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April 18, 2017

5 Remakes that pass for originals

We’re growing tired of remakes.  Some rehashes claim to be better than the original, but we’re not sure “better” is the right word.

Do we need another Karate Kid, another Dr Doolittle, another Ghostbusters, another Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another Steel Magnolias?  What was wrong with the first film?

(The second Karate Kid was okay,  but “Pick up your coat” is incredibly lazy compared to “wax on, wax off.”)

However, some remakes add something, and in some ways improve upon the original.  A few, in fact, are so good that we sometimes think that the remake is the original.

Brewster’s Millions, 1985.
Richard Prior’s Monty Brewster inherited lots of money, and the film made lots at the box office.  But did you know that there was a 1945 version, and before that a silent version with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle?  Arbuckle was incredibly talented, but scandal prevented his film from becoming a classic. And the 1945 film just seems to lack the energy. So, Prior’s Monty Brewster seems like the original. By the way, they are all based on a book. Prior tackles Arbuckle remake, amazing!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937.
We may know that the highest grossing film that Disney ever made was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  It was the film that established the studio’s fairy tale style, and it seems as fresh today as it did in the 1930s. But did you know that the first film Disney ever saw as a child was a silent film about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

The silent film was incredibly entertaining, but Mr Disney did improve upon the original.  Disney’s dwarfs were much easier to differentiate, and in a way this story was made for colour animation.  The songs become more enjoyable when we could actually hear them sung. So, while Disney wasn’t the first to adapt the Brother’s Grim fairy tale, his film is the one all other Snow Whites are compared to. Pretty terrific animated remake, Aye!

The Wizard of Oz, 1939.
There are many second rate Oz movies out, and we often complain that they weren’t as good as the original.  Unfortunately, the “original” that we’re thinking of was itself a remake of an adaptation.  There were many silent Wizards of Oz, or black and white versions that didn’t have a colourful land of Oz.  Even Laurel and Hardy made a Wizard of Oz film, 14 years before the one that we think of as the original.
The “original” is thought of as such because it wasn’t rushed into production as the others were.  Many writers worked on it, and many effects were considered but rejected for cost reasons.  Thanks to a great team working on pre-production, it was the first Wizard to truly have Wizardry worth watching. Playful team accept road adventure.
Ben Hur, 1959.
No, I’m not talking about the rushed together movie made in 2016.  Rather, the colour version by Cecil B De Mille was a remake of a silent movie.

The silent film (1925) was not bad, and starred one of Hollywood’s hottest Hispanic actors.  You might not think of Ramón Novarro as Hispanic: in the days of silent cinema, no one could hear his Mexican accent.

The score was also amazing, but unfortunately not every cinema could afford an orchestra and sound effects department.  So, ordinary cinema goers could not hear how how the filmmakers intended Ben Hur to sound until a De Mille made his famous remake with Charlton Heston.  Powerful Truths Attain Renowned Acknowledgement.

What do all these films have in common?  They were all adaptations.  So, you can still say, if you like, “that remake is not as good as the book.”  No, the books aren’t necessary that good, but how many people do you know who read them?  (Okay, so Ben Hur was a major bestseller in its time.)

If you make a remake or adaptation well enough, people won’t recognise it as such.  If.

Many remakes fail to live up to the original.  Sometimes it’s because the marketing campaign is poorly planned, other times it’s because the film itself needed more work in the preparation stage.  Perhaps the script was sent to actors before it was ready, or perhaps the film was undercapitalized.

Whether you want to make a remake, or an original, Ptara would be glad to help you with pre-production.