Sunday, September 25, 2011

Northanger Abbey: The Movies

To read the actual summary of the story, read the book review.

1986, BBC/A&E
I started watching this one more than a year ago and never finished it. For one thing, it is even worse quality than most I see from the 80s; the hairstyles and costuming are quite ridiculous, everyone (or almost everyone) seems horribly miscast, and the music is weird…this strange electric guitar thing going on. Like the 2007 version, Catherine imagines odd things (by the way, all the book mentions her imagining are old castles), but very different from the other movie at the same time. The thing I really disliked, was that at first you can’t tell whether it’s real or not, so you don’t see it coming. Anyways, I really have nothing positive to say about the movie.
Catherine Morland: Katherine Schlesinger
Henry Tilney: Peter Firth
Length: 1 hr. 28 min.
My “grade”: (D) (I’m so mean!)

2007, ITV/Masterpiece Theatre
I am a little sad about this movie because it had the potential to be really good – a lot of the casting is very well done, etc. – but then they had to add objectionable things to it. The stuff Catherine imagines always looked like something to fast-forward, and so we did the first time watching it; I have since heard that that was the right thing to do. John Thorpe constantly swears…in the book, it will say “d——”; in the movie, of course, it’s worse because you hear the word over and over; and I do believe he said it much more often in the movie than in the book. There are some objections to Isabella as well; the biggest one about her is the happening with her and Captain Tilney. I really don’t approve of them sticking that in there – I think it should be exactly as the book has it: leaving you to draw your own conclusions.
   One thing that bugged me after reading the novel was that Catherine was reading “gothic fiction” before she even went to Bath; in the book, Isabella introduced her to those sorts of novels.
   In short, movies that require me to be armed with the remote control & ready to fast-forward the whole time I’m watching it leave somewhat to be desired, and can’t make my favorites list. I think this movie has some very sweet & enjoyable things (Henry and Catherine make such a cute couple!) but there is at least as much of the things we skip.
   On a more approving note, however, I really liked how “Jane Austen’s” narration came in at the beginning (although they left out/combined some quotes I adore) and ending. My favorite thing about the novel is its splendid narration – I’d actually like to hear it all the way through, and just like the book.
Catherine: Felicity Jones (I’d love to see her in another Jane Austen movie!)
Henry: J.J. Feild
Length: 1 hr. 33 min.
My “grade”: (B+)

Wishbone, 1998
For those of you who don’t know, Wishbone is (or was) a children’s program featuring an imaginative dog named Wishbone. Circumstances in his life (or rather, his owner’s life) remind him of various stories from classic fiction. He then 'tells us the story,' imagining himself as the main guy. (It’s actually a fun way to learn, in general, the classics. Even if it is silly. ha)
    They made two episodes for Jane Austen:
·         Furst Impressions (Pride and Prejudice)
·         Pup Fiction (Northanger Abbey)
I mention this now whereas I didn’t for Pride and Prejudice because I feel there is an insufficiency of Northanger Abbey films. Every other Jane Austen novel has at least 3 adaptations.
   Of course it has many drawbacks. Extremely shortened…a dog playing Henry Tilney…sort of make-do costuming…but hey, this is a Wishbone episode, not a period drama. And when I compare it to their P&P, I see a big improvement. The casting was a lot better (incidentally, the Eleanor Tilney was Elizabeth Bennet in the other; and she’s much more suited to the former), less of a complex story than P&P to work with, and Wishbone really makes a much better Henry Tilney than Mr. Darcy.
    It’s a comparatively short little thing. I suggest watching it…just for fun. =)

   And, just in case you want to see it, here’s a list of the episodes: Wishbone Episode List

My favorite
    It would be terribly un-Janeite like to say my favorite is Wishbone, wouldn’t it? – Yes, I suppose so.
    We really need a new one. (Oh, can I be Catherine? =D)
    But, from what I can watch of it, my preference is definitely the 2007 version.

Which is your favorite? Do you think there should be a new adaptation?
Which is your favorite version of Northanger Abbey?
1986, BBC 2007, ITV free polls 


Maria Elisabeth said...

Oh, what a pity. I have watched the 2007 one before (skipped through most of it and remembered almost nothing) and I hoped that the other one might be better. We definately need a new one. (While you're Catherine, can I write the script and be Eleanor Tilney?)

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

I've never seen the 1986 version, but I saw a couple of clips that suggest that I shouldn't bother with it. The music was quite weird, plus what was with the Roman bath scene in Bath? That wasn't in the book.

I liked the 2007 version, but those extra scenes were unnecessary, considering Catherine is supposed to be innocent and wouldn't even imagine any of those things. The casting was good, though. It's a shame that such good casting had gone to waste on a mediocre script (not so much the dialogue, but the extra stuff).

I loved Wishbone as a kid! I found that the costuming in the Northanger Abbey episode was more accurate to the period in the Pride and Prejudice episode, but like you said, it's a Wishbone episode and not a period drama.

Miss Laurie said...

Great post! You sentiments closely echo my own.
It took me a while to start appreciating the 1986 BBC adaptation. There are some good points about it, mostly a lot more of Henry Tilney's wit and charm. The girl who plays Catherine is just okay, I do like Robert Hardy who plays General Tilney, the script changes his character though. And the music can be quite distracting at times!
The Roman Baths scene is actually quite natural, especially for folks sent there for their health like Mr. Allen. Drinking and bathing in the waters at the Pump Room were considered to be the best medicine of the time. Jane Austen's writing indicates that Mr. Allen went our early to bathe in the waters, Mr. Allen and Catherine paraded around the Pump Room and drank the mineral water from the fresh underground springs. It's likely that Catherine might have tried bathing in the warm springs at least once but because she didn't have any health complaints she wouldn't have needed to go continually like Mr. Allen. The Pump Room in Bath is still open as a Museum and they have a wonderful website where you can take a virtual tour!
The casting in the 2007 adaptation is amazingly accurate! I adore Felicity Jones as Catherine and Carey Mulligan as Isabella! Although J.J. Feild is cute and a good actor I don't really like him as Henry Tilney, he's almost too cheesy and romantic for me. But then I'm a bit prejudiced because Mr. Tilney is my favorite literary hero! Also with events mixed around it's not a completely faithful adaptation, and no one has ever gotten Northanger Abbey itself right.
I used to watch Wishbone all the time with my younger siblings when it was on PBS! I remember watching the P&P and NA episodes about the same time as my parents had watched Sense & Sensibility 1995 and I was being introduced to Jane Austen. I hadn't seen them in a long time so thank you so much for the link, I really enjoyed re-watching the 'Pup Fiction' episode! Wishbone is very charming as Mr. Tilney! :)
I agree, we do need a newer, longer and more accurate adaptation of Northanger Abbey. I'd like Sandy Welch who wrote the screenplays for North and South and Emma 2009 to write the screenplay. It's a short novel so it shouldn't be too much of a problem to adapt it in it's entirety without putting events out of order or cutting even one of Henry Tilney's witty remarks! :)

Miss Laurie said...

P.S. Melody, you can be Catherine if I can write the script and maybe be Eleanor! :)

Melody said...

Thank you for your comments! :)

Miss Lizzy,
I found that the costuming in the Northanger Abbey episode was more accurate to the period in the Pride and Prejudice episode
I've been trying to figure out what that's supposed to say...does a word need to be replaced somewhere? ;-)

Miss Laurie and Maria Elisabeth,
It seems you two will have to fight over Eleanor, AND with each other as well as me over writing the script! Maybe we can all collaborate. haha!

Miss Laurie,
I didn't really think Henry was too romantic, but maybe sort of cheesey. I don't know. haha
But Wishbone actually was a pretty good Henry... as I said, especially compared to Mr. Darcy! haha

Mel said...

I agree we really do need a new Northanger Abbey, A longer one that is more faithful to the novel and without those scenes in the 2007 one which are just weird.
I think thought I would have a lot of trouble adjusting to different actors in a new film/mini-series because like Miss Laurie, I to thought that the casting in the 2007 version was spot on.
Ohh and I hated the was creepy :)

And you can be Catherine, If I don't beat you to it first :)

Anonymous said...

I think they should make a new one although I thought that the actor playing Henry was good but found the actress playing Miss Thorpe was very annoying. Someone could defiantly do better.

Miss Dashwood said...

I really want a new NA adaptation... but tbh, I think what I want is for someone to magically alter and improve the 2007 version. HAHAHAHAHA. It has so much potential to be good and so much of the casting is practically perfect... urrrrrghhhhh.

Melody said...

I know what you mean! But hey, we don't know what they're capable of... I mean, I used to think that if you could combine Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Northam and add keep pretty much everyone else from the A&E one and add some more of the story it would be pretty much perfect-- but how much better is 2009??? I'm convinced they could do well with the casting again. And I could see Henry Tilney being portrayed even better by someone else, even though I'm *content* with what JJ Feild did... with what he had to work with, haha.

Would you rather hear the story...

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