Pony-boy (C. Thomas Howell) - "All I did was walk home from the movie."
Darrel (Patrick Swayze) - "Movies and books, movies and books! I wish you could concentrate on something else once in a while"
Sodapop (Rob Lowe) - "Try girls and cars. Works for me."
THE OUTSIDERS : THE COMPLETE NOVEL (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola 1983/2005)
A recent Time magazine article titled Books Vs. Movies (I'd link it but it's premium content - greedy corporate bastards!) again put up the ancient argument - "which is better" in the context of such event movies coming out before this years end like THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA as well as the already released HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, SHOPGIRL, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and even WALK THE LINE which was based on 2 Johnny Cash's autobiographies - Man in Black and CASH - The Autobiography.
I've only seen a few of the movies I mentioned above (SHOPGIRL and WALK THE LINE) but lately I have noticed I have a tendency to read or re-read the book before I see the new movie version. Anticipating CAPOTE a couple of months ago I bought a paperback of In Cold Blood and also watched the 1967 movie - I guess as a way of doing some homework on the subject or maybe just a geeky habit of wanting to know all the source material available. Sigh. This makes me recall that back in '92 I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X months before Spike Lee's epic cinematic rendition hit the screens. Jeez! I guess I got it bad.
Anyway the old cliche "the movie is always better than the book" while often true there are a number of notable exceptions like say BEING THERE, THE GODFATHER and FIGHT CLUB. Many people love certain movies never knowing there was a book and vice versa. I for years never knew that HAROLD AND MAUDE was originally a novella written by Colin Higgins who wrote the screenplay for the film.
A few movies I've seen lately that were based on books:
COLD MOUNTAIN (Dir. Anthony Minghella, 2003) - Yes, I know just about everyone read it at the end of the last decade and then saw the movie a couple years ago but I only did both recently. The book was elegantly written and the details were almost too much to absorb but I enjoyed it immensely. The movie not so much. While well cast (Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zelleweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman were all perfect for their roles) was ickily glossy and stupidly reduced the love story elements into romance novel fodder. They TITANIC-ized it!
THE OUTSIDERS : THE COMPLETE NOVEL (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola 1983/2005) I read the S.E. Hinton book of this way back in Jr. High School in the early 80's like most people in my demographic I guess and was interested to hear that Coppola had restored footage to the movie to make it closer to the book. It does work a little better though despite its boys-club cast (Swayze, Cruise, Lowe, Estevez, etc) its still the feminine cheesy melodrama it will always be in our hearts. Or at least my demographic's hearts.
THE WARRIORS (Dir. Walter Hill, 1979) This is another one that I didn't realize til now was based on a book (by Sol Yurick) until recently. Though it was originally a pulp novel the new director's cut has wipes and transitions added to make the film look more like a comic book - characters morph into still frame cartoons contained in black border boxes at the end of sequences and then we are whisked away to another panel. The effect doesn't bother me but on this here internet there are many fan-boy complaints about Lucas-like tinkering and some such spoiling of a masterpiece. Yeah, its like someone painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, sure. Whatever.
Now for another reliable fimbabble feature which fits right into this film/book shiznit:
THE HAROLD AND MAUDE SOUNDTRACK BREAKDOWN
Yes, again we take another movie notable for its soundtrack and give you a musical play by play. This particular film is especially notable because it features just one artist (Cat Stevens) kinda like THE GRADUATE with Simon and Garfunkel guiding the way - sure , we'll go with that -
The film begins with Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) preparing to hang himself in the elegant din of his mother's mansion. He puts on a record on an old-stlye phonograph. It is "Don't Be Shy" by Cat Stevens. As this a song not on any Cat Stevens record - written for the film no less - Harold is very privileged.
"On The Road To Find Out" accompanies and introduces Harold's funeral fetish. "I Wish, I Wish" concludes the sequence.
"Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1" (performer unknown according to IMDB) plays as another Haorld suicide attempt - drowning face down in a pool as his mother swims laps.
"Miles From Nowhere" sets another funeral scene - this one rain drenched. Just as that tune fades and the congregation exits the cemetery with Maude and her bright yellow umbrella leading the way "Tea For The Tillerman" plays. Jeez, Cat was racking 'em up with on this flick! (Well, not really - there was no officially released soundtrack)
Another spiritual Stevens song - "I Think I See The Light" lifts us away from Harold's successful sabotage of his mother's dating set-up to Maude's artistic nude modeling.
As Harold and Maude (Ruth Gordon) get acquainted "Where Do The Children Play" - another passionate Cat tune sets the tone. Instrumental snatches from it play over the next few scenes.
Back at her place - after an emotional moment concerning Maude’s mysterious past our protagonists engage in a sing-a-long of “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” on Maude’s player piano which amusingly plays after she gets up to dance. Like "Don't Be Shy" this song was written for the movie and is definitely its unofficial theme song. A piano version sans vocal decorates the next scene as Harold’s mother presents him with a new Jaguar.
Johann Strauss’s "On The Beautiful Blue Danube”(again, performer unknown) accompanies a sweet night time close dance by Harold and Maude again at her place.
“If You Want To Sing Out…” again serenades our movie couple in a montage – Harold’s Jaquar now souped-up Hearse-style tools down roads through the countryside, Harold and Maude dancing and frolicking in the sun, and it nicely concludes with a tender moment in a junk-yard at dusk.
The energetic jamming finish of "I Think I See The Light" which faded out earlier now emerges again to illustrate Harold's now consumated relationship with Maude. In morning light coming through the window of Maude's abode Harold, in a love-daze blows bubbles while she sleeps.
Another instrumental of "If You Want To Sing Out..." now played on a banjo punctuates Harolds confident walk away from his Mother's bedroom after telling her that he intends to marry Maude.
"Trouble" powerfully fills out the final sequence which cuts back and forth from Harold in Jaquar/Herse recklessly driving the winding roads of previous scenes and the ambulance drive and Maude's admittance to the hospital on the night of her death - unbearably untimely in Harold's eyes.
"If You Want To Sing Out..." of course takes us through the end credits right after a now newly inspired Harold plucks a few chords on his Banjo - a gift from Maude - right after discarding the Herse/Jaquar - a gift from his mother - in a particularly dramatic fashion.