Okay, so we’re talking movies vs. books again. Not a problem. This is a topic that can never be exhausted.
I’m going to focus on The Princess Bride, which celebrated its 25th birthday this week (Okay, maybe “anniversary” might be a more appropriate word than “birthday,” but this movie is more than just a movie to me. It’s like an old friend.) I don’t think it suffered one little bit in the translation from book to film. All the characters, key story elements, and memorable words (“inconceivable”) are there. It helps that it’s a relatively short book, only 282 pages as opposed to some of the thousand-page, dictionary-sized behemoths by Stephen King or Tom Clancy.
There is, however, one big change. Columbo and Kevin Arnold aren’t in the novel. The book itself is presented as if the author, William Goldman, took a foreign book (written by S. Morgenstern) that his father used to read to him and merely edited all the boring parts that his father used to skip over. There are long stretches where Goldman explains what’s missing and why he made certain cuts. These are interesting , but they tend to interrupt the story at inopportune moments. It’s much more streamlined to have the quick cutaway scenes with the grandpa reading to the sick kid. It keeps the spirit of the book, even if it’s done differently.
So to sum up, I love the movie. It’s one of my favorites. It’s as close to perfection as a film can get. So the movie has to be better than the book, right? I mean, there are a number of cases for me where this is true (Forrest Gump and The Baby-sitter’s Club, for example). But Goldman’s book just barely edges out the movie. It isn’t even something that I can put my finger on. That’s just the way it is.
On a little side note, some of you might not be aware of the book’s sort of sequel, Buttercup’s Baby. The copy I have is pretty old, but later editions mention S. Morgenstern’s “sequel,” even going so far as to print a sample chapter. I haven’t read it yet, but Goldman says, “it’s a helluva story, no question.”