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It revivified British cinema just as Welsh’s writing breathed new life into fiction. APOCALYPSE NOW (Heart of Darkness) by JOSEPH CONRAD Published: 1902 Film adaptation: 1979 Director: FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA The most extraordinary of Vietnam films, and by far the craziest version of a Conrad novel ever conceived, Coppola’s Oscar-winning modernisation of Heart of Darkness is without compare.
Its hallucinatory feel and dystopian view of American soldiering was achieved only after a shoot so beset with disaster that Coppola compared it to Vietnam itself. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by CORMAC Mc CARTHY Published: 2005 Film adaptation: 2007 Directors: JOEL AND ETHAN COEN The first literary adaptation by cult writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen, this chilling film follows Mc Carthy’s bleak novel almost to the letter.
No film version of Dickens has ever matched Lean’s superlative realisation of Great Expectations.
From the jumpy graveyard scene to the weirdness of Satis House, and with actors such as John Mills and Alec Guinness giving their all, there is no level at which this utterly brilliant film doesn’t deliver. WUTHERING HEIGHTS by EMILY BRONTË Published: 1847 Film adaptation: 1939 Director: WILLIAM WYLER Brontë’s gothic tale of moors madness gets the William Wyler treatment in this classic movie version starring Merle Oberon as Cathy and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliffe. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by HARPER LEE Published: 1960 Film adaptation: 1962 Director: ROBERT MULLIGAN The film of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about racist Alabama deservedly won three Oscars, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck as the lawyer Atticus Finch.
None of the subsequent adaptations has matched the dark power of the brilliant Wyler’s. Including a fictionalised version of Lee’s friend Truman Capote, this compelling and important work has lost none of its power since its release. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO by BORIS PASTERNAK Published: 1957 Film adaptation: 1965 Director: DAVID LEAN Lean’s snowy cinematic masterpiece starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and Alec Guinness brings to life the Nobel Prize-winner’s story of revolutionary Russia with tremendous style.
Although beaten to 1965’s Best Picture Oscar by The Sound of Music, this memorable realisation honours all the emotional and political complexity of Boris Pasternak’s original novel. THE LEOPARD by GIUSEPPE TOMASI DI LAMPEDUSA Published: 1958 Film adaptation: 1963 Director: LUCHINO VISCONTI Most famous for its almost hour-long ballroom scene and glorious period detail, Visconti’s epic filming of Lampedusa’s novel examines the honour codes of a changing Italy with the help of a handsome cast including Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.
The dying ancien regime is represented by lethally sexy performances by Glenn Close and John Malkovich, making this 118 minutes of pure wicked pleasure. THE BIG SLEEP by RAYMOND CHANDLER Published: 1939 Film adaptation: 1946 Director: HOWARD HAWKS The convoluted plot of Chandler’s detective story had screenwriter William Faulkner turning to the original author for help.
Ralph Richardson is triumphant as the domineering father, and the powerful closing scene is a strikingly modern statement of female strength. SCHINDLER’S LIST (Schindler’s Ark) by THOMAS KENEALLY Published: 1982 Film adaptation: 1993 Director: STEVEN SPIELBERG Spielberg’s version of Keneally’s novel Schindler’s Ark was immediately lauded as one of the greatest films about the Holocaust. R TOLKIEN Published: 1954-1955 Film adaptation: 2001-2003 Director: PETER JACKSON Tolkien’s books have been irresistible to generations of teenage boys, but until Jackson’s triumphant trilogy of films, all attempts to bring Middle Earth and its hairy denizens off the printed page had fallen flat.From Orson Welles’s priestly cameo to Gregory Peck’s brilliantly unhinged Ahab, a fine cast is matched by an eerily bleached cinematography.Even a rather ropy model whale cannot diminish the power of this great film. BRIGHTON ROCK by GRAHAM GREENE Published: 1938 Film adaptation: 1947 Directors: John and Roy Boulting Brutally gritty, Terence Rattigan’s adaptation, done in partnership with the novel’s author, Graham Greene, shocked critics with its hard-boiled realism.A young Richard Attenborough excels as the odious Pinkie in a crime drama that is worlds away from the slick American noirishness cinemagoers were accustomed to in 1947. DRACULA by BRAM STOKER Published: 1897 Film adaptation: 1931 Director: TOD BROWNING Bela Lugosi is Dracula, since he seethed his way to stardom in Browning’s 1931 film.Necessarily cutting out some of Stoker’s extraneous material, this genre-defining horror classic turned out far scarier than the book.
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