Monday, April 07, 2008


Everybody I know hates re-makes but I love them! There's no better way to study film than to see the same story handled differently by two different directors. The old argument, "If they have to do re-makes then they should only do films that weren't done right the first time" doesn't hold water for me. It's precicely the good films that I want to see re-done! That's how you learn the most!

So here's the leg lamp sequence from "Christmas Story," done well (below) and done badly (above). What lessons do you take away from this?

By the way, the better version of "Christmas Story" was done by Bob Clark, the same director who did "Porky's" 1 & 2, and "Black Christmas"! Clark died a year ago in a car accident on the Pacific Coast Highway.  He was a friend of Quentin Tarantino.


I.D.R.C. said...

I learned that a leg lamp is sexier when the leg has some ass on it.

Check the 1:25 mark.

It's precisely the good films that I want to see re-done!

By your own admission this was a bad film re-done well.

One of the best re-makes ever of a bad film has to be John Huston's MALTESE FALCON. The original was pre-code and therefore slightly racier, but more pedestrian in every other respect.

One of the best remakes of a good film is PSYCHO. Maybe not on the same level but not as disappointing as I expected. Slightly expanded story but really no new angle.

Putting a successful new spin on a film that has become iconic is inherently difficult. I would much rather try to remake a film that missed the mark.

Adam T said...

I learned that shaky hand held camera work and a bad organ score make it hard to lose yourself in the story. The lighting is way better in A Christmas Story. The father's delivery is better too. He times his lines and changes his inflection for maximum punch. I don't know who the actor is but that guy is a comedic genius.

Also the throw away gags in A Christmas Story are the funniest moments, and they're missing from the other.

'Fra-gee-lay... must be italian'.
'Yeah a statue', Ralphie feels up the lamp.

Kris said...

I'm trying to think of a good film that was ever helped by a remake. Remakes of good films always come out unremarkable and disappointing--but remakes of bad or unremarkable films occasionally become classics.

Maybe The Fly? It's been so long since I saw the original 1960s version that I don't recall if it's campy or genuinely good. The 1980s Cronenberg version is brilliant, though.

Anonymous said...

The actor playing the dad in "A Christmas Story" is the late Darren McGavin, a skilled expert at both comedy and drama. He once recalled that, donning his costume for the "Christmas Story" role for the first time and looking into a mirror, he realized 'I know this man! It's my own father!'" McGavin was also great in "Kolchak: The Night Stalker", the series that inspired Chris Carter to write "The X-Files" several years later. He also stepped in and took what had been written as the Dean Martin role in "The Delicate Delinquent", the first Jerry Lewis picture without his longtime comedic partner. McGavin is completely credible in the role as a seasoned cop.

Mitch L said...

That bad one of "christmas story" is so dull.. The box isn't really interesting and mysterious. I like the second one because it is so exaggerated.

Eddy are you gonna explain why you like the second one the most?

I only saw the remake of spycho.I really need to watch some more old classic movies. I also think that remakes are good. It also helps people get motivating to watch the originals.

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Your right, the second one is better. The first one is still alright though.

I've never seen either, so I don't really know what's going on.

The Jerk said...

i kind of think i agree with you in the remake-appreciation. a good story will certainly be able to withstand multiple retellings- how many times has shakespeare been performed, and never the same way twice, but nearly always entertainingly. how many different times has Dicken's Christmas Carol been done? Or take the interesting trend of Jane Austen/Bronte sisters films- it seems a new version of Pride and Prejudice comes out perennially. I found the King Kong remake (the latest one, not the 70's man-in-a-suit one) quite enjoyable.
Who knows, maybe movie remakes will become the repertory theater of the future!!!

NateBear said...

I don't think you were asking for comparisons but I can't help it.

First thing i noticed (buy looking at the clock) was that the second one is shorter . I think it's because it relies much less on narration. The whole diatribe about outlets and the drawn out search for an extension chord was replaced by a couple second of visual. It's The first rule of film: Don't tell us the outlet is dangerous, SHOW US! The original tries to create suspense with intense narration and taking more time to hit points but it is much less natural. Doesn't suck you in like the remake.

Also, i think the original fails to capitalize on the awkward tension stemming from the mother's disapproval conflicting with the father's overt pride. Only when the form of the legs is unveiled does she seem uncomfortable purely with the sexual nature of the form. Soon she turns her worry toward the family's safety. By the time the lamp is lit she has stopped protesting and merely has a distressed face as she compliantly moves the lamp in the window.

In the remake, the director certainly realizes the potential for drama by persistently and cleverly highlighting her discomfort. Concerns for safety are only peripheral to her main objection. The scene ends with her shooing the older son from caressing it and her obvious embarrassment.

Gerard D. de Souza said...

Christmas Story has been remade? So I googled it. The one on the top is the original; Phantom Of The Open Hearth, a TV movie made in '76. The one we all love is made in 1983. Still the lesson holds true.
I took the organ music to be a soap opera on a radio in the background. haven't watched the examples yet so bye!

Gerard D. de Souza said...

It's funny. Before I paused the top one to google it I thought it reminded me of those home-movie quality live action interstitials of early sesame street. Turns out it was produced by PBS. In fairness perhaps budget plays a part but I think at least a good director would invest in a tripod and have a sense of good screen direction and composition. A hand held camera is good if one is trying to make it look like a home movie or being jostled in a crowd shot or cinema verite/ mockumentary, which the film is not meant to be. The box could have been just as funny whether a crate or cardboard but did you see how cluttered the frame was with the top example; the box getting in the way of everything? In contrast how it was almost silhouetted even Darren Mcgavin as he took the crowbar to the crate; the box coming in the side the screen left to right not towards the camera crowding the scene. The family watching in the bottom example are nicely composed in the long shot and nice editing as straw gets thrown on mom in the upshot and cut to dad down in the box.
Nice to have good art direction too. I thought the top one was an update, I couldn't tell it was supposed to be 1940 nor whatever. It's obvious the story works well as a narrative but it looks as though A Christmas Story knew what narration advanced the story. The top one told us and showed us the wiring in the house. The bottom e.g. it was a redundant narration so they just showed dad plugging it into that smokey octopus and we knew all we needed to know about the wiring.

Gee, y'know....I saw a VHS the other day at a local Sally Ann with Christopher Reeve and Darryl Hanna in Rear Window. Maybe I should pick that up to compare? Ugh.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

I dunno... I kinda liked the top one better.

- trevor.

mike f. said...

Best remake of all time?

I gotta agree with i.d.r.c. - The MALTESE FALCON is the gold standard in that category.
A profound improvement over SATAN MET A LADY. Which only goes to prove - you don't monkey around with a Dashiell Hammett screenplay.

Worst remake?

In a crowded field, (The WICKER MAN, PLANET Of The APES, PSYCHO, SWEPT AWAY...) I gotta go with The BACHELOR, the execrable 1999 re-do of the still hilarious 1925 Keaton classic, SEVEN CHANCES.

Leonard Maltin said it better than I could:

"Hapless [Chris] O'Donnell would do better aping Buster Brown than taking on Buster Keaton..."

Amen to that.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Gerard: Good analysis! I wonder if the movie version was shot on a set. if it was, it sure made a difference!

Mitch: I could say more but I'm curious to read what others think about this.

I'd love to spend a night with film buffs analysing the difference between "His Girl Friday" and the remake with Jack Lemon.

I.D.R.C. said...

HIS GIRL FRIDAY --an excellent example of an excellent remake of a good film! I was starting to wonder if there really are any.

Never saw or heard of the Jack Lemmon one before now. Billy Wilder. maybe it was good. I only know of the Burt Reynolds Kathleen Turner one. Can't remember it.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

IDRC: There's a Burt Reynolds remake!? I didn't know. I was comparing the Rosalynd Russell version to the Jack Lemmon one.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Now an example of a remake where BOTH movies are good and not much like each other? "Breathless".

There's Truffaut's 1950's french classic, then the Jim McBride remake with Richard Gere from 1983.

Funny thing is, watching both these movies back to back ( which I have done ), they're so good yet they don't play like the same movie at all. A rare example.

- trevor.

PS: I like Truffaut's better, though. But only by THIS much.

Thad said...

Not sure about the Reynolds version, but the 1974 Lennon-Wilder remake of His Girl Friday is called.. The Front Page! I've never seen it.

I.D.R.C. said...

SWITCHING CHANNELS, 1988. TV station instead of newspapers. I think they stuck the guy under a Xerox machine instead of in a rolltop desk.

I'm sure you saw the 1931 FRONT PAGE.

4 versions may be the Hollywood record.

Lester Hunt said...

I didn't know that Bob Clark had died. How sad!

Jorge Garrido said...

I got some good ones!

The Magnificent Seven is one of the great western movies, and it's a remake of Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai.

I've never seen A Fistful Of Dollars but I heard its good, and I know Eddie likes it, and of course that's another remake of a Kurosawa film, Yojimbo (itself a remake of a Hammett novel)

I read that Madonna wants to remake Casablanca, starring herself, of course and set in Iraq. What a dumb cunt.

Ben-Hur was a remake. Star Wars was a remake of a million movies sticked together, among them The Searchers, The Dambusters, and The Hidden Fortress.

War Of The Worlds was less a remake of the classic 50s film, and more of a new adaptation, but it was still a killer good movie.

Oh, and of course The Departed is a remake of Infernal Affairs.

mike f. said...

["What a dumb cunt."]

Heh heh - that about sums it up, Jorge.
You could deliver Madonna's eulogy - in four words or less.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

They've been threatening to remake Casablanca for years now, regardless of Madge.

In fact, there's three films Hollywood will never remake, so don't hold your breath. They are:




Trust me. These three are golden, and won't be touched. And the nice thing is that if they ever do, you're allowed, legally, to bomb the studio.

It's in the Constitution.

- trevor.

SlashHalen said...

Whether it's a remake or original, it all really depends on the director and if he/she can pull it off. Jorge already mentioned The Departed and that was a great movie. Not Scorsese's best, but hell I liked it. Same with cover songs. Lots of famous songs we know and love are really old blues songs. Led Zeppelin's first album was pretty much a bunch of cover songs. It all depends on the man in charge and if they can pull it off, director or musician.

Only time remakes are bad is in video games.

Since you mentioned remakes and Quentin Tarantino in one post, QT's next movie is apparently a remake of a 1977 Italian war movie I've never seen called Inglorious Bastards. Though he said it's going to be more a homeage to that film then a remake. There's your useless knowledge of the day. Now where's my nickel?!

NateBear said...

Booo Tooons Ltd.: The origianl Breathless was directed by Godard, who co-wrote it with Truffaut. I love both versions myself. I saw the remake first when i was lik 12 and couldn't understand why I liked watching it at all. For a kid it should be inherently boring but I was mesmerized.

Jorge Garrido said...

Trevor, are we talking about the same Hollywood that remade a Gary Cooper/Frank Capra film, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, with ADAM SANDLER?!?

What next, Citizen Kane starring Rob Schneider? It's A Wonderful Life starring David Spade with Jon Lovitz as the CGI angel that cracks wise?

The only remake I wish they'd make is a black version of Angels With Dirty Faces, with Terrence Howard as Jimmy Cagney and Denzel Washington as Bogart, and set in today's society. It could be a great social problem picture about how our society glorifies rappers and the kids who look up to these idiots.

Hell, they could even include the basketball scene and nobody would bat an eye.

They'd have to make it very faithful, though, and sustain the deliberate pacing and editing style of the original, and preserve all the best scenes, especially the amazing expressionist ending scene.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...


The only reason I don't think you'll see remakes of the Holy Triumberant I mentioned, is because Hollywood only does remakes for one reason: lack of originality, but they update it because they don't think modern audiences would identify.

This doesn't seem to jade anyone working in Hollywood, despite being the biggest load of ironic crap west of the pecos.

But, those three films have been re-released in theatres before, and did great business because they're so well known. They may not know talent, but they know dollar signs, and it may not make as much, releasing a film like that on opening weekend, but without having any initial investments, profits go through the roof.

If they did re-make 'Angels' with your specifications, they'd line it with all sorts of P.C. moralistic crap, and that would distract from the already moral message.... ironically.

- trevor.

lastangelman said...

It's kinda' sad to me that all Bob Clark will remembered merely as the filmmaker of Porky's and A Christmas Story, when he made some classy films like Murder By Decree and Tribute

Mark Simonson said...

A bit of trivia: Director Bob Clark appears at the end of the scene. He's the guy talking to "the old man" out on the street.