A few days ago, Lis got a jones to see the 1983 movie EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS, which I'd never seen. We were at Newbury Comics, and they had a used copy for a couple bucks, so we picked it up, and we watched it. I'd never seen it before, and I quite enjoyed it.
EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS is a movie about the time when rock and roll was changing from the Fifties style to the style of the Sixties, more or less. It's set partly in the then-present-day early Eighties, and partly in flashback too the early Sixties, the part that was actually still part of the Fifties. The most remarkable thing about the movie is the music: it's one of those movies, like THAT THING YOU DO, and MUSIC AND LYRICS, which relies on original songs that are written in the idiom of an earlier style of music -- original songs that believably sound like genuine hits of a specific earlier genre of music. Given how hard it is to write genuine hits in one's own native genre of music, you can understand the challenge, and why I'm so impressed by movies that do that.
In EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS, the music is actually in THREE genres: the basic Fifties rock-and-roll that the Cruisers were originally playing, a proto-Doors-like sound that Eddie is experimenting with toward the end of his career, but before such a sound is popular, and an anachronistic Springteen-like sound that they throw in, in essence, to establish the Cruisers' identity as a New Jersey bar band who are actually really good. They're twenty years out of time for that, but it's the right personality of music, so the movie goes with that, just to nail down what the band feels like. I was startled by it at first, but I was able to go with it. Because the music actually is good.
So, given that the movie lives and dies on its original music, I was a bit bemused to find that it was based on a book. And I found that the library in the town just north of here had a copy, so I checked it out and read it.
It's amazing how different something can be while being so similar. The characters range from generally similar in outline, but with significant differences (Wendell, Kenny), to virtually identical, even if their actions and positions are somewhat different (the POV character Frank, Joann, Eddie, Sal, Doc). There are differences -- for instance, in the book, modern-day Frank has a disintegrating marriage, and Joann wasn't part of the band, but was only Eddie's girlfriend -- but the characters are the same.
And some scenes and some dialogue are identical in the book and movie.
But the emotional tone of the two works is completely different. The book is a thriller. With murders in it. The movie is a piece about music. They're actually different genres.
As such, it's not actually fair to compare them and say that one is "better than" the other. I enjoyed them both, in different ways, and they're distinct enough that comparison isn't really possible.
(The movie's better.)