As the movie summer starts to wind down, the sheer number of sequels, remakes and ‘reboots’ certainly can make for a dispiriting summing up. But it is worth remembering that, at least in our genre, there are a great many great mystery remakes that took the material somewhere new without impinging on memories of the original.
The following is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog – you should head over there to see the many other fascinating titles that have been selected.
“The stuff that dreams are made of …”
Hollywood has always remade films, both its own or those from other countries – most are pale reflections of the original, some merely OK. Indeed, one would imagine that the likes of John Carpenter must be fairly ticked off that much of his best work, including Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog and The Thing (admittedly an exceptional remake in its own right), have all been remade by lesser hands. None the less one shouldn’t ignore these without consideration because some pretty serious filmmakers have undertaken remakes after all. These include the likes of Billy Wilder (The Front Page and Buddy Buddy), Martin Scorsese (Cape Fear and The Departed), David Cronenberg (The Fly), Jonathan Demme (The Manchurian Candidate and The Truth About Charlie) and Steven Spielberg (Always and War of the Worlds). In addition such major directors as Michael Mann, Frank Capra, Yasujiro Ozu, Cecil B DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock and even Michael Haneke have all remade their own films at some point.
So, with so much to choose from, what made the cut? Well, in chronological order …
1. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Humphrey Bogart only got to play the definitive screen Sam Spade in the third adaptation from Warners of Hammett’s classic San Francisco Mystery in just 10 years. The first version from 1931, now retitled Dangerous Female, and starring Ricardo Cortez as a slightly sleazy incarnation of Sam Spade, is well worth rediscovering as a tougher, less romantic version of the story. In 1941 John Huston made his directorial debut with this exceptionally close adaptation of the novel, featuring a veritable rogues’ gallery of character actors, all seemingly cast to perfection, from Sydney Greenstreet as Caspar Gutman and Peter Lorre (their first on-screen aspiring) as Joel Cairo, while Bogart and Mary Astor were never better than playing the dark and twisted romance between Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy (perhaps Hollywood’s first proper femme fatale) – in a word, wonderful. From the 1930 novel by Dashiell Hammett.
2. Murder, My Sweet (1943)
The first Philip Marlowe movie, and perhaps the best of them all, was technically a remake as the book had been filmed by the same studio the year before as The Falcon Takes Over with George Sanders playing the now debonair gumshoe and Ward Bond as the hulking Moose Malloy. For the remake Dick Powell, making the startling transition from hoofer to tough guy in one confident leap, is brilliantly cast against type and began a whole new career on the back of its success. This was the first time in which Chandler’s quintessential literary private eye was depicted on-screen. He gets a great entrance here, wearing a blindfold in a dark room filled with cigarette smoke, leading to a classic flashback structure and a genuinely spooky introduction to Moose Malloy – all of it original to the film and bringing Chandler’s book wonderfully to Noir life. From the 1940 novel ‘Farewell My Lovely’ by Raymond Chandler.
3. The Breaking Point (1950)
It is said that Howard Hawks filmed Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not in a bet in which he said he could make a movie of the author’s worst book. Made up of three interlinked items (two short stories and a novella) it is a Depression era story of Harry Morgan’s unsuccessful attempts to make a living in Key West as a captain of his own boat. Ultimately, desperate for money, he gets involved with illegal smuggling, with tragic results. Hawks’ film made a star of Lauren Bacall and her scenes with Humphrey Bogart still sizzle but it doesn’t really have much with the story or tone of the book and the studio-bound production always feels artificial. The remake from 1950 (full review of book and film coming to Fedora soon) stars John Garfield and Patricia Neal and is much more hardboiled in depicting their relationship and Morgan’s hardships in general and the warmth of his family life – the heart though belong to Harry’s friend and partner, played to perfection by Juano Hernandez. It is one of Michael Curtiz’ greatest films, and that saying a lot as we are talking about the director of Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, King Creole, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Adventures of Robin Hood and many, many more. The ending will leave you with a real lump in the throat. From the 1937 novel ‘To Have and Have Not’ by Ernest Hemingway.
4. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
The original novel by James M Cain was a huge hit (and a scandalous cause celebre) and has been adapted for the cinema a great many times, but only twice in Hollywood. In 1946 came the popular Noir starring Lana Turner and John Garfield. In 1981 the team of director Bob Rafelson and star Jack Nicholson decoded to remake it, with a screenplay by playwright David Mamet and an incandescent performance by Jessica Lange as Cora. Beyond being more generally faithful to the plot and amping up the sex, it also catches the Depression-era of the novel far more successfully than the 1946 version. Having said all this, I would argue that perhaps Ossessione (1943), the unofficial Italian adaptation by Luchino Visconti, may be the best actual film derived from the material but it can’t be classed as a remake even though it followed a French version of the book, which also didn’t bother to secure the rights from Cain! From the 1934 novel by James M. Cain
5. Scarface (1983)
Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, a Cuban crook who briefly becomes kingpin of the Miami coke trade before his inevitable fall. Though this keeps the barebones of the original 1932 movie starring Paul Muni – scarred gangster’s rise and fall and the unhealthy obsession he has with his sister – this version, scripted by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian de Palma, is a three-hour epic that glories in its excesses with a high body count and what must still be one the most expletive-ridden movie ever released by Universal Studios. From the 1929 novel by Armitage Trail
6. No Way Out (1987)
I previously reviewed this remake in some detail here. Despite being a remake of the classic film noir (see my top 10 in the genre here) The Big Clock (1947), itself a fairly close adaptation of Kenneth Fearing’s fine crime novel, this version smartly updates the story and relocates it from a publishing house to the ultra-paranoid environment of the Pentagon during the Cold War. Kevin Costner is the hero, Gene Hackman the weak-willed politician, Sean Young the woman they both have affairs with and Will Patton is the fixer – when Hackman kills Young, Costner is put in charge of the investigation … The huge twist in the finale to some may seem extraneous but anyone who sits through the film a second time will be able to see how smartly writer-producer Robert Garland has in fact laid the groundwork for the revelation. From the 1946 novel ‘The Big Clock’ by Kenneth Fearing.
7. DOA (1988)
I previously reviewed this remake in more detail here. The original version introduced a great premise – a man is fatally poisoned with a slow-acting toxin and has 24 hours to solve his own murder even if he can;t save his own life – but I always found the actual plot (involving land deeds) to be a bit blah. The remake stars Dennis Quaid as a burned out novelist, Charlotte Rampling as a controlling matriarch hiding a very nasty secret and an incredibly young Meg Ryan as an adoring student. Beautifully shot (in stark black and white and ravishing colour), this remake to my mind makes the best of use of the existential premise (which incidentally was also used in 1969 for the Australian movie, Colour Me Dead).
8. Ransom (1996)
In 1954 the US Steel Hour anthology on TV broadcast ‘Fearful Decision’, a drama by Richard Maibaum and Cyril Hume in which a rich man’s son is also kidnapped for half a million dollars. The major twist is the father’s decision not to pay as he believes this is the only way to get the boy back alive, with the focus on the impact this has on his relationship with his distressed wife. This proved a great success and the play was produced again the following year – but the film rights had already been bought by MGM and in January 1956 they released a movie version, retitled Ransom, starring Glenn Ford and Donna Reed. Details of the film, including clips, can be found over at the Turner Classic Movies website. This film was remade again some 40 years later by director Ron Howard and screenwriter Richard Price, with Mel Gibson in one of his best roles as the father. It is now the best-known version of the story – and I think the best overall. The amazing supporting cast includes Rene Russo as Gibson’s wife, Delroy Lindo and Gary Sinise as cops with different agendas and Lili Taylor and Liev Schreiber as kidnappers.
9. The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
This may be the most controversial selection here, but I much prefer the remake of this film to the original starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Yes, the original is incredibly chic and the two stars are incredible together. But the plot stalls before the halfway mark and the romance pretty much ends once the characters get together – in the remake there is much more story, the female character (Rene Russo again, see above) is much stringer and her romance with the Brosnan version of Crown romance much more convincing. And it really helps that dennis Leary puts the art world in perspective as being so far removed from real-life crime and villainy that it helps take our anti-heroes off the hook without spoiling the fun. I’m also a big fan of director John McTiernan (best-known for Die Hard, Predator, Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance) and I hope, once he gets out of prison, that he’ll keep making great suspense movies – he does a superb job here, as does composer Bill Conti.
10. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Steven Soderbergh as a producer and/or director has made s small industry out of Hollywood remakes including The Underneath (from Siodmak’s Criss Cross), Solaris, Traffic (from the British TV series, Traffik) and such productions as Criminal, Welcome to Collinwood and Insomnia. None though have done as well as Ocean’s Eleven (and sequels), a massive improvement on the hugely popular Ratpack original that both humanises the story and also manages not to slow down horribly at the end. The bare bones of the plot are the same – a group of buddies are recruited by Danny Ocean to knock off four Las Vegas casinos with a power outage – but nearly everything else is different or re-emphasised, most crucially Ocean’s failed relationship with his wife (Julia Roberts in the remake, Angie Dickinson in the remake). Directed and photographed by Steven Soderbergh, this is a remake that makes you care much more about both the characters and the outcome of the caper because it is much more romantic (and much less of a guy’s movie) and also very clever – and it has a killer soundtrack produced by David Holmes that re-introduced the world to Elvis Presley’s ‘A Little Less Conversation’.
11. Casino Royale (2006)
The film that introduced Daniel Craig as James Bond, this was in fact the third crack at Ian Fleming’s original novel after a TV version in the 50s and a swinging sixties spoof that made lots of money but pleased very few critics. Technically this is a ‘reboot’ setting Bond on a parallel timeline where Judi Dench is still M but our hero has gone back to the beginning of his career having only just gained his ’00’ status in the pre-credit sequence. Craig brings great charm and brute force to his playing as well as his youthful vigour and swagger (he was the first actor to play Bond under the age of 40 since George Lazenby in 1969). The adaptation is remarkably faithful to the small-scale novel, even though it disguises this with hops to Madagascar, the Bahamas, Uganda, Miami and Venice, notably in the centre of the movie at the eponymous gambling house. The opening includes several large-scale action sequences, all of which are brand new as well as a climax in a crumbling palazzo in Venice, filmed with awesome skill by Martin Campbell and his amazing team, but the finest moments are those between Bond and tragic Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), their doomed romance handled with such deftness and delicacy (the sequence in the shower, in which Bond helps her overcome her trauma after witnessing the killing of a villain by sitting next to her and changing the temperature of the water, all filmed and performed in one graceful move) that it lifts the film out of the Bond series almost entirely. And the scene in which she gives him his first tailored tux is a beaut. I listed my favourites among the Bond adventured here. From the 1953 novel by Ian Fleming.
12. Payback – Straight Up: The Director’s Cut (2006)
In 1999 Mel Gibson had a jot with Payback, a remake of Pint Blank (1967), the Lee Marvin existential revenge thriller based on the first of the ‘Parker’ novels by Richard Stark (a pseudonym, as most know, for Donald Westlake). Using the bleach bypass system it delivered a steely hued look that matched the jet blue heart of its lead character, a career criminal betrayed by his wife and his partner now back from the dead to get back what they owe him – $70k. It’s a remake of Point Blank (1967), probably the best movie of its kind ever made. Flamboyantly directed by John Boorman, it remains a classic of non-linear editing, using such nouvelle vague modernism to muse on the nature, means and ends of revenge, all set in a ravishingly shot Northern California almost at the peak of hippiedom (it would make a perfect double bill with Richard Lester’s equally fragmented Petulia). The remake by Brian Helgeland, as shown in the cinemas, was a financial success but was in the third act almost completely remade by other hands (I plan to post on this separately very shortly). An hommage to gritty 70s films like The French Connection and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (which I previously reviewed here and which Helgeland went on to remake himself with director Tony Scott, with disappointing results unfortunately), it was not until 2006 via DVD and Blu-ray that Helgeland was able to go back to his film and deliver this director’s cut and reinstate his original third act. The result is infinitely superior, much tougher, closer to the original text (not least because it removes the voice over), bleaker, much shorter and actually that much nearer to the original Lee Marvin movie too, especially in its opening where ‘Porter’ (as the main character is called int he film), walks zombie-like across a bridge as he thinks about his betrayal and what he plans to do to exact his revenge. From the 1962 novel ‘The Hunter’ by Richard Stark.
So there you have it, a dozen mystery remakes that I think make the grade – of course there are plenty more films that deserve honourable mentions, like Scorsese’s overblown but entertaining Cape Fear (though The Departed gets no love here) and The Deep End, written and directed by David Siegel and Scott McGehee from the novel by Elizabeth Saxnay Holding with Tilda Swinton retracing Joan Bennett’s steps from The Reckless Moment. On the other hand I definitely prefer the original 1934 version of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much to his 1956 remake for instance even though the director didn’t apparently. But then Hitch’s movies are very hard to remake, though that just might have to be the subject of its own post, sometime in the future … What are your favourites? See you again, no doubt …
Sergio – What a great idea for a post. And you’ve mentioned three of my favourites (The Maltese Falcon, The Postman…, and DOA). I’ll admit to being a bit of a purist, so if a remake is going to deviate from the novel (if it’s based on one), I need it to add something really special. Some remakes have that.
Thanks Margot – glad you are also a fan of Portman – they made such a fuss about the casting when it came out but nobody seemed to notice what a really fine adaptation of the book it is.
Great dozen, Sergio! I still have not seen ‘The Breaking Point’, but you’ve stirred me to fix that, my friend. Love the films that populate your list. I find it wonderful you’ve included the Thomas Crown remake which I really enjoyed when I caught it first-run (now I need to re-watch it). So, too, for throwing some much needed remembrance for ‘Ransom’ and ‘Payback’ (director’s cut). They are way under-valued. Lastly, good honorable mention for Scorsese’s ‘Cape Fear’ (it is overblown but entertaining), and for keeping ‘The Departed’ off the list ;-).
Thanks Mike – looks like we are singing from the same hymn sheet on this lot! 🙂 I think Nicholson in particular really overburdens and overbalances Departed to a detrimental effect (it is said that even Scorsese was unable to really stand up to him).
Yep, my prime complaint. Rewatched some of it over the weekend on AMC (Mob Week) and he remains that in the work. Thanks.
He can be a sensational actor so it is maddening when he does his over-the-op schtick! And yet I know people who love it …
I know what you mean. And I’ve probably argued with some of them over the fact ‘The Departed’ in far from Scorsese’s best ;-).
Scorsese is probably incapable of making a boring movie and there is much to enjoy – but it’s not as good as Infernal Affairs and I think is also told quite confusingly – and that last shot of the rat is just the dumbest thing … So of course it was his biggest commercial success ever!
So glad it’s not just me – so many of my serious film-going mates seem to like that film so much! Mind you, I can be an awkward beggar – I’m the one person in the universe who apparently thinks that Michael Mann’s films and especially HEAT are only okay …
That’s a very interesting list and one that can”t have been easy to compile. I’m with you all the way on the first three but I’d diverge on numbers 4, 5, 6 & 7. Having said that, I can see the merits in No Way Out & DOA – although I think we’ve chewed the fat over those two before .
On The Thomas Crown Affair, I think you make a very good case here and I’m not far off being convinced. I thought the remake was inferior when I saw it on release but it’s risen in my estimation over the years while the original has faded a little.
Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale is of course the better film yet I have to admit I have a soft spot for the madcap 60s movie – that Bacharach score is nothing short of sublime.
Now, time for another suggestion. I’m firmly convinced that Raoul Walsh improved on his own already very good High Sierra when he remade it as Colorado Territory.
Well, we can’t be in total agreement all of the time – and what you have said previously about the original version of DOA did make me really want yo go back and rethink it – I still prefer the remake, though this is not necessarily a list of films where the remakes are always better though I think it to be true in many cases! Thanks for mentioning the Walsh films because I was tempted – originally it was going to be a top 11 (in honour of Ocean) but had to have Breaking Point so it became a dozen. This might be how it becomes lucky thirteen! I did try not to ‘cheat’ too often by just having other adaptations of the same source, but I did do that too … In the case of Scarface I just like the fact that they are so completely different and yet do tell exactly the same story. I am a huge De Palma fan but this is very far from his best film in my view as it is a bit of an endurance test at times – but it has earned its place in the movie pantheon I think all the same.
I actually think there is a distinction between a worthwhile remake and one that betters the original, the latter clearly being the rarer variety. The Breaking Point, which I’m really glad you included, is one of those where I can’t quite make up my mind which category it belongs in. Hawks’ film is an iconic piece of work that’s very wonderful in many ways. The Curtiz movie is very different, and has very different aims, despite coming form the same source. Which one do I prefer, and which one is the better film? I honestly don’t know, and I’m not sure it matters all that much anyway.
I think Scarface may be one of De Palma’s weakest films, and I’m saying that as a bif=g fan of the director. It seems like the De Palma film that non-De Palma fans love most though. I certainly don’t object to its inclusion here though – it has, as you say, earned its place in cinematic history.
Well, I know what you mean abotu To have and Have Not – the Bogart and Bacall (and Brennan) version is sexy fun and revels in its artifiality and is an ultra typical film from Hawks – and has very little to do with the book. The Curtiz film is beautiful and sad and is much closer to the book. The tone couldn’t be more different so it’s more about reclaiming a greta movie from the tendency (usually well-earned) to dismiss remakes as inferior. I think i had to watch Scarface about 5 times before I started to even half like it – which is to say I appreciate what it’s trying to do even if I still find it often frustrating to watch. And I say this as some one who approached de Palma with a quite considerable degree of near-idolitry – yes, that includes Mission to Mars. In the case of the latter I believe the extended sequence with the meteorites puncturing the shell of the ship and the EVA with its fatal climax is, for my money, one of the best and best-sustained suspense sequences he has ever put together. On the other hand it is overly earnest and it’s easy to see why people laughed in the wrong places – and it is too deferential to 2001 too.
Just browsing through what you and Mike have been saying about The Departed – a film I’m actually really fond of, just to be more contrary – and I thought this is kind of the way I feel about the remake of Scarface. Pacino is giving it too much for my taste and it hurts the film badly for me.
The reason i would disagree about Pacino is that he does match the coke-fuelled, over-the-top, operatic style of the piece and so doesn;t stick out in the way that Nicholdon does as he just feels like an actor in a different movie whereas the whole point is that Scarface is a trult ‘excessive’ film, but all stemming from the Montna performance – and I say this as someone who has only belatedly started giving the De Palma remake much in the way of respect. Infernal Affairs is a much better movie than departed in my view – have you seen it?
Fair enough. No, I haven’t seen Internal Affairs, which may be the reason I like The Departed better than some.
Well, i wouldn’t to belabour the point as you might feel the opposite (and incidentally, I am less keen on the Infernal Affairs sequels / prequels) – worth making the comparison though (a bit like watching City of Fire and Reservoir Dogs but not as profitable) and there is much to enjoy in departed – I dare say it was also a question of thwarted expectations on my part …
Oh absolutely. I reckon the expectations we bring to any movie can significantly color our reaction to it.
Which however is not an excuse to park one’s critical faculties – I do think, deep down, that despite this the things that were wrong with Departed for me (the unclear plotting, the unbalancing OTT presence of Nicholson, the melodramatic finish with Wahlberg’s character) should automatically obscure the fine work from most of the cast and Scorsese sure touch with his staging. I’d rather re-watch The Aviator or Shutter Island, though I can live without Gangs of New York , despite the amazing Daniel day Lewis!
True. We ought to be capable of recognizing strengths and faults regardless of what we’d been hoping for beforehand.
I’d never dream of arguing that The Departed was anywhere near the best of Scorsese’s work – although I don’t think it’s the worst either. Gangs of New York is pretty poor though, and hasn’t aged at all well.
I have only ever watched bits of Gangs since its cinema release – that is certainly an example of a film that seemed to crumble under the weight of expectations!
Alain Corneau’s Police Python 357 is another (unacknowledged, I think) fine adaptation of The Big Clock.
Satan Met a Lady, with the comic actor Warren Williams as the Sam Spade-equivalent, Bette Davis as the femme fatale and Alison Skipworth as Gutman’s alterego and the falcon replaced by the Horn of Roland (did this inspire the Mukkinese Battlehorn?) also rips off Hammett.
Thanks Roger – yup, Satan Met a Lady w is also an adaptation (and a credited one at that, so not a rip off as Warners had the rights), trying to cash in on the Thin Man hit. Terrible film though … I have not seen the Alain Corneau’s film of the Fearing book, thanks very much for that, I shall seek it out. Speaking of the late director, have you seen De Palmaa’s Passion, his remake of Love Crime? It is very different and quite wonderful (if you’re a fan).
I enjoyed Satan Met a Lady, Skipworth, Williams and Bette Davis are so miscast compared with Hammett’s originals but fit together so well if you don’t think of Hammett.
I’m in two minds about De Palma- all of De Palma’s films- there’s astonishing skill and virtuosity in his camera-workand effects and such god-awful clunking characterisation. I’ve seen his Scarface twice, Hawks’s I don’t know how often, and I think there’s no comparison. I wish De Palma had been given a tenth of the budget and told to use his imagination.
I love screwball mysteries Roger, but I’m afraid I found Satan just too silly even for me. I am a De Palma devotee though, so I suspect we are destined not agree, though Scarface is not my favourite by a long chalk – I’m actually going to do a post on his film (so you may wish to skip that one!) but I think, in terms of combining rich characterisation and his storytelling skills, his big hits like Carrie, The Untouchables and especially Carlito’s Way are truly superb.
You’ll have to repeat that for us in the cheap seats chum 🙂
Really good picks. I have to confess that I, too, am awfully fond of the first Casino Royale.
Thanks Kelly – I love the Bacharach score but otherwise, and I have tried about 5 times, I just haven’t been able to sit though the 60s version of Casino Royale – just doesn’t do it for me in terms of humour though heaven known I’m easy to please when it comes to silly laughs and will happily watch a Matt helm or Derek Flint movie for instance.
CASINO ROYALE the first film is goofy, but not Quite as grating as SATAN MET A LADY–in spots, Sellers is better than he often is in films, and Pettet particularly but also Lavi, Andress, Bouchet, the then still slightly too young Bisset and the sadly too briefly seen Tracy Reed are delightful to watch. (The CLIMAX! tv version of CASINO is well-cast except for the Bond, and less dull to me in its brevity, and far less ridiculous in its betrayal climax, than the recent film.) I’m surprised you can stand a Helm but find SATAN annoying.
With regards to Satan, which I will now have to watch again to reassure myself or post a retraction, clearly – it just felt too strident, straining for the humour and usually I like Warren william a lot! All I meant about the Helm films is that I am prepared to watch them as goofy movies that aren’t much good but don’t make my head hurt either. The trouble with the original 60s Casino, for me, is the constant sense of waste and disappointment – but yes, Sellers is remarkably sober and well-contained here for th emost part (well, until he walked off the set and refused to return). The palazzo finish in the remake does feel a bit like a big climax added to give the film an explosive finale but is technically impeccable and the scenes with Vesper at the end really work in my view.
There is no way to look at CASINO ROYALE the first film and not see colossal waste of potential as well as budget…particularly when Sellers is on point and not working the easy laugh.
I am utterly unconvinced by the climactic events as staged in the recent CASINO ROYALE, and will cheerfully admit to apparently being in a small minority thus. I haven’t read the novel, but if it is replicated in the newer film, it, too, is also the kind of plot-convenient untragic (because ringing so falsely) quasi-operatic (and machismo-stroking) resolution that I can’t stand in BDP or Stone or Peckinpah, nor Hemingway nor Mailer for that matter–I will sacrifice myself because I have betrayed you…oh, ha ha, come to think of it, the sacrifice is in itself further betrayal, isn’t it? Funny old world, eh? A pity we never chose to have a conversation about the matters at hand, eh? Glug glug.
The book is well worth a read but is much more contained – it all takes place pretty much in the casino and the hotel and the ending – sort of gets replicated in the novel on which Vertigo was based but which is also closer to the kind of thing James L. Cain used a decade earlier – just shows the pair torn apart, slowly but surely, by the secret of the betrayal, leading to suicide and the famous last line, “The bitch is dead”. I come to the movie from the POV of a hardened Bond fan, so I dare say it’s all a bit relative …
Does Obsession count as a remake of Vertigo? Or Dressed to Kill a remake of Psycho? Body Double a remake of Rear Window? How did DePalma get away with that for over 15 years? I found a lot to like in nearly all of them. Blow Out I think is his best from that Hitchcock ripoff period. I very much liked Love Crime (I’ll watch anything with Kristin Scott-Thomas. Anything.) so I’ll have to track down Passion. Interesting to have the two actresses so close in age in DePalma’s version.
Two remakes I enjoyed more than (or about the same as) the first movie:
1. Original Sin Total guilty pleasure. Based on Waltz into Darkness by William Irish which was first filmed by Truffaut as Mississippi Mermaid. Original Sin is truer to the novel even if it is an utter sleazefest. Woolrich would’ve hated it being turned into soft core porn, but I think it works.
2. The Uninvited (2009) — remake of the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). It’s not a brilliant movie nor is it very well made, but I have to count it because though I had seen the Korean original (which is indeed brilliant and rather beautiful) several years earlier I never knew The Uninvited was a remake. Even while I was watching it! I was so taken in by the plot mechanics that I was fooled by the clever twist. Only then did I recall that it reminded me of a movie I had seen before. Most of the US remakes of Asian horror or mystery movies are inferior to the originals, but I think this one is pretty darn good as a remake.
Can I add a sci-fi/horror movie? Cronenberg’s THE FLY is vastly superior to the original. Man oh man is that one impressive remake!
Some of the other horror remakes (of sorts) are improvements, as well…the newer SHE CREATURE and THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL are marked improvements (further demonstrating the ineptitude of the remakes of THE HAUNTING and PSYCHO, among other horror and suspense films). And, of course, the Hammer approaches to the Universal roster of properties were often charmingly fruitful.
Yes, true and true Todd – obviously I was focussing strictly on mystery movies, though I toyed with including remake of The Thing as a kind of SF/Horror whatdunit but eventually thought it too much of a stretch – westerns and horror do seem to be particularly loaded with remakes, don’t they?
Film is loaded with remakes. And not even simply H’wood. Your beloved BDP and such fellow-travelers as Argento are certainly as prone as the remakers of Finney’s THE BODY SNATCHERS or the umpteenth remakes of classic (public-domain)adventure novels. One, with THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, could make the argument that that even more than most ghost-drama it is criminous on several counts, but I was simply reminded of how closely allied the impulses to remake and results of remaking are similar, and can put the lie to the notion that remakes are always inferior, however likely they are to be. (And PSYCHO as suspense film[s] based on a suspense novel is certainly relevant here, and there is a non-supernatural reading possible of THE HAUNTING, and even more of the novel the films are based on, but that reading pushes pretty hard.)
It is certainly one of the differences I suppose between K=Jackson and Matheson that such a reading might be possible – hard to imagine that with Matheson (only seen the film of Hell House though). Argento has certainly pilfered a lot of Brown’s The Screaming Mimi in his films though there is a nice bit of Woolrich in Cat O’ Nine Tails too. I agree though, if we see it as the same process as seeing a new production of a text as in an opera or play or a symphony, then why not? Instinctively of course we reject the idea of warmed over goods – believe it or not, the reason why Hollywood started using roman numerals for copyright dates was precisely to do this and not make viewers reject a film that was being re-released maybe with a surreptitious title change.
Thanks for all that John – I did mention Cronenberg’s The Fly in my intro because, along with Carpenter’s The Thing, I also rate it among the best of the far too many remakes of classic ‘moster’ movies (for want of a better phrase). De Palma, especially when he writes his own scripts, often creates essays about films in my view, true hommages in that sense, and I think Obsession, Dressed to Kill and Body Double, while obviously ussing the plots from Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window, are not remakes but comments – after all, it’s no accident that Dressed to Kill starts with a shower sequence and then knocks off the blonde leading lady after half an hour but it’s the art gallery pick up you are going to remember, along with the sly use of two blondes to confound viewers who think it is just a Hitchcock rip-off. Body Double, a film I dismissed early on but which I quite like now, is a bit too close to its source and in my view doesn’t do enough with it. Sisters, which conflates Psycho and then, via split screen, switches to Rear Window, is his first and perhaps best Hitchcock riff, don;t you think? Genuinely imaginative and scary and with a stunning performance from Kidder. I know what you mean about Original Sin but it’s not really a remake filmed with knowledge of the original but just an adaptation of the book, right? Not a big Jolie fan either (though I liked her in The Changeling). On the other hand, I will track down the Korean film as I have not seen it, thanks very much for the info.
Aside from the almost inarguable examples of THE MALTESE FALCON and MURDER, MY SWEET, I’d suggest that your citation of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is nearly the Least controversial suggestion you make here (I’d still like to know why she’s Rene rather than Renee, though). Though I don’t hate the newer DOA, and like the newer RANSOM rather well particularly for a Gibson film, though I’ve never seen the telefilm. But I can’t abide De Palma, and De Palma and Stone together with Pacino losing his wit is just sad.
THE SADIST, which some would like to claim for the angels and/or the demons as a genuine performance by Arch Hall, Jr., is the first film to be essentially about Starkweather the serial killer, so BADLANDS is so crushingly better a film about S and Fugate as to help keep the exploitation fodder completely out of sight. But THE SADIST might well compare favorably to the STARKWEATHER wallow, which I haven’t seen, but gives the wallowing vibe.
I’m still waiting for a credible film of THE EXECUTIONERS. CAPEs FEAR both swing and miss…by several meters if not a mile.
You know what, I really have to start reading MacDonald more seriously – it’s probably because he isn’t as well regarded outside of the US but I know very little of his work and after George Kelley’s great posts I feel I really must – thanks Todd, for the reminder. The original Cape Fear has some great actors and is well-assembled but more than anything it was a film that stood out because it pushed the boat in terms of content not because it is really much good. The Scosese predictably makes it all more morally ambiguous but does, perhaps less predictably, also give it a nice horror vibe by employing Hammer and Amicus regular Freddie Francis to shoot it – but yeah, neither is really that memorable I agree.
Not seen The Sadist – but are we straying into horror again? Sorry about my De Palma fixation getting in the way (there is a whole post dedicated to him coming which I will dedicate, with apologies, to you and sweet freedom) – the lovely Renee gets here name changed back instantly (thank you mate)! You mean it’s not just me that prefers the Brosnan-Russo-Leary-Faison-Gazzara-McTiernan Crown to the McQueen? I feel really good about that – I really like it darn it!
No, despite revisionist yearning, there’s no compelling reason to see THE SADIST, which is not even arguably horror in the way that PSYCHO is, nor gothically styled in the manner of the film of THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER nor CAPE FEAR the second (and having read THE EXECUTIONERS, still my favorite of JDMc’s novels, it’s impossible for me to take CAPEs FEAR seriously, despite some good performances in both)…THE SADIST is simply Starkweather and to a lesser extent Fugate transposed to Out West and less accomplished in their activity (leaving aside the lack of talent that is Arch Hall, Jr., and the kind of microbudget that gets in the way as much as it encourages innovation in better filmmakers than we have in this film). It is, nonetheless, clearly the first fictional film I’m aware of to be patterned after that duo and as such is a sorry precursor to the brilliant film a decade later (Malick has never done better, nor really as well again).
No, no–you spell Rene correctly originally…it’s Rene Russo herself who insists on gender-bending her own name (or, at least, her family has, or her publicists).
And while I don’t love the newer CROWN, it’s certainly at least as impressive to me as the original…as with DOA, the flaws that keep the original from being utterly brilliant are somewhat mollified, at least, in the newer film. (Though the manic energy of the first DOA and utter cool of the first CROWN are also not quite captured for me by the remakes.)
I certainly wouldn’t ask you to resubmit yourself to SATAN MET A LADY…I have little desire to experience that again, either. Like a really bad Bob Hope crime comedy, which is to say, Not MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE by any stretch.
Though McQueen reminds me of another remake which improves, if not quite completely enough but still markedly, over the first adaptation: THE GETAWAY. Peckinpah is figuratively and all but literally masturbating all over his adaptation of the Thompson novel, because gosh darn it, women are just these treacherous creatures that always need to be controlled, doncha know? The married couple of actors at the heart of the remake do some things wrong, and certainly far too cutely by the end of the film (the noises Kim Basinger was dubbed in making in the trash-dumping sequence, as if she’s on a water-ride in an amusement park, were a very odd misstep the filmmakers had to go out of their way to make), but it’s so much better a film than the first adaptation that I can forgive them that. Jackie Kashian, film reviewer as well as standup comedian, has noted particularly in this film that she’s feeling as if she has a little too much insight into Basinger and Baldwin’s actual sex lives in the sex scene they perform in the film; I was given the same frisson more in the nearly fatal argument the characters have later on, but while that took me out of the scene a bit on second viewing (years after the first, and after the actors’ divorce and more recent public sniping), it works in the context of the film (and I will admit I shared no discomfort with the sex scenes involving the leads nor their antagonist couple, played by Jennifer Tilly and Michael Madsen).
Will have to track down The Sadist, thanks Todd – and I agree, Badlands is still his best work for me by quite a considerable margin (I’d like to say ‘thus far’ but I am not really keeping up with his output at present). I’m doing a post on The Getaway, book and both films, in a month or so – and I agree, the extended cut of the remake does definitely tell you more than you’d probably like to know but the improvement is undeniable in its handling of the wife – for the most part it is just horrible in the Peckinpah, undermining even the bots of dialogue where she might have shown some strength – and I say this as a fan of the director (and of Walter Hill).
Also, contrast the Tilly character as handled with the Sally Struthers. Tilly gets a role that verges on the human, if not a good human.
True enough chum, although I did wish at the time that they had cast it differently as it seemed like such an obvious role for her (I mean, hadn’t they seen her in Bound? I did miss Lettieri though, way tougher than Madsen.
There, you’ve gone and outdone yourself again, Sergio! Ditto for our lively fellow-bloggers and commentators. For once I’ve a better score not having seen only three of the 12 mystery movie remakes, MURDER MY SWEET, THE BREAKING POINT, and DOA. However, I admit to not having seen some of the originals of these remakes. I was delighted to see Gibson make the cut in two films just as I was with the inclusion of SCARFACE that I have been planning to watch again. For some reason I remember Pacino most for this film and DOG DAY AFTERNOON. Unlike John, I couldn’t stomach Jeff Goldblum’s THE FLY and in spite of the special effects thought it was a far cry from the original. Thanks for mentioning Martin Curtiz’s films: I became a fan of James Cagney after watching the film (particularly that last poignant scene in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES) which Sergio Leone adapted in an entirely different context in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. Good stuff all round, Sergio!
Thanks for the kind words Prashant – I love Angels with Dirty Faces (the killer ending is just wonderful, I agree) but I never thought of a connection to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – wow, will have to think about that one! Murder, My Sweet is I think easy to get and I really recommend it – along with Falcon and Double Indemnity it forms the foundation for the Film Noir genre.
Some great leads with good reasons to pursue them.
Where do you find the time to view, review, and report (not to mention doing all the reading you do)?
Thanks David – very kind of you and I hope you enjoy the debates here. If you think I blog a lot, you should see what Margot Kinberg manages to do in her spare time!