Friday, October 11, 2013


I noted in passing on Tuesday that while I have never seen James Whale’s film adaptation of Frankenstein, I have at least read Mary Shelley’s novel (as if it’s very important that I burnish my Frankenstein cred). That got me thinking about other overlaps between the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list and the literary canon and my own reading habits.

To point to another example relevant to the 1001 Movies Blog Club, the web portal for the club updates on Thursdays and this year Halloween falls on a Thursday, and so the assignment for that week is Rosemary’s Baby. Another novel I have read and film I have not seen! But even with three weeks between now and then, I know I’m not going to watch Rosemary’s Baby any time soon. I have adopted a general policy of avoiding the filmography of Roman Polanski. I think there’s a lot of interesting, meaningful debate to be had about the separability between a bad human being and the good works of art created by them, and I don’t judge anyone else for consuming Polanski’s output, but I would just as soon hold off until he’s dead and gone, incapable of deriving any financial benefit from me renting one of his flicks. He’s 80 years old, I probably won’t have to wait that long. (Am I a bad human being for nursing a certain expectation for someone else’s demise? Probably.) Anyway, bottom line, I’m deliberately opting out of watching Rosemary’s Baby, and consoling myself with having internalized the source material.

Out of curiosity, I went through the full Master List of 1001 Movies and identified which movies I have never seen, yet have read the basis for. Turns out there’s an even dozen:

All Quiet on the Western Front
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
The Masque of the Red Death
A Passage to India
The Right Stuff
Rosemary's Baby
Slumdog Millionaire

Les Mis was a book I had to read in high school, and there was a class field trip near the end of the year to see the show on Broadway, so clearly I feel like I have twice the exposure to the source material for the recent movie version of the musical. The Masque of the Red Death was a short story I had to read in school, and the Roger Corman/Vincent Price collaboration takes some liberties making it into a feature film, but I’m going to count it. Slumdog Millionaire is the one movie on my “But I read the book!” list that changed the title of the original novel (which was Q&A).

I also found a baker’s dozen of movies on the Master List where I have both seen the flick and read the source, and they are:

Gone With the Wind
It's a Wonderful Life
The Jungle Book
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Princess Bride
The Shawshank Redemption
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs
West Side Story
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The Wizard of Oz

Unsurprisingly, three of those books (Carrie, The Shining and the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) were written by Stephen King. Akira is a bit of a cheat, as I’ve been working my way through the original six volumes of manga and as of this posting have only finished four of them, but I have every intention of finishing. It’s a Wonderful Life is another short-story-based film (and another bit of trivia fodder, the original story was titled “The Greatest Gift”). West Side Story is of course a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and I’m counting it because I (like every other ninth grader, ever) read Romeo and Juliet in high school but also because I read West Side Story for a summer writing class a year or so later. I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in elementary school and my fifth grade class put on a stage production of the story in which I played Willy Wonka. I have seen the movie about a hundred times. Deep, abiding love for that story.

So, I believe I am entitled to about 25 points of extra credit in the 1001 Movies quest. I’m not sure how exactly extra credit works in this context? Maybe I can be excused from watching some of the multi-hour experimental films and call it a wash?

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