@David: ...if you've read the book, the movie is usually disappointing.
There's one book / film combo that stands out in my mind -- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesley -- I saw the film starring Jack Nickolson first -- then I read the book -- I think everyone should do both -- but I think seeing the film and then reading the book is the right way to go.
I agree -- the original TV series was a masterpiece -- they made a later version some time ago (in the last 10 years) -- not sure if it was for TV or a Film -- I'm thinking a 2-part TV series, but not sure ... the thing is that it was rubbish compared to the original TV series.
David wrote: my usual rule works - if you've read the book, the movie is usually disappointing.
Here are some fine exceptions to the rule:
Persuasion (1995) is a terrific movie, but a rather slow book -- usually Jane Austen moves better. If I had read the book first, I probably would have refused to see the movie. The movie has terrific editing, which really keeps things moving. But the best part is Sir Elliot, the vainest man in the world. Corin Redgrave plays him in the style of the dispeptic upper-class snob done so well by Graham Chapman in the Monty Python "Flying Lesson" sketch. You know: "No more buttered scones for me, Mater, I'm off to play... the grahnd piahno; pardon me while I fly my aeroplane." Corin Redgrave must have copied him -- or else both of them knew prototypes.
OTOH, most film treatments of Emma are dreadful. The only one which captures it well IMO is Clueless (1995).
The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) is truly remarkable film, based on a truly remarkable book of stories within stories within stories. It's impossible to "do justice" to the book, because it has way, way, way too much to fit into a film. The book is something to be savored over a period of months. The movie takes some of most filmable stories and does a great job with them, and captures the stories-within-stories structure beautifully.
I got myself the book in its unabridged form -- in the original French -- for Christmas and I've been reading it since. Probably will be done by end of February. Then I'll watch the film again and really see how well it was done.
Update: three more examples: Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), Chabrol's The Cry of the Owl (1987), and Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944). Enjoyed all three quite a bit more than the books.
@betajet - I have not read as many of the books as I'd like, but my usual rule works - if you've read the book, the movie is usually disappointing. I don't know why directors have to take such liberties - I can usually imagine how I'd do the scenes they leave out or change, so why can't they? I don't like the films of Lord of the Rings for that reason.
Getting way off topic here but one of the few films I've seen that closely follows the book - almost to the letter - is the UK ITV Series of "Brideshead Revisited" (the book by Evelyn Waugh). A joy to watch.
Goldfinger is a great read too. In the scene with the laser, Goldfinger quotes a saying from the Chicago Mob: "Once is Happenstance, twice is Coincidence, and three times is Enemy Action." I find this a good motto myself when dealing with management and colleagues :-)
Thunderball was the last great Bond movie IMO. After that, they started to diverge from the books and started to get silly. You Only Live Twice is a marvelous book, and has nothing to do with the movie except for a few character names. Starting with Twice, the movies became gadget-fests. In many ways, From Russia with Love is the best movie IMO, since it has virtually no gadgets. With Lotte Lenya and Pedro Armendáriz, who needs gadgets?
Oh, Moonraker is a great book. It begins with how to cheat atBridge. It has nothing to do with the movie (except names), thank Q very much. And The Spy who Loved Me is an excellent short story with some very nasty gangsters.
[Oh, I forgot to mention -- You Only Live Twice has a chapter about poisons called "Slay it with Flowers". Great book!]
@betajet...Goldfinger.... loved that movie, in fact any of the Sean Connery James Bonds. You could use OddJob's hat for cutting the PCBs up :-) That laser would have been a bit of overkill for making PCBs but even one that can take copper off a board could make your eyes water. I'll go with Max though, I'd also like one....