I’ve recently decided to post more bloggy-type stuff on here so here’s one that’s been on my mind for a while: great books that are also great movies! I know what you’re thinking- “I read lists of great film adaptions ALL THE TIME, who cares?” This is different. (But the “who cares?” part is still totally valid…) Anyway, the point here is that these are not just great adaptations of literary source material; these are “All-Time Great Desert Island Books” that are also “All-Time Great Desert Island Movies.” Each of these books has a coveted “top shelf” position on my bookshelf and I probably have the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray on my entertainment center’s top shelf as well. BOTH book and movie must be all-timers – that’s pretty rare.
In no particular order:
“The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett. Directed by John Huston.
This has been my favorite movie, basically, since I HAD a favorite movie. I watched a lot of “classic black-and-white” films with my dad as a kid and was obsessed with Humphrey Bogart. Everyone in this movie was the coolest cat on their particular block. The way Sam made such a chump out of Wilmer time and again was classic, Gutman was a great villain and Joel Cairo was different from any character I’d seen before.
It wasn’t until maybe 2010 that I actually read the book while going through a Noir phase and churning through James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler as if my life depended on finishing their entire catalogs, but I was always afraid to read this one; I truly thought there was no way that the book could live up to this movie that I’ve revered since childhood… but it SO did and I couldn’t be happier about it.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. Directed by Robert Mulligan.
This movie came to me a little later in life, surprisingly. I was probably in my early teens the first time I saw it, but the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Just when you’re at that phase where you start thinking about morality and values and what kind of person you want to be, along comes one Atticus Finch to show you EXACTLY the person you want to be. (Please, let’s not talk “Go Set a Watchman.” I haven’t read it and won’t.) The heart-breaking reminiscence that permeates the film was also a perfect fit for the beginning of that “lost childhood” phase as well. (Bonus realization after 10+ viewings over 20+ years: that’s Robert Duvall creeping in the corner there!)
Again, I didn’t read the novel until a few years ago.. but, wow, what an impression it made. Lee’s mastery of language, theme and tone are such that it seems strange she didn’t become the Stephen King of her time. So many great characters that didn’t make the movie, too. If you didn’t grow up in fear of your block’s “Mrs. Dubose” then you may have become a horrible human being. She’s cruel and creepy and awful but she also teaches valuable lessons, just like that neighbor who kept you in line as a kid.
This book is now a welcome addition to my “special” library.
“The Shining,” by Stephen King. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
The perfect horror movie for people who don’t like “Horror” movies! I’m sure I don’t need to expound on this one too much, movie OR book. However, it is interesting (to me, anyway, and that’s what matters) to note that I also didn’t read this book until 2-3 years ago. I had read some of King’s non-horror novels and loved them, but horror just wasn’t for me. It still isn’t, but I have mad respect for Stephen King and his “On Writing” is one of the best examples of the writer’s craft.
I know, Stephen King hates this movie. Sorry, I love it. The “don’t interrupt me when I’m writing” monologue makes me feel like I have some deeply-rooted issues of my own, that’s how much I love that scene. I do prefer the roque mallet, though, now that I’ve read the book…
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” by Ken Kesey. Directed by Milos Forman.
The latest addition to my list of “All Timers” – both in book and movie form. I was well into my 20’s before I finally saw this movie… and soon after, had to go read the book. I’ve done both again, several times, since. You can put Nurse Ratched right up there with Hannibal Lecter, Anton Chigurh and Bill the Butcher in the pantheon of truly evil villains.
One important(?) item that I’ve noticed in each of these entries is that, in every case, I came to the movie first and only later read the book. Is that relevant? Maybe. It’s also interesting to point out that none of these are more recent than 1980’s “The Shining.” Read into that what you will… but I’m not that old.
I’m sure I missed a few. I hope I have. Finding another would be a two-fold treasure, but this will never be a long list. Want to tell me how lame I am for pulling out four well-respected classics, go for it. Or how weak my list of villains seems? Whatevs, dude. Next time I’ll tackle a much more controversial topic: movies that are BETTER than the book! Until then, I’m out like “the Chief.”