different means I’m far less likely to ever seek it out now.

                  The differences between Ian Fleming’s literary Bond and the movie versions usually generate pretty lively debate. Personally, I came to the books after the films and, while I was immediately aware of the differences, was never bothered. I simply accepted that they were two separate iterations of the character.

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                  • I was in fact stunned by how close the Craig CASINO ROYALE was to the book and frankly the film of FROM RUSSIA LOVE maybe be better by injecting SPECTRE into it. It is weird that the only version of I AM LEGEND that even comes close is the Vincent Price version that nobody’s seen much – maybe a lesson there …

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                    • I bought a copy of Matheson’s book a while back and need to make a start on it at some point actually. The Vincent Price version of the story – I’ll have to take your word on its relative faithfulness – isn’t my favorite though. There’s a very cheap, low-budget feel to it that turned me off when I last watched it. Mind you, that was some considerable time ago so I probably ought to give it a spin again and see it how it grabs me now. I really like the Heston version – the 70s vibe and the Ron Grainer score hit the spot for me.

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                    • I agree about the Heston version, though it kind of is a blaxploitation version of the story instead of a modern vampire epic. VERTIGO is a great example of an OK book turned into a masterpiece – and MILLER’S CROSSING is the best version of Hammett’s THE GLASS KEY that never was!

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                    • Oh good call on Miller’s Crossing. I like that film a lot and was immediately struck by the similarities to The Glass Key when I first saw it.

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                    • If they had been sued they would have lost! Great movie, great book! Are you planning to do a top 10 best and worst adaptations at some point? Among the best I would put POINT BLANK (huge changes), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (very faithful), BREAKING POINT (much more faithful to the book than Hawks version), Cronenberg’s DEAD ZONE (terrific and greatly altered), GREEN FOR DANGER (pretty faithful and improved), Huston’s THE MALTESE FALCON (almost verbatim and perfect), DOUBLE INDEMNITY (a great improvement over the book) and, well, the lists could go on …

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                    • I hadn’t actually thought about it but I’ll keep it in mind now you’ve mentioned it.
                      Those titles you listed there remind me that you said before you were planning an article on The Breaking Point – is that still in the works? I also think that Siegel’s version of the same book, The Gun Runners, is worthwhile, falling somewhere between the escapism of the Hawks movie and the grittiness of the Curtiz version.

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                    • Yup, definitely on the agenda along (of course …) with a review of the original Hemingway – I’ll have to re-watch the Siegel version, it’s been way too long!

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                    • I watched both last summer – haven’t read the book for a long time – and enjoyed them. The Curtiz film is very close structurally and in terms of tone to Hemingway’s tale. I must admit I had fun with the hybrid nature of the Siegel movie though.

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                    • Not to butt into your guys’ conversation, but just had to chime in on the side of Colin re: the cheapness of LAST MAN ON EARTH. I also find Vincent Price -as much as I love the man – miscast as vampire-battling man-of-action. That movie IS closest to the Matheson novel but still fails to do it justice. I’ll take THE OMEGA MAN, with all its flaws, over the Price version any day.

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                    • Well, quite – I mean, Matheson co-wrote it (albeit under a pseudonym after it passed on from Hammer) but it’s not a great movie, though I enjoy it in part because it was filmed in the EUR section of Rome (also used for Argento’s TENEBRE incidentally)

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  2. Colin, this is a nice little perspective on movie adaptations. Although John Ball’s novel was really good I actually liked the film version of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, which I partly attribute to Sidney Poitier’s portrayal of Virgil Tibbs and, of course, Rod Steiger.

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  3. This is such an interesting topic, and one you could probably discuss endlessly, since every adaptation is different. What you said about fan reaction can be even more complex, since everyone has their own opinion of how good an adaptation is – half the book’s readers might think it was excellent, and the other half think it was terrible. There’s interesting differences, too, depending on whether the source material is a novel or a short story. With a novel you have to condense, but short stories are often expanded. In Ernest Haycox’s original “Stage to Lordsburg,” for example, a lot of the characters didn’t even have names.

    I think another writer whose books didn’t fare well onscreen, even thought plenty were ‘adapted,’ was Zane Grey – I’ve read a dozen or so of his books, and even though I haven’t watched the movies, a glance at the synopsis is enough to tell you that just about the only elements that made it to the screen were the title and maybe some character names. (The same is true of Max Brand’s DESTRY RIDES AGAIN.)

    As a big mystery reader, I’ve always thought the traditional mystery is one of the hardest types of books to adapt. On the page the clues can be subtle, mentioned casually or hidden in dialogue; onscreen you have to draw the audience’s attention to them visually, which kind of makes them over-obvious. Maybe that’s why such a popular author as Agatha Christie had so few film adaptations. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (’45) was pretty accurate, but oddly done as half comedy when the original was almost closer to horror. The only really excellent mystery adaptation I’ve seen is Christianna Brand’s GREEN FOR DANGER (’46).

    The movie that first comes to my mind as a near-perfect adaptation is actually Disney’s OLD YELLER. One of my all-time favorite films, Emma Thompson’s SENSE & SENSIBILITY, is a beautiful example of a screenplay that captures the spirit of a novel even though there’s so much more in the book that had to be left out. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is like that too.

    Forgive the long comment – as a reader, writer and movie buff, this topic always fascinates me! 🙂

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    • Hello Elisabeth, great response. You’re right to bring up the matter of novels and short stories requiring the application of different techniques. I thought Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy from a few years back did a fair job, although not a perfect one, of compressing a pretty complex plot into a manageable script. With regard to short stories, I still think the approach used on The Killers, using most of Hemingway’s story to open the movie and then using flashbacks to show how the characters arrived at that point, is an excellent one. All told, I’d imagine the short story is the more attractive prospect for a screenwriter.

      I agree too on your point about filming golden age mysteries. Those books were filled with tricky, deft plotting and clue concealment. Pulling that off on the page is one thing, but the cinema screen is a whole different challenge.

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    • Hi Ron. If it was Kubrick who said that, then it’s a theory that has been picked up by lots of people and regarded by some as a truism. There are of course good adaptations of highly regarded books, but the fact so much pulp fiction (which in all honesty I don’t believe deserves its lowly reputation) has led to excellent movies does seem to lend it some weight.

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  4. this has been on my mind a lot lately too. I’m not one to get in a knot about departures and liberties taken, if it catches the spirit and somehow leads viewers back to the source. I don’t think perfection, if it’s at all possible, comes from reproduction or faithfulness to the source, which is nearly impossible (not really desirable even) given the different mediums. I think people need to let go of that expectation or unit of measurement, and see success as the actors and filmmakers giving it their own spin and creating a good standalone work.

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    • Yes, that’s about the same as I feel Kristina. Departing from the source material doesn’t necessarily imply disrespect – as long as a valid piece of art is produced then I’m more or less satisfied.

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  5. Colin, it’s a fascinating question – one I constantly wrestle with when watching adaptations. In general I agree with you that they are two different mediums and a film-maker can’t be expected to stick closely to a book, but in practice I do sometimes find my hackles rising when changes are made which seem to go against the spirit of a book or weaken it. Often an adaptation can send me back to a book and cast a different light on it.

    I do think sticking very closely to the book can occasionally work, as with the great TV adaptation of ‘Brideshead Revisited’, where huge chunks of dialogue were word for word, or Wellman’s film of ‘Track of the Cat’, which really does feel very close to Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s novel – even the strange black and white colour scheme with brief flashes of colour is there in the book. But often a novel really needs to be completely reimagined and turned into something different.

    On Hemingway, I really like the 1930s version of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ with Gary Cooper, and I also recently saw the 1950s version with Rock Hudson and liked that too – but for me the earlier version was more powerful, even though quite a lot of the later version is probably ‘truer’ to the sequence of events in the book.

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    • I think it really does depend on the book Judy – some are more easily adapted than others.

      I think I’d probably agree with you on A Farewell to Arms. I think I maybe prefer the 1957 version as it does stick pretty close to the book (and looks great) but I’m happy enough with the 1932 film as well.

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  6. When I read your comments on films adapted from Hemingway’s novels, I thought of Steinbeck’s books that had much more success in the transition to film. What particularly came to mind was Steinbeck’s monumental “East of Eden”, and the 1955 film that was adapted by Paul Osborn.

    It was, of course, an impossible task to reduce the complete, sprawling novel into a single film, (a mini-series was completed in 1981), however, I believe that Osborn succeeded in transforming the “Cain and Able” section of the book, into a concise film that retained much of the mood and drama of the novel. Of necessity, the character of Cathy Ames, (Kate), in the book is neglected in favour of Cal Trask who becomes the main protagonist, and certain characters and events are deleted from the film for the sake of brevity.

    Apparently the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences considered Paul Osborn’s adaptation worthy of a nomination for an Oscar for “Best Story and Screenplay”, in 1955, and the film itself was very successful.

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    • Rod, I’m certainly familiar with East of Eden as a movie but never read the book. Big, sprawling novels tend to put me off, even when they are worthy. Having said that, I really should try it as Steinbeck was a fine writer.

      And while we’re talking Steinbeck, Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath is another example of an excellent movie taken from his work.

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  7. Thought-provoking piece, Colin! I usually buy into the general consensus that the book is usually better than the movie, and so often prefer to watch the film first then read the (usually superior) book later. There are some notable exceptions; for example, speaking of Hemingway, I’d say the adaptations of his TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (the wonderful Bogart/Bacall romp, THE TURNING POINT and even THE GUNRUNNERS) are more successful than the original book. And while I think Dashiell Hammet’s THE THIN MAN is an excellent hard-boiled novel, there’s a certain magical spark in the film version which isn’t present in the book and elevates it into something else entirely.

    And while it’s not a big screen feature, I definitely think most would agree that the Richard Matheson-scripted telefilms THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER are improvements on the Jeff Rice novels (though they certainly are readable and fun books) – mainly due to the vivid presence of Darren McGavin as Kolchak. In fact, I think it’s more this serendipity of casting, rather than the usual changing the plot or dropping of elements to suit the medium of film, which results in the occasional case of a film proving superior to its literary source.

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    • Good to hear from you Jeff.
      Is the book always better than the film? I’m not sure myself – no arguments in the case of To Have and Have Not and its adaptations mind – and think I’d generally have to take it on a one-by-one basis. I agree with you completely on the ideal order to approach these things – see the movie first and then watch the movie – and try to follow that pattern where possible.

      Good point about the importance of the casting too – that’s something that can often make or break an adaptation.

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  8. Very interesting topic…I’d be curious to know if anyone can think of an example where a truly great novel has been turned into a truly great movie. I can’t think of one myself but there are plenty of cases where I either haven’t read the book or haven’t seen the movie (or both)….I think it would have to be a rare trick, though, because geniunely great novels usually traverse at least some territory that is very hard for film to follow (just as plenty of great films go places novels would be hard-pressed to follow.)

    Of course it depends on the definition of “Great,” too. As novels go, I’d take Gone With the Wind over The Grapes of Wrath but I’d probably put both in the “good” category (and both films in the “great catetory.) But there’s certainly room for argument.

    Anyway, like I said. A fun topic. Also wanted to say that I really enjoyed the Underrated Westerns series Colin. I’m always amazed at how many films you guys recommend that I’ve never even heard of!

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    • Yes, trying to come up with an answer to these things is made even more difficult by the subjectivity that is inevitably involved. These labels “great” and “good” require, as Sergio alluded to earlier, a degree of presumption on our part that may be far from universal. Still, it makes for a good discussion point and it’s always a pleasure to read a variety of opinions.

      On the underrated westerns, I too love the fact that there are so many titles I get to hear about. It seems like no matter how deep you dig, there’s still new stuff that others mention.

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  9. Some interesting books discussed here, Colin. As I have shared in previous posts, I am a fan/champion of the Andrew Dominik film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), and the source novel for that film is very strong in itself. Written by Ron Hansen and published in 1983, the language and detail of the book is immersive and is well-reflected in the film adaptation. Dominik actually discovered the book in a second-hand book store in Australia and was immediately struck by it.

    Dominik made a real effort to keep the script almost exactly the same as the dialogue in the book. Hansen himself was brought into the film’s production as a consultant and was even given a walk-on part….I’m don’t think that level of respect is often given to writers of source material! 😉

    Thanks,
    Chad
    http://westernsreboot.com/

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    • Never read the book Chad, but I can’t say I’m surprised. The film certainly has that deliberate, studied pacing to it that suggests a close adaptation.

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  10. Really interesting discussion, Colin! I was going to suggest THE KILLERS as a superior example of a Hemingway adaptation, but you were way ahead of me, I see in the comments. I too enjoy the 1957 A FAREWELL TO ARMS. (As a minor side note, and since I never get a chance to mention it in everyday life, I actually, literally exist because of the 1957 adaptation of THE SUN ALSO RISES. My mom saw it on TV in her early twenties and thought the bullfight scene was wonderful and decided she wanted to see one in real life. Her then-boyfriend refused to take her to one, he said it would make her sick, so she met a guy who was going to one that weekend and went with him, and that turned out to be my father. The boyfriend was right, in the end; she DID get sick)

    By the way, as an example of a truly great movie being made from a truly great book, I suggest THE MALTESE FALCON, one of the greatest mystery novels of the 20th century and one of the greatest movies, period, from any century.

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    • That’s a great story about The Sun Also Rises, Bruce – thanks for sharing it.

      You’re right about The Maltese Falcon being both an exceptional book and novel, and it’s pretty faithful. Is it now accepted as great literature? When I was growing up there was a certain degree of intellectual snobbery, something I could never get along with myself, which was dismissive of anything with pulp roots. It would be nice to think we’ve moved on.

      Back to Hemingway for a moment. I seem to remember finding The Macomber Affair a good movie, although it’s an awful long time since I’ve seen it. And it’s an equally long time since I read the short story.

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  11. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “The Macomber Affair,” which I presume comes from the much-better-titled “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” I’ll have to check it out. I do believe that the snobs have come around on “Maltese Falcon” and Hammett in general, I’ve come across several lists (by “Time Magazine,” for instance) that list “Falcon” as one of the 100 great novels of the 20th century. It is a mystery why, even today, genre books are seen as not-literature. As far as I’m concerned, a great book is a great book. A great movie too, by the way.

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    • As far as I’m concerned, a great book is a great book. A great movie too, by the way.

      Bruce, I couldn’t agree more. There’s something incredibly dispiriting about a picky and snooty attitude to books (and films) which dictates what’s worthy and what’s not. I can still recall my first semester at university when I took a course in American literature. The lecturer had just informed us we’d be looking at writers such as Frederick Douglass, Willa Cather etc. I asked him if there would be time to do anything on the likes of Hammett or Chandler, and the derisive tone of his reply, not to mention the withering raised eyebrow, has stayed with me ever since.

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    • Bruce H. writes:
      Show me one line in Frederick Douglass or
      Willa Cather as good as, “It’s the stuff that
      dreams are made of.”

      For that you’d have to go to Shakespeare. You’re quoting from The Maltese Falcon, but the line originated in a larger context in The Tempest, as the wizard Prospero brings an end to his magical powers and the dream state he created for everyone. All directors and actors love this passage. I’ll probably get this wrong, but if memory serves: “Our revels now are ended. We are actors, as I foretold you. We are all spirits, and are melted into air. Into thin air. And like the baseless fabric of this vision — the cloud capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself — yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve, like this insubstantial pageant fated to leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

      Not a bad metaphor for cinema.

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      • That’s almost spot on Richard. The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1:

        Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
        As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
        Are melted into air, into thin air:
        And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
        The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
        The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
        Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
        And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
        Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
        As dreams are made on; and our little life
        Is rounded with a sleep.

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  12. Dicey topic, Ian. I thought Shane (1953), Psycho (1960), The Innocents (1961, based on Turn of the Screw), Dr. No (1962), The Andromeda Strain (1971), and The Godfather (1972) improved on their best-selling sources in significant ways. If I had your talent for explication, Colin, I’d say more about how that was accomplished.

    Someone mentioned Richard Matheson, a script writer with an amazing talent for turning short stories (by Poe, among others) into fully fleshed-out visual business that are both faithful to the source and highly original Mathesonized films. Of the many scripts he wrote, the only one to disappoint me was The Legend of Hell House. The novel is an epic, but his script was too compressed and too on the nose. I have been disappointed in the adaptations of I Am Legend, a novel influenced very much by Ernest Hemingway (Matheson has admitted that Hemingway was a profound influence on him, and that this influence is most apparent in his early novels and short stories). Filmmakers keep screwing it up, going for spectacle and big action instead of austerity and stoicism. It’s almost a chamber play, and that’s precisely what makes it scary. Matheson wrote the best version for Hammer in 1958, but the BBFC wouldn’t let them make it. Hammer sold the property to Sidney Salkow, who shot it in Italy in 1964. Salkow changed the script and watered it down so much it had no teeth. Subsequent versions compounded the felony.

    I’ve always thought there was more to be had from To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s a great film, to be sure, but it needed color and more time — perhaps as much as another 30 minutes — to bring those chapters to life.

    In a lot of ways, I think Gerald Savory’s teleplay for Count Dracula (BBC 1977) is only version that makes sense. It succinctly captures Bram Stoker’s intent better than Stoker did himself in some areas (Renfield, for instance). A truly exceptional script. If only it could be remade with a budget by a director who understands the necessity for restraint and style to match Savory’s substance. Along parallel lines, I’ve never liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; the book is miserable and depressing, more of an idea for a story than a story. Christopher Isherwood took her concept and plotting and enriched it in Frankenstein: the True Story (British TV 1973). That telefilm is the novel she should have written.

    In addition to Matheson, Nelson Gidding (who worked mostly with Robert Wise) and Marguerite Roberts were literates of the old school who had a real talent for adapting novels and short stories into perfect scripts.

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    • Richard, I’m not sure what that magic ingredient is that sees a movie improve on its source. I have a hunch that no-one, not even those involved in or responsible for the creation of the movie, can be 100% certain about it. I think it mainly comes down to a kind of happy coincidence where the strong and weak elements of a story are recognized and the filmmakers, through a combination of good fortune and talent, are able to both emphasize and compensate for said elements respectively. I guess you need the right producer to spot the potential in the first place and then get the right director, writer(s), actors and technical people to bring it all to fruition.

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  13. It always begins with the writing, though, Colin. All departments are important, but without good writing, directors and cameraman have nothing to build on.

    One of my favorite writers is Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve always wondered how the original short story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde differed from the rewrite that was published in London in 1886. Stevenson had a nightmare during an illness, and then wrote it down in a fever. His wife said the first version was more of an allegory than a story, and was disgusted by it. She wrote comments on the manuscript, and after reading them, Stevenson threw it on the fire. Then he started rewriting it, and that’s the novella we all know. It has served as the basis for many theatrical plays, film adaptations and teleplays, but who could have foreseen the places where Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath took it in the 1931 Paramount film. I don’t know anything about the script writers, except that their adaptation is above and beyond brilliant. It’s book-literate and cinema-literate. It is also faithful. Even as it enlarges the story, deepens it, enriches it, gives it larger context, translates its written passages into visual business, it remains faithful to the characters, the underlying subtext, and the plotting of Stevenson’s story. And yet it’s completely different. I think the main ingredient to a successful adaptation, and to a successful film in its own right, is to be faithful to the source.

    Most script writers today are illiterate and are writing from a juvenile state of mind. That hasn’t been a good thing for the movies.

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  14. After thinking more about one of your questions—why poorer books sometimes make great films—I wondered this: Is it perhaps that if the screenwriter feels less reverence for a book, they find it easier to work with it and alter it? If they’re seeing it not as a great piece of literature but as just a promising story with flaws that could be improved, perhaps they feel more free to try and make something of it.

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