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Movie Remakes Are the Golden Goose of the Entertainment Industry

Cast of Ocean's 11 2001 Remake - Tanaya M Harms USAF

One idea for a single film is a waste. Updating it can be a box-office winner, especially using the latest top stars. In a few years they can do it again.

No slouches at reusing old ideas and films about films, showbusiness in general and Hollywood in particular, has created a genre: remaking old movies for a second outing, often with spectacular success.

The Prisoner

Made for television, The Prisoner was a 1960s cult series starring and partly written by Patrick McGoohan, at that time Britain’s highest paid TV-actor. The prisoner is perhaps a spy, who after resigning is kidnapped and taken to The Village, a mysterious place (actually Portmeiron, an eccentric Welsh Italianate place), where he wakes to find everyone’s names replaced by numbers. His quest is to escape or find Number One, but is hampered by a succession of differently-acted Number Twos.

It has been remade and besides the basic premise, bears little resemblance to the original. It’s incidentally joined the clutch of movies that inspire and feed movie-tourism. Older surrealism fans of the first one may dislike it, because people have become accustomed since the 60s to films about a malign, big-brother yet faceless authority versus a hero trying to escape.

Like most rehashes, this assembled a stellar cast (Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ; and English old-school actor Sir Ian McKellen), and in the light of a post-9/11 world, they have re-envisioned rather than simply remade. It joins a long line of re-inventions, including Father of the Bride (1950; 1991), Gone in 60 Seconds (1974; 2000), The Italian Job (1969; 2003); The Ladykillers (1955; 2004); The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976; 2009); The Manchurian Candidate (1962; 2004) and School for Scoundrels (1960; 2006)

Make It, Remake It and Remake It Again

Revisioning is what directors call tackling previous works. Nothing is untouchable, they’ve made remakes of remakes. The 39 Steps, from the 1915 novel by John Buchan, was filmed in 1935, then in 1959 and again in 2009. Alice in Wonderland had film outings in 1950, 1972 and 2010, besides a TV movie version in 1999 and Disney animations in 1951 and 1985.

David Cronenberg’s 1986 The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum started in 1958, in the first screenplay by James Clavell from a story by George Langelaan, who may have looked at Kafka’s 1912 story, Metamorphosis. House of Wax (2005) includes Paris Hilton in the cast and is a loose remake of 1953’s remake of 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum.

The 2007 American musical film Hairspray was adapted from the 2002 Broadway musical based on John Waters’ 1988 comedy film. The Little Shop of Horrors was made in 1960 and again in 1986, while The Jungle Book had treatments in 1942, 1967 and 1994.

King Kong was adapted in 1933,1976 and 2005. The Mummy had versions in 1932, 1959 and 1999. Two hits from 1968 have been reworked: Planet of the Apes in 2001, and The Thomas Crown Affair in 1999. Solaris arrived in 1972 and waited till 2002 for a makeover. Even Hitchcock’s classics are revisioned: The Birds (1963; 2009) and Psycho (1960; 1998).

The Stepford Wives was a hit in 1975, but the remake starring Nicole Kidman in 2004 was not acclaimed. The heist movie Ocean’s Eleven, on the other hand hit twice: the 1960 Rat Pack version starring Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin, then the George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts 2001 update, which grossed $450m. This then inspired Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007).

Titles May Be Tweaked

Occasionally, a title is slightly changed. The Poseidon Adventure of 1972 became Poseidon in 2006; One Hundred and One Dalmatians in 1961 was renamed 101 Dalmatians in 1996’s remake. Anna and The King of Siam (1946), was called The King and I in 1956, and then, Anna and the King in 1999.

Richard Matheson’s 1954 story I Am Legend became 1964‘s movie The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man in 1971, and then in 2007, I Am Legend. The 2001 comedy Down to Earth was a remake of Heaven Can Wait (1978) which was a remake of 1941’s film Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Michael Caine starred in 1964’s Alfie and Jude Law took the honours in the 2004 rejig.

There was Love Affair (1939; 1994) with An Affair to Remember in between (1957); Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) became Love Don’t Cost a Thing in 2003. In 1936 Mr Deeds Goes to Town; in 2002 it was Mr Deeds. The Bishop’s Wife of 1947 became The Preacher’s Wife of 1996.

Technology Revitalises Film Effects

The advance of 3D, tried in the 1950s, enabled Clash of the Titans (1980; 2010) to take $62m in its opening USA weekend, and other techniques will rejuvenate old tricks and illusions. 1984 gems like Ghostbusters, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Dune are set for modernised effects to thrill audiences hungry for new/old cinematic experiences.

Scary Movie, Police Academy, Private Benjamin, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Conan the Barbarian, The Neverending Story and The Karate Kid are lined up for second lives in cinemas, DVDs and merchandising, as Tinseltown reinvents itself, its past and everyone’s futures at the same time.

First published at Suite 101, 25 April 2010.

Photo: Cast of Ocean’s 11 2001 Remake – Tanaya M Harms USAF

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