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Every time a remake is announced I am filled with a strange sort of anticipation.
On one hand, my rational side warns me that the majority of remakes blow. Still, there is always that part of me that remembers the masterful work John Carpenter did recreating The Thing.
Unfortunately, for every great remake, there are several others just waiting to suck.
In this feature I am not going to slam Hollywood for doing remakes.
If we didn't want them they would never be made...
Whether you want to admit it or not, most of us love them. We anticipate them. We debate on which movies SHOULD be remade. We love to slam a bad one every chance we get. But there are remakes out there that you may like and not even realize they are remakes. There are many that you secretly enjoy but are ashamed to admit because popular opinion states that it could never live up to the original.
I am going to give my view on some of my favorites and least favorites. Hopefully along the way we can make sense of the phenomenon that drives countless moviegoers to flock to theaters to watch them.
Anyone who has read my reviews is fully aware that I usually take a very scattershot approach to the subject matter. This feature will not deviate from that too much. But I will break the subject matter into categories and try to keep things somewhat coherent.
I want to make clear that I cannot cover all remakes throughout film history. My goal is to skim the surface and try to cover as much as I can within the specific categories. There are few movies that could fit into to more than one category but I tried to put them in the most appropraiate place. For example, King Kong is both a vintage film and a sci-fi film but I opted for the latter category.
I want to thank all the Hollywood Bitchslap reviewers for their invaluable input.
With their feedback I was made aware of remakes I didn’t know existed and I gained insight into remakes that are hated by the majority and ones considered equal or better than their predecessors.
That said... Here we go...
1. THE FOREIGN REMAKES: Props to the TheAngryJew. He helped me a great deal in this category. I couldn’t have done it without him.
A remake of a brilliant French film called Les Diaboliques (1955). The previews of the original pled for the audience not to reveal anything about the movie so as not to spoil the ending. The Hollywood version, starring Sharon Stone, Cathy Bates and Chazz Palminteri, reworked the ending and took the bite out. Many film buffs compare the original to Hitchcock and understandably cried foul when the update was released. If you have not seen the original then you could not possibly comprehend how bad the remake is. It’s like comparing apples to rancid feces.
This was a movie that was originally titled Spoorloos (1988). The same director (George Sluizer)redid the movie with a great cast of yanks (i.e. Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland). The result is a gripping thriller that really does the original justice. The two movies are so identical, it boils down to which actors you prefer and if you can handle subtitles or not. For what it’s worth, I preferred the remake to the original. This is not the only time a director has remade his own movie. George Romero remade of The Night of The Living Dead and Sam Raimi reworked The Evil Dead with the sequel The Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn with tongue firmly in cheek.
The Bird Cage:
The wonderful, and Oscar winning, foreign film La Cage Aux Folles was admirably updated for the nineties in The Bird Cage. In many ways it surpasses the original with wonderful performances by Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. My only gripe is that The Bird Cage has a distinct Hollywood feel whereas La Cage Aux Folles feels akin to no other movie.
Point of No Return:
Bridget Fonda stars in this watered down remake of La Femme Nikita. They had the nerve to try and duplicate the incredible scene where raw spaghetti rains upon the lead actress during a taut gun battle (Trust me. The original scene rules.) Do yourself a huge favor and check out the original and forget the remake ever existed. Fonda is “OK” in Point of No Return, but the remake can’t hold a candle to La Femme Nikita.
Others foreign remakes include: Three Fugitives, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Kiss Me Goodbye, Jungle2Jungle, Cousins and Three Men and a Baby.
Note: It may be a surprise to some that The Magnificent Seven was a reworking of the classic Akira Kurosawa film The Seven Samurai.
2. HORROR/SCI/FI REMAKES: This is the most re-made genre of movies.
Invasion of The Body Snatchers:
The first remake of Invasion of The Body Snatchers was in 1978 and it is debatable how well done it was. I was surprised to learn by polling people on newsgroups that some people like the remake better than the original. The original was a claustrophobic movie that probably played better upon its 1956 release. It masterfully merged the public’s fears of nuclear holocaust and the popular theme of aliens taking over the world. These parallels may not be immediately evident, but should be evident after repeated viewings. The remake kept the basic plot intact but focused more on visceral thrills and it didn’t do too shabby of a job. The second remake was simply called “Body Snatchers (1993)”. It took the same theme and made it into a flat out horror flick. It injected creepy surrealism and outstanding gory effects. You can still see influences of the original in movies like The Puppet Masters and countless others.
What can you say about the remake of The Thing (1982)? John Carpenter took liberties but still managed to improve upon the original. This is one of my personal favorites. If you love horror or sci-fi: Do not pass this movie by. It is simply awesome. Many critics blasted this movie when it was released, but I think it is safe to say that they make up the minority. I was enthralled by this movie and highly recommend it to science fiction and horror buffs alike. Check out the similarities to The Alien Series. This is a rare case of a remake blowing the original out of the water.
Not too bad, but it was almost a scene for scene remake of the original and frankly, the original wasn’t that great to begin with. If you like campy movies you may want to check these two out. There is a perverse pleasure in watching a glob of Jello feast on a theater full of panicking moviegoers. More schlock than shock, but a both movies are diverting little gems.
King Kong and Godzilla:
Both of these remakes should have left well enough alone. They both tried to take the originals and pump them up with FX and both failed miserably. The reworking of Godzilla was more forgivable, because the Godzilla movies weren’t all that spectacular to begin with, but the raping of King Kong (1933) is inexcusable. All parties involved should be ashamed.
Other remakes in this genre include: Mars Attacks (Invaders from Mars), The Cat People, The Fly, Little Shop of Horrors, Psycho (the remake was a travesty and does not deserve it’s own paragraph), The House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting and The Island of Dr. Moreau…
3. CLASSIC REMAKES: This will cover a few vintage movies that were updated.
The original was an early 30's mobster flick starring Paul Muni. If you have seen gangster classics like The Public Enemy, White Heat or Little Caesar then you are already familiar with this movie. It’s a riveting mob flick, but is quite dated. Brian DePalma decided to update it with Al Pacino. The Scarface remake was a no-holds-barred bloodbath with superb direction and equally superb acting. It is also noteworthy for being the movie that launched Michelle Pfeiffer’s career. Tommy-guns are replaced with chainsaws and, true to form, DePalma pays homage to other gangster movies with a conclusion that is very reminiscent of Cody Jarret going down in a blaze of glory in White Heat. “I’ll Crusha you Cocka Roaches!” is a line reminiscent of Cagney’s famous “Top ‘o the world Ma!” Scarface was supposed to be a remake of its 1932 namesake, but I think it has more in common with White Heat.
The original was a tense movie with a wonderful premise. A man finds out he has been slipped a slow-acting and fatal poison. He has 24 hours to find his own murderer and avenge his own death. Dennis Quaid does a decent job in his role and the plot carries the movie along effortlessly. The original was better in many ways, but the remake is good and highly underrated. In this case, I actually recommend watching the remake first and then seeing the original, but either way you can’t do wrong.
DeNiro was at a disadvantage from the start. Robert Mitchum played the lead role in the original (1962) and turned in one of his best performances ever. Cameos from Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, from the original, are fun. DeNiro does an admirable job in his role, considering the massive shoes he had to fill. This is the only movie, besides Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers, in which Juliette Lewis does an great job. You could do much worse than the remake. But the original is a tour-de-force that has not aged one bit.
4. NOT FORGOTTEN: I want to try and be as complete as possible, so I will reserve this last section for remakes that I failed to mention earlier.
No plot synopsis. No nothing.
1. Father of The Bride
2. Father of The Bride 2 (Father’s Little Dividend)
3. We’re No Angels
4. To Be or Not to Be
5. Barb Wire (Semi-remake of Casablanca, TAJ SWEARS!)
6. Who’s That Girl? (Bringing Up Baby)
7. The Pirate Movie (Pirates of Penzance)
8. City of Angels (Wings of Desire)
9. Angels in The Outfield.
I know I have left many remakes out...
If you notice any glaring omissions, please contact me and I will add them to the last category.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=136
originally posted: 11/29/99 04:05:51
last updated: 11/29/99 17:16:39