Hunting “The Deer Hunter”

The Deer Hunter… A long movie, and possibly a great one. I can only remember a few things about it:

  1. It goes for nigh-on 4 hours
  2. They spend 45 minutes in Vietnam
  3. Great ending- but it might only be great because it took so long to get to.

I’ve only seen the movie the once. I was waiting for a friend to pick me up, and he was running late so I put it on. He ran so late that I finished the movie before he arrived. 

But that’s okay, because otherwise I would have never watched it. The running time is too daunting to put it on the TV unless you are desperate.

Fast forward ten years (maybe even fifteen) and I found myself at another friend’s house. He’s the kind of guy with bookshelves bursting at the seams. Everyone of those books is second-hand, dog-eered, tatty. The shelves are on the way to the toilet (and I only just realized why!) You can’t help but look through them because they are in no order; you might find a book on interpreting dreams sitting next to a violent western, or a bunch of Dean Koontz with a copy of the Bible stuck in the middle. An amazing collection.

And somewhere in there was a copy of The Deer Hunter. I had no idea it was a novel, and I had no idea it was so short!

Naturally, I was intrigued. I asked if I could borrow it.

He said no.

No! I was amazed. No… It was unheard of. I asked again, because maybe he thought I was asking about a different book. “Do you mind if I borrow the Deer Hunter?” I even held up the book so he could see it. No. Why wouldn’t he lend me this book? What was so special about it? I had to find out… I had to ask Mr Google (six months later, I might add.)

So I typed it in, got my result: A novelization by E.M. Corder.

A novelization. The book of the film. I was gutted, and even more intrigued. Why wouldn’t my friend lend me a novelization? They are almost universally garbage, and I should know- I used to buy as many as I could find!

When I was young, our VHS never played tapes very well. If I wanted to watch a movie at home, I had to read it. Over the years, I had:

  1. Alien
  2. Aliens
  3. Alien 3
  4. Die Hard: With a Vengeance
  5. Demoliton Man
  6. Blown Away (Which I’ve never seen as a movie)
  7. Maverick (the Mel Gibson one)
  8. Gremlins II
  9. Star Wars
  10. The Empire Strikes Back
  11. Return of the Jedi
  12. StarGate (which was an awesome book!)
  13. Star Trek: Generations

They’re the ones I can remember. No doubt there were more. Some of these books were great, but most were utterly forgettable. But that’s childhood!

Finding out that The Deer Hunter was a novelization was both a let-down and an intriguing niggle. Was it one of the good ones? Was it dreadful? How did they trim down a 4 hour movie into such a slim volume? I had no idea, but I put it out of mind.

Sometime- years later- I found a copy in a jumble sale. It was as close to a dollar as possible, and I had three other books and there was a buy four for $3 deal and I bought it.

But I didn’t read it. I put it on the shelf for at least a year, and I only just picked it up. I had abandoned Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and I was in the mood for something short. I read it in a couple of nights, and I finally had all my answers!

Was it any good? It was… Okay. 

Was it worth the wait? No, but at least it is off my to-do list.

How did they make it so short? Turns out the movie is just really slow! They say a picture paints a thousand words, but you don’t need a thousand words to write “Linda cried” which I feel she does quite a bit. In all, I think it took me just as long to read the book as it would to watch it on television.

Would I recommend it? The film, or the movie? I don’t know about either. On a hot summer’s night when it is impossible to sleep and there’s no sport on the TV? Why not! Give both a go. 

But this really is one of those cases where it’s not the destination, it’s the journey- and I know I will remember the book just as much as the movie, because the story of the book is about me and a hunt for something truly average.

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