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Literary Film Review: Michael Crichton’s Westworld

This month’s classic film review is an analysis of the 1973 film Westworld, a notable first in movie history

Michael Crichton published his most influential early novel, The Andromeda Strain, in 1969 while he was still in his twenties. Pleasingly, when the novel was adapted into a film two years later, Crichton was given a tour of the set by a young Steven Spielberg, who was on his first day at work as a film director. (Spielberg, of course, would later direct the film adaptation of Crichton’s Jurassic Park.)

But as well as being a writer of popular novels which lent themselves readily to film adaptation, Crichton was himself a director – most famously of Westworld, the 1973 film about an amusement park that is a re-creation of the Wild West of the 1880s. Westworld has a notable claim to fame: it was the first film to use CGI (or, more properly, digital image processing), which would become so crucial to later film adaptations of Crichton’s novels, such as Jurassic Park – another Crichton narrative about a theme park gone wrong. Read the rest of this entry

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10 Fascinating Film Adaptations of American Novels

In this guest post, Andrew Dix discusses ten cinematic adaptations of US novels

Film, right from its beginnings very late in the nineteenth century, has been obsessed with literature. Literary adaptation appealed to early filmmakers as a source of cultural respectability: the first movies were shown in venues of popular entertainment such as fairgrounds and circuses, and an association with literature, it was felt, would give film greater artistic prestige. Literature, and novels in particular, also offered a ready source of stories to feed the new medium’s appetite for narrative material.

It was not only English, French and other European novels that proved attractive to these pioneering filmmakers, but American novels too. The earliest screen version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in 1903, condensing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s long novel into nineteen minutes. Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women made the first of many appearances on film in 1917; Twain’s Huckleberry Finn debuted in cinemas in 1920. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was adapted for the first time in 1926, as a silent movie entitled The Sea Beast. There are several curious things about this adaptation, one being that it was remade as a ‘talkie’ four years later (this time called Moby Dick), another that it invented a half-brother for Captain Ahab and gave him the unlikely name of Derek. Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Bambi

Fun facts about Bambi, the children’s book on which the classic Disney film was based

1. The classic Disney film Bambi was based on a largely forgotten book. Bambi: A Life in the Woods was written by Felix Salten (born Siegmund Salzmann), an Austrian author, and published in 1926. A perhaps surprisingly fact, given that Salten would go on to pen a children’s classic, is that he was also the probable author of an anonymously published erotic novel, Josephine Mutzenbacher – The Life Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself, which appeared twenty years before his Bambi book. Read the rest of this entry