“George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.” (p 66)

My Top 10

  1. A Room with a View
  2. Stand by Me
  3. The Color of Money
  4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  5. Little Shop of Horrors
  6. Children of a Lesser God
  7. Manhunter
  8. Crimes of the Heart
  9. Aliens
  10. The Name of the Rose

note:  A big drop after the first two – this year is much stronger in Original (Hannah and Her Sisters, My Beautiful Laundrette, Mona Lisa, Platoon, Blue Velvet) than Adapted.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. A Room with a View  (200 pts)
  2. Children of a Lesser God  (120 pts)
  3. Stand by Me  (80 pts)
  4. The Color of Money  (40 pts)
  5. Crimes of the Heart  (40 pts)
  6. Down and Out in Beverly Hills  (40 pts)
  7. Little Shop of Horrors  (40 pts)

note:  The points are so low because of the Globes – see below.

Oscar Nominees  (Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium):

  • A Room with a View
  • Children of a Lesser God
  • The Color of Money
  • Crimes of the Heart
  • Stand by Me

WGA:

  • A Room with a View
  • Children of a Lesser God
  • Down and Out in Beverly Hills
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Stand by Me

Golden Globe:

  • none

Nominees that are Original:  The Mission, Blue Velvet, Hannah and Her Sisters, Mona Lisa, Platoon
note:  For the first time in the history of the category, none of the Globe nominees are Adapted.  And yes, you read that winner correctly.

BAFTA:

  • A Room with a View
  • Children of a Lesser God

note:  The other three nominees (Out of Africa, The Color Purple, Ran) were all from 1985.

My Top 10


A Room with a View

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film once as a Best Picture nominee for 1986.  It’s really too bad that it had to come out in 1986 where it would end in third place at the Nighthawks behind Hannah and Her Sisters and Platoon.  At least the top two films were both Original and this wins Best Adapted Screenplay with ease at the Nighthawks (and probably did at the Oscars as well).  A lush, beautiful film with magnificent dialogue that is one of the all-time great novel to film adaptations.

One interesting thing is that I often can’t decide which is the better Merchant-Ivory film, Howards End or The Remains of the Day.  Yet, even though I clearly rate Howards End as a better novel than Room (see below), I absolutely think that this film is better than either of the two later films.  Which I suppose just says something about a film in relation to its source material.

The Source:

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster  (1908)

I wondered this time, reading it again, if I under-rated this novel back when I did my Top 100 list and that perhaps it should have made the list.  Granted, it didn’t miss by much and I did include it in my Top 200.  Just look at a paragraph like the one that opens Chapter Two: “It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons.  It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and close below, the Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.”

This is a beautiful novel, on which brings to life not only Florence and its countryside but a lazy English manor where the entitled play their tennis and seem oblivious to the rest of the world.  Only Forster’s writing could make me love these people.

I must mention, as I did in my original review, one of my favorite sentences in any novel, which appears on page 115: “Lucy – to descend from bright heaven to earth, whereon there are shadows because there are hills – Lucy was at first plunged into despair, but settled after a little thought that it did not matter in the very least.”

Forster was one of the very best of British writers and it is to literature’s great loss that he only published a handful of novels.  If you have not read them, then you need to do so.

The Adaptation:

There is definitely one moment that is changed in the book.  In the film, when Charlotte arrives to visit the Honeychurches, she discovers the Emersons are living nearby because George Emerson is at the station when she gets off while in the book, she already knows that because of a visit from the novelist, Miss Lavish.  Other than that, almost everything in the film comes straight from the novel.

The Credits:

Directed by James Ivory.  Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.  Based on the novel by E.M. Forster.
note:  Only the Forster credit is in the opening credits.

Stand by Me

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the five best from 1986.  There have been a lot of nostalgia films over the years and what they do with it, looking back at their childhood, including an era soundtrack, can vary greatly.  This is one of the best of them and it has one of the best soundtracks as well.  I think it is probably one of the films that most defines people my age, specifically because it is about boys who are 12 and it was released the summer before I turned 12.

The Source:

The Body by Stephen King  (1982)

What is on the cover of your copy of Different Seasons, and most of the people I have known over the years have had a copy, says something about when you bought it.  My copy, for instance, is old and beat up and has been read numerous times and has four boys highlighted against water and hills because I bought it when Stand By Me was still the big film.  But over the years, of course, it would get Shawshank and Apt Pupil covers as well.  On LibraryThing, it ranks at #33 among King works for how many users have it which stuns me because it’s far and away the King book that is owned by the most people I have known.  All three of them are first-rate novellas that really grip you and pull you in (the fourth story, the one that everybody always gives up reading, has never been filmed).  In fact, I would say that The Body is actually the weakest of the three novellas.  Shawshank has such a great character in Andy Dufresne and the hope of release while Apt Pupil has such an overpowering stench of evil and the dichotomy between the two main characters while The Body is primarily a looking back at childhood with the caveat that there is a dead body involved.

But The Body was an important book in my development as a writer.  It was, I’m fairly certain, the first book I ever read that had fiction within the fiction.  In that sense, it provided me with the notion that you could write something else, written by the narrator and you could even provide fictional details over when and where it was published, something you might have noticed I do in my actual fiction.

The Adaptation:

Almost everything we see in the film was on the page but there are a lot of subtle little changes.  The setting, of course, might be the most famous change, as the film is moved from Maine to Oregon, though keeping the fictional name of Castle Rock (the year is also pushed back from 1960 to 1959, which is strange when you think about since it’s named after a song that wasn’t even recorded until October of 1960).  There are a lot of other changes as well.  The first line is actually the first line of the second paragraph.  The famous last line of the film (printed on the screen) is only the last line of a middle chapter, not the story itself.  The lines in the film are actually better than the lines in the original novella.  The details of the kids’ fates are also different, with the deaths of all of them being described.  And the impetus for the film is the death of Chris while in the book, Gordie hasn’t seen Chris in over ten years because he’s been dead for over ten years.  Several other scenes also differ, like Chris having the gun in the climax, not Gordie or the argument Gordie has with the owner of the general store in the book (wisely left out of the film as that would have been an awkward scene) and the relationship between Gordie and his brother is closer in the film (and it leaves out how much older his parents are).  You read the book and you can hear so many of the lines and it feels like it’s an amazingly faithful rendition but then you’re surprised when you find so many little moments that differ.

One of the most famous scenes in the film also isn’t in the original – namely, the game of mailbox baseball, a scene which I discussed in my review of the film.  In fact, all of the scenes with the older teens were created by the filmmakers and provide a nice counterpoint to the boys’ actions while, reading the story, you don’t find out until quite late that those teens are on their way to the body as well.

All in all, the film is a fantastic example of fidelity to the spirit of the book, no matter how many small details are changed.  It remains one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King work ever filmed.

The Credits:

Directed by Rob Reiner.  Screenplay by Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans.  Based upon the novella “The Body” by Stephen King.
note:  There are no opening credits except the title.

The Color of Money

The Film:

It’s somehow appropriate and yet completely wrong that Paul Newman would finally win his Oscar for The Color of Money.  In a career filled with magnificent performances (he was nominated for nine Oscars and he absolutely deserved those nominations), it’s probable that the best of them was when he played Fast Eddie Felsen the first time, in The Hustler.  But he ran up against the juggernaut performance of Maximilian Schell in Judgment at Nuremberg (and for a long time I had Schell winning as well – it’s tough to pick between the two performances) and he would have to wait and wait and wait – in 1963 and 1982 he gave the best nominated performances but he was up against history and a juggernaut Best Picture winner.  And so, Bob Hoskins’ once in a lifetime performance in Mona Lisa would have to settle for easily winning the Consensus and most of the awards and Newman would finally win his Oscar, the Academy probably figuring that at age 61 they wouldn’t have any more chances to give him the award (not knowing he would earn nominations at age 69 and again at 77).  And make no mistake – Newman is fantastic in his return to the character.  The film itself might not be a classic which actually makes it one of Martin Scorsese’s weaker films but it’s still a very good film, anchored by Newman’s performance, the sexy performance from Mary Elisabeth Mastrontonio, the star-making turn of Tom Cruise (if he wasn’t already a star) and the great soundtrack.

Eddie is hitting up the woman behind the bar, both sexually and professionally, trying to sell his booze.  He’s staking a young pool player (John Turturro in an early role six years after his film debut as a non-speaking extra in Scorsese’s Raging Bull) but the guy keeps coming back for more money.  Still, that’s not enough to get Eddie to turn around until he actually hears the kid he’s losing to do an opening break.  That thunder of noise makes Eddie turn and behold Vincent, a cocky guy who knows he’s on top of the world and doesn’t care who he has to conquer to prove it.  He will intrigue Eddie enough that he will take Vincent on, in spite of the baggage of Carmen, Vincent’s girlfriend who seems willing to use her looks to get whatever she thinks she needs and controls Vincent and thinks maybe she can control Eddie.

There’s a bit of cliche to the story, of the way that Eddie rises with Vincent and then falls again and you know that it will have to end with the two of them facing off against each other, because otherwise what did we come all this way for?  But there are unexpected moments, like when Eddie starts to play a local guy (Forest Whitaker) who it will turn out is a pool hustler who knows exactly how to hustle even a pro like Eddie.  The film received mixed reviews (it’s apparently the only Scorsese film to get two thumbs down) and its nomination for the Nighthawk (and probably for the Oscar as well) in this category is at least partially because it’s a fairly weak year for Adapted Screenplay after the top two films.

The Source:

The Color of Money by Walter Tevis  (1984)

While The Hustler had been an interesting book kind of steeped in pulp writing (I’ve finally read it and finished its piece in the 1961 post), this one lags quite a bit.  It seems like Tevis wanted to return to his biggest success (and maybe sell the film rights) but didn’t really have much of a story to tell.  So we return to Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats some 25 years later and watch them go on the road together though eventually Fats dies (in a rather badly written scene that Tevis can’t even be bothered to have end the chapter).  It’s a disappointing book and not surprising that when it came time to film it, they would basically abandon the book and just focus on writing a new story for Eddie 25 years on.

The Adaptation:

As just mentioned, the filmmakers basically drop the entire plot of the novel itself and just focused on writing a story about how Eddie becomes a mentor some 25 years after the events of the first film.  It’s a far better story than what was in the book.

The Credits:

directed by Martin Scorsese.  based upon the novel by Walter Tevis.  screenplay by Richard Price.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film, writing about it when I covered Star Trek in my For Love of Film series.  It’s easily one of the best of the Star Trek films, the one time that a Trek film really manages to find the humor and characterization at the core of the series (because the plot, with it’s lack of a villain, allowed for such).  It’s a great example of what happens when you have a cast that has been together for a long time and you just allowed them to play off each other (see the truck scene between Kirk and Spock for the best example of this).

The Source:

Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry  (1966)

I don’t think it’s really necessary for me to write anything more here than I already have.  You can see my reflections on the original series, which gave us these characters here and you can go to my list for the For Love of Film posts on the film series here.  I also wrote some when I covered Star Trek II for this series here.

The Adaptation:

This film, as I said, does a great job of diving into the characterization of the bridge crew that we have grown to love and allows them a lot of great character moments.  It also fixes the biggest problem from Star Trek III by dumping Robin Curtis quite quickly, whose Saavik was terrible and ran counter to how the character was developed in the second film.

The Credits:

Directed by Leonard Nimoy.  Based on Star Trek, Created by Gene Roddenberry.  Story by Leonard Nimoy & Harve Bennett.  Screenplay by Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes and Harve Bennett & Nicholas Meyer.

Little Shop of Horrors

The Film:

You may think of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken as the guys who were the backbone of the Disney Renaissance that began with The Little Mermaid and continued with Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin (and The Lion King without them) but they had a bit of a darker side as well.  Ashman, in particular, decided to take an old AIP film made quickly and on the cheap that had a dark but comedic vision and turn it into a stage musical (not a Broadway one – see below).  What’s more, he gave it a dark ending and wanted to take that whole vision and move it to film.

Let’s start with the title and the way it gets perfectly infused into the title track, sung by a wonderful trio of female singers (all named after 60’s girl groups).  We’re headed into horrors and terrors as the song makes clear.  Before too long, we meet the disturbing plant, Audrey II and we start to realize that it feeds on blood.  There is something very weird going on here but with the music and the goofy but compelling performance from Rick Moranis and a strong supporting cast (I really can’t bring myself to praise Ellen Greene’s performance since hearing her voice for me is like fingernails on a chalkboard) we’re able to go along with it, even when the deaths start coming.

Even accounting for the darker moments in their Disney work, this is a far cry from that kind of material.  First, we have the abusive boyfriend, a sadistic dentist with one of the most hilarious songs ever written for the stage and played brilliantly by Steve Martin (this is absolutely how I feel about dentists).  When death comes for him through his own idiocy, are we really going to complain when his body is fed to the giant plant?  But what about when the plant starts getting stronger and making more demands?  How are we supposed to feel then?

This film is fascinating, not the least of which, because of the multiple DVD versions, you might not have any idea how it’s going to end.  As mentioned below, there are two very different endings to this film and honestly, they both work.  One of them is the original dark vision from the stage and it brings a horrifyingly cynical view of the world (and, honestly, that final song goes on a bit too long) but for those who are more like a typical audience, you can still find the original version as well and that will give you something more of a happy ending even with a little bit of a dark overtone to it.

This is, like it was on stage, a highly inventive and innovative musical.  Outside of “Dentist” I don’t really love any of the songs and Greene’s voice just kills me.  But it’s well-written, is dark and funny and has a magnificent supporting cast.  It’s definitely not for everyone, but then again, the best movies rarely are.

The Source:

Little Shop of Horrors: A New Musical, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman  (1982) based upon the film by Roger Corman  /  The Little Shop of Horrors, screenplay by Charles B. Griffith, produced and directed by Roger Corman  (1960)

This is a rather brilliant stage musical derived from the original film.  It uses much of the original film, with some significant changes (fewer people die in the ending of the original, surprisingly enough) that was the first real showcase of the team of lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken.  It does contain “Dentist”, one of the funniest songs ever written for the stage.

The original film is, to my mind, easily the best non-Poe adaptation that Roger Corman ever made.  Almost nothing else even comes close.  It’s the dark but funny story of a weird plant nurtured by a poor schmuck named Seymour Krelboyne that feeds on human blood.  However, this leads to darkness and death as Seymour discovers when he accidentally kills a man but then feeds the man to the plant who grows even bigger.  Seymour accidentally kills the sadistic dentist whose order he ruined (unlike the musical where Seymour just lets the dentist die after not being able to bring himself to kill him) and feeds him to the plant as well.  That does bring in a couple of cops who are investigating the case (and who give voiceover narration) but that’s the least interesting part of the film.  The most interesting part, of course, is an early film appearance from Jack Nicholson as a masochistic patient who visits the dentist (brilliantly reprised by Bill Murray in the 1986 film although this is just darkly funny in the original whereas the 1986 film adds a new level to it because the masochistic patient is facing off against a sadistic dentist).  Eventually all this will lead to Seymour confronting his plant.  This film works not just because of the sense of horror that Corman gives it (in spite of having to film it really quickly and cheaply, even for him) but of the dark sense of humor pervading throughout the whole film.  Many of Corman’s films don’t really have any humor (or are camp which isn’t funny) and it’s that dark humor that really makes this film so much better than most of Corman’s non-Poe output.

The Adaptation:

When you first start watching the film, for about the first 10 minutes there is not a single line different from the stage version and the film.  Eventually some changes do start to kick in and there are five songs from the stage version that aren’t in the film (“Don’t It Go to Show Ya Never Know”, “Closed for Renovation”, “Mushnik and Son”, “Now (It’s Just the Gas)”, “Call Back in the Morning”).  “Closed for Renovation” is replaced by “Some Fun Now” and “Now (It’s Just the Gas)” is cut because the scene with the masochistic patient (played brilliant by Bill Murray) that was in the original Corman film is placed into the film instead (it wasn’t in the stage version).  There is also the added song “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space”.  In the original released version of the film, the reprise of “Somewhere That’s Green” is cut and replaced by a reprise of “Suddenly Seymour”.  That’s because, as mentioned above, there are two endings.  In the originally filmed ending, which was a massive bomb at previews, they used the stage ending, in which both Audrey and Seymour die and the plants take over the world.  It was such a bomb at previews (as Frank Oz later pointed out, on stage you can do that because the actors come out immediately after the play is over and you know they’re not dead but in film, it just leaves you bummed out) that they rewrote the ending for the happy ending where Seymour and Audrey get married though it has the dark overtone with the small little plant in their year.  However, if you watch the Director’s Cut DVD, you will actually get that originally filmed ending (with Paul Dooley in the role played by Jim Belushi in the released version because Dooley wasn’t available to reshoot the ending) that matches the original ending from the stage almost exactly (though I’m betting the final song didn’t go on nearly as long).

The Credits:

Directed by Frank Oz.  Based on the musical stage play, Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Music by Alan Menken.  Lyrics by Howard Ashman.  Screenplay by Howard Ashman.

Children of a Lesser God

The Film:

As I wrote in the original review when I covered this as one of the Best Picture nominees, there is definitely an AfterSchool Special feel to this film (look what it’s like to be deaf!).  But, while some of the writing never rises above that level (in spite of being adapted from a Tony winning play in part by the original playwright) the acting takes it to a higher level.  The acting, in fact, especially from the two leads, is magnificent.  Matlin hasn’t done a lot of acting but it’s clear that she had the talent and if the roles had been made available and she’d been willing to do it, she could have been a powerhouse.  But that’s actually part of the point, because there aren’t many roles for deaf actresses and I will give kudos to Mark Medoff (who recently died) for writing the part and making certain that on stage and in the film it was a deaf actress who played the part.

The Source:

Children of a Lesser God: A Play in Two Acts by Mark Medoff  (1979)

Medoff knew a deaf actress named Phyllis French and he wrote the play specifically for her.  It’s an interesting play because Sarah, the main female character, at times refuses to communicate in any way except through sign language and that can’t necessarily be translated for those in the audience, meaning that the context of what is saying has to be conveyed by the actions and by the reactions of James, the other main character.  But, once we get outside of the deaf aspect, the play is fairly average, the romance between two people who have a hard time because one of them is angry and stubborn and not used to having a loving relationship.

The Adaptation:

Medoff used quite a bit of dialogue and actions from the original play but he also made a considerable number of changes, most notably that James and Sarah actually get married in the play and they aren’t by the end of the film (though they are getting back together after a breakup in both).  The film greatly increases the role of Mrs. Norman (leading to Piper Laurie’s Oscar nomination) and of course one of the key scenes in the film (the love scene in the pool) is entirely absent from the play.

I will also point out a scene that’s in the film but not the play where James and Sarah go to a party with other deaf people.  One of the people in that scene is Linda Bove.  Bove is probably, outside of Matlin, the most famous deaf actress of all-time, certainly to my generation for playing Linda on Sesame Street, the highest profile deaf role for an actress for years until this play and film.  In that scene, there is a pennant on the wall from Gallaudet University, a famous university for the deaf outside of Washington (the school in the actual play and film is fictional) and Bove’s alma mater.

The Credits:

Directed by Randa Haines.  Based on the Stage Play by Mark Medoff.  Screenplay by Hesper Anderson and Mark Medoff.

Manhunter

The Film:

Sixteen years after this film was released, it would be remade.  That version, with a considerably better cast and the added attraction of bringing back Anthony Hopkins again as Hannibal Lector (spelled correctly this time) was much, much more successful (this version made $9 million and that one made $93) but I think you would be hard-pressed to find many people who actually think that Red Dragon is a better film than Manhunter.  Given all the reasons that the remake should be better (and in some ways is), it’s really got to all be about the director.  The remake was directed by Brett Ratner, a not particularly talented director while this one was one of the early films from Michael Mann when he was still known mostly for Miami Vice and before he became such an acclaimed film director.

I first discovered this film sometime in the early months of 1991 after the release of Silence of the Lambs.  My brother told me there was actually an earlier book in which Lector appeared (noting that it was referenced in the novel) and that it had been made into a really good film called Manhunter.  So I watched the film and thought it was good, though I didn’t think Brian Cox, while good, could compare anything to what Anthony Hopkins had done with the character.  Still, it was a powerful and effective thriller, following Will Graham, a talented FBI investigator pulled out of retirement to help stop a serial killer.

There are some distinct flaws to the film.  First, it has a soundtrack that is out of kilter with the film to the point that it is almost distracting, a typical synth score reminiscent of the music that had been on Mann’s show.  Second, it has a villain (Tom Noonan) whose performance can’t really match up to the intensity of William Petersen (giving perhaps his best performance as Graham), Dennis Farina (as Peterson’s boss who drags him back in to the life) and Cox (who really does quite well with the Lector voice even if the film spells it Lecktor for some reason).

But the film is effective in how we follow Graham, sticking to him until late in the game before we finally meet the villain, watching how Graham works and getting to the point where he finally realizes what the connection is between the two killings.  Mann brings a suitable sense of his style to the film and it really keeps you moving and guessing right up until the final moment.

Manhunter is a very good film but I think it got both rediscovered a little when Silence was released and then lost in the shuffle again since Silence is so vastly superior only to be rediscovered again when Red Dragon, even with all those great actors (Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman) couldn’t surpass what the original film had already done.  It is still sitting there, a shining little gem from the early career of a director who would soon go to be acknowledged as a great director with films like Last of the Mohicans and The Insider.

The Source:

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris  (1981)

Harris had written a successful thriller in 1975 called Black Sunday.  Then in 1981 he published this novel.  I wonder if he was planning to do more with Will Graham, who is the main character in the book.  But, something must have made him decide that it was Hannibal Lector, the sociopathic, cannibalistic serial killer that Graham had caught before the book even began (he’s a minor character in the book who Graham goes to for help though Lector ends up setting up Graham to be hurt and almost killed) who was the really interesting character.  He would bring back Lector in his 1988 sequel Silence of the Lambs and the success of the film made it inevitable that Lector would be the key to Harris’ fortunes from there on out.

This is an effective thriller, one of the few books in the genre I have kept over the years (though Silence is another).  It’s not a great book because Harris focuses too much on the psychosis of the main villain, Francis Dollarhyde and it was actually the right move to decide to focus on Lector for Silence (even if the post Silence books are simply awful – he badly needs a good editor but by then he had become too powerful and basically wouldn’t consent to anyone editing his books).  The edition I have, bought sometime in 1991 or so is actually the version on the right, thus the sticker on the front of the book (which is also on mine).

The Adaptation:

Most of what we see on film is straight from the book including almost all of the dialogue.  There are some timing changes (in the book, for instance, they crack the code and move Graham’s family earlier) and in this version, there is much less use of Dollarhyde.  It cuts down on his actions (see note below) and turns the false ending of the book into the real ending of the film with Graham shooting Dollarhyde and completely excising the actual ending of the book (which would be used in the remake).

One last note that is more personal for Veronica.  In the book, Dollarhyde travels to New York and eats the actual Red Dragon painting by William Blake after attacking two museum employees.  That scene is not included in this film but is included in the remake.  At SAA, the national archivists organization, there is a person who for years did a feature called “Archives in the Movies” that he would show at the national conference which Veronica used to go to every year (I went once as well).  It included the scene from the remake and Veronica noted that every time she would go you could tell from the reactions if there were people in the crowd who had never seen the feature or the film itself and they were always more shocked by him eating the painting than by his attacking the museum employees.

The Credits:

Directed by Michael Mann.  Based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  Screenplay by Michael Mann.

Crimes of the Heart

The Film:

So, the filmmakers were looking at the original Henley play and they were required to get Lenny (“a thirty-year-old woman with a round figure and face”), Meg (“twenty-seven”) and Babe (“twenty-four . . . she has an angelic face and fierce, volatile eyes”).  They are all sisters.  So, of course, they got Diane Keaton (40, without a round figure or face), Jessica Lange (37) and Sissy Spacek (36 and not with what I would call an angelic face or even fierce, volatile eyes), none of whom look remotely like the other two.  Yet, somehow this film actually works.  Maybe it’s because all three of them were already Oscar winners.  Maybe it’s because they had a good play that managed to play to their strengths with Keaton playing a bit of a wallflower, Lange playing the Hollywood failure and Spacek playing the smalltown Southern girl who’s gotten herself into a sticky situation.

Crimes of the Heart is a Comedy that doesn’t really have a whole lot to be comedic about.  Spacek is in jail (actually she gets bailed out) for shooting her husband in the stomach after he discovered her affair with a local 15 year old boy who also happens to be black.  Lange is returning home in response to this and her life is a wreck and she immediately starts in on an affair with the local doc whose life she already kind of ruined once before.  Lenny can’t get a man and seems destined to die alone, waiting on their grandfather who doesn’t seem to have the good courtesy to die himself.  Indeed, one of the funniest scenes in the film works precisely because it is so unfunny in its circumstances.  Lange, after her night out, proclaims that their grandfather will have to cope with her behavior and she doesn’t care if the shock of it throws him into a coma.  Except that she doesn’t know that he’s already in a coma and the fact that he is just causes the other two to burst out laughing because they don’t know what else to do.  But almost as funny is an attempted suicide which keeps failing.  It’s a more light-hearted version of a scene that ended in tragedy in Reuben, Reuben but works much better here and I don’t want to explain precisely what goes wrong because it’s best left for you to see it and enjoy it.

Bruce Beresford isn’t a great director (I ranked him at #141 out of all the directors ever nominated for an Oscar) but he has a warm, human touch, which is perhaps why he tends to get such good performances out of his actors.  It didn’t hurt that he had a good, funny, warm script to start with here and that’s why this is one of his best films, even better, to my mind, than his Best Picture winner (Driving Miss Daisy) or Oscar nominee (Tender Mercies).

The Source:

Crimes of the Heart: A Play by Beth Henley  (1979)

A warm, funny play about some dreadfully unfunny things.  This is a solid portrait of three very different sisters in the same Southern family that reunite when one of them shoots her husband in the stomach.  The play had a rough start (it took Henley a while to finally get a production of it going and it only happened because it won a prize that someone else submitted it for) but then it took off and ended up winning her the Pulitzer Prize.  In the original 1979 production in Louisville, Lenny was played by Kathy Bates and that is perfect casting for her description.

The Adaptation:

As is so often with the case when a playwright adapts their own play (unless it’s Neil Simon who won’t leave well enough alone), almost all of what we get on film is what was originally on stage.  You can easily read along with the play while watching the film.

The Credits:

Directed by Bruce Beresford.  Screenplay by Beth Henley based on her play.

Aliens

The Film:

I am often hard on James Cameron.  He has directed two of the highest grossing films of all-time, neither of which I thought deserved to make so much money and he won Best Director for a film that was massively over-rated.  He’s a terrible script-writer but he has an interesting imagination (the stories in the film are often much better than the scripts) and he is a good director at times with a very good visual eye and a good notion of what will be popular.  You would have an interesting debate if you asked people what Cameron’s best film is with possible answers including Terminator, Terminator 2, Titanic and Avatar and possibly even The Abyss.  Well, my answer, obviously, is Aliens, a film that has to live with being a sequel to a better film (a truly visionary film directed by a truly great director) but that becomes interesting and great in its own right, at least in part because it decides to be so different from the first film.

As mentioned in my review of Alien (see below), while all of the films in the series are Sci-Fi films, that film was also at heart a Horror film.  This film is not.  Yes, there are elements of Horror and it is still, at its core, a Sci-Fi film, but what it really is, is an Action Film.  Or you could even say it’s a War film.  Alien focused on one creature being hunted down while it was also hunting the people hunting it and trying to kill it.  This is combat.  There is not one creature but masses of them and all of them kill with ease and regularity and even killing them does not make you safe, because depending on how you do it, you will than have their acidic blood splash on you.

Aliens would set a standard that would be maintained through the rest of the series.  At the end of the first film, we thought we had an ostensible happy ending, that Ripley had managed to kill the creature and escape.  But soon after this film starts, we know that the happy ending of the first film is really kind of a lie (which is nothing compared to what will happen to the happy ending of this film in the third one), that the planet where the alien was picked up has now been colonized and that they have lost communications with the colonists.  Ripley has finally been found after 57 years in stasis and she’s recruited to go with a group of marines (I almost wrote platoon but there’s not enough marines to qualify) to wipe out the aliens.  Of course, that won’t be as easy as it sounds, especially when it turns out one of the people on the mission has lied about why he is going and wants to bring one back (no points for guessing it was Paul Reiser – I have never liked or trusted him and he’s the reason why I never watched Mad About You).

Aliens has long been a film I have greatly enjoyed.  It has great action, has a great character at its core with Ripley (earning Sigourney Weaver a deserved Oscar nomination – a rare thing in this genre no matter whether you consider the genre of this film to be Sci-Fi, Action or War) and it brings in other interesting characters as well to replace the ones we lost.  Lance Henriksson’s Bishop is a fascinating android, so different from the cold Ash in the first film (and will be well used in the next film as well as he was in this one given Ripley’s experiences with Ash from the first film) and Michael Biehn, while he was never a great actor, had an aura of charisma and cool that works perfectly for Corporal Briggs (like the way when the ship is coming down to the planet and most of the marines are nervous and twitchy and he’s just taking a nap).  Of course, the technical achievements of the film are great, from the sound to the visual effects (a deserving Oscar winner) to the score (which, given that it was composed by James Horner, shouldn’t surprise me that I hear similarities to his magnificent score from Star Trek II).

Aliens is a rather relentless film, never letting up once it puts the pedal down.  But it rewards you whenever you watch it.  I recommend watching the extended edition because it provides more characterization and really makes you feel for what Ripley has gone through (it includes information about her daughter).  And hey, it’s good enough that it actually makes my list in spite of being written by James Cameron.

The Source:

Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett

I have already reviewed this film, of course, because it is my #1 film of 1979, still sitting there after all this time, keeping Apocalypse Now out of the top spot.  It is, at once, a brilliant Sci-Fi film (one of the best of all-time), Horror film (probably the best of all-time) and a Suspense film.  It has brilliant effects but it knows to use those to support the story and the characters, not the other way around.  It’s worth remembering that in this film, Ripley does the correct thing, refusing re-entry to the others when Hurt has been injured by the alien and if they had just let him die rather than bring him aboard, none of the rest of the horrible events would have happened.  In fact, that brings up another point.  Veronica, who has adamantly refused to watch this film for years recently read a description of it that went as such: “No one listens to the woman so everyone dies except the woman and her cat” and said that if I had just described it that way she would have watched it years ago.

The Adaptation:

This is the continuing story of Warrant Officer Ripley.  She was given a happy ending at the end of the first film (survives the creature, escapes in the pod) but the start of this film flips that with her having been in suspended animation for 65 years and missing her daughter growing up and even dying.  What’s more, she discovers that the company has sent people to colonize the world where the alien was first encountered.  So, nothing here contradicts the first film and we get more characterization of Ripley, continuing from the strength of will she showed in the first film to survive.

The Credits:

Directed by James Cameron.  Screenplay by James Cameron.  Story by James Cameron and David Giler & Walter Hill.  Based on Characters Created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

The Name of the Rose

The Film:

There has been a mysterious death in a closed society and so a detective is sent for.  He arrives and immediately starts to trying to work his way through the potential suspects (which is most of the people he is dealing with, as is usually the case in such stories), figure out why the person has been killed (or killed himself, as the case will turn out to be, although you could still say he was killed) and how to stop the killer from killing again (there’s a notable lack of success here as the bodies start piling up).

Of course, what makes this story a bit different is that the closed society is an isolated monastery full of monks and that it’s the 14th Century.  William of Baskerville (yes, deliberately named to invoke Sherlock Holmes) is the kind of brilliant man who can make immediate inferences and find his way to the solution.  That’s good because it will turn out there’s not only a confusing storyline to get through but there will also be a literal labyrinth once William is able to make his way into the forbidden library that is the cause of all the problems.

The novel had been long and dense and complicated because Eco is so many things at once (see below) and so there were questions over what kind of film could be made out of it.  It’s a solid film, namely because as William, we have Sean Connery providing one of his best and most entertaining performances in years (a warm-up to his Oscar winning performance of the next year – although, if you watch Trainspotting and agree with Sick Boy you will think that “The Name of The Rose is merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory”).  But, while he is supported by a bevy of character actors (including Ron Perlman, William Hickey and F. Murray Abraham) and he’s got a young Christian Slater along as his novice, it’s really Connery that has to get us through the film.  Things become complicated just once too often and you find yourself exhausted by the end of it, wondering if arguing theology or solving the mystery is the real goal.  The film’s director is Jean-Jacques Annaud, who has long been good with his visuals but has been weaker in story-telling so having the densely plotted Eco novel to go with really helps the film in the end.  But really, it’s all about Connery.

The Source:

Il nome della rosa by Emberto Eco  (1980)

Eco was already well established as a literary critics and professor of semiotics when he published this, his first novel, at almost 50.  Like some of his later novels (the ones I’ve read are Foucault’s Pendulum and The Prague Cemetery), his first novel is densely plotted with a lot of language to get through (he was a professor of semiotics after all and I imagine it’s just as complicated in Italian and was probably a pain to translate).

It’s the story of a mystery at an Italian abbey in 1327 with William of Baskerville (Eco admits the name was designed to invoke William of Occam and Sherlock Holmes) called in to help solve the mystery.  What it ends up being is a murderous monk who feels that laughter is the tool of the devil and wants to kill all those who have seen Aristotle’s work on Comedy and in the end, the book is destroyed (which works perfectly since it’s lost and has been for centuries).  To have the whole thing come down to theology and literary theory is rather appropriate.

Eco’s books are difficult to get through but this one was actually a massive seller right from the start and made his name as a writer.  I used to own it, having read it years ago, then got rid of the book, later tried to read it again with a library copy and couldn’t get into it and then have just now read it again for the second time in full.  It’s a good book but a difficult one and you really have to realize what you are getting into, something that mixes the mystery genre with a lot more complicated concepts (philosophy, theology, semiotics, literary theory) then you would ever see in such a genre book and I can’t imagine that anyone would actually shelve this in Mystery.

The Adaptation:

The original book covers a period of seven days but it was always going to have to be cut.  The cuts come right at the start (at the start of the book, William meets other monks as he goes up to the monastery and explains to them where the horse they are looking for will be found without having seen it, a very Holmes-esque deduction) and the film really cuts anything ancillary and holds tight to the plot.  Luckily, with Eco, there are so many other things going on, that it makes it easier to cut.  Still, Annaud always knew he wasn’t getting the whole thing on the screen and thus we get the credit below: “a palimpsest of Umberto Eco’s novel”.  For those who don’t know, a palimpsest is “a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain” which is perfect because it describes the film that Annaud has made and is kind of a literary critic joke for Eco.

The Credits:

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.  A Palimpsest of Umberto Eco’s Novel.  Screenplay by Andrew Birkin, Gerard Brach, Howard Franklin, Alain Godard.

WGA Nominee

Down and Out in Beverly Hills

The Film:

I think it’s clear that Paul Mazursky was an auteur director.  He didn’t have much of a visual eye, but he had a rather unique voice and it was easy to distinguish a Mazursky film from other films.  Unfortunately, it is often distinguished to me in that they are Comedies that I don’t think are as funny as others seem to find them, say less about the human condition than Mazursky thinks he is saying and just aren’t as good as I was lead to believe.  This film is all the more ironic because it, in some ways, has the least of Mazursky’s voice, in that the plot comes from a play and a film but also some of the most of Mazursky’s voice because of the ways in which he makes changes to attack the American upper class (see below).  What’s more ironic is that one of Mazursky’s films continues to rise in my estimation every time I see it (you can read about that when I get to 1989) while the rest of them continue not to budge.

Jerry is a drifter.  It’s not really believable that he would be drifting like this through Beverly Hills or that there are alleys and chain link fences in Beverly Hills where he could just wander in and try to drown himself in a swimming pool, but that’s the movie we’re given.  He has decided to do this because his final friend, a dog, has left him in favor of a woman who is willing to give him some treats.  Jerry is rescued by Dave, the owner of the palatial home in a move you wouldn’t see coming.  You might have thought some of the satire would go towards how the members of the household would delay and try to get someone else to save the man, but no, we have to save him so we can move forward with the plot.

What the plot does is attempt satire at the rich of America, at the way they waste their lives, at how little they value anything.  Before too long, Jerry will be shaved and cleaned and living with Dave and his family, seducing, not only Dave’s wife, but also his mistress (their Mexican maid who he will also help turn from the loyal help into a budding revolutionary who doesn’t want Dave, not because she has Jerry, but because she has had eyes opened to the exploitation of the working class) and even his daughter.  The problem is that the targets seem all too easy and Mazursky hits them exactly in the ways you might suspect he would.  I expect satire to have some bite and there’s no real bite.

The film is certainly decently made.  Some of the film can be quite funny and while Richard Dreyfuss is the only actor who earns any points from me, Nick Nolte as Jerry and Bette Midler as Dreyfuss’ wife both fall well into their roles.  But, like so many Mazursky films, I expected more than I found.

The Source:

Boudu Sauvé Des Eaux by René Fauchois  (1919)

Like mentioned before, I have not been able to read the original play because I can’t find a translation into English.

The Adaptation:

Obviously none of the original dialogue is going to be in the film since this film is not only in English but also set in Beverly Hills with the bum trying to drown himself in a swimming pool instead of the Seine and being rescued by upper class nitwits rather than a bourgeois bookseller.  He still does seduce the housemaid but instead of being prepared to marry her at the end (and marrying her in the original play and instead causing havoc in the original film version), when the father finds out he has slept with his daughter, it throws off a whole party and then the bum leaves everyone behind.  If Fauchois didn’t like what Renoir did with the original film version, he sure wouldn’t have liked this.

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by Paul Mazursky.  Based on the Play “Boudu Sauvé Des Eaux” by René Fauchois.  Screenplay by Paul Mazursky & Leon Capetanos.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10

(in descending order of how I rank the script)

  • none

Other Adaptations

(in descending order of how good the film is)

  • Angry Harvest –  Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee from the year before (from West Germany, though with a Polish director) based on a novel by Hermann Field and Stanislaw Mierzenski.
  • The Fly –  David Cronenberg continues his road upward with this solid remake of the 1958 Horror film which was based on the short story by George Langelaan.
  • The Children of Noisy Village –  Made after his My Life as a Dog but that film will be in next year’s post, this is a film from Lasse Hallström based on books by Astrid Lindgren (who also created Pippi Longstocking).  We’re already down to mid ***.
  • Otello –  Placido Domingo takes on the role of the Moor in Franco Zeffirelli’s return to Shakespeare (sort of – it’s really Shakespeare via Verdi).  Oscar nominated for Costume Design and BAFTA and Globe nominated for Foreign Film.  Pretty solid for opera, which is not to my taste.
  • The Great Mouse Detective –  Nice Disney Animated film based on the book series Basil of Baker Street which takes off from Sherlock Holmes.
  • The Mosquito Coast –  Harrison Ford again teams up with Peter Weir and again gives a really good performance but this time is ignored by the Oscars perhaps because the film is so damn dour.  Based on Paul Theroux’s novel about a family that moves to Central America.
  • Night on the Galactic Railroad –  Anime film based on the well known Japanese Fantasy novel by Kenji Miyazawa, the first of several Miyazawa works to become anime films.
  • Heartburn –  I don’t like biographical criticism so I don’t have to think of Nicholson and Streep playing Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron but simply the characters in this film based on Ephron’s novel, even if her novel was autobiographical.  Given the star power and that it was directed by Mike Nichols the film should be better than mid *** but it’s not.
  • El Amor Brujo –  Carlos Saura finishes his dance trilogy with this film adapted from an early 20th Century ballet.
  • On Valentine’s Day –  Horton Foote writes a sequel to his play (and film) 1918.
  • Desert Hearts –  I realize it’s a key Lesbian film because at the time there basically weren’t any others but it’s still just a solid *** romance.  It was not the impetus for The Bechdel Test which first appeared in a 1985 strip of Dykes to Watch Out For but it at least passes the test.  Based on the novel Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule.
  • Kaos –  A 1984 film from the Taviani brothers that makes use of Pirandelli stories.
  • Native Son –  A solid film version of one of the all-time great novels.
  • Ronia the Robber’s Daughter –  More Astrid Lindgren.  This Adventure film was adapted by Lindgren herself from her own story at the age of 78 and was Sweden’s Oscar submission in 1985.
  • 52 Pick-Up –  Not as good as the late 90’s Elmore Leonard adaptations but this one, directed by John Frankenheimer is way better than Stick from the year before.  Would have been better if Roy Scheider had better co-stars than Ann-Margret and Vanity.
  • Asterix in Britain –  Animated film version of the eight book of France’s big comic book character.
  • A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later –  We hit low *** with the return of the same director and stars from the Oscar winning original but without the real magic.  Yet, apparently all three have made a new sequel which just premiered at Cannes (actually, as I type this it won’t premiere for another week) even though they are all now in their 80’s (kind of like Bergman’s Saraband but I doubt it’s nearly as good).
  • Time to Die –  Gabriel Garcia Marquez originally wrote the script back in the 60’s and it was made into a film then and a television series in 1984 before this Colombian submission to the Oscars in 1985.
  • Dust –  Two Nobel Prize winners in a row as this film, the 1985 Belgian Oscar submission is based on the novel In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee.
  • ‘night, Mother –  A brilliant Pulitzer winning play by Marsha Norman that I read in college but somehow, in spite of strong performances from Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft, the power never comes through on film.
  • Duet for One –  Based on the play by Tom Kempinski, if this seems somewhat (but only somewhat) familiar it’s because it’s based on the life of Jacqueline du Pré, the same cellist that Hilary and Jackie is based on except it doesn’t use her relationship with her sister.
  • Turtle Diary –  Harold Pinter is the writer (adapting a novel by Russell Hoban) and it has Glenda Jackson, Ben Kingsley and Michael Gambon but it still never rises above low ***.
  • The Karate Kid Part II –  Same director and stars (though it dumps Elizabeth Shue for a prettier Japanese actress) but it doesn’t have the same magic.  What it does have is a solid Peter Cetera song that earned an Oscar nomination and you can forget watching the film and just watch the video instead.  My sisters watched it about 1000 times each after we taped it off MTV.
  • About Last Night… –  When Sexual Perversity in Chicago was first staged in 1974, David Mamet was a little-known playwright but by the time it was filmed as About Last Night… he was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize winner.  Not his best work and not helped with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore in the lead roles.
  • Brighton Beach Memoirs –  On the other hand, Neil Simon was America’s most famous living playwright when he started looking back and began what would be his Eugene Jerome trilogy with all three plays on Broadway before this, the first film was made.  Not Simon’s best work and it might have worked better with Matthew Broderick taking his Broadway role instead of Jonathan Silverman though who knows because Broderick wouldn’t make Biloxi Blues (the second play) a better film and Simon would use Silverman as Eugene in the third play on Broadway.
  • Doña Herlinda and Her Son –  Mexican adaptation of the novel by Jorge López Páez.
  • The Berlin Affair –  Down to mid **.5 with Liliana Tavian’s adaptation of the novel Quicksand by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki.
  • The Lightship –  Big drop down to low **.5 with Jerzy Skolimowski adapting the novella by Siegfried Lenz.
  • 8 Million Ways to Die –  Hal Ashby had fallen far from his heyday of the 70’s when all of his films were major films and this would be his final film, an adaptation of the Suspense novel by Lawrence Block.
  • Psycho III –  The story isn’t much by the performance by Anthony Perkins (who also directed this time) continues to keep this franchise from sinking into the pits like so many other Horror franchises.
  • Absolute Beginners –  We’ve reached the ** films now.  This look at late 50’s London complete with appearances from 60’s celebrities Ray Davies and Mandy Rice-Davies (ironically no relation) still can’t rise above being bland.
  • From Beyond –  For the second year in a row, Stuart Gordon adapts a Lovecraft work into a bad film.
  • Heathcliff – The Movie –  I actually had a couple of Heathcliff books when I was a kid because over the years I have had a very large number of comic strip collections (which even today, having gotten rid of several strips still takes up over a bookcase thanks mainly to Doonesbury and Peanuts though I also have complete runs of Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Dykes to Watch Out For, Boondocks, Stone Soup, Far Side, Foxtrot and K Chronicles – if I ever get another For Love of Books post done it will definitely be on one of the complete collections).  The problem is that, even though Heathcliff came first by several years, because Heathcliff is a single panel strip without real characterization, it seems like a weak retread of Garfield (a strip I have never collected though when I was younger I didn’t have to – going through old Christmas photos recently I had forgotten how much my older brother was into Garfield) so a movie doesn’t really have much to recommend it.  What’s more, the movie (distributed by Clubhouse Pictures, the short-lived family division of Atlantic Releasing, who specialized in these lower budget animated films in these years) is really just an anthology of seven episodes from the television series.  Long story short (too late, I know), it’s not worth watching.
  • Extremities –  On the one hand, it’s a reflection of a real dearth for women’s dramatic roles in 1986 but still, the Globes could have gone with Jane Fonda in The Morning After (who would earn an Oscar nomination) or Helena Bonham Carter in A Room with a View.  But no, they nominated Farah Fawcett for this tepid (mid **) film based on the off-Broadway play by William Mastrosimone.
  • The Transformers: The Movie –  I wasn’t too old for Transformers (I watched the show though not with regularity) but in a sense I was too poor.  Or my parents didn’t just waste money on us and the toys themselves were expensive (far more than a Star Wars or GI Joe figure and after using money on those or on 35¢ packs of baseball cards (ah, the good old days) or 75¢ comic books (seriously, the good old days) I didn’t have cash to spend on a Transformer) and so I never owned any which means when the movie came around I didn’t care enough to see it until almost 30 years later when covering all animated films.  I know it made my college roommate cry when he saw it in the theater when Optimus Prime died.  I will say that I cared enough about the show and GI Joe (which I did buy the figures and watched with regularity which is strange given my views on the military but I think it was more that the figures were the same size as Star Wars figures and the comics had some really great characterization thanks to Larry Hama’s writing) that in late 2008 or early 2009 while at a movie and seeing trailers for both the second live action Transformers film and the first GI Joe film I did turn to V and say “I feel like my childhood has just been raped.”  Anyway, long story short (too late again), the film isn’t very good but it’s way better than what Michael Bay would do in the live action versions.  Pathetic that this was the last film role for both Orson Welles (died in late 85 and Scatman Crothers (died a couple of months after the film’s release).
  • Betty Blue –  I appreciate the eroticism in the film but it’s just not very good (and the acting is awful).  Based on the novel by Philippe Djian, it earned Globe and Oscar noms for Best Foreign Film and I can’t agree with that in any way.
  • Where the River Runs Black –  With way too much plot (just read the Wikipedia description) and wasting a pre-China Beach Dana Delaney as a nun, this film, based on the novel Lazaro by David Kendall is just way too slow and boring.
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear –  Jean Auel is a popular writer but she’s also a pretty awful person.  When I worked at Powells we had an event with her and everyone was miserable.  Even her own publishing rep said “I know, we hate her too, but the book is a big deal and she’s a local author and you have to have this event.”  I’ve never actually read her books but this was a huge seller.  The film is not good though.
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain –  Another crappy Clubhouse / Atlantic Releasing animated film, this one making use of multiple Twain works.
  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side –  Crappy sequel to the very effective first film.  Most famous for the line “They’re back.”
  • Maximum Overdrive –  “Trucks” was not one of Stephen King’s better stories in Night Shift and he decided to direct this himself which didn’t help.
  • 9½ Weeks –  Claimed as both a novel and a memoir, I don’t know what the original source material is like but the film has some eroticism but also some pretty bad acting from Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke and was proof that Adrian Lyne was not a good director even before Fatal Attraction.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge –  We drop from mid ** to mid *.5.  Originally released in late 1985 but Oscar eligible in this year, the sequel didn’t have Wes Craven’s involvement, instead directed by Jack Sholder (who would later do a fine job with one of HBO’s first original films, By Dawn’s Early Light).  I definitely can’t blame Craven for not wanting to be involved in this mess but I guess I also can’t blame New Line since Craven made a film that was even worse (six films down).
  • Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation –  The original wasn’t good but this sequel is even worse.  Not distributed by Atlantic but instead by major studio Columbia.
  • The Adventures of the American Rabbit –  This little terrible animated film based on characters created by Stewart Moskowitz was an American-Japanese co-production.  Distributed by Clubhouse / Atlantic.
  • La Cage Aux Folles III: The Wedding –  The first was funny.  The second was not.  This is just awful.  Unlike the first two, not directed by Édouard Molinaro, so I didn’t see this during the Oscar director project.
  • Blue City –  If you thought Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy were bad in St. Elmo’s Fire (you were right) wait until you see them in this adaptation of a Ross Macdonald novel.
  • Shanghai Surprise –  If Madonna is going to be in a film she should at least give us a good original song but she doesn’t even do that.  What’s worse, she’s opposite her then husband Sean Penn and they’re both just awful.  I was rather surprised to realize this terrible (low *.5) film was based on a novel (Faraday’s Flowers by Tony Kenrick).
  • Deadly Friend –  Wes Craven’s Horror film for 1986 just barely creeps into *.5 and is almost ten points worse than the Nightmare sequel he passed on.  Based on the novel Friend by Diana Henstell.
  • Tai-Pan –  Director Daryl Duke had directed star Bryan Brown in The Thorn Birds (which starred Richard Chamberlain who was in the mini-series of James Clavell’s Shogun, another of his Asian Saga of which this novel was the second part no matter whether you read them in writing order or the order in which the books are set) but just didn’t have enough time to tell a proper story on film instead of the expanded use of a television mini-series (which had also been effective for Shogun).  Of Clavell’s work, I have only read King Rat for this project and have skipped his other books, partially because they’re so damn long and partially because of their value system (see Ayn Rand).  The OCD part of me wants to own all six books and have them on a shelf with matching covers and the dates on the side (you can see three of them like that here) but the part of me that has values and ethics says fuck Clavell.  So I’ve only seen the film and it is a gigantic mess.
  • GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords –  Well, they were cheaper than Transformers but I still didn’t buy them.  I was going to write “less expensive” rather than “cheaper” but I think cheaper is more apt here.  GoBots came out first but they were lame and no one liked them or their show.  Their film (the last film released by Clubhouse / Atlantic and the last animated film released at all by Atlantic) is just a disaster.
  • Cobra –  Mindless Stallone Action film based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling (later filmed under that title which I haven’t seen but given it stars William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford is probably just as bad).
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives –  Another bad entry in a bad franchise.
  • King Kong Lives –  I’ll repeat what I said in my review of the 1976 King Kong: “if you find that it’s airing on television, then go ahead and give in for a couple of hours.  There are much worse ways to spend the time.  Like watching King Kong Lives, for instance, the hideous sequel to this film.”
  • Police Academy 3: Back in Training –  It kept making money (#17 for the year, higher than Peggy Sue Got Married, The Fly or Little Shop of Horrors) so they kept making them.
  • Howard the Duck –  Actually rewatched this recently because I hadn’t seen it in over 30 years.  Just as bad as I thought.  Maybe worse.  A bizarre film to even be made but I thought the same thing 30 years later with Guardians and that totally worked.  To be fair, I also don’t like the comic character who is supposed to be satirical but I don’t think works.  Just look at the reversal since this point.  At this point, Superman had already three films with a fourth on the way and soon Batman would rule the multiplex but this was the first Marvel feature film and it would take almost 15 years before X-Men and just over 15 years for Spider-Man but now DC is kind of floundering with their theatrical plans and Marvel rules the box office.

Adaptations of Notable Works I Haven’t Seen

  • none  –

For the record, as I will do from now on, as I have been comparing all sorts of eligibility lists, the highest grossing film from this year (according to Box Office Mojo) that is both adapted and that I haven’t seen is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (#83 for the year at $8.02 mil).  It is the only adapted film in the Top 100 for the year that I haven’t seen.