eah, usually I dislike the differences between books and movies. Occasionally they get it right (such as The Three Musketeers (1973) which (aside from the casting of Porthos, was dead on)). But usually they get it wrong (as I commented on a recent War of the Worlds remake from a few weeks back HERE).
But sometimes they do it right. Now, by right, I don’t mean they do the story line-for-line perfect (that would be to much to ask – Hollywood has a lot of writers who wish to “re-imagine” (a word I despise; I prefer the more correct and time-honored phrase “dicked with”)). But yes, if they manage to take an old story and recast in into a new meaning, sometimes it works for me. So, a couple of my favorite examples:
The Blue Max: This was a great novel by Jack D. Hunter, a tale of a World War One German pilot suffering from alcoholism and class-consciousnesses. He eventually sells his soul out chasing the titular medal, survives the war and ends the book meeting up with early Nazis, setting him up for further books and further falls. That was the book. In the movie, he’s all about proving himself to his sneering noble peers, spitting and sputtering all the way. In the end, he shoots off his mouth for the sake of pride and is killed in a remarkably tense and beautiful scene, dragged down by the forces he railed again. So yes, different story lines but equally valid storytelling.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep / Blade Runner: The book, by Philip K Dick, was pretty good – about a world overpopulated, its animals gone and their electronic counterparts now status symbols, everything cloaked with radioactive dust. Grim. The book, now set in a dystopian future, was even bleaker. I didn’t like the original theater release but the director’s cut was spot on. Yes, it was different, all about human-like robots who don’t even know they are humans, bestowed with fake memories and hunted with casual indifference. It really spoke about mortality with a somberness not usually reserved for movies. The terrible irony of the film was that they paid tribute to Ray Bradbury with a hotel shout-out but didn’t do squat for the writer whose book they lifted.
Make Room! Make Room! / Soylent Green: The Harry Harrison book looked at an overpopulated world made worse by lack of any birth control. It was greanhoused, crowded, hopeless. The film followed to to some degree (though Charlton Heston looked out-of-place in a glaring white t-shirt – it should have been tea-colored with sweat). But the film added another excellent twist – the plankton product people are forced to eat are actually made out something in vast supply, not krill. A great flick from a great book.
So these are exceptions to the rules, movies that actually were as good (and in some ways better) than their books. Possibly you have a few more. I’d love to hear about them. Post me at RobertRaymond@bellsouth.net with your suggestions.