Stephen Hunter Recommends

Three other extremely loose adaptations worth a look:

To Have and Have Not (100 minutes, 1944) -- The movie had not to do with "To Have and Have Not" the book. It is said that Howard Hawks told his pal Ernest Hemingway that he could make a good movie from Hemingway's worst book, and this was the result. It's quite a fine film, uniting Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall for the first time. It essentially took the plot of "Casablanca" and played it out on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1940, with Bogart, as a fishing boat captain, heroically helping a patriot escape from the Vichy police. The only problem was that Hemingway's novel had been set in Florida and Cuba, and was about another fishing boat captain who smuggles gangsters to Cuba for money. Oddly enough, that story -- or the last part of it -- ended up in still another Bogart-Bacall film in 1948, "Key Largo." It's all very confusing. If you figure it out, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you?

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (87 minutes, 1972) -- It's probably the classic buy-the-title/throw-out-the-book scenario, with the great Woody Allen, at the height of his powers, jettisoning the self-help bestseller's question-and-answer structure and instead inventing a series of illustrative fables. The most memorable involves Allen and Burt Reynolds, chewing gum and acting sergeantlike, as sperm cells about to bail out into action from the, er, fuselage of the, er, airplane.

The Last of the Mohicans (112 minutes, 1992) -- The movie has almost nothing to do with the James Fenimore Cooper novel, which is considered almost unreadable today. Michael Mann simply based his '92 movie on the 1936 version with Randolph Scott and had real Indians play the Indian roles. The result was fabulous, dark and deep, driven forward by the splendid Cherokee actor Wes Studi in the key role as the villainous Magua (in 1936, Bruce Cabot!). Mann's movie starred Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye, the frontiersman navigating the treacherous years of the French and Indian Wars and teaching us the all-but-forgotten lesson: how much blood was shed to build this country.

Closing the book: Daniel Day-Lewis in "Last of the Mohicans."