DVD Article

Novel Movies

Best-selling novels into film -- We rate ''The World According to Garp,'' ''Presumed Innocent,'' ''The Hunt for Red October,'' and ''Bright Lights, Big City''

Despite the evidence of The Bonfire of the Vanities, blockbuster books can be made into credible movies. In fact, with the screen success of Stephen King's Misery and Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, novels haven't been such hot Hollywood properties since Gone With the Wind. Here are some recent best- sellers and how they've fared on-screen:

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1982, Warner)
John Irving's 1978 novel seemed too weirdly sprawling for film, but director George Roy Hill handled even the provocative car-crash scene with sensitivity. Robin Williams, Glenn Close, and John Lithgow make heartfelt characters of what could have been cartoons. B+

PRESUMED INNOCENT (1990, Warner)
Director Alan Pakula found a movie equivalent of Scott Turow's coldly rational prose, conveying the kinky sex-slaying of Greta Scacchi in a rigidly controlled style. His aesthetic understatement made Presumed the surprise hit of the ultraviolent summer of 1990. B+

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990, Paramount)
Director John McTiernan (Die Hard) sacrifices the breathless pace of Tom Clancy's best-seller, but the cool underwater hardware is all there, and the cast (Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Scott Glenn) is tersely terrific. B+

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (1988, MGM/UA)
No 1984 novel was more glamorous than Jay McInerney's romp about literary kids scouring Manhattan for cocaine and ''the sexual equivalent of fast food.'' But by 1988, drugs were no longer trendy, and the film became an antidrug tract. Moral: A filmmaker must be true to his material, even if it's reprehensible. C

Originally posted Apr 19, 1991 Published in issue #62 Apr 19, 1991 Order article reprints
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