Remake, Rattle & Roll

How difficult is it for the Hollywood studios to come up with an original screenplay, script or clever idea?  Or is it far easier to steal a film that’s been done before (and so much better!) and do it again?

This remake crap just has to stop!  There ought to be a law against it.  Take, for example, “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.”  It was a pretty good crime drama released in the late seventies.  So why bother updating the story of a crew of gents who decide to hijack a New York subway train full of folks for ransom?  Maybe the meeting went like this:  “Okay, we replace the train detective” (originally played by Walter Matthau) “because who wants to see a frumpy actor like that today.  Instead, let’s put in someone like Denzel Washington–he’s box-office gold!  And, instead of an understated actor like Robert Shaw (sure, he was good in “Jaws,” but we’re talking about a subway train, not a blood-thirsty shark!), let’s have John Travolta play the leader of the gang taking the train.  The guy ain’t Vinnie Barbarino anymore!  No, he’s proven he can play a greasy hit man with Tarentino in “Pulp Fiction.”  And maybe we can get him to do a little dance to make the ladies hot?!  Yeah, we’ll see some big numbers on this movie!”

But, here’s the thing:  Having a great, unattractive character actor like Matthau as the dude who saves the day was a prime move on the casting director’s part because Walter is a whole lot more believable in the role than a toned-up, brown-eyed, handsome man’s man like Denzel.  That’s why the seventies were an incredible time for movies. You could never make a film like “The Deer Hunter” today because the average movie-goer (or Netflixer) will not sit through a three-hour-plus drama. But, oh, sure, they will suck down their large sodas and chomp on that fake butter-flavored popcorn with the whole family watching some slick car-commercial chock full o’ CGI disguised as a sci-fi action film called “Transformers” ’cause Things Get Blowed Up Real Good!

I could’ve never imagined in a zillion years that the classic Hitchcock horror film “Psycho” would be remade, but longtime indie-film director Gus Van Sant took the plunge.  Gus, baby–what the f’ were you thinking?!  Nobody (are you listening, Brian DePalma?) can be the genius that Alfred Hitchcock was.  And placing comedic wise-ass Vince Vaughn in the brilliant killer role that Anthony Perkins so sublimely made iconic couldn’t possibly work.  The fact that the original was done in black & white was perfectly chilling, but Van Sant decided to remake it in color.

Rocker Rob Zombie loves old horror flicks and figures that some of them, such as “House of 1000 Corpses” and “Halloween” could be done with even more background story plus gore, so he’s making his own versions.  The multi-pierced, tattooed youthsters have gone simply psycho over Rob’s “Devil’s Rejects” remake and even dress up like the nasty characters at screenings a la “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  No matter how much the critics tear his films apart, Rob’s reworks have their cult following.

Even Hollywood directors have done their remake-nasty all over popular French movies such as “La Femme Nikita.”  They thought:  If we can dumb it up for an American audience with big U.S. stars, then it will be cha-ching! at the box office.  They called the American version “Point of No Return.”  The original is a stylishly uber-violent film about a female criminal trained to be an assassin for the government, and it’s got a smokin’ hot babe named Anne Parillaud in the title role.  The remake?  It put Bridget Fonda in Anne’s stiletto heels and Harvey Keitel as “the cleaner” killer.  Harvey was passable, but he was definitely no Jean Reno!  And, please, Bridget Fonda?  No way, baby.  But the joke is on the Hollywood assclowns because “Point of …” bombed at the box office, while “Nikita” soared.  And the French original had a limited release in art theatres, to boot.

Here is a list of movies that never needed to get the do-over treatment but did anyway:  “Lolita,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Wings of Desire,” “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Out of Towners,” “The Getaway,” “The Haunting,” “War of the Worlds,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The Day of the Jackal,” and “Bad News Bears.”  If all this isn’t enough to make you want to burn, Hollywood, burn, how about this:  I heard that L. Ron Hubbard-following, couch-jumping, acting fool Tom Cruise bought the rights to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and wants to play Robert Redford’s part as “Sundance.”  Hopefully, the (L. Ron) Hubbardship beams his ass up before the whole fiasco goes into production.     

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