- Published on Thursday, August 02 2012
- Written by Greg McIver
In 1990, the world was introduced to Total Recall, a sci-fi action thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. 22 years later, Total Recall is back on the screen with a new look and a new star, Colin Farrell. Total Recall joins the list of Hollywood remakes that seems to get longer and longer with each passing year. And while many movie lovers sigh and talk about unoriginality in Hollywood, they often forget that there are actually some pretty good remakes out there. Below are 4 examples of excellent film remakes!
The Manchurian Candidate -- The original Manchurian Candidate was released in 1962 and starred Frank Sinatra. It’s the story of American POWs who were captured, brainwashed, and then sent back to America so they could be pawns in a conspiracy involving the assassination of a high profile government figure. The 1962 original still holds up today with its copious amounts of tension, paranoia, and intrigue. The 2002 remake starring Denzel Washington takes all of those elements and ramps them up with a more intense tone and creepy visual style. But the style of the remake never overshadows the substance. It stays faithful to the original’s ideas but keeps them fresh and interesting by taking them in new directions. The last 10 minutes of the 2002 version will have you on the edge of your seat as the movie keeps you guessing at the ultimate outcome, while emphasizing the elements of duty and sacrifice that make for a satisfying yet heartbreaking conclusion.
Cape Fear -- 1962 saw the release of another tense thriller. Cape Fear starred Robert Mitchum as Max Cady, a man recently released from prison who begins stalking his attorney Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), the man he blames for putting him there. It’s a standard tale of revenge that works because of the fine performances by the actors and the well paced escalation of conflict. The 1991 version starring Nick Nolte is not only a successful remake but a great stand-alone movie in its own right. Both movies deal with a good man who compromise his values in order to do what they think is right. Peck’s Sam Bowden did the right thing at the beginning of the story; now he must go to great lengths to protect his family, even if it means violating his own moral code in order to do so. However, Nick Nolte’s Sam Bowden is in this situation because he compromised his ethics. Because of this, the Max Cady (Robert De Niro) of the 1991 version is more of a human embodiment of the consequences one must face when such a violation occurs. Both movies are fine example of cinema, but today’s moviegoing audience might find the remake more appealing because it’s moral ambiguity is slightly more intense.
The Thing -- The 1982 film directed by John Carpenter is a remake of the Howard Hawks classic Thing From Another World. The remake essentially took the concept of the original -- an alien lands on earth and attacks people -- and took it in a completely different direction. Carpenter showed true bravery by going head-to-head with the notion that what you don’t see is much scarier than what you do see. He flat out told moviegoers that what he was going to show them was far scarier than anything they could imagine. Some might not agree and call that egotistical showboating. Others might admire the man for his creativity and boldness. I tend to fall in with the latter group.
The Maltese Falcon -- Yup! The original 1941 classic starring Humphrey Bogart is a remake of the 1931 film starring nobody you’ve ever heard of. I don’t really need to go into why the Bogart version is a classic. Film scholars have waxed philosophical about all of the mystery, suspense, humor, and questionable morals that the film contains. The 1941 classic is often credited for launching the Film Noir genre in America. The 1931 version is often credited for nothing. Another interesting fact is that the 1941 version is actually the second remake. A 1936 version called Satan Met a Lady starred Bette Davis and was an attempt at screwball comedy. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t do very well at the box office. But Hollywood finally succeeded with the third attempt. Do you wanna know what they did right the third time? John Huston tossed the novel onto his secretary’s desk and told her to type it up in a screenplay format. Houston intended to edit it at a later date before sending it to the studio head to be reviewed. Well, somehow, the word-for-word adaptation got sent immediately to the studio head without being edited and it was approved immediately. So, besides great casting, all the filmmakers did was follow the original source material step by step. I wonder if there’s a lesson to be learned from this...
What are some of YOUR favorite movie remakes?
Greg McIver currently resides in New York City. He is a lover of film ranging from the classic to the contemporary. You can check out his other movie reviews and articles on film at www.nerdtopiacast.com.
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