According to this post by film blogger Michael Barrett, both the early theatrical films made of Waugh novels are now available in digital format: The Loved One (MGM, 1965, directed by Tony Richardson, screenplay by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood), and Decline And Fall Of A Bird Watcher (20th Century Fox, 1968, directed by John Krish, screenplay by Ivan Foxwell).
Of the two, D&F is the better film adaptation, although LO is better known. The film of LO was something of a disaster with much of the plot rewritten. The portions relating to Waugh’s satirization of Hollywood’s British film colony are the best, but that was true of the novel as well. John Gielgud’s Francis Hinsley and Robert Morley’s Ambrose Abercrombie are worth the price of admission (or DVD as the case may be). The remainder is so over the top as to be best forgotten. Anyone wishing to know more about how the film came to be the mess that it was might want to seek out Mischief in the Sun: The Making and Unmaking of ‘The Loved One’ (1999) by Waugh scholar Robert Murray Davis.
The screenplay of D&F more closely follows Waugh’s plot, but that plot is essentially unfilmable. Fans of the novel will nevertheless enjoy watching it, if only to see the performance of Leo McKern as Capt. Grimes in his pre-Rumpole days. Made-on-demand DVDs are available from Amazon.com for $19.95 each at the links above.
Thanks to R. M. Davis for sending us the PopMatters post. The plug for his book was entirely my idea.