April 22, 2011
The 10 Most Badly Bungled Classic-Book-To-Film Adaptations
by Dennis Johnson
In a slide show at Flavorwire, Jason Baily lists what he considers the ten worst adaptations of classic literature into film. Complete with trailers, it’s a dead-on, hilarious, and highly personalized list — take, for example, his explanation of why the 1992 film version of Henry James‘ Turn of the Screw is so bad:
Your author may very well be the only person who even remembers this barely released 1992 adaptation of the Henry James novel; most think of Jack Clayton’s 1961 film version, The Innocents, and rightly so. This one, directed by Rusty Lemorande and starring direct-to-video standbys Patsy Kensit (best remembered for her nude frolicking in Lethal Weapon 2) and Julian Sands, updated the film to the swinging ’60s but mostly stayed faithful to the original book. However — and this is key — they gave the moniker of “Jenny” to Kensit’s governess, who went unnamed in the book. And this led to rather an embarrassing moment in your author’s high school English class, wherein the ill-advised decision to rent this film version rather than do the assigned reading backfired quite unfortunately. (“But James gives Jenny this quality of — “Um, who’s Jenny?”) Apologies for bringing a rather personal moment into this list, but these incidents leave long-lasting scars.
Here’s a sample of another Baily deemed “the gold standard of all bad adaptations” …
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him at @mobylives