I Got Carter: What movie adaptations can and cannot do
Mike Hodges, who directed the celebrated 1971 movie adaptation of Get Carter, explains in a foreword to the new Syndicate Books edition some of the changes he made from Ted Lewis' novel. (The book was published originally as Jack's Return Home, should you find an old copy.) Hodges explained that he wanted to include locations in the north of England that had opened his eyes to poverty and social inequality during his naval service. He also wanted a more visually interesting location for a key confrontation in the novel.
But he does not explain his most obvious and, arguably, most sensible choice: not to attempt a straightforward transcription of Carter's thoughts, mostly about the brother whose death he has come to avenge and that make up a large part of the novel. The movie gives us less than the book does about the dead Frank Carter, less of Jack's mix of fondness and embarrassment about his brother, almost none of the latter. That makes the movie feel less personal than the book. This is no argument for book over movie or vice versa. In this case, both are excellent. It's just a recognition that each form can do some things better than the other can.
Now it's your turn. What do books do better than movies? Movies better than books? (Read Detective Beyond Borders posts on Why books are better than television.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2014