Fuse #8

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

From Book To Film: The Best?

A tip of the hat to Scholar's Blog for bringing this puppy to my attention.
The Guardian, in conjunction with Borders and Waterstones, has revealed a list of the top 50 film-book adaptations. A panel of experts has drawn up the list, which will be voted on by the public; the bookshops will promote the books in shops.
Take a look at the list in question. Alice In Wonderland is listed, but the article offers no indication of which version. The Disney? The made-for-tv movie that had Miranda Richardson in it? That creepy Eastern European one? and then there's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And which version of The Jungle Book are we talking here? Thumbs up for The Railway Children but methinks we should put together a list of our own. This one seems a touch lacking.

9 Comments:

At 2:32 PM , Blogger web said...

For that matter, there's more than one version of "the Railway Children"! I haven't seen to recent one, because I have fond, albeit faint, memories of the one from my youth.

 
At 5:43 PM , Blogger Gregory K. said...

Perhaps it's the sum effect of the multiple movies that should be judged? Add one Willy Wonka with one Charlie and take the best parts?

These types of lists always amuse. How do you pick 50. And if you must pick 50, well, clearly it's a different list in England than here. A Kestrel for a Knave (aka Kes)???? Hmmm. If they say so.

 
At 5:58 PM , Blogger Dan McCoy said...

None of the adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are very good. My favorite is probably the surreal Jan Svankmajer one (http://www.illumin.co.uk/svank/films/alice/alice.html). Disney is fun, but it doesn't really capture the spirit of the book. Also, all of the adaptations seem devoted to taking elements from both the Alice books and mashing them together. Why not just do a straight Through the Looking Glass adaptation? I think it's a better book than the first one, anyway.

By the way, on the subject of movies-from-books, your rationale (in an earlier post) for doing a new Wizard of Oz film is _exactly_ the same one that you pooh-poohed from me, when I was saying that it was a good idea to re-do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Don't let your (understandable) love for Gene Wilder blind you to the way the first movie didn't feel like Dahl.

 
At 7:55 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Dan, I concede the point. "Willy Wonka", filled to brimming with delicious Gene Wilder goodness, is not the book. Granted. I STILL like the movie, but if I weren't such a Wilder nut that might not be the case. And certainly the tone of "Alice", Disney-wise, always kinda freaked me out as a kid. But there has never been a 100% perfect filmed edition of a Dahl book. The possible exception to that rule might be "Danny Champion of the World", which came out in the late 80s, early 90s. Or is my love of Jeremy Irons blinding me in that particular case?

 
At 7:35 AM , Anonymous a complete stranger (from england) with a mild dahl obsession said...

Danny the Champion of the World was a fine, if low key adaptation (of, to be fair, a fine if low key book), but surely not a better film than Matilda, or The Witches?

I hear that Fantastic Mr. Fox is in the works. No such luck George's Marvellous Medicine - I guess it would take a brave studio to openly advocate poisoning.

 
At 8:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Jenny Agutter(sp?), who played Bobby in the first Railway Children, played the mother in the second one. Kind of like getting Patty Duke to play Annie Sullivan.

 
At 10:29 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oh goodness me, I must disagree. Certainly my beloved Rowan Atkinson was in "The Witches". True that. But the film itself used slapstick and a tacked on happy ending. Where were the creepy reenactments of all the different fates children suffered at the hands of the witches? What was with the "good" witch? So very odd. "Matilda" did well with the casting, but introduced the magic way way way too early. Plus there was (once again) the over-used slapstick. You might be able to make a case for "James and the Giant Peach", though I didn't much care for it myself. Nope. Jury's out. "Danny" is best.

And I'd love to see "George's Marvelous Medicine" too, but let's not forget "The Twits". Oooooh those creepy Twits.

 
At 11:09 AM , Blogger Bill Coughlan said...

As a die-hard film noir fanatic, I may be one of the few who remembers that even The Maltese Falcon was adapted multiple times into film -- and some purists claim that the classic Bogart version is not the best of them.

No doubt I'm biased by having seen the film before reading the book (not to mention having a full-size Maltese Falcon replica on my bookshelf at home), but I'd say the adaptation was about as good as one can imagine (and surprisingly faithful, especially by modern standards).

Michael Radford's 1984 (actually shot in London during the time frame of the novel's events) was stylistically phenomenal, even if it did have to omit a lot of the source material. There's another adaptation in the works, which I can't imagine will come close.

Speaking of faithful adaptations, I was absolutely thrilled to see Sin City on the list as well. Say what you will about the merits of the film (I love it, though I wouldn't dream of subjecting my wife to it), but it is almost slavishly faithful to the original.

On the other hand, Blade Runner is a fantastic movie (one of my all-time favorites), but bears almost no relation to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep except for the barest details.

Goldfinger is certainly flawed (and -- at least in hindsight -- formulaic), but the movie actually corrects one of the glaring errors in the original book; namely, that it's physically impossible to steal all of the gold out of Fort Knox. They get mucho points in my book for completely changing the basic purpose of the heist plan while staying fundamentally true to the underlying story and characters (well, minus a lot of the book's overtly misogynistic sexuality -- even for James Bond).

 
At 8:02 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Poor Pussy Galore. You'll never be able to return to "The Avengers" again.

All excellent points, one and all. Of course, the flaw of the Guardian article is that it never specifies which versions are the superior ones. So while you might adore Bogart's "Maltese Falcon", how do you know they're not referring to Bette Davis's, "Satan Met a Lady"? You can't! (This is where having a husband who's a film scholar helps me out considerably.)

"Sin City" was indeed an inspired choice (only one version to choose from too). I appreciated that they considered graphic novels "books". Of course, it then begs the question of whether or not to include "Ghost World" or even "The Maxx". I, for one, say yes to the both of them.

 

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