Mary Shelley first published the story of Frankenstein in 1818. The story of a scientist tormented by the life he had created easily captured the imagination of the public. In 1910, Thomas Edison created the first film inspired by the characters, which I reviewed earlier this month. Universal Studios released their version in 1930, and Boris Karloff is still the iconic version of the monster. Since then, dozens of films have been released that are either direct adaptations of the novel, or inspired by Universal’s film, or just use the characters in some form or other. There is no shortage of films with which to compare the novel to, but for this edition of “Version vs. Version”, I decided to go with the 1994 film, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. Marketed as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it purports to be closer to the original novel than other films.
In some ways, this is accurate. In other ways, it really, really isn’t. Continue reading →
There have been several films titled The Thief of Bagdad or some variation thereof (some of them inserting the “h” of the modern spelling), but there are only two to have garnered any significant critical acclaim. As it happens, the ones receiving the acclaim were the first two adaptations. The first, released in 1924, stars Douglas Fairbanks and is a monochromatic (yet not strictly black-and-white) silent film; the second, in 1940, is a technicolor talkie featuring Conrad Veidt as the villain. The 1924 film has been inducted into the National Film Registry, and is #9 on the AFI’s top 10 fantasy films. The 1940 film won three Oscars for its art direction, cinematography, and special effects.
Both films are roughly adapted from stories in 1001 Arabian Nights. So how do these cinematic classics stack up against each other? How are they similar, and what are the differences? And, of course, we have to ask: Which one is more enjoyable for the modern audience? Continue reading →
Starz Kids & Family is currently showing the 2003 live-action version of Peter Pan, directed by P.J. Hogan, and I decided to watch it and see not just how good it was, but how it compared to the 1953 Disney animated feature. Though I’ll grant I haven’t re-watched the cartoon version recently, it was one of many Disney features that were watched multiple times in my childhood, and sticks in the memory fairly well (and I have seen it as an adult at least once). I remember that when Hogan’s film was being advertised, there was a perception among several people that it was going to be a “darker and edgier” take on the story; this is certainly true, but it’s not particularly meaningful. Darker and edgier than Disney’s version still leaves plenty of room to be light and fluffy. Plus, it’s clear that while Hogan was trying to be a bit truer to the book, he also paid homage to the Disney version in some ways, indicating a degree of respect for the earlier film. But while there are inevitable similarities, due to the same source material, these are still two very different films. Continue reading →
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, and while it wouldn’t be his last Christmas story, it’s far and away the most enduring of them, and today even surpasses his non-holiday works in popularity and recognition. It seemed like a logical choice for a “Version vs. Version” article, with the main question being which of its dozens of adaptations to compare it to. While I’ll be touching on some general trends, I decided to focus on the 1949 TV adaptation, for a few reasons. First, at 25 minutes, it was easy to fit into my schedule (I don’t like to “phone it in”, but today was kind of busy.) Secondly, parts of it are narrated from the text of the book, and much of the dialogue is lifted from it, making it easy to see where corners are cut and elements are glossed over. And third, that narration is done by Vincent Price, and I think we’ve all figured out by now I enjoy watching Vincent Price. (It’s a shame, really, that he couldn’t have had a major role in the work, but at that time he was too young for Scrooge, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is traditionally silent.)
I will assume most of you are familiar with the basic story, and so I’ll jump right into the review of the special and the comparison. Continue reading →
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (which oddly lacks an initial “The” in the original release) is one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s best-known short stories, and a cultural touchstone that everybody is familiar with; who hasn’t heard of someone having a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality complex? The case of the good-natured doctor and his devilish alter-ego is one which captivated the imagination of the public as soon as it was published, and has never quite let go.
Having the story in my Nook collection, and a version of it in my Hulu queue, and having seen occasional versions before, I thought it might be a worthy consideration for a “Version vs. Version” treatment. But it’s proving to be an odd one (a neat trick for the second entry in the category), as the question became one of what versions to compare. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most adapted stories in history. I took a look at IMDB, doing searches for feature films and TV movies with “Jekyll” or “Hyde” in them, and eliminating any duplicates and any where it was coincidental (such as “Hyde Park”), keeping only those that were based on the story. I came up with 42 different movies, 3 of which are currently in production. Since 1920, there hasn’t been a decade with at least one; Hollywood has seldom gone more than 5 years without one. And that’s just ones with one or both names in the title, it doesn’t count Jekyll & Hyde stories without the names in title (such as 1989′s Edge of Sanity), or cases where the story was used but the names were changed (such as 1971′s I, Monster, starring Peter Cushing). And given the usual defaults of IMDB’s advanced search, I think it’s only giving me the ones released in the U.S. Wikipedia claims there are 123 Jekyll & Hyde films, and it’s entirely believable.
So it became difficult to pick and choose which versions to compare, until I read the story in question and realized that it might make the most sense to simply compare the story on one hand, and the entirety of its adaptations on the other. Why?
Because it’s quite possible that there has never been a truly faithful adaptation of the short story, and it may be that there never will be. Continue reading →
In “Version vs. Version”, I take two (or more) versions of a particular story, see what they did differently, what’s the same, and — perhaps most importantly — which one is better. This can be about remakes of a movie, film adaptations of a book, or anything else where one franchise has more than one incarnation. First up? The novel series and television series of The Dresden Files.