As we all know, the book is almost always a thousand times better than the movie, but sometimes that doesn’t stop me from seeing a movie in my head as I read and desperately wishing I had unlimited funds and some measure of directing talent so I could bring my vision of these stories to the masses. My choices may be a bit idiosyncratic, but if any Hollywood execs are reading this, you’d have at least one ticket sale right here, so think about it, won’t you? For the Goddess. Oh, and by the way, if any of you aforementioned execs want to option any of MY wonderful books or stories for film, give me a shout. We’ll have a cappuccino and a chat and then maybe you can fork me over a largish check. The movie can even suck, I don’t care, so no pressure on you from my end. Thank you, and on with the list:
5. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave
Nick Cave is like the mad genius of all media. He’s a singer/songwriter, film score composer, screenwriter, novelist, actor, and lecturer, and miraculously, he is ridiculously brilliant at all these endeavors. It’s really not fair to the rest of us, as infinitely less awesome mortals, but I content myself with believing that Nick is actually Satan himself and has chosen to capture human souls through the sheer dark force of the splendid entertainment he produces. Nick’s first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, is a whacked-out, Faulkneresque brew of Old Testament fury and Southern Gothic excess, and any adaptation would of course have to be scripted and scored by the man himself. I’m seeing it done in sepia tones, perhaps with a hand-cranked camera to give it that otherworldly feel; bonus points if it’s also done as a silent film (since main character Euchrid Euchrow is a mute). In theaters, it should be preceded by a short film: a sinister, stop-motion animation adaptation of Nick’s 1986 song, “The Carny.”
4. Strapless by Deborah Davis
Perhaps an unusual choice, as it’s non-fiction, but I have long been enchanted with the story of Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, the haughty society woman who posed for John Singer Sargent’s most famous painting, Madame X. (I even wrote an article about her on this very blog.) It could be a fascinating study of vanity and how pride goeth before a fall, and the set design and costumes would be FANTASTIC. In fact, I wanted to see this on film so badly that I actually wrote a (not very good) screenplay a couple of years ago that interwove Virginie’s biography with a modern tale of an unstable woman participating in an art heist, but screenwriting isn’t really my strong suit, so if anyone out there would care to take the reins, I swear I won’t be mad.
3. Drood by Dan Simmons
Dan Simmons’s gigantic novel, a Victorian medley of supernatural horror, drug abuse, and fictionalized biography, sees Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins on the trail of the mysterious man-creature known as Edwin Drood (who was, in real life, the main character of Dickens’s final unfinished novel). This would be a fabulously spooky cobblestone-streets-and-top-hats film in the line of From Hell or The Prestige. Missed opportunity alert: back in 2009, Universal Pictures hinted at a Drood adaptation that would possibly be directed by Guillermo del Toro (TAKE ALL MY MONEY. ALL OF IT), but sadly, that project seems to have gone nowhere.
2. “The Triumph of Death” by H. Russell Wakefield
Early 20th century author Herbert Russell Wakefield is considered one of Britain’s finest writers of supernatural horror. His 1949 short story “The Triumph of Death” is one of my favorite stories of all time, and although it was adapted once for British television in 1968 as part of an anthology series called “Late Night Horror,” I really feel that its themes of cruelty, madness and revenge could be expanded to a feature-length movie. The story isn’t really set in a specific time or place, but I’d like to see the action unfold maybe around the 1920s, in either an English village or a small colonial-style enclave in Massachusetts or somewhere like that. It should be understated, but the flashes of Gilles de Rais-style torture shouldn’t be overlooked. The vile Miss Pendleham should be played like the high-collared stepmother from Disney’s Cinderella, but in human form, perhaps by Judi Dench or Maggie Smith. This is another story that I’ve actually been itching to write a screenplay for, and I even went so far as to try to contact various people about obtaining the adaptation rights, but I seem to have hit a dead end in that regard. More’s the pity.
1. The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs
With the unbelievable explosion in popularity of films based on YA literature that occurred in the wake of Harry Potter, I must say that I am absolutely flabbergasted that no one has thought to adapt this as a film. This and The Westing Game were absolutely my favorite books growing up, and I read them again and again. They both hold up amazingly well even when read as an adult. There should probably also be a good, big-budget adaptation of The Westing Game, now that I think of it, but The House With a Clock in its Walls is such a wonderfully creepy and fun story, and it could be done super dark or a tad more lighthearted, either as live action or perhaps as Tim Burton-esque stop-motion. It would actually be great if a filmmaker could capture the eerie look of Edward Gorey’s delightful illustrations, which for me added so much to the magic of the book. I feel that it should be set in a sort of mythical 1950s, and that the main character of Lewis should be a straight-laced but likable boy whose chubby awkwardness makes him at once pitiable and relatable. Uncle Jonathan should be his affably wizardly self, and witch neighbor Florence should be like a cool grandmother type. I’m seeing the resurrection scene, when Lewis accidentally raises evil wizards Isaac and Selenna Izard from the dead, as super, super scary, like maybe with a Sleepy Hollow kind of vibe. Also, the house itself should be a rambling, creepy, Victorian pile (perhaps they could even shoot the film in the real-life house the story was based on, Cronin House in Michigan), and the interiors should be suitably gothic. The sound design would of course have to include the constant ticking of that terrible doomsday clock. It would make a terrific film for kids and adults, and it’s even the first book in a series (cha-ching, Hollywood execs), though the rest of the books didn’t grab me the way this one did. Amazingly, the only filmed adaptation of this book that I know of was as one lame, cheesy third of a Vincent Price-hosted 1979 TV anthology, “Once Upon a Midnight Scary.” YOU GUYS, THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN. Gather up all of your money and diamonds and cookies and gold bars and Red Lobster gift cards and send them to whoever can greenlight this. DO IT NOW. Thank you, and Goddess out.