A number of remakes (new film adaptations) is coming soon or has already hit the screens, including “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) and “Suspiria” (2018) (still to premiere), and “It” (2017) and “Flatliners” (2017) (already here). Perhaps, it is time to revisit/draw attention to some other in existence. While such remakes as “The Departed” (2006), “The Fly” (1986) or “The Italian Job” (2003) are relatively well-known, some others may just not be. So, without further ado and in no particular order:
1. Original: Ocean’s 11 (1960) = Remake: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) is a popular fast-paced heist film directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Side Effects” (2013)) and starring such major names as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts. In the film, Danny Ocean (Clooney) assembles his team to steal millions from three casinos in Las Vegas: The Bellagio, The Mirage and the MGM Grand. Extremely entertaining and amusing, “Ocean’s Eleven” proved to be a great film overall, largely thanks to the clever script and the star-packed cast. However, “Ocean’s Eleven” is, in fact, a remake of the movie by Lewis Milestone (“All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930)) of the same name, i.e. “Ocean’s 11” (1960). Here, Frank Sinatra plays Danny Ocean, and the story now echoes the remake, save for the fact that Las Vegas here is the old one, and all the technology employed in the 2001 version is, understandably, nowhere to be seen. That also means that both films differ in a way the teams do their job and rob the casinos. It looks now that few people will prefer the 1960 version to the 2001 one. “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) not only has a more ironical and sharper script, its secondary characters received their full spotlight, something which could not be said for the 1960 version.
2. Original: Scent of a Woman (1974) = Remake: Scent of a Woman (1992)
“Scent of a Woman” (1992) is a drama directed by Martin Brest (incidentally, the man behind “Meet Joe Black” (1998), which I mention bellow). The film is about a student who is hired as an assistant to an abrasive blind retired army officer, who has spectacular plans on how to spend his weekend. The film is well-made and features an unparalleled in its quality performance by Al Pacino, for which he gained his Academy Award. The supporting cast is also good, and the movie features a very memorable tango scene. So far so good, but the film also happens to be a remake of the Italian film “Scent of a Woman” (1974), directed by Dino Risi. And, if that was not enough, the 1974 film version is, in turn, based on the story “Il buio e il miele” by Giovanni Arpino. In “Scent of a Woman” (1974) or “Profumo di donna”, a blind Captain makes a journey to another city with his young aide, but unbeknown to him, the Captain intends to commit a suicide pact there. In that way, the remake follows the original, although there are very significant differences as the plots move forward. Which film is better? They are hard to compare. “Profumo di donna” has these admirable elements of authenticity and originality, and it does not rely on many Hollywood clichés. “Scent of a Woman” (1992) is, of course, a great, unforgettable movie piloted largely, if not solely, by Al Pacino.
3. Original: The Unfaithful Wife (1969) = Remake: Unfaithful (2002)
“Unfaithful” (2002) is an erotic drama directed by Adrian Lyne (“Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), “Nine and a Half Weeks” (1986)). This film is quite underrated, considering its interesting premise, the mesmerising performance by Diane Lane, its pale-soft, interesting cinematography, its beautiful soundtrack, as well as the casting of Richard Gere and the French heart-throb Olivier Martinez. However, it seems that it is also a remake of a French film “The Unfaithful Wife” (1969). This film (known as “La Femme Infidele“), directed by Claude Chabrol, tells of a husband and wife who live in the suburbs of Paris. At one point, the husband starts to suspect that his wife may be having an affair, and sends a private investigator to follow her. When the husband finally meets his wife’s lover, things get unexpectedly out of control. The 2002 remake has all the main plot elements of the original film, though it accentuates and deepens the sexual relationship between the wife and her lover. “The Unfaithful Wife” (1969) may be an unjustly forgotten film, but Lyne’s 2002 version still wins by portraying the story so sensually and alluringly.
4. Original: Anthony Zimmer (2005) = Remake: The Tourist (2010)
“The Tourist” (2010), starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, may have been slaughtered by critics, but it would be wrong to say that no one has heard of it, and, at least the title of the film and the cast people do now. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others” (2006)), the 2010 film is about two people meeting, Frank and Elise, while the police and the mob chase Elise. So, Elise let the pursuers believe that Frank is in fact her thieving husband, and the real game of cat and mouse begins. The plot of the 2010 film has been fiercely criticised, but it is actually based on the screenplay of “Anthony Zimmer” (2005). “Anthony Zimmer” (2005) is a French film directed by Jerome Salle (“The Odyssey” (2016)) and starring Sophie Marceau. Although the 2010 version reverses the roles of the main leads, it is safe to say that the plots of both are essentially the same, or, at the very least, substantially similar. The only one major difference here is that “Anthony Zimmer” is a better film.
5. Original: The Shop Around the Corner (1940) = Remake: You’ve Got Mail (1998)
“You’ve Got Mail” (1998) is a delightful romantic comedy directed by the late Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle“(1993)), and starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. There, two strangers (a small bookshop keeper and a bookshop magnate) fall in love via internet/e-mail, not even aware that they are, in fact, enemies, because of business competition, in real life. “The Shop Around the Corner“(1940) is a classical comedy-romance directed by Ernst Lubitsch (“Ninotchka” (1939)), which tells of two employees of a gift shop (played by Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart), who, although could not stand each other face-to-face, are falling in love via the pen-pal correspondence, not being aware of each other’s true identities. Both movies cite their original source material being the 1937 Hungarian play “Parfumerie” by Miklós László. However, some of the similarities between the 1940 and the 1998 versions still go way beyond the borrowing of major plot elements. For example, in both films, the first meeting of the lovers falls through, and it is the male lead which first discovers the duo’s true identities and tries to win over the female lead. Which film is better? “The Shop Around the Corner” is a unforgettable classic film, with the great chemistry between the actors. “You’ve Got Mail” is a lighter, even if more complex, spin on the story, but it still holds up thanks to its witty, sharp script and the appeal of its stars.
6. Original: Scarface (1932) = Remake: Scarface (1983)
“Scarface” (1983) is a celebrated, although perhaps “over-the-top”, gangster thriller directed by Brian de Palma and starring Al Pacino. Here, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) rises to fame in Miami as a drug lord, only to fall from grace, when the pressures and the implications of his notorious position become too much. “Scarface” (1983) has become so popular as a film that perhaps some people still need to be reminded that it is a remake of Howard Hughes/Howard Hawks-produced film “Scarface” (1932). Moreover, the 1932 film is, in turn, based on a 1930 novel written by Armitage Trail, who tragically died of a heart attack at just 28 years of age. There is no question that the 1983 film is a remake, with some scenes, and the relationships between the characters, being almost identical in both films (even though the endings differ somewhat). Which film you prefer may largely depend on whether you are into a bit of history or like to dwell only in the present, because the major difference between the two films is just that – different historical times shown.
7. Original: Death Takes a Holiday (1934) = Remake: Meet Joe Black (1998)
“Meet Joe Black” (1998) is a romantic fantasy film, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, and directed by Martin Brest. Here, Pitt plays Death, which took the body of a recently deceased young man, and now follows a media mogul, Bill. What Death does not realise is that, before it took the body of the young man, that man had a first romantic encounter with the daughter of Bill. Thus, complications follow, as Death falls under the charms of Bill’s daughter. The concept here would have been astounding for fantasy fans, only the 1998 film takes its premise from the Italian film “Death Takes a Holiday” (1934), which is, in turn, based on the 1924 Italian play “La Morte in Vacanza” by Alberto Casella. In the 1934 film, Death takes human form, and makes its residence at a Duke’s home, revealing its true motives to the Duke. However, when Death falls under the charms of a beautiful young woman, things get complicated. Now, there are many plot variations between the two films, but it is undeniable that major plot elements remain the same, including Death taking human form, pestering a rich magnate, falling in love with a beautiful woman, and, finally, making its own sacrifice.
8. Original: Insomnia (1997) = Remake: Insomnia (2002)
“Insomnia” (2002) is, of course, the Christoper Nolan psychological thriller about the two detectives on the mission to find a culprit behind a gruesome murder in Nightmute, Alaska. Starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank, the film is clever and memorable, only it is also a remake of the Norwegian thriller of the same name directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg. The 2002 film uses the plot to “Insomnia” (1997) thoroughly, and the only differences in plot between the two films are slight variations in the character’s perspectives. As there are two different directors here, the films have different “feels” to them as well, with Skjoldbjærg striving to present an atmospheric film noir which alarms, while Nolan is going more for suspense, and only lets the audience on the secret at the end. I would say that both films are great in their own right: Nolan has crafted something both narratively entertaining and haunting, while Skjoldbjærg has made a film which is more thought-provoking and peculiarly influential.
9. Original: The Parent Trap (1961) = Remake: The Parent Trap (1998)
“The Parent Trap” (1998) is a family comedy film featuring young Lindsay Lohan in a dual role of twins (Hallie and Annie) who meet for the first time at a summer camp, and swamp places so each could experience a life with the other parent, in a different family. Apart from Lohan, the 1998 film also features the late Natasha Richardson (“Asylum” (2005)) and Dennis Quaid (“Far from Heaven” (2002)). “The Parent Trap” (1998) is a real fun and a good entertainment, and this is largely thanks to the interesting concept (twins swapping places) and Lohan’s charm. However, the concept here is nothing new, since this film is a remake of the Walt Disney film, “The Parent Trap” (1961), based on the 1949 German novel “Lottie and Lisa” by Erich Kästner. Both films follow the same plot, and seeing the versions back to back, maybe it is one of those films which needed a remake. The 1998 version brings its own sparkle to the story, even if it maybe only some memorable scenes such as the twins’ first meeting at the summer camp when they are engaged in fencing, not being aware of each other’s true identities. Having said that, the 1961 film is sweeter and more charming of the two, and is quite sophisticated by its time.
10. Original: Da Grande (1987) = Remake: Big (1988)
“Big” (1988) is Penny Marshall’s fantasy comedy about a boy whose wish to become “big” came true. Sweet, fun and entertaining, the film is great, and Hanks shines in the role, which feels as though it was made just for him. However, the whole premise looks painfully similar to the Italian comedy made just a year ago called “Da Grande” (1987). Directed by Franco Amurri, “Da Grande” is an interesting film, largely because of its thought-provoking concept and so much opportunity present to provoke laughs. Perhaps, strictly speaking, “Big” is not really a remake of “Da Grande“, and the official sources say that “Da Grande” was only an inspiration for “Big“. However, the concept shared here is too similar to be ignored; and, if all the elements are combined, the case for a remake could be made. In “Da Grande“, as in “Big“, a boy is magically transformed into a grown-up man, but he remains a child mentally, and that causes problems, including with the grown-up opposite sex. If in “Big“, the grown-up boy turns up to be good at designing toys after his transformation, in “Da Grande“, the grown- up boy becomes an expert in babysitting. “Big” is an acclaimed film, and one of the best comedies of the 1980s, but, there is a thought there that it is likely that nothing could have happened without a lot of “Da Grande” inspiration (and yes, if you are wondering the script-writer of “Big” did get nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Screenplay).