One of the most frustrating aspects for a lot of American movie novelization collectors is that there are a lot of fan favorite films that just don’t have novelizations. Or at least we thought there weren’t any adaptations because none were published in the United States, and therefore they weren’t on shelves of B. Daltons, Walden Books, Books-A-Million, Media Play, or Barnes & Nobles. In the 70s, 80s and for most of the 90s, if a book wasn’t in stock at one of these retailers, at your public library or in the stacks of your local used bookstores, that was the end of the search. But in this new millennium, with the access of the world wide web and global shopping thanks to sites like Half Priced Books, Amazon, eBay and heck, even Etsy, all sorts of new avenues have opened up when hunting down old books.
Something that we discovered over the last decade or so is that there were a slew of fun 80s era US movie novelizations out in the world, they were just never made available in the United States. We thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite foreign-published novelizations for American films, some of which might surprise you.
Let’s start with one of our favorites, Pretty in Pink. Though it was a very successful film in the US and cemented Molly Ringwald as the ultimate 80s teen girl on film (after her turns in Sixteen Candles and the Breakfast Club), when it came to novelizing the film apparently US publishers were just not interested. It’s not as if John Hughes’ cinematic work had not been adapted to prose either as there were US publications of Some Kind of Wonderful and Ferris Bueller. If you were a huge reader and Molly Ringwald fan in the 80s, you were only best served if you lived in England apparently. As an aside, if you’re a fan of the film, we highly recommend picking up a copy of the book as the author worked from an original copy of the script and kept the more satisfying ending intact in the story.
Over the years, while collecting movie novelizations we noticed a trend that the most popular genres of movies to receive novelizations are science fiction & fantasy. In fact, if you look back through the late 70s and 80s you’d probably be hard-pressed to find any movies in these genres that did not receive novelizations. So it was pretty surprising to us that we never saw novelizations for movies like Highlander, Innerspace, Time Bandits or Short Circuit. It wasn’t until recently that we found copies of all three via third party sellers on Amazon. In particular the absence of a Highlander novelization really surprised us as the property was heavily merchandised in the United States during the run of the successful syndicated television series, one of the most prominent being a whole series of novelizations and tie-in books for the franchise. The Gary Douglas novel was first released in the UK in conjunction with the film, but apparently it did see a short print run in the US almost twelve years later (under the pseudonym Gary Killworth and we assume related to the end of the syndicated TV series.)
How about a couple of odd ones like the Michael J. Fox rock ‘n’ roll drama the Light of Day and the weird, western, semi-musical, super comedy the Three Amigos? Heck, we’re just surprised that the Three Amigos was adapted at all, let alone only in the United Kingdom (thanks to reader Tim Lybarger for pointing us to a US edition of Three Amigos on twitter!) . What’s even weirder is that the book strips out most of the comedy and all of the music, and reads like a light-hearted Magnificent Seven. Leonore Fleischer even stripped out the Invisible Swordsman and the Singing Bush (or maybe they weren’t in the script?) And even though it’s a mostly forgotten film in Michal J. Fox’s oeuvre, Light of Day is a pretty solid, if fairly depressing, film that translates very well in Robert Feiden’s novel.
Speaking of odd, even though these last three movies are technically Canadian, it’s interesting that David Cronenberg’s films Rabid, Videodrome & The Brood were only adapted abroad. Actually considering the proximity of Canada to the United States, one would think that US editions of these novels would have been available. For some reason the novelizations of Scanners and Existenz seemed to be a more sure fire investments for American publishers, while a very successful film like The Fly was never novelized at all!