After relaunching this blog, I received an email from my friend Tony stating “I totally disagree. "The Witches of Eastwick" and "The Handmaid's Tale" were both excellent movies based on mediocre books. Given time, I bet I could think of a few more. "Logan's Run". "Planet of the Apes"”.
I subtitled this blog “because the Book is always better than the movie” knowing that the statement is not true as an absolute. The last two books on Tony’s list I will agree with as better than the novel (although I do like Planet of the Apes novel but the film takes it into a different area). The Handmaid’s Tale got bad reviews by a majority of the major reviewers while Witches did get some good reviews – Roger Ebert being one raved about it – but there was a major change in tone from Updike’s novel.
Yet there are some films that surpass their source material. Years ago around Oscar time when the current crop of Best Picture nominations were not from literary sources, I made a window display around books made into films that surpassed them. On my list were: The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Lady from Shanghai, The Bridges of Madison County, The Fly (1990), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Silence of the Lambs (debatable as the film was very faithful to the novel), Rosemary’s Baby, a lot of Stanley Kubrick (if you consider their iconic level) and everything by Alfred Hitchcock; pretty much a lot of genre entries especially in mystery or science fiction. If you email me your list I will post them in a later entry. Here’s a site to get you started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_Award_for_Writing_Adapted_Screenplay .
Still, given the number of crappy movies based on books, or even very good movies based on excellent books, books triumphs over film any day. As this is not an absolute, I will concede and remove the “always” in the subtitle. And besides, Reading is still better for your brain than watching TV.