Sunday, April 30, 2017

From Page to Screen Part Two

It is unusual to see a faithful adaptation of one of your favorite books. The director and the producers get involved and they always want to “improve” it in some way that makes you hate the movie. The fact of the matter is that pulp or genre fiction usually adapts well. The types of directors and actors drawn to it just like to tell a good story. They are not all up in their artsy fartsy heads about it.

Two of the best book to screen adaptions that I have seen came from the works of one of my favorite authors and role models Elmore Leonard. “Get Shorty” was an almost perfect rendition of his novel. Of course “Justified” was a sublime manifestation of his Raylan Givens stories. Elmore Leonard and his son worked very closely with the production and actually wrote several episodes. In fact one of his last books contained a couple of stories about Marshal Givens that actually used new characters that originated from the TV series. That is quite unusual. You know. That TV writers influence the author of the original work. Talent will out.

I was very disappointed in the various video interpretation of Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” novels. The original TV series with Robert Ulrich was a good effort but really missed the boat. The various TV movies really sucked. Joe Mantegna is not any reasonable embodiment of the protagonist in those novels.

The series of Jesse Stone movies with Tom Selleck were excellent if a little dreary. I think they thought film noir means depressed or something. Still it was a worthy effort and they should get kudos. It is the only filming of Parkers work that is worth a shit.
I think one of my biggest disappointment is the way they “butchered” Jim Butcher’s great series about Harry Dresden. The Sci-Fi channel commission a series and they just destroyed it. What a shame. They had great source material. A whole series of novels that everything. Wizards. Demons. Ghosts. Vampires. Monsters. Werewolves. Faires. Trolls. You name it if it was magical it is in these excellent science fiction tomes. They just couldn’t follow through. What a missed opportunity.

Finally there is a series that I would love to see get a full blown TV adaptation. That is the great David Drake RCN series about Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy. In fact if you want a science fiction series to start I would recommend this in the highest terms. This would make a great basis for a slamming TV series. The CGI would let them do most of the great stunts and situations and would be just terrific. This is an example of where pulp or genre is far superior to tight ass literary pretentious bullshit. Supposedly this series was based on Patrick O’Brien’s very overrated Aubrey/Maturin naval novels. Now I know that those books are praised to the sky. But you know what? They aren’t all that great. At least in my opinion. If you want to read great pulp fiction about the Napoleonic Wars and the British Navy you should read Douglas Reeman’s books that he published under the name Alexander Kent. The Bolitho series is far superior to O’Brien’s wordy clap trap. I think O’Brien is praised so much because it is respectable for the intelligentsia to read him instead of Kent or CS Forester or are superior in plot and dialogue. At least that is what I think. In the same was they would admit to reading Lovecraft or Poe but claim that they never read Stephen King or Peter Straub. It is elitism plain and simple.

Currently I am knee deep in Vox Day’s series “Arts of Dark and Light.” The first book in the series "A Sea of Skulls” is really, really good and if you enjoyed “Game of Thrones” I would totally recommend it. It sort of has a mixture of ancient Roman and Anglo Saxon History that makes it very engrossing. I am zipping through it in record time. It would make a great TV series but it will never be done. Vox Day is politically radioactive and no Hollywood studio would ever touch it. Unless Steve Bannon leaves government and goes back to entertainment. So it will remain in the written word. As do many of my favorites. Still we can always hope. With the advent of live streaming services like Amazon, Hulu and Netflicks making their own series and their need for content you never know what you might get to see.

Now back to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch Season Three on Amazon Video. I am up to episode Five and it is getting good.


Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

I agree.

I have only read a couple of the Bosch books, but what I've read tends to reasonably match up with the Amazon series. The Godfather is also a novel that reasonably matched up to what was on the scene. That is not the end of it though, Coppola made what was on the screen worth watching and meeting readers expectations (although I read the book after I saw the movie---so my vision on the spoken word was influenced by what I saw).

But not all works can easily translate between novel and movie.

Trooper York said...

This is very true. I just think that genre fiction translates a lot better. And that there are a bunch of great series that can be translated into kick ass TV series. But they never come to fruition.

Trooper York said...

The Godfather is a great example of a pulp novel translated into a better movie. One of the few actually.

Trooper York said...

Just about the best book to film adaptation that I have seen is Louis Lamour's "The Day Breakers" which was made into a TV miniseries called "The Sacketts." This is the first two books in the Sackett saga. Man that was well done. Starring Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot and Glen Ford and Ben Johnson and the only thing they screwed up was putting a forgettable lead in Jeff Osterhage in the pivotal role of Ty Sackett.

Still on of the best book to film adaptations I have seen.

Sixty Grit said...

Bonfire of the Vanities by my close personal friend Tom Wolfe was a better movie than it was a book, even though the casting could hardly have been worse. Tom Hanks as a WASP? Give me a break. Bruce Willis' character was British in the book. But on one key point the movie was better.

Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact became the execrable movie Shooter, with that swarthy midget Mark Walhberg playing the tall American sniper Bob Lee Swagger. Awful movie, painful to watch, with the exception of the scene with Levon Helm. That guy was good.

ampersand said...

"Psycho" was also a pulp novel. Hitchcock was actually looking for schlock material to compete/surpass William Castle.

"Rosemary's Baby" was a complete filming of the book. I had read the book first and watching the movie thought you wouldn't be able make out some of the details unless you previously read the book. Again William Castle bought the rights and wanted to direct but all he got was producer's credit. I don't think either film or book were good because the premise was so silly.

Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers" and "The Four Musketeers" were great interpretations of the book, but many people don't like them because of the slapstick.

Some great books that never made it intact to any film,"The Hunchback of Notre Dame","Huckleberry Finn" and "Frankenstein"

William said...

I liked Bonfire of the Vanities as a book, but the movie lacked malice and spite.......Same thing with Vanity Fair. Some emotions don't film well........Jane Austen has photogenic insights. As a writer I like Thackeray better than Austen, but Austen's books are the ones that make successful movies. Of all the canon Englit writers, she's the one who has had the greatest success in Hollywood.

Christy said...

Just yesterday finished a complete reread of The Dresden Files. I liked the aborted TV series just fine until I started reading the novels. I am totally charmed by his first steampunk novel, The Aeronaut's Windlass. Still haven't figured out why I can fall asleep listening to a story full of violence and not have nightmares, but there you go.

While I loved Justified, and thought the dialog among the best ever in television, I've never been able to read the novels or short stories.

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel has picked some of the most tiresome of women's mysteries to dramatize, and in some cases have improved them, but they still aren't particularly good. I read the mysteries because I'll read most anything, but I need an Agatha Christie after to cleanse the palate.

A couple of James Lee Burke novels have been made into movies. Alec Baldwin starred in a greatly disappointing Heaven's Prisoners. Tommy Lee Jones did In the Electric Mist and while it was better, it could not match the magnificent novel. Burke plays a bit with magical realism. We are never sure if the Confederate General is really helping, or if he is our alcoholic hero's cop intuition manifesting in dt hallucinations. Hard to translate to film, I suspect.

I'm surprised at how much I've enjoyed the Jack Teacher movies with Tom Cruise.

The hysterically funny first Stephanie Plum movie bombed, with some reason. Mostly I was disappointed none of the other novels would get made.

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

Sixty, what was the one key point where BFotV movie better than the book?

I thought the book great, I could never get through the movie, so I might have missed that one key point.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Mel G. says "I'm a sucker for a soft cock" or something.

Sixty Grit said...

In the book Sherman McCoy does not win his case. The tape that would vindicate him is tossed out by the judge.

In the movie the tape is accepted into evidence and Sherman wins his case.

Once again this is a good example of a film maker thinking he is a better writer than the author, but since I went through a divorce right after the movie came out, and since my case, too, hinged on a tape recording, I really liked the fact that Sherman crushed his enemies like bugs by using evidence obtained by a bug.

I did the same thing.

So this is not really a case of the movie being better than the book, it is merely a case of art imitating and reinforcing events that occurred in my own life.

You go, Sherman, you rock!

Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons also involved a surreptitious tape recording, and the names of the law and investment firms in his novels would do The Three Stooges proud "Dunning, Sponget and Leach", "Curry, Goad and Pesterall", "Wringer, Fleasom and Tick", "Crotalus, Adder, Cobran and Krate" - these are all masterfully created names.