As anyone frequenting the multiplex, or well-informed sites such as this one, intimately knows, remakes are a hit fad in Hollywood at the moment. Whether it be a beloved favorite (“Halloween,” “The Karate Kid”), cult sensation (“Death Race,” “Fame”), or a movie no one really remembers or talks about any more (“Sorority Row,” “Fun with Dick and Jane”), matters little, as long as there are pennies to be squeezed from their potential name value. After all, if you loved the original, you might as well watch the remake, right? Why gamble your $10 (plus concession, babysitting or parking costs) on the unknown?
As we’re destined to be inundated with expensive retreads for at least another decade, now seemed like an opportune time to put together a Top 5 list naming five truly special, one-of-a-kind films which should never, ever, under no circumstance, be remade.
But, before beginning, a word of intent: with this list I’ve tried to steer clear of obvious choices, such as “The Godfather,” “Citizen Kane” or “Star Wars.” We all know they’re sacred cows, and having them on the list would be too expected, not to mention boring. Plus, the chances of them being remade is pretty scant (for now, at least). I’ve also avoided including more than one work by a single director (“E.T.” was indeed a back-up choice) or classics whose primary source material offers radically different creative opportunities, such as “The Wizard of Oz.”
I should also note that, though I’m generally apathetic towards remakes, the talent attached can make all the difference in the world. Tell me Brett Ratner is redoing “Deliverance” and I’m consumed with the blazing fury of a thousand suns. Yet, tell me that Darren Aronofsky is helming, and I’m suddenly mighty curious and willing to hold off judgment until seeing the final product. Let’s remember, prior to recent days, no one wanted a new version “True Grit,” but now that the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges are involved, it’s the talk of the ‘net.
Anyhoo, enough nonsense, on to the Top 5!
5. “The Night of the Hunter” — Everyone loves an unforgettable villain, a fact the Movieland money-men know all too well, and there are few baddies more loathsome than Reverend Harry Powell, the sadistic evangelical murderer propelling director Charles Laughton’s chilling 1955 masterpiece. With his trademark “Love” and “Hate” knuckle-tattoos (an awesome shtick referenced in both Scorsese’s “Cape Fear” remake and Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”), ever-present switch-blade and leering gaze, Powell, as portrayed by Robert Mitchum, is one of the great silver-screen menaces and it would be tempting to try to recapture that magic in a gussied-up studio redo. However, Hollywood has shown a strong aversion as of late towards using weighty Christian messages and themes (minus the dramatic Jesus hero death pose, which still pops up far more than necessary), and “The Night of the Hunter” would be utterly meaningless if stripped of them. No, this is one classic that needs to be left alone — and that’s the gospel truth!
4. “Evil Dead” — The horror genre, more than any other, feeds off older, recognizable properties like a demented dope fiend on a bender, and whereas I can let a “Prom Night” or “The Hills Have Eyes” happily slide by, it would be a crime against all that is good and holy in the universe to even try to recapture the manic, hells-a-poppin’ brilliance of any of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” flicks. There are few directors currently working in horror films who have even an iota of Raimi’s comedic sensibilities, and there’s little doubt in my stubborn mind that a remake would ultimately wind up being a painfully generic gore-a-thon featuring a cast of bland, pretty model-types without a personality between them, spastic editing and a heavy-metal soundtrack. And, let’s face it, there’s only one Bruce Campbell, and even attempting to cast another dude in the all-important Ash role would be decidedly un-groovy …
3. “Vertigo” — With “Psycho,” “The Lady Vanishes” (via “Flightplan”) and “Rear Window” (via “Disturbia”), already being given the glossy revamp treatment, and “The Birds” currently in development over at Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes shingle, I’m always a mite nervous of what the next treasured Alfred Hitchcock work to be exhumed for profitable parts will be. While my initial fears hovered more over “Strangers on a Train” and “Shadow of a Doubt,” the idea of a “Vertigo” remake makes me positively light-headed. It’s not ultra-well-known outside film-geek circles and boasts a hooky thriller premise, a catchy title and enough erotic potential to make a really successful, dumbed-down, ambiguity-free copycat out of it. Plus, think of how wicked-awesome those celebrated acrophobia shots would look in stomach-churning 3D! *groan* Hopefully, I’m just being overly paranoid about this one, but one never knows when Hollywood’s going to make another haphazard attempt to discombobulate us passionate cinephiles.
2. “The Great Escape” — While war movies are currently on the decline in popularity, there’s been a considerable upswing in men-on-a-mission epics, with “Inglourious Basterds” earning multiple Oscar nods, and upcoming wannabe-blockbuster efforts such as “The Expendables,” “The A-Team” and “The Losers” looking to carry the torch, and certainly there’s no better take on this nifty sub-genre than “The Great Escape.” In fact, unlike the three above choices, I can totally see how this would be something of a no-brainer property to try to reinvigorate. Cast a handful of A-list (or high B-list) buff actors and throw in plenty of dazzling, visceral pyrotechnics and you have a fairly easy-to-market smash-hit on your hands (leapin’ lizards, I really hope there are no studio executives reading this!). But just as Bruce Campbell can’t be replaced in an “Evil Dead” redo, there’ll never be another actor capable of recapturing the intense physicality and all-around cool-ness of Steve McQueen, whose remarkable Cooler King character is as untouchable an on-screen icon as almost any Hollywood has produced. Take into account the 1963 original’s epic-length-scope, taut, character-driven drama, built around suspense and dialogue, not action, and bittersweet ending — three crucial elements largely unpopular in contemporary mainstream filmmaking — and it feels like a remake prospect that, had the name not already been taken, might as well be titled “Mission: Impossible.”
1. “Jaws” — Do you even have to ask why? Had Steven Spielberg simply relied on shark attacks to juice his adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel, we probably would have seen a half-dozen remakes already. No, he had to go and turn his silly killer fish movie into one of the greatest on-screen adventures in cinema history, with three perfectly-cast actors — Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw — creating memorably flawed, all-too-human heroes who stick with us well after the Orca has found her final resting place on the sandy floor of the briny deep. The fact of the matter is that Spielberg showed audiences at the time something they had never seen before, with the gargantuan Great White’s horrifyingly sudden bloody feeding-frenzies, and it’s flat-out impossible to re-capture that same shock and awe (just ask the directors of “Jaws 2” through “The Revenge”). Rather, the poor sap (and you can bet they’d be well-below Spielberg level) suckered into taking the reins of a remake would be stuck catering to a PG-13 world, probably forced to sexy-up the whole enterprise, and ordered to show way more CG shark footage than necessary. Although I’m not-yet-concerned that a “Jaws Version 2.0” is lurking anywhere in the near future — despite recurrent feverish rumors and speculation — I’m sure it will happen one day (probably a week or so after Spielberg shuffles off the mortal coil …) and I can’t imagine it being anything other than, well, toothless.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section.
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