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Rolling in their Graves: 10 Classic Authors Hollywood has Butchered

Novels are often great source material for movies. Many bestsellers and literary works have turned into fantastic movies such as The Godfather, A Clockwork Orange and Schindler’s List. But sadly, the film industry has also made poor adaptations that are disloyal to the original work: Alan Moore can tell you about that. Now that Paul W.S. Anderson has turned The Three Musketeers into a steampunk fantasy, we at Player Affinity are going to look at some dead authors whose works have been ruined by Hollywood.

10. Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights is a classic example of gothic fiction and often studied in English Literature classes the world over. It is a dark, brooding and thematic novel and one of the most famous from the Victorian era. So in 1939, Hollywood thought they knew better and turned this dark and disturbing story into a simple story about love against the odds, making it into one of the great love stories. Kind of missing the point.

9. Issac Asimov
Issac Asimov has written some highly regarded sci-fi short stories, but there have only been two Hollywood movies based on his books and he certainly would not have expected the results. Bicentennial Man was the first adaptation by Chris Columbus, a movie regarded as a slow, dull attempt at adpating a very thematic novella. I, Robot was a fun action blockbuster, but it was no more then a Will Smith vehicle and only used Asimov stories as a loose foundation. It stole a recognizable name to get an audience and was a prime example of product placement in a movie: I doubt anyone bought an Audi just because of this movie.

8. Philip K. Dick
Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall and A Scanner Darkly are all excellent movies that were based on his novels and short stories, but Dick has also suffered at the hands of Hollywood. Two of his works, Paycheck and Next, were turned into dumb action movies. Both were critically derided and deservedly underperformed at the box office. Dick would be ashamed that his dark, inventive sci fi was turned into generic action movies made for a quick buck that have nothing to do with science fiction.

7. Frank Herbert
Dune is often considered the Lord of the Rings of science fiction and has been adapted into movie in 1984 and a couple of TV series. The saga is a large epic filled with factions and subplots. It was a difficult novel to adapt and David Lynch (making his only studio movie) made a very strange, surreal film that has a lot of camp value. Lynch was disappointed by studio interference and some cuts had his name removed the credits. Ridley Scott had the choice of tackling this book but made the wise decision to make Blade Runner instead. Peter Berg left making another adaptation to make Battleship. The property is currently in the hands of Taken director Pierre Morel.

6. George Orwell
George Orwell is one of the greatest English writers of the 20th Century, best known for being a critic of totalitarianism. He tackled Stalinism in Animal Farm and 1984, his two most well-known stories. But he was not a fan of the United States or the excesses of capitalism, so he would not have been thrilled to learn that the CIA secretly funded the 1954 animated adaptation of Animal Farm, which was used as a anti-Communist propaganda, subverting many themes and changing the ending just to suit their own ends.

5. Lewis Carroll
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are both considered fantastic children’s literature and surreal fantasy from the Victorian period. The two biggest adaptations are by Disney: The 1951 animated tale and the 2010 Tim Burton live-action adaptation. The Burton version was particularly derided by fans of the written world, turning Alice in Wonderland into a Wizard of Oz-lite tale, raising Alice’s age to 19 and including Johnny Deep break-dancing. It is a difficult novel to adapt but there are always boundaries. At least Carroll has not been the subject of a biopic about him catching after an eight-year-old girl.

4. Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas is one of the best-known writers to come out of France, a prolific writer of historical and romanticized fiction. We have seen many versions of The Three Musketeers from the fun 1970s version to the terrible 1993 Walt Disney version and many animated versions including The MousetekeersMickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers and Barbie and the Three Musketeers. Randall Wallace disregarded history once again with his version of Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask. Now we have a new version by Paul W. S. Anderson that features airships and a ninja woman, because the original story was not exciting enough. The Count of Monte Cristo has faired better but no version is perfect. 

3. Dr. Seuss
The animated versions of Dr. Seuss’ children’s books have often been strong, loyal adaptations thanks to his friend Chuck Jones animating them. The live action adaptations, however, are critically derided abominations. The Grinch was a real miss for director Ron Howard, a movie that was no more then a vehicle for Jim Carrey. But it got worst when Mike Myers’ The Cat in the Hat was released. Somehow a 61-page illustrated novel turned into an 82-minute film that was filled with a terrible performance from Myers and a lot of awful, unfunny jokes. The only way it could have been more insulting to Dr. Seuss was is if his body was dug up and hung from a tree.

2. Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker was a great gothic writer and his most popular work has suffered, not just in Hollywood, but all over the world. The most accurate adaptation was the 1922 German Silent Film Nosferatu, which for legal reasons could not use any of the character names. It was basically an example of copyright infringement. Many myths and clichés have arisen over the years, from the stereotypical cape and his deadly reaction to sunlight. The character has ended up being a parody of himself, much like Frankenstein and his monster.

1. Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley is anoter great gothic author and her most famous novel was Frankenstein. Sadly for this early 19th Century author, her classic story has been ruined many times in movies. Frankenstein has often been changed in some form, from the turning of the monster into no more then a mindless killer to a green creature with bolts on the sides of its neck and even Dr. Frankenstein being the monster himself. Many adaptations ignore that the monster was a tragic creature who was in his past life a university professor who longed to be accepted in the world. Many adaptations overlook themes such man’s interference in nature, why man should not play God, asking the question who is the real monster and about what makes someone good or evil. Even Kenneth Brangh’s 1994 version was not that loyal to the novel and by then the damage was already done. I put it this why I did not realize that Frankenstein and the monster were different characters until I read the novel in school when I was 14. More adaptations of the story are on the way including I, Frankenstein starring Aaron Eckhart.

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