August is over, meaning summer is too. If you’re the kind of person who hates it when the nights draw in and the days get colder… booyahsucks! You’ve just had a heatwave-lashed summer — it’s my turn now!
Ahem, anyway — let’s talk films:
After failing last month, I kicked off August with a WDYMYHS film, in a concerted effort to catch up the two I’m behind. That film was Bicycle Thieves, once voted Sight & Sound’s greatest film of all time. Also one of just three foreign films on the list, for whatever that’s worth. Unfortunately, that was where my viewing wrapped up this month, meaning I’m still two behind. Must try harder.
I did post the first WDYMYHS-related review, however: January’s contribution to the challenge, City Lights.
#63 Bicycle Thieves, aka Ladri di biciclette (1948)
#64 Immortals (2011)
#65 The Falcon and the Co-eds (1943)
#66 Sharknado (2013)
#67 Side by Side (2012)
#68 The Imposter (2012)
#69 Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunter (Extended Cut) (2013)
#70 Jack Reacher (2012)
#71 The Falcon Out West (1944)
I always illustrate the above list with the poster(s) of my favourite film(s) from the month’s viewing (if you’ve not noticed that before, knock yourself out going over my old progress reports). This month, much to my surprise, it is indeed Jack Reacher. And you know what else was fun? Hansel & Gretel. It’s a month full of surprises!
Watching 100 films in a year means getting through 8⅓ of the things every month, so, with a total of 9, this August is practically a model student. It’s certainly a marked improvement on the meagre four I managed in both June and July. However, it’s the fourth month this year not to crack double figures, and is down on last August’s tally of 12. Those were all short Saint and Falcon films, though, so in running-time terms I’m probably tied.
Closing out the month at #71 makes this my weakest year-to-date since 2009. Back then I’d only made it to #44, so by comparison I’m flying. Although this means I’m behind a year that I failed to make it to 100 (last year, when August ended at #73), I’m also ahead of one where I did: 2008, when I’d only reached #59. The target for August is #66, so I’m five ahead really. Hope is most certainly not lost then, especially with a third of the year still to go. It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of DVDs, Blu-rays, recorded and downloaded films to watch. Plus I’m currently enjoying NOW TV’s 30-day free movies trial. Might write a dedicated post on that service sometime soon.
And as if that wasn’t enough choice…
The nights are drawing in; the good telly’s starting up; the kids are off back to school this week — yes, the summer’s over. What’s on in cinemas is the other sign of this, of course; but as this is a film blog, that’s the point I was building to. I think the only major ‘summer blockbuster’-y movie left is Riddick, and as I won’t be seeing that I can officially confirm I’ve not been to the cinema once this season. That’s partly personal laziness/apathy; partly that whenever I begin to seriously consider making the effort, something conspires against it. Hey-ho.
The flip side is that, for me, the summer movie season is about to begin! That should help with the aforementioned final tally. Thanks to studios’ (wannabe-)piracy-beating speed when it comes to getting films onto disc these days, Star Trek Into Darkness should be with me tomorrow, and Iron Man 3 a week later. Even though Man of Steel is going to take until the start of December to get here, I hope my other summer most-want-to-sees (The Wolverine, Kick-Ass 2, etc) aren’t quite so tardy… but if they are, well, I’ll just wait, won’t I.
One final quick note before the top five bit: early in August I finally updated the header images on most of the blog’s main pages. I posted a post about it, but as I flagged it an “aside” it only went out to those who get emails. I thought I’d just mention them again, then, because I do rather like ’em. You can read a little more here.
Inspired by the film adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot morphing into Jack Reacher, I thought I’d do a quick run-down of five other notable or lesser-known movies that changed their source’s title. Why? Who can say…
- Nothing Lasts Forever
In researching this list I was surprised to discover a few films I didn’t know were adaptations. That might be a good list for another time, though that list, and this one, could be almost entirely filled by a single franchise: Die Hard. While the first film is based on Nothing Lasts Forever, to one degree or another, the second takes its title and basic concept from 58 Minutes; the third was based on a spec script called Simon Says, which also nearly became Lethal Weapon 4; and the fourth on an article called A Farewell to Arms. Only the fifth seems to be inspiration-less — which is a pretty accurate description based on what I’ve heard…
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
As evocative as the title of Philip K. Dick’s novel is, someone clearly wanted something punchier, to the extent they purchased an entire screenplay just to get their hands on its title: Blade Runner. The second Dick adaptation also underwent a title change, from the equally unwieldy We Can Remember It For You Wholesale to the equally snappy Total Recall. More recent films (Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau) have been more faithful… titularly, at least.
- The Body
Just as prone to retitling as Dick is Stephen King. Oh sure, there’s Carrie and The Shining and, y’know, all the rest; but there are at least two notable exceptions, and the first is The Body, adapted as Stand By Me — altogether more wholesome, no? The story comes from King’s Different Seasons, a collection of four stories that has been ¾ adapted: the other two are Apt Pupil, filmed as Apt Pupil; and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which underwent a less drastic title change. I can only presume the fourth story isn’t much cop.
- The Midwich Cuckoos
Aww, a nice novel about some birds! What a pleasant motion picture that would make; no doubt in the vein of Springwatch, but fictional and cinematic. But no, dear reader, no! That’s not the style of the author of The Day of the Triffids, is it? And so to make sure you knew you were watching a sci-fi horror thingamie, the retitling bods gave us Village of the Damned. They’re damned! Damned! Etc. And in the ’90s, horror maestro John Carpenter did it again with a remake. Almost weirder than that, a quick look on Amazon suggests no tie-in edition of the novel with the new title, ever. Which I guess is a good thing.
- I Am Legend
“But there is a film called I Am Legend,” I hear you cry. And so there is — now. But before 2007, Richard Matheson’s exceptional post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie novel was filmed twice: once in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth, and again in 1971 as The Omega Man. I guess that’s the snappy title brigade at work again. Presumably the Will Smith-starring version stuck to source to convey some kind of weight, while the film itself titted about with all kinds of over-CG’d action movie nonsense.
There are so many to choose from, I feel I could run this list again next month. I even have more than one option worthy of the closing “opposite” segment, which this month is (of course) a film that notably didn’t change its title…
- Les Misérables
Despite having one of the most glaringly French titles ever committed to paper or celluloid, Les Misérables has been adapted multiple times — but always as Les Misérables. It’s the lack of a solid English translation that does for it — even Google Translate won’t bother converting it. Now it’s just a brand in its own right, and no doubt we’re all saying it totally wrong… which is probably why everyone just calls it “Les Mis”. (Or if you’re American, “Les Miz”; because if you miss something you’d say you mis it, right?)
As I mentioned, there are copious examples of this kind of palaver I’ve left out. Please do share any personal favourites — or grievances — in the comments below. For instance, I’ve never seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because I loved the book as a child and the retitling has always rubbed me up the wrong way.