It's Thursday! And another week where I get to recommend three titles from the vault as part of Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. This week: Adaptations of Classic Literature.
Much like earlier this year with the infamous Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations, I found myself at a bit of stand still on this one. I just haven't seen many in the "classic" sense I feel is warranted here. I have seen no adaptations of Bronte or Austen or Dickens. I have seen what Peter Jackson did with Tolkien, but that's been beaten half to death by now.
I've decided my spin this week will be adaptations of classics that are more reimaginings than true source-to-screen adaptations. These are movies far away from their sources but with the core through line intact, for the most part.
Here are this week's picks:
Dir. Mel Brooks, 1974
Based on the novel Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and its various film adaptations
Screen story and screenplay by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks' genius is delivered to its greatest effect in this one. Not only is this an incredibly funny movie but also a nod to the relationship we all have with the Frankenstein story itself and its various reimaginings over the nearly century and a half (now almost two whole) since Mary Shelley published one of America's first iconic novels. Plus, it's a masterfully made period piece.
Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
Based on the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
Written by John Milius and Francis Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola gave his all to this war film masterpiece, and that's a total understatement. Everything about the making of this movie is now famous movie lore. The movie itself is utterly compelling and fascinating. It is the most immersive war movie I've ever seen and probably the best. The backbone of the story is the same as Heart of Darkness (which is set in the Congo), a crew of men travel in a boat upriver searching for a rogue madman.
Dir. Tim Burton, 1999
Based on the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving (1820)
Screen story by Kevin Yahger and Andrew Kevin Walker
Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker
Tim Burton's movies almost never work for me. Sleepy Hollow is one that does. It is a masterclass in tone, laying the dread on so thick it's hard to even move as you watch it. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography is gorgeously dark and the type of flashy I love. This film has absolutely nothing to do, really, with its source material, but it perfects its famed villain, "The Headless Horseman," and its protagonist, Ichabod Crane, by making them darker and more real than ever before. That speaks to the point Washington Irving's original work in and of itself. It's a story about stories within a story. We make it our own, just as Tim Burton did.