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I saw Rob Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's 1978 horror masterpiece Halloween this weekend. Apart from being one of the most unpleasant hour-and-forty-five-minutes I have ever spent in a movie theater, watching this creatively pointless (if not commercially pointless) remake of a superior film made me wonder what other classic films have been remade in artistically inferior/worthless versions. Suggestions?

(I'll be happy to give my thoughts about this remake of Halloween if anyone is interested.)

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I think any remake is creatively pointless. I've seen the remake of Bewitched and felt pretty much the same way. Some other remakes off the top of my head are The Omen, Amityville Horror....

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I think any remake is creatively pointless.

Maybe not, if you go back especially--as with 'Showboat,' which didn't need to be remade since the first was so good, but the remake was equally interesting and has far more fans, I think. Remakes of Raymond Chandler have sometimes been at least as good, and brought out other attributes of the same material: 'Farewell, My Lovely' with Mitchum and Rampling from the mid 70s is wonderful, even though 'Murder, My Sweet', based on the same material, was excellent too, with Powell and Trevor. Garbo remade 'Anne Christie' after her own silent version (one of the few of her films I've never seen, but I've heard it's good), and the talkie, her first, is an important classic, much better known than the first. Although Claudette Colbert is generally a better actress than Lana Turner, the 1958 remake of 'Imitation of Life' is far more powerful and popular than the early 30s original with Ms. Colbert, IMO, has more dimension and much more imagination in the use of colour, which is still striking here.

Usually, they're probably not as good, even when the author, as Stephen King, wants to remake his own work, in this case, 'The Shining' because he disliked what Kubrick had done, although I thought Kubrick just improved King's material. 'Born Yesterday', 'Sabrina', 'State Fair', 'Breathless' are just a few off the top of my head that are vastly inferior to superlative originals or earlier versions, but I do think it varies. Remakes should be done if the original was truly dreadful for identifiable reasons, and those problems are then possible to largely solve. However, it is true that most remakes are of something that was already good to begin with. 'Moulin Rouge' barely resembles the glorious original with Jose Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor, so my disliking it may have nothing to do with whether that one is a remake or not. I can think of a number of movies that could only be improved in the remake.

Yeah, sure, miliosr, tell us how horrible the remake is--I love a good diatribe of a horrible movie.

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papeetepatrick:

I had several problems with Rob Zombie's take on Halloween. The violence, nudity and foul language are just about beyond belief. I'm a horror movie fan but even I found the combination of the three to be unpleasant in the extreme.

The structure of the movie is also very problematic. The first hour of the movie deals exclusively with the Michael Myers character as a young boy/man -- his murder of his sister Judith, his commital to a mental institution where his mother and the Dr. Loomis character (Donald Pleasance in the original; Malcolm McDowell here) try -- ineffectually -- to reach this monstrous creature. This part of the movie is actually somewhat tolerable as his mother and Dr. Loomis eventually both reach the conclusion that their efforts won't make any difference.

The problem that results, however, from devoting the first hour or so to Michael Myers in a movie that is only 1 hour 45 minutes in length is that most of the events from the 1978 Carpenter version get compressed into about 45 minutes of screentime in the 2007 Zombie version. Character development flies out the window at this point as there isn't any time to include all the set piece murders and develop the characters in any meaningful way. The three female leads really suffer as a result of this. One of the glories of the original Carpenter film is that he took a lot of time to develop the characters of Laurie, Annie and Lynda and make them likeable. In the 2007 version, you hardly get to know Laurie, Annie and Lynda before the mayhem starts (and what you do get to know isn't all that likeable.) Horror films like this just don't work when the leads (especially the lead heroine) are a mystery to the audience. (And it doesn't help that the three female leads in the 2007 version don't come close to the three female leads in the 1978 version in terms of acting ability.)

The third problem I had with the remake is that the special atmosphere of the original is all but absent here. Even though John Carpenter filmed the original in California, he really made you believe that the events of the film were occurring in a small town in Illinois. Likewise, he really captured the special atmosphere peculiar to Halloween night. The remake doesn't have any particular flavor in terms of its locale and the Halloween atmosphere is all but missing. Honestly, it could have been happening on the 4th of July for all the difference it makes in this film.

The movie does have some good things in it. The young actor who plays Michael Myers age 10 is very good and Tyler Mane, who plays the adult Michael Myers, is very frightening. He is very tall, very physically commanding and he moves very fluidly. (Did he have dance training at some point?) The music is excellent -- the film uses the classic theme and other music cues and songs from the original and its sequels.

Still, I would have to qualify this remake as a creative failure overall.

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Can I add The Italian Job and The Ladykillers to the list of pointless remakes - the originals are such classics.

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Steven Soderbergh's 2002 "Solaris". The soviet 1972 original was way better that this boring version, :off topic: (even with George Clooney on it)

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The remake of the Japanese film 'Shall We Dance' with Richard Gere.....A-a-a-gh!--and to a slightly lesser degree, all the remakes of 'Love Affair'---Boyer, Dunne and Ouspenskaya cannot be beat, even by Cary Grant; and Warren Beatty? :off topic:

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Two recent pointless comedy remakes, Fun With Dick And Jane and The In-Laws. The original In-Laws is one of my favorite movies, I love it's sly demented humor, the remake is notable only for making making the great Albert Brooks boring.

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Why did they remake The Wicker Man? Didn't see the new version but told it didn't bear comparison with the original.

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"The Steppford Wives' also popped up on my mind today. I remember watching the original Forbes 1975 original as a kid, and i still have memories of this sci-fi-going-comedy bizarre story, and even being frightened by the female characters...Then, when i went to see the 2004 Oz's version, i was totally dissapointed...the magical wicked absurdity was gone, and i left the movie theatre not knowing exactly what was all that about... :)

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Remakes in theory are perfectly legitimate enterprises, if usually lazy ones – it’s been almost thirty years since the original “Halloween,” a fact I try not to dwell on. I haven’t seen this one, but I did see the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that was done a few years ago. The people doing these remakes tend to have more money to play with, but they don’t use it with any ingenuity, they just ramp up on the gore (in the case of Chainsaw, the goo). However, if this makes people go back to the Carpenter original, then that's a Good Thing.

I'm reminded also of Michael Mann's version of Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon -- 'Manhunter' -- that was remade a few years ago with more money and big stars, and although it was closer to the book it wasn't nearly as effective a film.

"The Stepford Wives' also popped up on my mind today. I remember watching the original Forbes 1975 original as a kid, and i still have memories of this sci-fi-going-comedy bizarre story, and even being frightened by the female characters...Then, when i went to see the 2004 Oz's version, i was totally dissapointed...the magical wicked absurdity was gone, and i left the movie theatre not knowing exactly what was all that about...

Yes, the original really isn’t very good, and yet it still manages to creep you out – I can still remember as a little girl being terrified by the empty black eyes of Katharine Ross’ replacement, and Patrick O’Neal scared me to death. And who can forget Nanette Newman? “I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipe....I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipe....”

The remake of Stepford is terrible, but’s bad in an interesting way. The straightforward if simplistic feminism of the original is discarded and replaced with a very confused and ambivalent attitude toward Nicole Kidman’s career woman – it was as if the filmmakers thought the Men’s Association maybe had a point.

and to a slightly lesser degree, all the remakes of 'Love Affair'---Boyer, Dunne and Ouspenskaya cannot be beat, even by Cary Grant

With each new version it got longer and duller. I love Grant but Boyer was perfect, just perfect.

Although Claudette Colbert is generally a better actress than Lana Turner, the 1958 remake of 'Imitation of Life' is far more powerful and popular than the early 30s original with Ms. Colbert, IMO, has more dimension and much more imagination in the use of colour, which is still striking here.

That’s right.

I’m really dreading Rod Lurie's remake of "Straw Dogs."

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Interesting topic, miliosr. I have no problem with the concept of remakes.especially when the film is itself a remake of a play or other work of art. There are at least 6 versions of A Doll's House, for instance. 4 of Hamlet. 8 of Oliver Twist. Would it really have been better to stop after the first? As long as the best -- or most culturally significant -- versions remain accesible on video, on film series, and in arts cinemas, that's fine with me.

There are a lot more remakes than I, at least, imagined. Googling "film remakes" turned up the following exchaustive list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_remakes

Some remakes are much more satisfying, the Cukor/Garland Star is Born[/u] for instance. Others are ... well ... :) or :yahoo:

How about the sociiological updates, like 12 Angry Men? The wacky updates, like La Ronde[? Or the totally inexplicable updates, like Reefer Madness?

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Some remakes are much more satisfying, the Cukor/Garland Star is Born for instance. Others are ... well ... :) or :yahoo:

Bart--'A Star is Born' is the perfect example of Remake Improvement and Remake Decay (I assume the :yahoo: 's were about the 2nd remake, which is truly a phenomenon, especially when you read, in John Gregory Dunne's account in 'Quintana and Friends', how thrilling it was to get off the project.

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papeetepatrick:

I had several problems with Rob Zombie's take on Halloween. The violence, nudity and foul language is just about beyond belief. I'm a horror movie fan but even I found the combination of the three to be unpleasant in the extreme.

The structure of the movie is also very problematic. The first hour of the movie deals exclusively with the Michael Myers character as a young boy/man -- his murder of his sister Judith, his commital to a mental institution where his mother and the Dr. Loomis character (Donald Pleasance in the original; Malcolm McDowell here) try -- ineffectually -- to reach this monstrous creature. This part of the movie is actually somewhat tolerable as his mother and Dr. Loomis eventually both reach the conclusion that their efforts won't make any difference.

The problem that results, however, from devoting the first hour or so to Michael Myers in a movie that is only 1 hour 45 minutes in length is that most of the events from the 1978 Carpenter version get compressed into about 45 minutes of screentime in the 2007 Zombie version. Character development flies out the window at this point as there isn't any time to include all the set piece murders and develop the characters in any meaningful way. The three female leads really suffer as a result of this. One of the glories of the original Carpenter film is that he took a lot of time to develop the characters of Laurie, Annie and Lynda and make them likeable. In the 2007 version, you hardly get to know Laurie, Annie and Lynda before the mayhem starts (and what you do get to know isn't all that likeable.) Horror films like this just don't work when the leads (especially the lead heroine) are a mystery to the audience. (And it doesn't help that the three female leads in the 2007 version don't come close to the three female leads in the 1978 version in terms of acting ability.)

The third problem I had with the remake is that the special atmosphere of the original is all but absent here. Even though John Carpenter filmed the original in California, he really made you believe that the events of the film were occurring in a small town in Illinois. Likewise, he really captured the special atmosphere peculiar to Halloween night. The remake doesn't have any particular flavor in terms of its locale and the Halloween atmosphere is all but missing. Honestly, it could have been happening on the 4th of July for all the difference it makes in this film.

The movie does have some good things in it. The young actor who plays Michael Myers age 10 is very good and Tyler Mane, who plays the adult Michael Myers, is very frightening. He is very tall, very physically commanding and he moves very fluidly. (Did he have dance training at some point?) The music is excellent -- the film uses the classic theme and other music cues and songs from the original and its sequels.

Still, I would have to qualify this remake as a creative failure overall.

Thanks for the long review, miliosr. I appreciate it when people take the time to tell us not only how they felt about a film (or anything else) but why.

Remakes should be done if the original was truly dreadful for identifiable reasons, and those problems are then possible to largely solve.

You could say there was greater theoretical justification for remakes in the days before video and its successors. Older versions were revived infrequently if at all, so it made sense, commercially and otherwise, to redo a property that had fallen out of circulation. (Sometimes the studios would go out of their way to ensure that the older version went away, an extreme example being "Gaslight" with Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, which MGM tried reportedly to suppress when its version with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman came out only four years later.)

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Thanks for the long review, miliosr. I appreciate it when people take the time to tell us not only how they felt about a film (or anything else) but why.

Yes, thanks from me as well, miliosr, because you've written some very interesting things, none of which I knew, since I didn't even see the oriignal.

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Some remakes are much more satisfying, the Cukor/Garland Star is Born for instance. Others are ... well ... :) or :yahoo:

Bart--'A Star is Born' is the perfect example of Remake Improvement and Remake Decay (I assume the :yahoo: 's were about the 2nd remake, which is truly a phenomenon, especially when you read, in John Gregory Dunne's account in 'Quintana and Friends', how thrilling it was to get off the project.

The Streisand-Kristofferson disaster was the third remake (the fourth, if you count What Price Hollywood? with Constance Bennett).

I think the 1937 version is pretty good. Janet Gaynor is too old for her role but Fredric March is excellent, as good as James Mason.

Interesting that you should mention John Gregory Dunne in this connection. Dunne and Joan Didion later did a screenplay for a picture called Up Close and Personal that was in essence A Star is Born retold with television anchorfolks instead of movie stars.

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assume the :) 's were about the 2nd remake, which is truly a phenomenon, especially when you read, in John Gregory Dunne's account in 'Quintana and Friends', how thrilling it was to get off the project.
Actually, I didn't know about this story, papeetepatrick. The :yahoo: . was a tribute to a number of cheapo remakes -- often "made for tv" -- which I've forgotten in detail, but recall vividly as a type.

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assume the :) 's were about the 2nd remake, which is truly a phenomenon, especially when you read, in John Gregory Dunne's account in 'Quintana and Friends', how thrilling it was to get off the project.
Actually, I didn't know about this story, papeetepatrick. The :yahoo: . was a tribute to a number of cheapo remakes -- often "made for tv" -- which I've forgotten in detail, but recall vividly as a type.

Oh yes, the endless fact-based movies and so on. And it goes the other way around, too, with Charlize Theron in 'Monster', which story of Aileen Wuornos had been done in the early 90s with Jean Smart (I saw only the TV one, which can't have been as good, but Ms. Smart was pretty sharp, as usual.)

The one I was referring to was the Streisand/Kristofferson remake of 'A Star is Born', in case anybody missed that. John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion ran into all manner of horror in the working-up of a script to this, and got out of it with a huge settlement. Dunne tells the story, leaving out some of the ego-details, which there would have to have been.

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assume the :) 's were about the 2nd remake, which is truly a phenomenon, especially when you read, in John Gregory Dunne's account in 'Quintana and Friends', how thrilling it was to get off the project.
Actually, I didn't know about this story, papeetepatrick. The :yahoo: . was a tribute to a number of cheapo remakes -- often "made for tv" -- which I've forgotten in detail, but recall vividly as a type.

Oh yes, the endless fact-based movies and so on. And it goes the other way around, too, with Charlize Theron in 'Monster', which story of Aileen Wuornos had been done in the early 90s with Jean Smart (I saw only the TV one, 'Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story", which can't have been as good, but Ms. Smart was pretty sharp, as usual.)

The one I was referring to was the Streisand/Kristofferson remake of 'A Star is Born', in case anybody missed that. John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion ran into all manner of horror in the working-up of a script to this, and got out of it with a huge settlement. Dunne tells the story, leaving out some of the ego-details, which there would have to have been.

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Although Claudette Colbert is generally a better actress than Lana Turner, the 1958 remake of 'Imitation of Life' is far more powerful and popular than the early 30s original with Ms. Colbert, IMO, has more dimension and much more imagination in the use of colour, which is still striking here.

I like them both for different reasons. They're really concentrating on different things. Sirk's (as usual) using his color work and visual sense to underscore the emptiness of post-WWII society, while the earlier films to be much more focused on the social underpinnings of the story. I actually find all the characters much more three-dimensional in the earlier film, especially the African-American characters. When Delilah's daughter cries that she finds it infinitely preferable to be a white shopgirl rather than an African-American heiress, the film takes her claim seriously.

I also find it interesting that the fate of the characters all seem to be much more in their own hands in the earlier film. Colbert and Louise Beavers go out to make their own fortune (which they do), while Lana Turner seems to trip along the second film with her maid along for the ride.

'Born Yesterday', 'Sabrina', 'State Fair', 'Breathless' are just a few off the top of my head that are vastly inferior to superlative originals or earlier versions,

Legend has it that Billy Wilder went up to Sydney Pollack after the premier of the remade "Sabrina" and said, "I hope you live long enough to see such an inferior remake of one of your own films." Mind full of razor blades, indeed!

"Love Affair"/"An Affair to Remember" is an interesting case in that Leo McCarey remade his own film, and I've always wondered if he was just intrigued by the idea of casting Cary Grant. I think technological advances spurred Hitchcock to remake his own "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

I don't think all remakes are bad, although in those cases, it's often that we've just forgotten the original. I was watching TCM one night and tripped across a film called "Princess O'Rourke" made in the 1940s about a princess from a small European country on a diplomatic tour who gets separated from her entourage and decides to take a bit of a holiday from her royal duties. It deteriorates pretty quickly into American propangandist pulp (albeit with Oliva de Havilland and a closetful of ravishing Orry Kelly couture), but I've often wondered whether Dalton Trumbo and thought it could be rewritten into something much better tha it was.

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Legend has it that Billy Wilder went up to Sydney Pollack after the premier of the remade "Sabrina" and said, "I hope you live long enough to see such an inferior remake of one of your own films." Mind full of razor blades, indeed!

Legend has it that Billy Wilder went up to Sydney Pollack after the premier of the remade "Sabrina" and said, "I hope you live long enough to see such an inferior remake of one of your own films." Mind full of razor blades, indeed!

Thanks, sidwich. I hadn’t heard that one. (Of course, the original “Sabrina” was nobody’s masterpiece, either, and if Pollack had wanted to be rude to a distinguished colleague and senior citizen several snappy comebacks would have been available to him.)

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In the horror genre, it seems like there are so few new ideas at the moment. Either studios are remaking classic horror movies from the 1970s -- Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes -- or they are remaking horror films from Asia.

Nicole Kidman appears to be the current queen of Pointless Remakes of Classic Films, what with her appearance in the Stepford Wives remake and the current Invasion Of the Body Snatchers remake.

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the original “Sabrina” was nobody’s masterpiece, either

I agree.

Then there was the DeMille silent of 'The Ten Commandments', but I don't know anybody who has seen it to compare to the 50s blockbuster we all know.

In that TV movie category were the bios of Frances Farmer with Jessica Lange (film) and Susan Blakely. I believe the film was supposed to have changed some basic facts about Farmer's life, which I don't find appropriate for that kind of film, but I imagine hers was the stronger performance. Then there's the famous early teleplay of 'Days of Wine and Roses', then made into the Lee Remick/Jack Lemmon film. I didn't see the teleplay, but maybe someone did--hard to imagine the original was actually better than the film, but I think Piper Laurie was in it, so it was probably good all the same.

Edited to add: I just found that NYPL has a copy of the silent Ten Commandments, and so I'll report on it soon.

There's also the 4 versions of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses', the Vadim/Moreau, the Close/Malkovich/Pfeiffer and the French miniseries with Deneuve/Kinski/Rupert Everett/D. Darrieux. The latter I far prefer to the others, as might be expected, but in addition to my prejudices, they got it French enough without being just sort of trivial, the way the Vadim was. (There seem to be more than 4, but the 4th one was also from 1989, with Bening/Firth, and I've not seen it, usually called 'Valmont')

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I could do without some of the superfluous "Vanity Fair" and "Pride & Prejudice" movies floating around out there.

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What Price Hollywood? with Constance Bennett).

Oh yes, I love that.

I think the 1937 version is pretty good. Janet Gaynor is too old for her role but Fredric March is excellent, as good as James Mason.

Yes, it is very good, but is there one before that? 'What Price Hollywood' would make Streisand/Kris the 3rd remake, not 4th, unless there's one we haven't mentioned.

Interesting that you should mention John Gregory Dunne in this connection. Dunne and Joan Didion later did a screenplay for a picture called Up Close and Personal that was in essence A Star is Born retold with television anchorfolks instead of movie stars.

Yes, and they had all manner of trouble with that one too, it was supposed to be loosely based on 'Golden Girl' about Jessica Savitch. Dunne wrote 'Monster!' about this movie, which was entertaining, but nothing so special. But they had been pretty fantastic with 'Panic in Needle Park', and really did their field work on it. At one of Didion's readings, she talked about hanging out with the junkies on the Upper West Side and seeing them shoot up. Although their best might be 'True Confessions', based on his novel.

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