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Original Sin (1997)
'Original Sin' is a complicated story of murders at a prominent publishing house in London.
The novel 'Original Sin' is perhaps P. D. James' longest and richest book. Its many characters are fully and interestingly developed. Even the murderer is a fairly sympathetic figure. The book has multiple interesting narrative strands. It cannot be praised too highly.
The film, by contrast, is AWFUL. It should have been at least 4 hours long in order to do the complicated narrative justice. The casting is poor, and the acting for the most part is wooden. In the book, Frances Peverell and James de Witt are attractive young people. In the film, they are middle aged and are considerably less attractive than in the book. Roy Marsden's acting is uninspired, as is that of the actress who plays Kate Miskin. The murderer is a more stalwart figure in the film than in the book, which makes him less sympathetic in the film.
The themes of war and racism that one reviewer dislikes are central to the book. Without giving too much away, I will merely remark that the roots of the murders go back to World War II and that the alleged racism is connected to the horrors of the Holocaust. The young Jewish man on Dalgliesh's team understands the motives for the murders and as a result understands what the murderer was trying to do.
Finally, the excellent ending of the novel is cheapened by the different, sensationalized conclusion in the film. All in all, I'd say read the book, and don't bother with the DVD.
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man: Film, Fiction, Fact
Several comments, in ascending order of importance:
First, there are various versions of Robert Burns' poem, "The Highland Widow's Lament," which is sung in the film. Here are some stanzas that differ from those in the film:
I was the happiest of the Clan; Sair, fair may I repine; For Donald was the bravest man, And Donald, he was mine.
Till Charlie Stewart came at last, Sae far to set us free; My Donald's arm was wanted then, For Scotland and for me.
Thou woeful fate what can I tell? Right to the wrong did yield; My Donald and our Country fell Upon Culloden field.
Second, the film is excellent. It disturbed me, even though I have known about it and its famous ending for years. Actors and actresses who are not native Scots do a reasonably good job with the distinctive Scottish accent. It is interesting to see the remarkable Christopher Lee as a fairly youthful middle-aged man. It is also interesting to see Edward Woodward, whom I had previously viewed only in 'The Equalizer,' splendidly playing the role of the baffled, ethical Sergeant Howie. The conversations of Lee and Howie are brilliant. The conclusion of the film is terrifying.
Third, people who note that the film is dated or that it is not a true horror movie should remember that film dates quickly and that, as other commentators have remarked, The Wicker Man does not fit into any single category, a fact that is one of its strengths.
Finally, since much, perhaps most, of my blood is Celtic, I shall make the following observation. Presumably Julius Caesar invented the legend of the Wicker Man in order to convince Rome and its various subjugated colonies that the Celts were more bloodthirsty than the Romans. See the entry in 'Wikipedia,' disambiguation, on this point.
The Lynley mysteries are bland.
Candidly, I found all of the Inspector Lynley mysteries substandard as compared with the mysteries based on books by such fine authors as P. D. James. Nathaniel Parker is too androgynous for my tastes, and Lesley Vickerage simply cannot act. For what it's worth, I didn't particularly like Catherine Russell either. The book by Elizabeth George that I read, George's comments in an interview, and the reactions of people who watched the entire Lynley series before it was canceled suggest that I am not too far off in my judgment. Finally, as at least one other viewer has remarked, viewers should not expect the BBC's film productions to equal the excellent of George's books. Film in general is an inferior medium to print, at least in the hands of a fine writer like George.
The 1952 'Ivanhoe' is not so good as the 1997 BBC/A&E miniseries.
I have read Sir Walter Scott's narrative poems and many of his Waverley novels; I have taught 'Ivanhoe' in university literature classes. I cannot praise Scott's genius too highly. In the visually oriented 21st century, Scott's contributions to the printed word--in history, short fiction, drama, and historical romance--merit the same high praise accorded them during his lifetime (1771-1832). One need only think of 'Waverley,' 'Old Mortality,' 'The Bride of Lammermoor,' and 'Redgauntlet' to realize how much Scott contributed to British and American literature. Without him, there would be no such thing as the historical novel or romance in the forms as they exist today; narrative poetry from Lord Byron in Britain to Edwin Arlington Robinson and Robinson Jeffers in America would be poorer; literary traditions of many kinds would be impoverished.
I have long preferred the 1997 BBC/A&E miniseries 'Ivanhoe' to the 1952 'Ivanhoe.' After reading what viewers who praise the latter film say, however, I intend to watch it again. Thanks for your comments.
'Ivanhoe' is set in the last decade of the 12th century, in Austria and England.
I use several types of films in university classes; I have friends who specialize in teaching various aspects of film--history, artistry, and so forth. I am familiar with the history of film criticism. The last fact explains why I make the following comments about reviewers of the 1997 'Ivanhoe.'
Blueghost, The SnowLeopard, and ModernTelemachus discuss the way in which the film was made. They complain about various aspects of the filming. There is merit in what they say, though I dislike the negative, overbearing way in which they say it (SnowLeopard, in particular, is condescending). I also dislike their assumption that they know more about the subject than other viewers and their blithe disregard of the point that the creators of great historical fiction or films such as 'Ivanhoe' can appropriate and alter what is mistakenly construed as historical 'fact.'--By the way, it was not Scott but his friend Matthew Gregory 'Monk' Lewis who made the remark about painting a heroine blue.
In closing, I shall praise once more the film's action, its narrative power, and its drama.