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Lights! Camera! Reaction! My Life At The Movies: Read The Movie

Home video didn’t really exist in the early to mid ’70s. There were film buffs who owned their own prints of classic movies, I guess, and there were short ‘n’ silent Super 8 flicks (which were my introduction to the 1941 Captain Marvel movie serial), but no ready way to capture and keep your favorite movie, to have access to watch it and re-watch at will, Jiffy-Pop sold separately.

So, other than repeated visits to the Bijou and the occasional TV late show, the only way to re-live the magic of a favorite film was in a paperback novelization. When I was a teenager circa 1973-77, two of my all-time favorite movies were the 1972 Barbra StreisandRyan O’Neal comedy What’s Up, Doc? and The Beatles‘ 1964 classic A Hard Day’s Night. I inherited the paperback adaptation of the latter from my older sister, and purchased my copy of the former at a bookstore in Springfield, Missouri’s Battlefield Mall. You could say these were imperfect simulations of the cinema experience, but I loved having the opportunity to re-live these cherished movies at my leisure. I read both books over and over again.

Those two were the only based-on-the-hit-film spinner-rack tie-ins I recall reading in that time period. I presume there was a Billy Jack book, and a Trial Of Billy Jack book, and I’m surprised I never grabbed either of those. I didn’t get the book based on the 1966 Batman movie (re-titled in book form as Batman Vs. The Fearsome Foursome) until the ’80s, so that’s not part of this discussion of the blogger as a teenaged movie novelization reader. No, the What’s Up, Doc? and A Hard Day’s Night were the only ones that were a significant part of my 1970s reading, and they were right up there with my Harlan Ellison, my superpulp paperbacks of The ShadowThe AvengerThe PhantomTarzanFlash GordonWeird HeroesCaptain AmericaJames Bond, and Doc Savage, my histories of comic books, my Lenny Bruce, my Woody Allen, my Star Trek, my Ellery Queen.

As I grew up (in theory), I bought or borrowed a few other movie novelizations here and there. Some, like Max Allan Collins‘ adaptation of the Clint Eastwood thriller In The Line Of Fire, were based on movies I never got around to seeing; some, like Peter David‘s The Amazing Spider-Man, Max Allan Collins’ Dick Tracy, and Dennis O’Neil‘s Batman Begins, weren’t so much attempts to re-live the movies as they were opportunities to expand the experience with authors familiar with the comics upon which these films were based. Collins’ Dick Tracy even led to two more original Dick Tracy novels in the same continuity, and I loved the lot of them.

(I should note in passing a couple of tangents to the subject. Putz novelist Mario Puzo‘s contract with the filmmakers prohibited a novelization of his screenplay for 1978’s Superman or its sequel, a situation which prompted the need for Elliot S. Maggin to instead write two terrific original Superman novels, The Last Son Of Krypton and Miracle Monday. And, while I’ve seen many, many movies based on novels, Eddie And The Cruisers and V. I. Warshawski stick out as films that inspired me to seek out books I hadn’t known existed. P. F. Kluge‘s Eddie And The Cruisers differs from the movie, and feels slightly more believable; the V. I. Warshawski movie was awful, but it hipped me to Sara Paretsky‘s Warshawski books, which quickly became one of my all-time favorite novel series.)

Movie novelizations still exist today, of course, though it’s been a while since I’ve been inclined to read one. I picked up a novelization of The Beatles’ Help! some years back, but haven’t yet been taken by the impulse to read it. I do recognize that it won’t and can’t be the same now as it was to immerse myself in my paperback A Hard Day’s Night or What’s Up, Doc? when I was a mere lad and beardless youth. The one movie novelization I really wished for woulda been That Thing You Do!, and I can’t believe that we missed a chance for America to get to know The Wonders in prose form. I’d buy that now. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I had the VHS, and the DVD, and the director’s cut DVD, and now I have the director’s cut blu-ray, and I still stop and watch the whole damned thing again if I ever stumble upon it when channel surfing. That Thing You Do! is my favorite film ever. I’d just like to read it, too.

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