Wuthering Heights is a classic novel that deserved to remain merely in the pages of literature. When it was there one could imagine on their own what Heathcliff, Catherine, Linton, and all the rest looked like. In 1847, Brontë gave them the motions and the words. They came to life on the screen of our imagination, at least until William Wyler attempted to bring them to life with his 1939 version of the movie. The key word is clearly "attempted." The key aspect I really felt was lost in translation was Heathcliff's need for revenge and why he needed it so badly. And by losing this meaning Wyler and his scriptwriters lost an important element of the book.
Fortunately this does not always happen when classics are translated from literature to movies, even when movies leave out portions of books. A great example of this is Alexander Dumas' 1845 book The Count of Monte Cristo, which was filmed in 2002 by Kevin Reynolds. One still gets a sense of what poor Edmond Dantes, played by James Caviezel, has been through even though the scriptwriters once again confused many of the details. One can also feel his need for revenge and the thrill he gets from it. Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Edmond are not a lot alike, and the circumstances in which they are involved in are not alike, but the fact that they really need and want revenge is very similar. The goal of this essay is to compare their need for revenge in the movies and in the books.
Heathcliff's need for revenge comes from his treatment or abuse by Hindley and finally comes to a head when he over hears Catherine reject him for Edgar Linton. At least this is how it happens in the book. In the movie one still gets a little of the abuse from Hindley (Hugh Williams) and Catherine (Merle Oberon), but it just never seems bad enough to merit a need for revenge; it is just not well presented given what they had to work with in the book. Heathcliff, in the book only, goes about exacting his revenge in a way that one can tell he spent a great amount of time planning. His plan never seems rushed; it is cold and calculated. This is one of the only elements that really seems shared by the Count of Monte Cristo and Heathcliff as written by Brontë. However, it is an element that we see in both Edmonds (movie and book).
Edmond seeks revenge against all who have betrayed him, while helping all those who are innocent. This is very different from Heathcliff. He destroys everyone in his path. Ultimately this is what really sets Edmond's revenge scheme apart from Heathcliff's. Edmond's revenge feels justified in both the movie and the book while Heathcliff's seems malicious against most that get hurt by it.