In the film business, a good idea is gold. all else bows before it. Which explains the abundance of movie remakes that are regularly flung upon us. though studios think remakes are great for business, in reality they’re only good for one thing: To encourage us to revisit the (usually far superior) original. Here are our picks of what happens when movie remakes get it wrong.
The Michael Caines
The Italian Job (1969/2003)
Get Carter (1971/2000)
Michael Caine built his career on these three films, and became a national treasure through his outstanding acting ability and cockney charm. So why oh why would someone like Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job) or Sylvester Stallone (Get Carter) try to fill those much-adored shoes? Jude Law can almost be forgiven for his attempt at playing a New York-based Alfie. almost, but not quite.
The B Movies
In The 50S, the world was on the brink of nuclear destruction. Japanese filmmaker Ishirô Honda harnessed the resultant fear in a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear war. The movie was re-edited and unleashed on America in 1956. But worse was to come when director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) made a shlockfest out of it in 1998. Shame on Matthew Broderick (Election, The Producers) for undertaking this disaster of a disaster movie.
The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
In the early days of Hollywood, if you needed someone to play a scary monster, Boris Karloff was your man. Karloff struck fear into the hearts of audiences with every grimace. The sight of Sting trying to act made 1985’s The Bride another truly frightening experience.
Apparently director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) doesn’t like watching movies in black and white. so he remade Psycho, shot for shot, in colour. Anne Heche struggled to wrap her lungs around Janet Leigh’s magnificent scream. Scary!
Cape Fear (1962/1991)
Why is it that suspense and terror were much more satisfying 60s? Even Martin Scorsese, Jessica Lange and Robert de Niro couldn’t save Cape Fear from drowning in its own murky waters. Though cameos from the film’s original stars, Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, were a welcome touch.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946/1981)
With a screenplay by playwright David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross) and star turns by Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, this remake of the 1946 film-noir classic should have been a pleasure to watch. It wasn’t.
The Box Office Fluff
The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
At least America’s sickly sweet trio, Nora Ephron, Meg Ryan And Tom Hanks, had the decency to change the name of their movie, before twisting the plot to turn on the latest craze – email. This remake hasn’t aged well, and it wasn’t very good in 1998 either. We’re sold on the Jimmy Stewart original.
The original British black theological comedy glowed with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, two of our finest comedians, playing the devil and his loser mate. When Cook’s witty and biting screenplay was rewritten by Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Caddyshack), it became bland, politically correct and palatable for an american teen audience. the final nails in the coffin were Elizabeth Hurley’s (Austin Powers) attempt at playing a sultry devil, while Brendan Fraser (The Mummy) did his best Dudley Moore. Pure evil.
The Parent Trap (1961/1998)
As a set of young teenaged twins trying to restore harmony to their parents’ marriage, 60s Disney darling Hayley Mills was adorable. the same cannot be said for her 90s equivalent, Lindsay Lohan, who tried to take the parent trap across the pond in the other direction.
Freaky Friday (1976/2003)
As if one aberration wasn’t enough, Lohan was back at it a few years later, trying to match Jodie Foster’s performance as a teen who switches bodies with her mom.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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