Frank's Faves: Before and after

Frank's Faves: Before and after

Digging deep into the Faves mailbag ... hey, wait, there's a letter in here!

Before heading off on vacation last week, I received a wonderful pre-Easter treat via snail mail — a hand-written letter from reader Angela Proctor of Farmer City, who had nothing but nice things to say about this column (thank you, Angela!).

What I liked almost as much as the positive feedback was that she went on to suggest not only a couple more nominees to the March 10 list of "songs that made the movies (and vice versa)," but also some good ideas for future Faves, the first of which I'm wasting no time in taking advantage of here: Original movies vs. their remakes; which are better?

To quote Angela, "Personally, I don't like remakes — you shouldn't try to top perfection." I'm with Angela on this one, although sorry to say, remakes are a fact of life where films are concerned, and as long as such recycled entertainment remains profitable, we aren't likely to see an end to them any time soon.

On the other hand, sometimes remakes can surprise you — especially if the original didn't prove to be a box-office blockbuster or even an eventual cult classic. With that in mind, and with a grateful nod to Angela, I give you:

MY FIVE FAVORITE MOVIE REMAKES THAT EXCEEDED THE ORIGINALS

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978). Director Philip Kaufman's update of the 1956 sci-fi horror classic by the same name benefits from excellent performances by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright; a taut script; and still-chill-inducing special effects. Jack Finney's paranoid novel has been adapted to the big screen a couple times since, but never better.

"The Thing" (1982). The 1951 adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.'s novella "Who Goes There?" is regarded as one of the best sci-fi films of the 1950s, yet it doesn't hold up nearly as well today as director John Carpenter's far scarier upgrade, due to top-of-their-game performances from Kurt Russell and cast mates, and some terrific gross-out effects.

"The Fly" (1986). Don't get me wrong: I love Vincent Price in the 1958 original. But like the two aforementioned 1950s sci-fi fright flicks, it doesn't come close to putting us on the edge of our seats the way that David Cronenberg's "body-horror" update still does today. It, too, benefits immensely from modern gross-out FX, as well as from the best performance of Jeff Goldblum's career.

"Ocean's Eleven" (2001). The 1960 original of this caper film was noteworthy for getting the members of the Rat Pack together on the same big screen, but it proved disappointingly dull. The same can't be said for director Steven Soderbergh's energetic reboot, which made good on the original's fun concept with some of today's hottest actors (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, et al) and spawned two sequels of its own.

"Ben-Hur" (1959). Yes, I know, you've seen this chariot-racing epic mentioned in this column almost as many times as it was on Oscar night, 1960. But it deserves its place here for leaving the 1925 silent version in its dust. Sadly, it may soon earn a spot in the next list as well, as a new update is due out in August. Let's not crucify it sight-unseen, but it has some pretty big sandals to fill — which brings us to ...

FIVE MOVIE REMAKES THAT SHOULDN'T HAVE BOTHERED

"Psycho" (1998). One has to wonder what genius thought a shot-for-shot, line-for-line clone of Alfred Hitchcock's legendary suspense classic was a good idea. A more pointless waste of time and celluloid I can't imagine.

"The Omen" (2006). Stacked up against director Richard Donner's 1976 original starring Gregory Peck, John Moore's remake doesn't have a prayer. Suspense films just don't work when everyone who sees it already knows the story, shock for shock. Why bother when the original still creeps us out just fine?

"Halloween" (2007). John Carpenter's 1978 horror trendsetter spawned all sorts of slasher-flick franchises, not to mention its own slew of sequels. But Rob Zombie's reboots of "Halloween" and "Halloween II" (in 2009) were not just gratuitous, redundant and unnecessary, they were just plain dumb. Why remake what's been imitated ad nauseum ever since anyway?

"Planet of the Apes" (2001). Tim Burton's update of the 1968 sci-fi classic falls flat, due in large part to its head-scratchingly absurd twist ending.

"The Pink Panther" (2006). Sorry, Steve Martin. No one will ever inhabit the role of Inspector Clousseau as hilariously as Peter Sellers, nor direct modern slapstick as well as Blake Edwards. Get a clue.

Topics (1):Film
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