Movie remakes – are they worth it?

Remakes that they never should have made:

I watched the really delightful movie “The Parent Trap” the other day.  Not the horrible remake with Lindsay Lohan, but the original one with Haley Mills.  Natasha Richardson notwithstanding (rest her soul) the remake attempted to recreate the original movie – and missed by a wide margin.  It isn’t as if the various actors tried hard enough, but more that they were given such terrible lines.

This got me to thinking about all the recent remakes of classic movies.

Who can hear the name “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and not think of a fairly scary (for a nine year old) black and white thriller complete with a robot that clearly was a menace, but only to objects that threatened his existence.  The remake was simply too laughingly terrible to watch.  I gave up after twenty minutes.  The choice of Mr. Frozenface (Keanu Reeves) had to be political and not based on talent.  Most of the special effects were just that ‘special effects’.  They appeared as part of the movie just because…

Our satellite channel had “Rollerball” the other day.  Not the original that brought forth the message that corporate greed and violence was a terrible thing, but, instead, quite the opposite.  And nobody can replace James Caan as the protagonist.

Another plain classic is “The Thing”  Originally titled “The Thing from Outer Space” (which I recorded to DVD) was done in black and white and had scenes that didn’t actually make it to the theater because they were “too scary” for an audience of the fifties.  The remake by John Carpenter, featuring Disney alum Kurt Russell, was scary, but for different reasons: they made the monster too visible – a far scarier scenario would have been to just leave it hazy and undefined (like the original) until the final barbecue scene.  By the way, did you know that the TV Marshall (James Arness – Matt Dillon) was the monster?

I have a tape that I recorded way back when that has a really delightful movie called “The Railway Children”  It stars, among others, Jenny Agutter.  The very sad remake (in terms of the plot and entire cinematography) has Ms. Agutter starring as her own mother.

A total disastrous remake was “Flubber” starring Robin Williams.  Nothing could replace the kindly professorship of Fred MacMurray as “The Absent Minded Professor”.  Don’t even get me started on the various Eddie Murphy remakes.

Remakes that are so-so:

“Death Race”.  This movie is a remake of “Death Race 2000” starring David Carradine.  I think that John Statham made an acceptable replacement.  Even though the race is limited (except for the very end) to a prison island the action scenes are engrossing.  Joan Allen (Jason Bourne movies) plays the prison warden and gets killed in a spectacular fashion.

Jodie Foster’s “Freaky Friday” was great.  The first remake (same name) starred somebody entirely forgettable, and the third one had Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan – but not entirely forgettable.

I thought the original (1954) Japanese version of “Godzilla” was a really spiffy movie if you like some guy in a rubber suit flinging his tail around a sand table full of Tokyo’s finest buildings.  The remake, starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno held my interest all the way through.  It was a very well done movie.  Best part:  Broderick’s character is standing in a depression in a field and says “Well, how big can it be?”.  The camera pans upward and shows him standing in a footprint.  A great visual answer.

An absolute classic to end this section:  “House of Wax”.  a 1953 film (in color, no less) starring that great scary guy Vincent Price.  He was backed up by many up and coming stars such as Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson (under his original name), Phyllis Kirk and Carolyn Jones.  There’s five of a kind.  The remake, starring among other unknown people, Paris Hilton, was so-so, but not frightening in the least.

Here are some remakes planned:

“The Incredible Shrinking Man”.  Believe it or not, Eddie Murphy is figured to star. (!!!)

“Logan’s Run”.  Who could forget (or replace) the delectable Jenny Agutter.

“Starfighter” – a remake of Lance Guest’s “The Last Starfighter” which put to use the graphic power of three Cray 2B’s to make the very groundbreaking videos.  I am sure that digital manipulation will make all the difference.  Right.

“Forbidden Planet”.  This was the debut of Robbie the Robot who went on the arm-waving history as the plaything of a rich scientist’s kid (“Danger, Danger Will Robertson”).  The original (starring Leslie Neilson) has one line that grabbed every adolescent boy’s attention:  “Swim suit?  What’s that?” spoken by the beautiful Anne Francis.

“Short Circuit”  No!  Tell me it isn’t true!

“Romancing the Stone”.  Having both Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner on the same screen was dynamite; but I expect that the remake will be a wet fizzle.

There are hundreds out there.  They are either waiting to take their original’s place or have already done so.  Nothing galls me more than to settle down expecting to see a great movie and find it has been replaced by a fantastic, plastic, replacement.