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Remakes that shouldn’t have been

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Sabrina–The original was a vehicle in which viewers got to see Audrey Hepburn wear clothes, beautifully. How can you hope to substitute Audrey with Julia Ormond? Or Harrison Ford with Humphrey Bogart. Bad idea.

The Women–The 1939 original starred Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard and a host of others. The big schtick is that although the movie is all about men, not one man appears in the film. Bitchy, feisty and brittle, The Women was very much of its time. It was remade with June Allyson as The Opposite Sex. June Allyson, I ask you. And, the movie featured men.

My Man Godfrey was the screwiest of screwball comedies. Carole Lombard plays a ditzy socialite who hires William Powell to be her butler. Once again June Allyson remakes the movie. Is there no end to this woman’s perfidy? What was the point of June Allyson anyway?

From Here to Eternity–Replace Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra with William Devane, Steve Railback and Joe Pantoliano for a six-hour miniseries. What were they thinking?

I’m sure there are more remakes that shouldn’t have been. But I can’t think of them right now. Feel free to leave your own nominees in the comments.

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  • Nick Jones

    The Manchurian Candidate. For all the blather about “updating” and “reimagining”, this was a film that didn’t need to be remade. Not that it was bad, but the original is a classic, and the remake can’t hold a candle to it.

    In another example of mainstream Hollywood’s lack of imagination, my favorite (and his best) Ken Russell film, Altered States, is supposedly going to get the makeover treatment. Warner Bros. claims that the original is too much of a “cult” film, and that they want to redo it for a mainstream audience.
    Lord love a duck.

    Here’s another one for you, Rachel: Casablanca as a made-for-TV movie, starring David Soul as Rick. Feh.

  • Rachel

    Good God, David Soul as Rick!!! Unimaginable.

  • Dave Nalle

    Did that remake of Casablanca ever actually air? I heard a lot about it, but never saw it.

    As for June Allyson, I thought she was perky and cute. I don’t find her objectionable.

    And there ARE some movies which could stand to be remade and be improved in the process. I’m not sure Altered States isn’t one of them. Nick may like the original, but even as Ken Russell films go it’s jumbled and incomprehensible. It’s definitely not as good as Lair of the White Worm or Gothic. Of course I’d be inclined to say that any Ken Russell film would be better with him writing it and someone else either directing it or acting to rein in his excessive impulses.


  • Tan Hoang

    Mr. Deeds – The original by Frank Capra updated by Adam Sandler…

  • HW Saxton

    “D.O.A”- The original from 1950 starring
    Edmond O’Brien wasn’t the best Noir I’ve
    ever seen but it sure beat the remake in
    which Dennis Quaid starred.

    The Big Sleep – The remake of this had Robert Mitchum which is a bonus but it
    was totally re arranged storywise. LA is
    now London, big mistake as the locale is
    essential is in this flick.

    Both re-makes Both mis-takes

  • DrPat

    Here’s one from the vaults of esoterica: Hobson’s Choice, a brilliant film from 1954 starring Charles Laughton, Brenda de Banzie, and John Mills, tells the story of a lower-middle-class daughter of a show shop owner who betters herself&#8212and her spouse&#8212by marrying, “beneath her status,” the skillful shoemaker employed by her father.

    This was actually a much-needed remake of the 1931 movie with James Harcourt, Viola Lyell and Frank Pettingill – and that was a rerun of the 1920 film starring Arthur Pitt, Joan Ritz and Joe Nightingale (who?) in the same roles.

    So along comes a thoroughly pedestrian (read: banal) remake in 1983 for TV that not only casts Jack Warden, Sharon Gless and “John-Boy Walton” Richard Thomas in the key roles, but also transposes the story to the 19th-century American Mid-west!

    The moral: when you have award-winning stars in the principal roles, you don’t need to remake the film! (Make something original, ya duffs!)

  • Matt Paprocki

    King Kong. The ’76 remake should forever be forgotten and banished. Hopefully Pete Jackson can pull it off.

  • Rachel

    Yeah, Mr. Deeds was a mistake. Also, there’s nothing wrong with June Allyson, per se, but she’s neither Audrey Hepburn nor Carole Lombard.

  • Bill Wallo


    Wasn’t there even an effort to make a TV series out of Casablanca? Oh, the sacrilege . . .

    Although as memory serves, only the implosion of the Ben-J.Lo romance scuttled rumors that they were going to star in a remake as well.

    Really, the best remakes are those of things that didn’t go well the first time (the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon actually wasn’t the first, as there was a version done in 1931 that featured Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and Bebe Daniels as Ruth Wonderly).

    Here’s a question to ponder: what were the best remakes?

  • Eric Berlin

    I liked the remake of Mr. Deeds — it’s a fun, enjoyable film.

    Nice job on this post, Rachel — feel free to set up the post in the future (why you’re writing it, your general thoughts on remakes, etc.) and then elaborate more on your choices.

  • visualsimplicity

    I’ll have to toss up The Truth About Charlie as a bad remake of Charade. Mark Wahlberg, Tim Robbins, and Thandie Newton in place of Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, and Audrey Hepburn. Wahlberg just could not fill the shoes and Robbins was trying to copy Matthau too much. The twist ending was also a horrible distortion of the meaning of the original film. The only saving grace was probably Thandie Newton, who managed to display a certain mystique that Audrey had about her. An awful remake overall.

  • Tan Hoang

    I think pretty much all Hitchcock remakes are bad and should never, ever be attempted.

  • Victor Plenty

    Star Wars is a good remake of The Hidden Fortress. Or at least it was, back in the good old days when men were real men, women were real women, large furry creatures from Kashyyyk were real large furry creatures from Kashyyyk, and Han shot first.

  • El Bicho

    Do you include Hitchcock remaking his own films with that staement, Tan? He made “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in ’34 & ’56.

    Does “Willow” count as a remake of “Star Wars”?

    The Top Worst Remakes by DVD rental firm are as follows:

    Get Carter
    The Assassin
    Charlie’s Angels
    Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes
    Ocean’s Eleven

    On the other hand “Fistful of Dollars” is a great remake.

  • Rachel

    Oy, I forgot about Planet of the Apes–truly awful.

  • HW Saxton

    The remake of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
    was completely unnecessary, I must say.

  • HW Saxton

    All remakes of 50’s/60’s sitcoms and or
    cartoons usually turn out to be pure BS.

    Beverly Hillbillies,Addams Family,Addams
    Family Values,The Flintstones,Sgt Bilko,
    McHale’s Navy,The Brady Bunch all suck.
    These were ALL really bad in my book.

    Another area of films that can get just
    awful are sequels.There are WAY too many
    of those.

  • Tan Hoang

    No, I’m not including his own remakes. Just movies other directors try to redo. Hitchock is in his own universe when it comes to movies. Yasujiro Ozu remade a few of his movies also and they were in a way better than the originals.

  • Eric Berlin

    Oh man, I’m a huge Vince Vaughn fan and oh man was the remake of Psycho bad. Great call, El B, on Apes as well — nearly unwatchable.

  • Eric Berlin

    Oh: I should mention that my wife loves the remake of Sabrina and includes it as a proud member of her romantic comedy / rainy day collection.

  • Duane

    The Haunting (not scary)
    Invaders from Mars (ruined it)
    The Blob (even worse acting than the original)
    Texas Chainsaw Massacre (dumb)
    The Amityville Horror (didn’t see it, guessing)
    The Shining (made for TV remake, dull)
    The Wild Wild West (made from TV, crapola)
    Lost in Space (from TV, sucked eggs)
    Mission Impossible (both of ’em lacked something, also from TV)
    The Out of Towners (ruined a great movie)

    and so many others ….

    On the other hand, here are some good ones:

    Cape Fear
    The Fly
    The Thing
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers

  • dietdoc

    Mark Wahlberg again…

    The Italian Job. Mr, Wahlberg, sir, you are no Michael Caine.

    The remake, while geared for the new generation with all the explosions, hot cars, chicks, etc., lost all the British wit and sarcasm that made the movie a classic. I guess I, perpetually caught in a time warp, found the pairing of Benny Hill and Caine untouchable.

    And, while we are on the subject of American translation of British humor, let’s throw in The Ladykillers. Tom Hanks, and I dearly love most of his work, is no Alec Guiness. For all you Obi Wan (and Bridge on the River Kwai) fans, here is Alec Guiness in a role you have to see to believe.

    As a rather strict rule, American’s should avoid remaking Hitchcock and British humor. It’s like Saturday Night Live playing Monty Python….and it just is entirely lost in translation.



  • dietdoc

    Let us be inclusive, if nothing else.

    Let’s throw in all the Mutiny on the Bounty remakes….Marlon Brando’s and Mel Gibson’s. Clark Gable and Charles Laughton set the bar entirely too high.



  • Bob

    The new Pink Panther cartoon. Having the Pink Panther TALK should be declared a crime against humanity.

    Some time ago I caught a really old (pre-WW2) version of Titanic that was simply one of the best directed & acted movies I ever saw. Didn’t catch the title though.

    I think the problem with most remakes is that special effects & crudity are used as a substitute for actual artistic talent.

    No modern “bad boy” movie can hold a candle to Blackboard Jungle (1955).

  • Nick Jones

    Here’s a list from MSNBC of ten remakes that work.

    I didn’t find Altered States incomprehensible at all – unless you saw it on network TV, where it would have been chopped to ribbons. It’s my favorite SF film of all time (2001 now seems bloated to me, the film where Kubrick confused the words “ponderous” and “profound”). Leonard Maltin calls Altered States an “assault on the senses”. Well, duh, Leonard, the use of heavy-duty psychedlics is a major part of the movie: what were you expecting?

    Dave, if you preferred Gothic and Lair of the White Worm to AS, then our tastes in movies are as disparate as our politics. I remember sitting in the theater watching Gothic and thinking numerous times, “It’s got to get better than this.” With LotWW, there were some great moments, but a lot of dull spots (e.g., the cave exploration scene) and scenes of seeming self-parody (the airliner fantasy).

    If anyone is interested in seeing what Ken Russell is all about for themselves, I suggest starting with The Billion Dollar Brain, Women in Love, Tommy, and The Music Lovers, on going on from there. For the best site I’ve found for Russell, go to Iain Fisher’s Savage Messiah

  • Tan Hoang

    Duane, you’re right about invasion of the body snatchers, and i’m assuming that you’re talking about the donald sutherland version and not that early 90s remake, which was awful. The donald version is suprisingly better than the original, and that says a lot since the original was pretty good too.

  • HW Saxton

    It seems like everyone forgot about the
    remake of “King Kong” and rightfully so.

  • HW Saxton

    Never mind I just missed Matt’s post.
    Ooooooh,ah just hates when that happens.

  • tsmonk

    Couple of Euro flicks that got trashed come to mind:

    The Vanishing
    Wings of Desire (I think it was called City of Angels with N. Cage and Meg Ryan – blech.)