Thursday, June 10, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #361: Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This time, the theme is "Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations". We've done adaptations before, so I won't be surprised if I've already used at least one of my choices here, but not in some time. And I'm being a bit unfair with one of my choices, as you'll see in a bit:

Moby Dick (1930). John Barrymore plays Captain Ahab in this movie that's not necessarily bad, but it's not really an adaption of Herman Melville's novel, either; instead, it's closer to the earlier silent movie The Sea Beast. As an example of how much it's not an adaptation of Melville, Capt. Ahab lives to return home and gets the girl, played by Joan Bennett. There's nobody you can call Ishmael, either.

Doctor Zhivago (1965). I had to read the book in Russian when I was in college, so maybe I missed something. But the movie begins with what is the epilogue in the book, giving away the story. (Technically, there's a second epilogue of Zhivago's poetry.) And that shot at the end of the dam seems more social realism than Boris Pasternak's much more critical view of Soviet Communism. (Remember, the book was banned in the USSR for decades.) Add to this the fact that the movie is overlong and mawkish an you have a big mess.

The Alphabet Murders (1965). Based on the book by Agatha Christie (called The A.B.C. Murders), somebody thought that casting Tony Randall as Hercule Poirot would be a good idea. Sorry, but no. That, and turning Christie's mystery into straight comedy doesn't really work either.


joel65913 said...

In silents they did a lot of the complete reworking that was applied to Barrymore's Moby Dick. I didn't think it was awful but it's not the Melville story. Actually I thought the more faithful Gregory Peck version was worse. Dull and draggy.

There are parts of Doctor Zhivago that are captivating and I love Julie Christie in it but it is far, far too long and often stolid.

Love Agatha Christie, Love Tony Randall, HATED The Alphabet Murders!!

Bad adaptations are regrettably many which made finding three very easy this week.

The Scarlet Letter (1995)-In a 17th century Massachusetts Puritan settlement Hester Prynne has a secret adulterous affair with the local minister Arthur Dimmesdale while her husband is in Europe resulting in the birth of a child-Pearl. Condemned by the townspeople she is forced to wear a scarlet A in perpetuity to atone for her sin. Such is the meat of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s moralistic novel, but you will find extraordinarily little of any message, or anything else, in this sexed up hash that stars Demi Moore and Gary Oldman. When it’s not vulgar it’s stupid.

All the King’s Men (2006)-Southerner Willie Stark is a simple man who once he is elected to office slides wholly into corruption stepping on anyone in his way and crushing enemies and friends alike in his insatiable quest for power until a reckoning befalls him. Author Robert Penn Warren’s roman a clef novel of the rise and fall of politician Huey Long won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into an Oscar winning film (Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress) in the 50’s. All that is thrown away in this cinematic dog where the director managed to attract an amazing cast (including Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law and Mark Ruffalo) and guided them all to giving some of their worst performances in a film that is both overblown and boring.

Romeo & Juliet (1936)-The tragic story of impulsive teenagers who because of their families enmity feel compelled to take drastic measures rather than be parted. More a stage text than a book but either way this stiff and clunky adaptation shots itself in the foot coming out of the starting gate by having 34-year-old Norma Shearer playing the 13-year-old Juliet and even worse Leslie Howard aged 43! cast as her 16-year-old swain!

Sara said...

I am surprised to see Doctor Zhivago! I haven't seen it, to be fair, but always seems to be a revered movie.

ThePunkTheory said...

I haven't yet seen Doctor Zhivago but now I really want to read the book!

Birgit said...

I have not seen the Barrymore version but I bet it is better the the Peck film which is such a shlog even if peck almost died in the making of this film. I actually love Dr. Zhivago and it was my mom's and her brother's favourite film because they could relate to it. They were both in WW2 enduring the Hitler regime and then, the Communits one before escaping to the West. I really want to read the book since it is somewhat based on his last long-standing love affair with Olga Ivinskaya. Their actual love affair melts my heart. I have never seen this Christie version starring Tony Randall as Poirot but, even writing this makes me shake my head.