In honour of the 2016 Oscars: Classic films of books part II


It’s a special moment in the film year, and time for me to own up to my personal failure at keeping track of all of 2016’s high profile book-to-film adaptations.  So many of this year’s big hitters were originally books and while I’ve seen some and read others, the two have rarely matched up.  Take ‘The Revenant’, I didn’t even know it was also a novel until the ‘based on… ‘ publicity started.  My excuse for ‘The Big Short’ is that it was a non-fiction book and so I was unlikely to read it anyway, but it was all still seeming a bit feeble.  Then I decided to postpone viewing ‘Carol’ until after reading the Highsmith source novel.  Result, I haven’t finished the book and have missed seeing the film in advance of the awards ceremony.  In fact, my only winner was ‘Brooklyn’ which I read a couple of years ago and did manage to catch on the big screen … but all in all it felt like rather a poor attempt for someone who thinks of herself as up to date with books, culture and awards.

Still, prize giving seasons should be about celebrating success rather than wallowing in guilt.  Instead of worrying about 2016, I’ve decided to take a broader view and continue my list (started here) of great film adaptations – those classics which are watched time and time again, those films and books which are strong enough to stand alone, but which also increase popularity for the alternative media version.

Top Film Adaptations Previously Mentioned on this Blog

The List Continues…

the-turn-of-the-screw-and-other-stories‘The Turn of the Screw’, a weird, atmospheric novella by Henry James, is all about the power of suggestion.  It’s billed as a ghost story and is cle220px-The_Innocents_Posterarly a tale about madness and obsession, but the power of the narrative is that it’s never really obvious where these themes overlap.  A tale about love and fear, about power and vulnerability, it is a wonderful piece of writing, and, in ‘The Innocents’, Jack Clayton shows how cinema can be just as evocative and eerie as any book.


You really can’t go wrong with Highsmith.  I recently read ‘Strangers on a Train’ (review pending) and was completely in thrall to the story iMV5BMTcwNzk0MTQxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjM5NTIwNA@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_t tells of the plan and repercussions of ‘the perfect murder.’  Having already seen the Hitchcock adaptation only added to my enjoyment.  The book and the film take the story in different directions, but both show a masterful understanding of how writing and cinema can explore the dark side of human nature.  I honestly can’t say which version of the story I prefer.

imgres-2It’s easy to forget that ‘The Princess Bride’ was originally a novel.  In fact, it has its own charming origin story as William Goldman claims the book is imgres-1his own edited and abridged translation of a ‘Florian’ legend.  Take the full title of the first edition: ‘The Princess Bride, S Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The ‘Good Parts’ Version.’  As in the film, this gives a layering to the story, with the ‘editor’ interrupting to make sure the readers aren’t too scared or bored.  Essential reading material for all of the ‘Princess Bride’ fans out there.

imgres-2My last book review was about Malory’s ‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ and, while I loved it in its own right, I can’t deny that having the theme tune imgres-1to ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ going round my head did help me along.  I don’t want to overstate the similarities (there are no coconuts in Malory’s version and no horses in Python’s, for a start).  I do however want to claim this as a wonderful, and ridiculously quotable filmic version of a classic text, and if you do not agree, I will taunt you a second time…

Finally.  I can’t help noticing a book-film adaptation out at the moment which has received zero Oscar attention.  I refer of course to ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’  I can’t comment on the success of the project; I don’t actually know the book, though I have  read the graphic novel version of the story.  A part of me wants to watch the film, but another part of me is too scared to…

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 15.59.26.png

This entry was posted in Book Lists, Books vs films, Thomas Malory and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to In honour of the 2016 Oscars: Classic films of books part II

  1. Wonderful post! I adore The Princess Bride and Monty Python – two of my favourite films.

    I’m planning in reading Strangers on a Train soon, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it differs from the film. I’m sure I’ll see the actors faces in my head as I read, I saw the film at a young age and it made a big impression 🙂

  2. FictionFan says:

    Hehe! I’m so tempted by P&P&Z – the book looks dreadful, but the film looks like it could be lots of fun! I’m another who’s planning to read Strangers on a Train soon – I’m apprehensive, since it’s one of my favourite films of all time…

    • The graphic novel did have flaws; it’s vey hard to do a good genre mash-up with Austen, because the non-Austen writing is simply never up to scratch. This might sound silly, but while the zombie story was fun, it felt like I was reading two books at the same time because the writing styles could not merge enough to make it seem like one single story. Anyway, so much dialogue always gets re-written for Austen adaptations so I suspect this might be less of a problem in the film…

  3. BookerTalk says:

    Snap. I’ve not read any of the nominees either. It’s not a nominee but one to add to your broader list is Room by Emma Donahue I think which came out late last year

    • I remember when the book came out. I didn’t want to read it then because the subject matter is so upsetting. I have enjoyed her other novels, but I’m still a bit anxious about trying this one…

  4. Jeff says:

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies keeps getting mentioned in my office. I like the idea of mashing up a classic text in that way – its sounds more like it should have been the other way around, i.e. a book adaptation from the film. I wonder if anyone’s planning The Quiet American Psycho? I mean, if we’re gonna mashup …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s