On this Memorial Day, I bring you another article in the continuing series sparked by the news of the remakes of “The Fly” and “13 Tzameti”. Be sure to catch up on last weeks entries along with today’s. Feel free to leave comments about the choices in films, as well as the reviews themselves.
And have a very safe and enjoyable Memorial Day.
“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”
“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”
~Director: Jean-Marie Poire~
It’s not everyday that a film comes along featuring such a different take on an old formula that it simply stands apart from all the rest. “Les Visiteurs” is just that film. A very funny, crazy, goofball of a film in the style of Terry Gilliam starts the ball rolling right from the start and doesn’t stop until the very last frame (they even included a little note for people who stay to watch the credits!). This out-of-time time travel film is so heavily influenced by the French language and its unique attraction, as well as the nuances of similar sounding words in French that translate to two entirely different meanings as the core of many jokes, that any person who enjoys foreign films is bound to enjoy this tale.
The humor is not over the top “Jim Carrey” style, yet it is a subdued slapstick, where none of the characters are “in on” the jokes, they just happen as in real life situations. No contorted faces, no double entendres, and no sex jokes.
In its place we have humor relying on situations, humor relying on prosthetic make-up gags, and, as mentioned previously, nuance with the translation of the French language.
Not at all what I was expecting. A pleasant surprise indeed.
My Rating: ***** / A-
Remake Film: Just Visiting
Cast: Jean Reno, Christina Applegate, Christian Clavier, Malcolm McDowell, Tara Reid, Bridgette Wilson
Country: United States
Specs: 88 mins / Color / OAR 2.35:1
A remake of the 1993 French Film “Les Visiteurs” that begins to fail with the change in the title. Wow! What a tired, boring, unfunny typical Hollywood film. This remake of the much superior earlier version is the perfect example of a great film destroyed by the hands of Hollywood. For starters, why they let John Hughes rewrite the script originally penned by the director and costar of this film as well as the original is beyond me. The original story by Jean-Marie Poiré and Christian Clavier was filled with so much dry humor, that replacing it with stereotypical fare did nothing but destroy the idea.
For starters, the entire plot of the film has been rewritten. The quirky Terry Gilliam-ish comedy has been erased, and elements such as “everyone in the town starts acting like the ‘crazy’ visitors, cause they are cool!” have been added.
That’s not all.
The heir to the throne and the “by the books” husband have been replaced by a museum curator and her (seen in any number of films) smarmy live-in boyfriend who is only with her for her potential money; the character that was a descendant of the servant has been completely erased; the wizard, who in the original left his plans to save them to his descendant, has been transported with them and becomes a Willie Nelson looking character; in an offensive “racist” change the characters constantly blame the zaniness on the travelers being “French”; an unnecessary women’s empowerment storyline has been introduced (I can see how it was needed in this version, however, as they added the idiotic boyfriend). That and a hip-hop soundtrack, club scenes, and relocation from the European countryside in the original to Chicago (hmm, wonder if Hughes had anything to do with that one?) in this version are all travesties.
An unfunny film, unfunny script, and unfunny acting.
That, to me, isn’t even fun.
My Rating: ** / D
~Director: John Farrow~
Original Film: Five Came Back
Cast: Chester Morris, Lucille Ball, John Carradine, Allen Jenkins, Patric Knowles, Casey Johnson
Country: United States
Specs: 75 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1
An entertaining film that does a great job at building suspense. The script develops the 12 characters very well, giving them each their own interesting qualities. The acting is very well done, and the direction/editing only enhances the film. Truly one of the first in what would later become known as a disaster film, especially in similar films such as the successful “Airport” series from the 70’s. The fact that the title tells us how many will survive is suspenseful enough. However, the suspense kind of dies down near the end of the film, and becomes a little predictable.
The look of the film is dated, however. The locations are obviously sets, yet that never truly matters as the story is engrossing enough to overshadow that minor point. Overall, an enjoyable thrill ride.
My Rating: **** / B-
Remake Film: Back from Eternity
Cast: Robert Ryan, Anita Ekberg, Rod Steiger, Phyllis Kirk, Keith Andes, Gene Barry
Country: United States
Specs: 100 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1
This remake of the better 1939 version, “Five Came Back” is still entertaining, just not as full of thrills as the original. Basically a flushed out script, with more character exposition, and actual beautiful locations in place of backdrop sets for most of the traveling shots is hurt by fan service segments (two women wrestle in the river, one in a thin white top even!), stagey dialogue (“Let’s go over there” “Yes let’s”. “Let’s go find out” “OK, let’s move now”.), and the odd casting of Rod Steiger as the South American immigrant Vasquez.
In addition, having Vasquez become an attempted assassin of an evil South American dictator instead of his being a cold hearted killer (as the character is in the original) has far less of an impact on his sacrifice he makes at the end of the film, and makes him more into just one of the passengers with a past.
My Rating: *** / C