Reboots Are Made for Watching
Kenneth Branagh's "Murder on the Orient Express" has received some promising reviews, but it will be tough to top the all-star adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel that came out in 1974. Still, some big-screen remakes don't pale against the original. Click through for 16 shining examples.
John Wayne's 1969 portrayal of one-eyed U. S. Marshall Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn won him his first and only Oscar. Jeff Bridges has the role of Rooster in Joel and Ethan Coen's grittier remake, which tells the story from the point of view of young Mattie Ross, the adolescent played by 21-year-old Kim Darby in the first film and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld in the second. More realistic than the original, it's the Coen Brothers' reboot that lives up to the title.
The Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum's American fairy tale, first published in 1900, was turned into two silent films, in 1910 and 1925, before it became the MGM classic in 1939. Even today, audiences are captivated when black-and-white Kansas transforms into the Technicolor land of Oz, just as they are when winged moneys attack, the Wicked Witch melts and a 16-year-old Judy Garland (wearing a corset to look more childlike) sings the Oscar winner for Best Original Song, "Over the Rainbow."
The release of Howard Hawks' "Scarface" (1932) was delayed for a year because censors found it too violent. Imagine how they would have reacted to Brian De Palma's remake, which changed the title character from a Chicago mob boss to a Miami drug lord played by Al Pacino. Chainsaw dismemberment, mountains of cocaine and plenty of foul language earned the film an X rating when it debuted in 1983. And who can forget the machine gun that inspired the movie's most quoted line: "Say hello to my little friend!"
His Girl Friday
With this 1940 classic, director Howard Hawks transformed 1931's "The Front Page," about newspapermen chasing a big scoop, into the ultimate screwball comedy. Surprisingly, the two films share much of the same dialogue. But Hawks altered the entire dynamic by changing the male reporter Hildebrand into a female one, Hildegarde (Rosalind Russell). With Cary Grant as her editor, "His Girl Friday" became a seminal movie, the precursor to today's rom-coms.
Against All Odds
In 1984, Taylor Hackford remade 1947's "Out of the Past" as "Against All Odds," still a hard-boiled melodrama but stylishly updated with lush Mexican locations, a wild car race on L.A.'s Sunset Boulevard and a hit theme song by Phil Collins. Jeff Bridges and James Woods form a dangerous triangle with Rachel Ward, as the femme fatale who goes into hiding south of the border. Jane Greer—who had Ward's role in "Out of the Past"—plays her cooly malevolent mother. She makes the two films worth watching back to back.
The Manchurian Candidate
A Cold War thriller that captures the mood of its time (it was released in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis), "The Manchurian Candidate" stars Laurence Harvey as a brainwashed soldier and Angela Lansbury as his diabolical mother (though the actors were just three years apart in age). Lansbury steals the show. Yet Meryl Streep is equally mesmerizing in Jonathan Demme's 2004 reboot, co-starring Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber, which replaces Communist plotters with a sinister financial firm.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Made in 1956 during the Red Scare, the original movie—about alien life forms coming to Earth and replacing humans with soulless pod people—was at once a thriller and an anti-Communist allegory. The creepily suspenseful 1978 remake, starring Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams, pushes aside that political subtext and adds truly gross pods and a freaky pod people scream (actually the recorded sound of squealing pigs).
Father of the Bride
Hard to compete with Spencer Tracy and a 17-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, who have the title roles in 1950's "Father of the Bride." But the 1991 reboot preserves elements of the original (like that tacky gift, a Venus de Milo with a clock in its abdomen), while adding fresh laughs courtesy of Steve Martin as the stressed-out dad, Diane Keaton as his wife and Martin Short as a European wedding planner, Kimberley Williams tries gamely to fill Liz Taylor's pumps—an impossible task—but still the movie puts a smile on your face.
The Maltese Falcon
By now, few remember that John Houston's first directorial effort, the film noir classic starring Humphrey Bogart, was a remake. Yet Dashiell Hammett's novel was adapted for the screen twice earlier, as "The Maltese Falcon" in 1931 and "Satan Met a Lady" in 1936. (The latter starred Bette Davis, who deemed it "junk.") The definitive 1941 version benefits from a stellar cast, including Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, who went on to make nine more films together—most notably "Casablanca," again with Bogart.
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Alfred Hitchcock took plenty of liberties when he remade his own movie, 1934's "The Man Who Knew Too Much," about a British family who stumble upon an assassination. The 1956 reboot starts with an American couple (James Stewart and Doris Day) vacationing with their son in Morocco, but the story becomes more complex than the original. Hitchcock later observed that the first film was "the work of a talented amateur, and the second was made by a professional." He preferred the earlier, less polished work.
The 1935 movie based on Elizabeth von Arnim's popular novel, inspired by a month she spent on the Italian Riviera, was an unmitigated flop. Then, in 1993, director Mike Newell bravely tackled a remake for British television, and the result was so gorgeous that it was released in theaters. The new version upped the ante from two Englishwomen to four and was shot on location in Portofino—at the very castle where Arnim stayed in the 1920s—enchanting not just April but moviegoers as well.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
In 1964's "Bedtime Story," Marlon Brando and David Niven are mismatched con men—one crude, the other continental—competing over an American heiress (Shirley Jones, a decade before "The Partridge Family") in the South of France. In the 1988 reboot, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," Michael Caine takes the Niven role and Steve Martin hilariously outdoes Brando. Fun fact: The remake was originally supposed to star Mick Jagger and David Bowie (!).
Down and Out in Beverly Hills
Paul Mazursky's 1986 comedy about a dysfunctional couple (Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler) who pluck a suicidal vagrant (Nick Nolte) from their swimming pool has an unlikely source: It's based on a 1932 French film, "Boudu Saved From Drowning," directed by Jean Renoir. As different as they appear on the surface, the two movies share many plot points. The first R-rated movie ever released by Disney, "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" was a critical and financial success, and spawned a TV series a year later.
Heaven Can Wait
"Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941) is a comic fantasy about a boxer (Robert Montgomery) whose life is cut short by a heavenly snafu. An angel named Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains) then guides him into a new body and back to Earth. In 1978, Warren Beatty amped up the romance for the remake "Heaven Can Wait," which he co-wrote (with Elaine May) and co-directed (with Buck Henry). Fun fact: Beatty wanted Muhammad Ali to play the boxer, but the champ wasn't available, so he changed the sport to football and cast himself opposite ex-girlfriend Julie Christie instead.
Robert Mitchum is suitably menacing in 1962's "Cape Fear," the story of a lawyer (Gregory Peck) and his family being stalked by a criminal he put in prison, but back then censors wouldn't even allow the use of the word "rape." Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake, by contrast, includes a rape scene both explicit and horrifying. Robert De Niro plays the criminal, Nick Nolte the lawyer, and both Peck and Mitchum have cameos. Watch for Juliette Lewis, then 17, who steals the scene from De Niro when he tries to seduce her.
Eleven men rob multiple Las Vegas casinos in a single night. That sums up both 1960's "Ocean's 11" and 2001's "Ocean's Eleven," But the original was essentially a Rat Pack vehicle, an excuse for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and friends to hang out. The remake packs its own star power—its cast is headed by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon—but director Steven Soderberg went further, devising a con as clever as it was comic. Note: An all-female "Ocean's Eleven" spinoff is due in 2018.
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