11 June 2004 | bongo_fury
I wish someone would take another crack at this one.
I have read Kesey's novel several times over the last 30 years or so. While I see some merit in this movie version, I'd like to see someone have another go at it. The movie only captures the novel in broad strokes. It hits the major point (brother returns to hometown to exact revenge on older sibling), but misses a lot of the flavor. I think Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and Lee Remick were perfect, as were many of the supporting cast. But Michael Sarrazin didn't quite do it for me. Maybe it was the hair, idunno. I always pictured a sort of geeky-looking, bespectacled, beatnick-looking guy with scruffy hair, but still fairly short, and sideburns. Sarrazin probably could have pulled it off, but back in the early 70s, actors were into looking like people from the early 70s.
But more to the point, the movie needed more back-story. We needed to see Johah Stamper "heading west" with young Henry and his brother. We needed to see Jonah fail and surrender to the dampness of the Pacific Northwest and desert his family. We needed to see young Henry take charge ("we're gonna whup her") and begin the logging business that becomes the crux of the story. Also missed were a lot of great scenes when Henry and Leland were children (Henry rescuing Leland from the Devil's Stovepipe, for one). Also missed was the passing of narrative from character to character. One small portion of the novel is actually narrated by a dog. The novel is written, mostly, in the first person from various points of view. There is a little second person narrative at the beginning of most chapters that pull the reader out of the story to offer additional flavor for the surroundings. Obviously, a novel needs to be pared in order to fit into the standard movie length. It would have to be a rather long movie, three hours or so, to portray the texture presented in the novel. But I'd like to see another go at it, maybe even starring Paul Newman as Henry.