Movies. People enjoy seeing them. People enjoy creating them. Sometimes, directors enjoy remaking them. It should come as no surprise when I write that Hollywood has a current fixation with remaking previously produced films (“Clash of the Titans”), rebooting franchises that have gotten long in the tooth (unless you are a current “franchise” like Spider-man, Hulk, or Fantastic Four) (“Nightmare on Elm Street”), and re-imagining properties (while television, not films: “Rockford Files”, “Bionic Woman”).
Recently, it was announced that David Cronenberg (“Scanners”, “Videodrome”, “A History of Violence”) was moving forward with an earlier announcement that he was remaking his 1986 Sci-fi/Horror flick “The Fly”. In addition, it was announced that director Géla Babluani was going to be remaking his dark “Fight Club”-ish 2005 French film “13 Tzameti” as a big budget Hollywood picture. The news was interesting to read. For starters, initial thoughts amongst the blogosphere were “Why would a director revisit an earlier picture and remake it? Especially if the original were such a success?”, “Can this be good news? Is there a chance that the remakes will be better?”, and “Oh brother. Another remake, yet again. When does it stop?”.
I then decided that I would undertake a large task in my quest for knowledge. I decided to view a number of films throughout film history that had been remade by the originals directors, as well as the aforementioned remakes. I also realized that I would have a duty to review each film, in order that I could get a gauge on the likelihood of these recently announced remakes being as entertaining as the originals.
In my multipart article, I focus mainly on films that are true remakes, not films that are dubbed remakes, but in actuality are feature versions of a previously produced short film (“Memento Mori” remade as “Memento”), or are actually “sequel-remakes” (“Evil Dead”/”Evil Dead 2”, “El Mariachi”/”Desperado”), or are actually director’s making English version “sequels to remakes” (Hideo Nakata with the Japanese “Ringu” and the American “The Ring 2”). I will focus on films that went from being silents to talkies, black and white to color, 4×3 to 16×9, foreign to American, television movie to feature film, and any combination thereof! In doing so, I’ve found some real gems that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
So sit right back and enjoy this series of articles which I’ve titled…
“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”
“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”
~Director: A. R. Murugadoss~
Original Film: Ghajini
Cast: Surya Sivakumar, Asin Thottumkal, Nayantara, Pradeep Rawat, Riyaz Khan
Specs: 180 mins. / Color / OAR 2.7:1
Tamil language “Memento” rip-off meets “Old Boy” in this so over the top bad it’s good action/love-story/comedy film. It starts off as a blatant rip-off of Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, then abruptly turns into a Bollywood musical, then suddenly takes a left turn into a romantic screwball comedy, and continues to bounce between the multi-genres for the entire 3 hour film.
The music and editing surely help in the entertainment value of this film, which also jumps into pure “chop-sock-y/wire-fu” in a number of scenes. The complete sound effects from the kung-fu movies of the 70’s is present, as is the obviously bad acting action/stunt-men. This film felt very much like a “USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear or Gilbert Gottfried” film with some of the “posing” the muscle head stars did for each line of dialogue. The special effects were comical, with the blood being obvious red paint, the bodies being outlined in chalk in comical poses, and the fighters holding each other suspended in air while swirling them around all with one hand!
The movie is entertaining in it’s own right, and did hold interest throughout. The “musical” interludes and the Intermission were the highlights of this B-grade movie.
My Rating: *** / C+
Remake Film: Ghajini
Cast: Aamir Khan, Asin Thottumkal, Jiah Khan, Pradeep Rawat, Riyaz Khan
Specs: 183 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35:1
A much better cast, a flushed out story, minor tweaks to the script, a new more believable ending, more appropriate contemporary music, better integrated “Bollywood Musical Interludes”, better editing, and a much bigger budget all are behind this nearly shot-for-shot Hindi remake of the 2005 Tamil version. While the action sequences are still a bit over-the-top, the sound effects accompanying said sequences are much more contemporary, adding a dullness to the body blows, etc. The entire reworking of the end of the film was a much better choice, getting rid of the superhuman twin battle, and losing the twin storyline altogether. This truly is a unique revenge film now (while still resembling “Memento” a little too closely), with the comedic, romance story interweaved into the revenge picture very nicely. It’s still a relatively violent picture, and still a tad too long at 3 hours, but my interest never waned.
This is another instance of a director learning from his previous mistakes, improving on them, and outputting a higher caliber film, that is leaps and bounds above the prior incarnation. Definitely a fun film.
My Rating: **** / B+
~Director: Alfred Hitchcock~
Original Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Cast: Peter Lorre, Edna Best, Leslie Banks
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 75 mins. / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1
Intrigue, suspense, and mystery is what Hitchcock gives the viewer right out of the gate in this classic thriller. The film opens with a bullet piercing through a window pane, after which a man notices under his dinner jacket that he has been shot. He slips a note to a man and his wife, and dies in their arms. Thus begins a tale of spies, murder, and kidnapping that features excellent editing (most scenes are hard cuts to the next, creating a cliffhanger chapter break similar to the Saturday Serials of that time), clever use of sound (the pocket-watch chime to announce the presence of Peter Lorre is always startling (similar in effect as hearing Darth Vader breathing from off screen would be in “Star Wars”)).
It comes as no surprise to fans of Hitchcock and screenwriter Charles Bennett’s other films (“39 Steps”, “Sabotage”, “Foreign Correspondent” that this film features simply excellent writing as well. There are many memorable lines of very clever dialogue (Peter Lorre’s line “They will be leaving us. They will be leaving us for a long long journey. How is it that Shakespeare says? From which no traveler returns…”) and the suspense level is high. Sets are basic and small, with no real grand scale to things. Many of the sets are obvious backdrops, which is something the remake has up on this version.
Nice unpredictable set-up at the beginning of the film with the mother shooting clay pigeons at a Swiss Alps resort. And using the chiming of the pocket-watch to resolve the end is very clever, similar to the sneeze at the end of “Taking of Pelham 123”. A wonderful piece of film history from the master filmmaker himself.
My Rating: ***** / A
Remake Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Cast: James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda De Banzie, Bernard Miles, Daniel Gélin
Country: United States
Specs: 120 mins. / Color: Technicolor / OAR 1.85:1 VistaVision
A remake of the spectacular 1934 version, this film is equally as thrilling and entertaining. There were some changes that the director made from the original picture, and yet the film didn’t suffer from those decisions. No doubt to capitalize on the vibrant colors of Technicolor, and to showcase the wider aspect ratio of VistaVision, Hitchcock changed the locale to a more exotic land, ensuring a sense of being “out of place” for the characters, thus lending a bit more reality. For reasons unknown, he changed the child from a girl to a boy. Of course, music was also added this time around, from frequent collaborator Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann delivers a very compelling and eerie score which certainly lends to the suspense of this film.
Wisely, the foundation of the script was reworked as well, adding more intrigue and character development to most of the characters, fleshing out any unanswered questions viewers may have had with the first film.
However, the death sequence of Louis Bernard isn’t as clever this time around, nor is the way that Stewart’s character gets the information about the assassination. A simple whisper in his ear is far less entertaining and suspenseful than the hidden message in the hotel room. Finding the note in the shaving brush and his attempts to conceal the letter were wonderful moments that were missed in this remake!
The acting this time around is, surprisingly, a step above the previous incarnations, and the addition of “Que Sera, Sera” is a nice touch (apparently the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought so also, as the film won the Oscar for Best Song that year!). It’s easy to understand why they added the musical performances, as musicals were all the rage in Hollywood at that time, and it fits just perfectly here.
While the lengthy Royal Albert Hall sequence is more enjoyable, the ending is worse and anti-climactic compared to the original. I was left wondering why Hitchcock chose to do away with guns in this version. There are no guns in the film, which deters from the “murderous” intents of the characters, and felt a little uneven.
While many reviewers felt the original were a far better film, I would hesitate to make such claim. The costumes, locale, and vivid colors of the amazing technicolor process are simply wonderful to look at, the story is still a well done story, the acting is excellent all around, and the music by Herrmann is always a pleasure to listen to. The film is still a wonderful film, and was worth the experience.
My Rating: ***** / A
Back tomorrow for part 2…