Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Remakes, rethinkings, rehashings

Is there anything calculated to set off the movie enthusiast like a remake? We just passed a week that offered us a new-and-not-improved version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) on apparently no better excuse than changing the title to The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Presumably in our more frenzied time, it simply takes too long to spell out the numbers. Soon we’ll be seeing titles written in chatspeak. Oh, wait, the Christian “horror” film C Me Dance got there last year, didn’t it?

Before the year is out, we’ll have Joe Johnston’s The Wolf Man, based on the 1941 film, The Wolf Man—and apparently offering us something like the original if we judge by the character names. It remains to be seen if Benicio Del Toro in the title role will actually follow in Lon Chaney Jr.‘s paw prints and opt for special “and Benicio Del Toro as The Wolf Man” billing on the credits. There is, of course, much angst in fandom over what this new version will do to the original classic. The truth, of course, is that the new version won’t actually do anything to the original—except probably prompt Universal to release a third DVD of the 1941 film. The old film isn’t going anywhere and it isn’t going to change.

It might be as well to ask ourselves just exactly how much of a classic The Wolf Man really is. Sure, horror fans of my generation love the movie. And I suspect that it would also attract any group of pubescent boys. It’s the perfect horror picture for anyone going through that awkward stage, because that age range is just right to identify with Chaney’s oafish, blundering Larry Talbot, who’s going through changes he can neither understand, nor control. Looked at from an adult standpoint—and divorcing one’s self from nostaglia—it might be noted that it’s a very imperfect movie that wastes perhaps the strongest cast Universal ever assembled—Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Warren William, Patric Knowles, Ralph Bellamy—in order to showcase their new horror star, Lon Chaney Jr.

It’s hard, I grant you, to put away whatever opinion we formed of it in childhood. I certainly have warm feelings for it. It was the second movie—the first being The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)—on the double bill of the first “Shock Theater” I ever stayed up for (and by myself, too). I thought it was simply the greatest thing I’d ever seen and that old Lon was absolutely wonderful. I was also about nine years old. I still have that memory, but I can also see the wasted cast, the rear-screen, the model work (is that really cigarette smoke wafting out of the chimney of Talbot Castle?), and the film’s clunky structure. I doubt I’m ever going to feel any kind of nostalgia for the new version, but I certainly realize that there’s a chance that it’ll actually be a better movie.

Apart from that, though, it’s as well to put the whole concept of remakes into some kind of perspective while we piss and moan about this or that remake coming along and playing havoc with some well-loved classic or even marginal classic. We like to bemoan the lack of originality in today’s movie-making world, but step back for a minute. Hollywood didn’t just suddenly become unoriginal, venal or stupid. This is by no means a recent occurrence. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but it certainly existed in the 1930s.

Studios then, as now, bought properties and they retained the rights to those properties. It was therefore not in the least unreasonable to dust them off occasionally and cobble together a new version. In fact, it made even more sense in an era when movies were by and large a here-today-gone-tomorrow proposition. Warner Bros., for example, paid good money for the rights to the play Five Star Final in 1931, so why not get some more good out of it by remaking it as a B picture called Two Against the World in 1936? Studio scribes could even freshen it up by turning it into an expose of unethical radio broadcasters rather than tabloid journalists.

You won’t find too many people complaining about John Huston’s 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, but it’s actually the second remake of the Dashiell Hammett novel. This, however, raises the separate question of whether or not a film is actually a remake if it’s based on something other than a film. That’s reasonable. You’d hardly call Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula (1958) a remake of Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). And whatever you might call Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula (and I can think of some pretty choice things to call it), you wouldn’t call it a remake of either one. They’re all adaptations of other sources than the previous films.

Similarly, there were two separate versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1920. They share a source, but neither is a remake of the other, nor are the remakes of the 1912 one reel version of the book. Even taking this kind of thing into account, it would be hard—if you compare Huston’s Maltese Falcon to Roy Del Ruth’s 1931 version—to argue that the Huston film isn’t a remake. It’s obvious that Huston saw the first version and took more than a few pointers from it. Huston’s film is still the more highly regarded. Blame that on Bogart if you like. Or blame it on the fact that Huston gave the story its mythological heft by way of Shakespeare (“the stuff that dreams are made of”). It doesn’t matter, it’s still a remake.

There are, of course, other reasons for remakes. The George Arliss talkies Disraeli (1929), The Green Goddess (1930), The Millionaire (1931) and The Man Who Played God (1932) are all remakes of silent George Arliss pictures. (It took me years to realize that a lobby card from The Man Who Played God that I bought from a poster dealer in New York showed a scene I’d never seen in the film because the card was from the silent movie.) It made sense that Arliss would reprise his greatest hits from the silent era as talkies. The silents are hard to see these days (I’ve never been able to see a single one), but chances are good that the talkies are better. (Arliss himself never even mentions the silents in his autobiography.)

Other times we can find filmmakers themselves deliberately opting to remake one of their own movies. Tod Browning remake his London After Midnight (1927) as Mark of the Vampire (1935). Since the silent is lost, we can’t compare the two, but Mark of the Vampire is still one of Browning’s most creepily atmospheric movies. Frank Capra remade his Broadway Bill (1934) as Riding High (1950). His stated reason was that he’d always wanted to remake this film about a racehorse owner with an actor who loved horses rather than with one who was afraid of them, as Warner Baxter supposedly was. Whether that’s entirely true or not, the star of the remake, Bing Crosby, certainly fit his requirement. Of course, it probably helped get the picture made by using as much of the original supporting cast as possible—allowing for some economical recycling of footage (so what if they were all 16 years older?).

Alfred Hitchcock famously remade his 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956. His own take was that the original was the work of a “talented amateur,” while the remake was that of a “professional.” Personally, I’ll take the talented amateur over the extra 45 minutes of the professional’s work—not to mention Doris Day singing “Que Sera Sera” for part of those 45 minutes. I freely note that I am in the minority with this view.

One thing has definitely improved with the modern remake—the practice of suppressing the original has gone the way of the celebrated dodo. It wasn’t always thus. MGM was notorious for buying up the rights to a film and then burying it so that no one could compare the original with their remake. This happened with Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932). Here’s a case where the newer version of the story was indeed a remake, following the outline of the older film as closely as the censorship of 1941 would allow. They pulled the same stunt with James Whale’s Show Boat (1936) and with William A. Seiter’s Roberta (1935), keeping them from public scrutiny for about 30 years. If you’ve seen their remakes, it’s easy to understand why they wanted no comparisons.

Today it can, in fact, be in an old movie’s favor to be remade. To date, the only DVD release afforded Mitchell Leisen’s Death Takes a Holiday (1934) is as a bonus disc that came with the deluxe edition of Meet Joe Black (1998). It’s not, after all, as if you actually have to watch Meet Joe Black, though you may find yourself explaining to friends why you have it on your shelves. Similarly, Stanley Donen’s Charade (1963) may exist in a number of copies of dubious quality, since the film has somehow ended up in the public domain, but it appears that the only official DVD release from Universal is the gorgeous, anamorphically-enhanced copy that comes as a bonus with Jonathan Demme’s The Truth About Charlie (2002). Ironically, the disc that includes both films is actually cheaper than most of the public domain incarnations of Charade.

Demme’s The Truth About Charlie is an unusual case in the realm of the remake. It very much is a remake of Donen’s Charade, though a surprising number of critics missed the fact in 2002. However, the film is more than that. It’s as much hommage as remake, and it also includes many references to and outgrowths from the same French New Wave movies that had influenced the Donen film. This, of course, didn’t keep—and hasn’t kept—admirers of the original from trashing the film at every opportunity. It seems a very strange attitude to take about such a good-natured movie that was made by a guy who’s obviously nuts about Charade. Is it as good as Charade? No, but neither is it a bad film, nor an insult to the old classic.

Much the same can be said of the widely condemned Coen Brothers’ 2004 remake of The Ladykillers (1955). It’s both remake and hommage. The Coens aren’t just trading on the original. They’ve taken the premise and completely rethought it in quite different terms. It has its weaknesses, yes, but I like their remake a lot. I do not love it as I love Alexander Mackendrick’s original, but that’s no disgrace. I’m glad that both exist. I own both and I watch them both from time to time.

Of course, we’re not generally talking about pictures by the Coens or Johnathan Demme when we talk about remakes. More often than not we’re in reference to unregenerate crap like House of Wax (2005) or The Fog (2005) or The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). These are indefensible on any serious level. They’re very obviously not the work of anyone who gives a damn about the original films (Scott Derrickson’s claims about honoring the original Day the Earth Stood Still are more hollow than Keanu’s vacant gaze). These are simply uninspired attempts to milk a few bucks out of an existing work. But are they really worth getting worked up about? Most of them have already been forgotten like the disposable commodities they are.

Remakes have always been a part of the movie scene. And as long as someone somewhere thinks there’s a nickel to be wrung out of this or that old movie, they’re going to keep coming. Have I ever gotten worked up over a remake? Oh, sure, but I’ve pretty much come to accept them as a fact of life. Well, alright, a few years ago there was talk of a remake of Ken Russell’s Altered States (1980) and I gave serious thought to marching on Warner Bros. bearing a large sock of dung with the intent of smacking sense into someone. Fotunately, the talk came to nothing so I wasn’t put to the test. On the other hand, there is talk that Neil Burger (The Illusionist) is going to write and direct a remake of James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein with Brian Grazer producing. I may have to look for that sock.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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47 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Remakes, rethinkings, rehashings

  1. John Smolkin

    I’m with you Ken. Re-makes rarely live up to the original. Especially classics. Are studios that hard up for new material that they will try to re-make a classic? The Razor’s Edge comes to mind. The 1946 version with Tyrone Power is a favorite of mine. I also like Bill Murray a lot…in comedy. His re-make of Razor’s Edge in 1984 was a disaster. Bill Murray was very mis-cast as the title character. I imagine he was trying to stretch himself, but really. What a bomb. I have a dvd of the Power film. I think I’ll pop it in now.

  2. Dionysis

    I’m a movie buff (or I wouldn’t be reading Ken’s reviews nor posting), but I don’t immediately recoil from remakes. Many are pathetic, and one wonders why they were even made, but some are (arguably) as or better than the original. A few titles that (IMO) fall into that category would include ‘The Thing’, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and ‘The Italian Job’ (although a completely different approach taken). I do agree that one of the positive aspects of remakes (bad or good) is to increase interest in the originals, and that is a good thing. I know that I’ve been introduced to films I was unaware of via this means, and am glad to have had the experience.

  3. Dionysis

    I meant to write “as good or better than the originals.”

    One thing about the original Wolf Man that always bugged me was trying to buy into Lon Chaney, Jr. as the son of Claude Rains. Sure, his American accent was supposedly due to Lawrence Talbott ‘studying in America’, but come on: the very tall Lon Chaney standing beside the diminutive Claude Rains caused me to roll my eyes, even when I saw it the first time as a child. And there was not a shred of physical resemblence aside from the difference in size.

    I still enjoy the film, however.

  4. Jim Donato

    We discussed the remake of “Sleuth” a while back. What makes a remake worth it is the application of intelligence in the director’s approach. Kenneth Branagh and Harold Pinter took the material to new and provocative realms. The result was certainly more thought provoking than the original and in 45 minutes less, to boot! The loss of a lip-smacking Lawrence Olivier was icing on the cake.

    Another potentially good basis for a remake is the fact that for many years the tone of a film was censored if it dealt with mature issues. None spring immediately to mind, but if I quickly thought of the concept, there must be a reason lurking there.

  5. Tom Johnson

    I am glad there are just movies that will never be remade for different reasons. Watching Mel Brooks “Blazing Saddles” the other day, I couldn’t think but how politically incorrect so many of the jokes are. Absolutely hilarious but it would be tough to remake it without an avalanche of lawsuits. On the other hand, I do think some science fiction/action movies benefit well from remakes due to better technology. But they need to remember not to let the tech overwhelm the story

  6. Ken Hanke

    I’m with you Ken. Re-makes rarely live up to the original. Especially classics.

    Actually, my point was and is that remakes are nothing new and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a remake conceptually. And that even at least one remake — the 1941 Maltese Falcon — is generally considered the definitive version.

  7. Ken Hanke

    One thing about the original Wolf Man that always bugged me was trying to buy into Lon Chaney, Jr. as the son of Claude Rains.

    That is a hard one to swallow. It’s worth noting that the character wasn’t his son in the original script, but just an American who’d come to install the telescope.

    Of course, there are other — let’s say, amusing — things. What about the dainty way the Wolf Man pulls his pants legs up as if to keep his cuffs dry when he goes on his first prowl? And just how or why is he always in that janitor’s outfit by the time he gets into the woods, no matter how he was dressed before he transformed?

    Yeah, and I still like the film, but, for me Stuart Walker’s more cerebral Werewolf of London (1935) is the werewolf movie.

    I note with some amusement that Maleva the gypsy — originally played by Maria Ouspenskaya — is being played by Geraldine Chaplin in the new movie. It’s not in itself a bad choice, but the fact that she played a rip-off of the character in Uwe Boll’s BloodRayne might make her hard to take seriously.

  8. Ken Hanke

    We discussed the remake of “Sleuth” a while back. What makes a remake worth it is the application of intelligence in the director’s approach. Kenneth Branagh and Harold Pinter took the material to new and provocative realms. The result was certainly more thought provoking than the original and in 45 minutes less, to boot! The loss of a lip-smacking Lawrence Olivier was icing on the cake.

    While I am amused by the 1972 film — yes, even Laurence Olivier’s outrageous overacting — I’d tend to agree that the remake is more provocative stuff. I could easily have included it in the article. It’s a pity the new film wasn’t well received and fared badly at the box office.

    Another potentially good basis for a remake is the fact that for many years the tone of a film was censored if it dealt with mature issues. None spring immediately to mind, but if I quickly thought of the concept, there must be a reason lurking there.

    One that immediately comes to mind is Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour which Sam Goldwyn bought because it was a huge hit onstage. He had no idea it was about lesbianism. He didn’t even know what a lesbian was. (This is the source of his great Goldwynism, “We can always call them Bulgarians,” when it was pointed out that he couldn’t make a movie about lesbians.) As a result, William Wyler’s 1936 version, called These Three, was turned into what passed for something acceptably het. (Actually, it almost seems to flirt with the idea of a menage involving Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea, which may or may not have been intentional.) As a result, Wyler himself remade it in 1961 as The Children’s Hour with the lesbian angle intact. Oddly, however, the old film feels considerably more intense. There are probably other examples, but that’s the one that occurs to me.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I am glad there are just movies that will never be remade for different reasons. Watching Mel Brooks “Blazing Saddles” the other day, I couldn’t think but how politically incorrect so many of the jokes are. Absolutely hilarious but it would be tough to remake it without an avalanche of lawsuits.

    While I don’t think you can actually sue over political incorrectness, I don’t see any reason to remake Blazing Saddles. The irony, of course, is that the film is politically incorrect in order to make points that are, for the most part, politically correct. In other words, the film’s racial epithets are all used to be turned back on the racists, not to support them. I think a bigger problem today is that the film is full of gags which were esoteric in 1974 and haven’t become any less so in the intervening years. Gags about Hedy Lamarr, Olsen and Johnson, for example. Or Harvey Korman marveling over how Douglas Fairbanks Sr. did “all those amazing stunts with such tiny feet.” How well is a Marlene Dietrich parody going to play now?

    On the other hand, I do think some science fiction/action movies benefit well from remakes due to better technology. But they need to remember not to let the tech overwhelm the story

    Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly the trap they fall into. You need look no further than the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still to see a perfect example. And in the end, the effects weren’t all that special either. In fact, they were pretty cartoonish.

  10. Tonberry

    I’m not usually against remakes, but there is one remake in the works that has me raising an eyebrow.

    Death at a Funeral.

  11. Erik the Mirakle Ape

    Let us not forget, though i think Mr. Hanke would like to, Carpenter’s GHOST OF MARS, which is a sci-fi version of his ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, which is cribbed from Howard Hawks’ RIO BRAVO. An excellent example of re-makes that work. I think what most film fans get annoyed about is not the re-makes in general, but the choices for said re-makes. The studios tend to go after big hits which they hope will be another big hit. When it would probably be more interesting to re-make near misses which could be improved upon. Oh yeah, i’ve no intention of seing THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but was Keanu’s stare really vacant ?!? *snicker*

  12. Ken Hanke

    Let us not forget, though i think Mr. Hanke would like to, Carpenter’s GHOST OF MARS, which is a sci-fi version of his ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, which is cribbed from Howard Hawks’ RIO BRAVO. An excellent example of re-makes that work.

    Well, I’d be hard-pressed to say that Goats of Mars worked — nor do I think it did well at the box office, if memory serves. And you’ve left out the fact that Assault on Precinct 13 was itself remade in 2005.

    I think what most film fans get annoyed about is not the re-makes in general, but the choices for said re-makes. The studios tend to go after big hits which they hope will be another big hit. When it would probably be more interesting to re-make near misses which could be improved upon.

    It’s a worthy and interesting argument — and one that makes artistic sense — but it has the problem of not having the built-in drawing power of a successful film. Then again, how many of the filmmakers remaking a film actually believe that they are improving on the original?

    but was Keanu’s stare really vacant ?!? *snicker*

    Now, the odd thing is that I am not necessarily in the anti-Keanu column. I thought he was good in Constantine and Something’s Gotta Give, but here…yes, vacant is a good word.

  13. Tonberry

    Remakes don’t usually bother me, but there is one in the works that has me raising an eyebrow.

    Death at a Funeral. (Starring the same midget!)

    Now, the odd thing is that I am not necessarily in the anti-Keanu column.

    Same here. My favorite role of his is the hippie guru dentist in “Thumbsucker.”

  14. Ken Hanke

    I’m not usually against remakes, but there is one remake in the works that has me raising an eyebrow.

    Death at a Funeral.

    Well, when you look at the cast and credits, it gets even worse. It’s got Luke Wilson (that’s the boring Wilson) and Martin Lawrence in it, for one thing. That Chris Rock’s in it an co-wrote it may be another. That Neil LaBute is directing is stupefying, considering that the only time he’s evidenced a flair for comedy was with The Wicker Man where it wasn’t intentional.

    But, hey, it’ll be Americanized and isn’t that what really counts?

  15. Ken Hanke

    Same here. My favorite role of his is the hippie guru dentist in “Thumbsucker.”

    I’d momentarily forgotten that — another one for the plus column.

  16. This reminds me of that terrible habit American networks have of buying British TV shows and remaking them, after surgically removing all the elements that made the show work originally, and subsequently failing horribly (see LIFE ON MARS, COUPLING, etc.).

  17. Tonberry

    I am unsure if you know about this yet (because I think it might have been mentioned in this column)and I don’t know if this is 100% confirmed, but looks like Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) is in talks to remake “Bride of Frankenstein.”

    I won’t deny that this news make me feel a little queasy.

    It’s got Luke Wilson (that’s the boring Wilson)

    I looked up his work on IMDB, and found out that he had been in quite a few movies I’d seen, but forgot he was in. For me, his only memorable roles was in “The Royal Tenenbaums” (my pick as his best and somewhat iconic role) and “Bottle Rocket” (which is simple to remember because he was the lead.) He should work with Wes Anderson more.

  18. Ken Hanke

    This reminds me of that terrible habit American networks have of buying British TV shows and remaking them, after surgically removing all the elements that made the show work originally

    In a way, this is all a throwback to days of yore when a movie being British was considered a detriment (the presence of an American star could sometimes help). I can actually remember my parents opting to not go to movies because they were English — and theirs was not an uncommon view. British movies did not tend to do well in the States. Then the Beatles and James Bond came along.

  19. Ken Hanke

    I am unsure if you know about this yet (because I think it might have been mentioned in this column)

    It was — in the last sentence.

    I don’t know if this is 100% confirmed, but looks like Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) is in talks to remake “Bride of Frankenstein.”

    It’s confirmed to the degree of being “in talks,” which means it could come to nothing. Burger’s not a bad filmmaker, but I really don’t see this not ending in tears.

    I looked up his work on IMDB, and found out that he had been in quite a few movies I’d seen, but forgot he was in. For me, his only memorable roles was in “The Royal Tenenbaums” (my pick as his best and somewhat iconic role)

    It’s worth noting that you’ve picked a role in which Luke Wilson is often just this side of catatonic as his best.

    He should work with Wes Anderson more.

    He’s also in Rushmore, though it’s hard not to suspect that his role was written for Owen Wilson, because Jason Schwartzman makes a remark about the character’s broken nose.

  20. Tonberry

    It was—in the last sentence.

    I am embarrassed. It was probably from here that I heard about it first, forgot it was here, then reposted it. The delay of posting comments on this site seems much longer than usual, its really throwing me off. Yet, of all people, I should have known you would have known about this remake faster than you can say twitter.

    Haven’t seen Rushmore yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

  21. Dread P. Roberts

    I’m not usually against remakes, but there is one remake in the works that has me raising an eyebrow.

    Death at a Funeral.

    This is just stupid, and quite frankly, it sort of upsets me. It’s barely even been two years since the fantastic Frank Oz original. Now I know that in a similar column that Ken had previously wrote about remakes, the issue of time had been discussed, but nothing about this remake really makes sense to me. The original may have been British, and Frank Oz is British; but he is also considered by many to be an American filmmaker, and the original was released in American theaters (even locally). So the characters have a British accent, is THAT the only basis for remaking this movie? I highly doubt that a damn money-hungry hollywood remake can possibly be any better. Oh well, in the words of Ken, the original isn’t going anywhere, and since the original just so happens to be the last modern comedy that I felt was worthy of buying, I always have it available to watch instead.

  22. Ken Hanke

    That was meant to show up under your 05:56AM comment

    But it did.

  23. Ken Hanke

    I am embarrassed. It was probably from here that I heard about it first, forgot it was here, then reposted it. The delay of posting comments on this site seems much longer than usual, its really throwing me off.

    I think I’ve figured out how to deal with that — somewhat, though it requires me being around, which means it’ll fall apart this coming weekend when I go to the Monster Bash.

    Yet, of all people, I should have known you would have known about this remake faster than you can say twitter.

    I never say “twitter” unless some expletive critcizing it as the ultimate dumbing-down tool is attached. And in all honesty, Justin’s the one who originally told me about the Bride remake.

  24. Ken Hanke

    The original may have been British, and Frank Oz is British; but he is also considered by many to be an American filmmaker, and the original was released in American theaters (even locally).

    Ah, but was it released in an American multiplex locally? No. And that’s the “logic.” It was interesting yesterday when I re-watched Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. from 1981 and in it they talk about an unprecedented “wide release” of — get this — 800 prints. Today, with saturation booking, that’s more a limited release. Wide now means 3-4,000 prints and a movie is deemed successful or not on what it does on opening night.

    Oh well, in the words of Ken, the original isn’t going anywhere

    That’s all you can cling to — and the fact that the remake stands a good chance of tanking.

  25. Dread P. Roberts

    …and the fact that the remake stands a good chance of tanking

    But this is part of what makes stuff like this so sad to me. I’d be willing to bet that the studios will spend a lot more money on this ‘remake’ than what was spent on the first “Death at a Funeral”. It’s just such a huge waste of time and money, when I’m sure there are people out there with great original ideas that will never be heard. There are so many examples of waste in Hollywood that it’s overwhelming to think about, and that is ultimately the real tragedy. But then again, it’s got to be better than such things as “Land of the Lost”, Wayans Brothers, Uwe Boll, Jason Friedberg, etc… right? Oh, the humanity! Why have I allowed my mind to wander into such a depressing subject?

  26. Ken Hanke

    But then again, it’s got to be better than such things as “Land of the Lost”, Wayans Brothers, Uwe Boll, Jason Friedberg, etc… right?

    Even actively trying to be as bad or worse than those seems a daunting task, so it probably will be better — for what that’s worth.

    Why have I allowed my mind to wander into such a depressing subject?

    Go see Easy Virtue or The Brothers Bloom or Up and remind yourself that movies can actually be good.

  27. Fran

    I hope I’m not repeating myself. My computer never seemed to send my last attempt at a comment.

    But the main thing that stunned me about this article was to realize that I was old enough to have seen movies and now to have seen their re-makes. All the ones that came to quickly to mind were not nearly as classy as the ones you mentioned in your article. Ocean’s 11, The Poseidon Adventure, and Stepford Wives all came to mind. And I have to admit to liking two of the three remakes better than the originals. The third remake I didn’t even bother seeing.

    I also puzzled at whether Guess Who could be considered a remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and decided that it was not, rather than it used the overall scenario and issue but was not an actual remake.

  28. Ken Hanke

    I hope I’m not repeating myself. My computer never seemed to send my last attempt at a comment.

    This appears to be the only one there is. In any case, repeating yourself isn’t a punishable offense or I’d be behind bars.

    But the main thing that stunned me about this article was to realize that I was old enough to have seen movies and now to have seen their re-makes.

    Well, with this instant remakes like Death at a Funeral, you could still be in rompers and be seeing remakes. But I see your point. Something slightly different occurs to me — and that’s the accidental discovery of earlier versions of movies when I was a mere boy and a beardless youth. High Society (1956) — by which I mean the Cole Porter musical with Bing and Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly, not the Bowery Boys picture with the same title made the same year — was one of my first conscious memories for its soundtrack album. I discovered that by the age of three or four. It was a few years later before I saw the movie. The real shock was bumping into The Philadelphia Story (1940) some years later and finding it was High Society minus the songs. The same thing happened with How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955) and She Loves Me Not (1934). I really worked my way back through 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) to Sorrowful Jones (1949) to Little Miss Marker (1934). I digress, but I bet there are a lot of us with similar experiences.

    Ocean’s 11, The Poseidon Adventure, and Stepford Wives all came to mind. And I have to admit to liking two of the three remakes better than the originals. The third remake I didn’t even bother seeing.

    Well, the original Ocean’s 11 (1960) is pretty bad, while Soderbergh’s remake is such a nearly perfect entertainment that it just barely misses being a great film. I’m definitely not with you on Poseidon, but I don’t have much use for either one. In all honesty, I’ve never cared much for the faux-profundity of Bryan Forbes’ original Stepford Wives and kinda liked the remake, even if last minute rewrites and reshoots (not enough of them) caused it to finally make absolutly no sense.

    I also puzzled at whether Guess Who could be considered a remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and decided that it was not, rather than it used the overall scenario and issue but was not an actual remake.

    I mostly just puzzle over the existence of Guess Who altogether. I guess it’s sort of a remake, but maybe not much more of one than Kiss of the Vampire (1963) is a remake of The Black Cat (1934).

  29. Dionysis

    “Kiss of the Vampire (1963) is a remake of The Black Cat (1934).”

    Interesting. Two of my favorite old horror films and I never realized Kiss was a remake. Now that I think about it, I do see similarities.

  30. Ken Hanke

    Two of my favorite old horror films and I never realized Kiss was a remake. Now that I think about it, I do see similarities

    I think this is case where the term reworking or even reimagining might be accurately applied.

  31. Fran

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my considerations on the remakes that came to mind.

    So, I am feeling pretty good about your responses to those three remakes I named, as I felt pretty much the same way. I was highly entertained by the remake of Oceans 11. I liked the remake of Stepford Wives significantly more than the original, and never saw the remake of Poseidon Adventure (just plain old Poseidon). The thing that caused me to have the original Poseidon Adventure in my brain at all was the contrast of clergy in the film, each making different choices, but each sincere in that choice and the purpose motivating it, and each ending up sacrificing themselves. But I don’t think the re-make had those roles at all.

  32. irelephant

    Had a Kung Fu teacher who thought Keanu Reeves’ acting was phenomenal, because the audience had to project all the emotions of his characters onto him, since they were not shown any in his performance. He seemed to consider Keanu’s acting as the showbiz equivalent of the sound of one hand clapping, or some such thing. Not sure I agree–but I thought he was darned good in My Own Private Idaho.

  33. Ken Hanke

    I liked the remake of Stepford Wives significantly more than the original

    The original is one of those films that’s typical of horror/sci-fi in that era in that it’s very forced in its determination to be downbeat. I think of them as feel-bad movies, yet they’re not good enough or deep enough to warrant being bummed out by them.

    But I don’t think the re-make had those roles at all.

    What I remember from Poseidon at this point would fit on the head of a pin — with room left over for the Lord’s Prayer and several angels doing the Charleston.

  34. Ken Hanke

    I thought he was darned good in My Own Private Idaho.

    Okay, we can add that to the list. It’s a while since I’ve watched the film, but I do remember thinking he was actually better in it than River Phoenix who was receiving more of the praise.

  35. Dionysis

    I think Keanu Reeves did a good job as the abusive, redneck husband of Hilary Swank in ‘The Gift’ too.

  36. Ken Hanke

    I think Keanu Reeves did a good job as the abusive, redneck husband of Hilary Swank in ‘The Gift’ too.

    Another I’d really need to see again, but this is coming perilously close to a Keanu fan club.

  37. Dionysis

    “Another I’d really need to see again…”

    This is what you wrote in your review at the time:

    “wife-beater Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves in a surprising and chilling performance)…”

  38. Dread P. Roberts

    Another I’d really need to see again, but this is coming perilously close to a Keanu fan club.

    Well I definitely don’t fit into that category. Although I’ve never seen “My Own Private Idaho”, I will say that from what I have seen, the only role that Keanu can play convincingly is the stoned surfer dude stereotype. My favorite Keanu performance would probably have to be on SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy in the early 90’s. But I guess that doesn’t count, since it was just an impersonator playing him.

  39. Ken Hanke

    Although I’ve never seen “My Own Private Idaho”, I will say that from what I have seen, the only role that Keanu can play convincingly is the stoned surfer dude stereotype.

    But have you seen the other titles that have been brought up?

  40. Dread P. Roberts

    Yes, but I’m also kind of just playing around about poor Keanu. I’ve think the problem lies in the fact the when I see him, and hear him talk, I just can’t get over this tainted view that I have of him. I’m not so much denying the quality of his performance in movies like The Gift. Actually, I thought his performance in Thumbsucker wasn’t bad either. It’s just that I really can’t help but laugh (at least on the inside) when he comes on screen; especially if he’s playing a cop, or some other authority figure. I automatically picture him as Ted Logan from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure saying things like “dude” constantly, or the moment(s) of revelation in The Matrix where he utters such profound lines as “whoa”. Just look at his last endeavor, The Day the Earth Stood Still, which I never saw, but subsequently bursted into laughter at the mere sight of the trailer(s).

  41. Ken Hanke

    I just can’t get over this tainted view that I have of him.

    I can understand that. Oddly, what I have trouble getting past is interview footage of him apparently having encountered storyboards for the first time on BS’ Dracula, with him getting all excited over how “they draw the whole movie out like a comic book.”

  42. Dread P. Roberts

    “BS’ Dracula”, now THAT is funny. I had almost forgotten about that particular performance, but from what I can recollect, Keanu was pretty god-awful in this. I was really rooting for the three lady vampires to suck his blood, and then Dracula (what’s with that damned hair) had to show up and ruin the only possible highlight of the movie. What a jerk.

  43. He seemed to have worked with Dick Van Dyke’s vocal coach in preparation for the role too, judging by his attempt at a British accent.

  44. Nick Jones

    Definitely not in the Keanu (Hawaiian for ‘can’t act’) Reeves Fan Club. As a matter of fact, I think the only reason he has a career, much less in big-budget films, was more than hinted at in “The Devil’s Advocate.”

  45. Ken Hanke

    He seemed to have worked with Dick Van Dyke’s vocal coach in preparation for the role too, judging by his attempt at a British accent.

    While I can’t argue this, there’s really no shortage of people to blame for things various and sundry on BS’ Dracula.

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