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Blog words: You, me and the last remake on the left

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Mark Kermode | 13:00 UK time, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Are remakes always a bad thing? You tell me and I tell you.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Remakes arnt always a bad thing. Look at The Fly (1986.

    One movie i DO like to see remade is Hellraiser. I saw it the other day and wondered what the movie might have looked liked, if it had a larger budget.

    greetings from The Netherlands

  • Comment number 2.

    I thought the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair was a classy bit of work. The Departed doesn't crap all over Infernal Affairs. Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 is a thousand times more entertaining than the original Rat Pack vanity vehicle and (I know I'm a lonely voice here) I think his Solaris is very accomplished (and I love the Tarkovsky version - itself not the first).

  • Comment number 3.

    I wrote a few years ago about my reservations on sequels and remakes, and how Hollywood had run out of original ideas. Here's a link to that article:

    ...I suppose things have got worse - although I enjoyed Death Proof quite a bit more than you did Mark (I take it you've seen Planet Terror now - surely you enjoyed it far more?) - do we really need not only storylines remade but old print scratch marks too!

    I do agree with you. Remakes are not a bad thing when they are done well. It's just that for every good (or great) remake (The Fly, Ocean's 11, The Thing) we get 100 really bad ones (the most recent of which - Black Christmas and Halloween were nauseatingly bad...ergh!)

  • Comment number 4.

    mark kermode, your site is great, your quiff is nothing short of stylish and sitting crosslegged on tables is absolutely the way forward.

    with that out of the way, how do you feel about sam raimi remaking the evil dead? it seems like an odd thing to do, especially when you consider the fact that the evil dead 2 is essentially a funnier and better executed remake of the original in itself. i am very apprehensive and not only because it will not be starring bruce campbell, but also because really i want the evil dead 4, although i know you're not a fan of the third one.

    personally, i think if someone wants to remake films, phantasm deserves a wider audience as all four films are just SO GREAT (although again, i'd rather just have phantasm 5 come out).

    "you play a good game boy, but the game is finished, now you die"

  • Comment number 5.

    Dr Mark,

    I wish someone would remake any, if not all, of Guy Ritchie's films.

    Oh, hold on!

    He's already done that himself.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with you to a certain degree that not all remakes are bad, not that any of the recent horror ones are of any value or entertaining to boot. My heart sinks a little bit more now that last house on the left has been remade or should i say probably re-hashed! I think the problem comes from making bad remakes in that the studio's have no desire to put in the required effort in order to turn out a great film, the main thing they're really worried about is money, money, money. One final point, i did get to see clockwork orange when it was re-released a few years back, i was barely old to see it legally but i'd heard so much about it that it added an extra thrill to my viewing.

  • Comment number 7.

    My local arts cinema is fantastic. It usually shows one old movie a week, one usually with a cult appeal. However I have noticed that my local multiplex has also started showing old movies sporadically. It started with the BFI commemorative screenings a year or two back.

  • Comment number 8.

    Has the hair become greyer all of a sudden?!

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks Mark for reading out my comment about Watchmen.

    A sad thing about Birmingham is, that there is no art house cinema in Birmingham, their is "the electric" but they normally just show a big film a week or 2 after it's released in the big theatre and if they get something interesting, they put it on once and that's it.

    Now on to remakes...
    Remakes are of course not bad in principle.
    Some good remakes are... Ocean's 11, The Fly (both mentioned above), 3:10 to Yuma, Bad News Bears, Cape Fear, The Departed, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Hills Have Eyes, Lolita, The Talented Mr.Ripley, Ripley's Game and of course The Maltese Falcon and 12 Monkeys.

    I have more problems with direct to dvd sequels of brilliant films and more specially "S.DARKO : A DONNIE DARKO"

    "Donnie Darko" is my alltime favourite film, I was 13 when I saw it and just blew my mind and everytime I watch it I notice a small detail that I didn't see before but this sequel is so vile, it's produced by a produced of the first film who was sacked for "psychotic behavior" , Richard Kelly has no involvement and has publicly condoned the film and tried to get it stopped by didn't have the money to stop it. The plot doesn't make any sense in connection to the original, it claims Donnie Darko died which never happened in the original, he may have and he may not have; Richard Kelly won't comment either way.

    Here is the horrible trailer...

  • Comment number 10.

    I find the idea of remaking 'Let The Right One In' hard to justify - it seems unlikely that anything genuinely new or different can be brought to a film this recently made, not to mention this good. Part of the pleasure of watching LTROI was the fact that it it had a genuinely different sense of place and a uniquely Scandinavian atmosphere, the very things that I suspect, along with the subtitles, are the reason for the remake.

    To look at it from the other side, are there any examples of American fare remade (for better or worse) in Europe or the East?

  • Comment number 11.

    Lordtangent it could be argued that Das Welle (the wave) was sort of a remake since there were dramas made about the original American based experiment.

    One remake that hasn’t been mentioned is the genuinely funny 'Back to School' (1986) starring Rodney Dangerfield (in his finest hour). A remake of 'High Time' (1960) starring Bing Crosby.

    Apparently it is being remade again starring (sigh!) Cedric the Entertainer. Which brings up a point about remakes for certain demographics (ala Guess Who’s coming to Dinner - Guess who) surely if the original is genuinely funny anybody should be able to enjoy it

  • Comment number 12.

    Remakes have their place but the majority are pretty bad.

    I consider Per un Pugno di Dollari better than Yojimbo.

    Obviusly John Caperenter's The Thing is the superior version.

    And the great Alfred Hitchcok remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much.

    And finally I think a certain Quentin Tarantino was an earlier champion of Breathless than your mighty self ;-)

  • Comment number 13.

    Perhaps the best remake ever made was The Maltese Falcon, which is arguable a second remake.

    Steve W

  • Comment number 14.

    Remakes are fine, but we all know most of them are terrible. I think it depends on the director. Film-makers like Scorcese, Cronenberg, and Carpenter have made brilliant remakes, probably because they just make brilliant films. All other remakes are just directed by blokes taking time off from filming C-grade music videos.
    I don't see the reason why classics should be getting remade. These great films have used up all the potential they have, you can't go any further. I wish more bad films were remade. More films that had potential, but didn't realise it. These are the films that should be being remade.
    Also, what does the good doctor think about Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (probably the only music video director to make a remake as his debut and went on to do, what I think is, great things).

  • Comment number 15.

    the main issue with snyder's dawn of the dead, aside from the fact that it's totally hollow, is that they're not even real zombies. i mean, kermode always says about it being the first time that you had running zombies (as opposed to running infected), but they're STILL infected. a character dies but doesn't become a zombie because she wasn't bitten by a zombie, and so it's not the dead returning to life, it's an infection that's causing the problem.

    it's a fun film, but man, what's snyder's obsession with changing key plot points?

  • Comment number 16.

    Mark, in quite a few of your movie review podcasts you have often demanded that if people want to see foreign films, such as '[REC]', they should make the effort to watch the original, and ignore their trashy remakes such as 'Qurantine'. So, why don't you just take your own advice and ignore them? Since the originals are so important to you, surely their trashy, Americanised remakes don't matter?

  • Comment number 17.

    because he's a film critic and the whole point of being a film critic is seeing underwhelming film after underwhelming film.

  • Comment number 18.

    If ever there needs proof of the lack of ideas currently circulating around Hollywood; its the endless supply of remakes that now get's produced. I can't imagine what they think they can add to a film of the calibre of 'Let the Right one in' - and I don't want to see the end result of such an effort. Why is it, that the horror genre falls foul of Hollywood's latest cinematic crime more than any other? I mean, When I heard that they were remaking 'A Tale of Two Sisters' - a relatively unknown Asian horror gem, I could just about take it, but now this and an Oldboy remake with Will Smith in the leading role has me incensed.

  • Comment number 19.

    Funny you should play that song as an execution to this blog entry. As with so many of these remakes, they really are a 'road leading to nowhere'...

    Totally and utterly unnecessary, not to mention insulting to their inspirations sometimes. I do think though at the moment there is an extreme lack in originality in cinema with all these remakes and sequels and adaptations. And with Clint Eastwood having only a few films left in him; we need a miracle to end this lethargic trend!

  • Comment number 20.

    Oh and i must agree;
    The 1980 remake of The Thing by Carpenter really is one of the finest examples of a film that not only churned out a superior remake; but was in desperate need of one.

    Does Last House On The Left NEED a remake?... I think not.

  • Comment number 21.

    the argument for and against remakes is undeniably an infinite one. but it has to be said that this is creating discussion about old and new, so can't be all bad. one thing a remake dose prompt is usually a decent dvd release of the original which is definately good.

    also wish i had a decent local art cinema, and then also the money to support them.

    on a lighter note, my comment got read out. i am "chuffed as nuts" oh yes!

  • Comment number 22.

    Hello Dr Mark.

    First of all, thank you for this blog and your honest and frank opinions. I might not always agree but I like your willingness to debate bigger questions when it comes to cinema, especially the topic about language and international cinema.

    As a Swede I must agree to your concern about Let the Right One in. Remakes aren't always bad, many tend to be but some are fantastic. But the thing with Let the Right One In is that it is one of the few great Swedish films these past years. To be honest, my country has seen better times when it comes to cinema. The most of it is trash. But there are a few odd films which really stand out. Let The Right One in is one of those and it feels so different and particularly Swedish. It has a whole new feel to it and it managed to capture so much of the book and the creepiness of mixing these "normal" environments with vampires. Therefore the thought of an American remake just makes me shudder. Please leave our good ones alone.

    Just think about what happened when they did Insomnia which is a brilliant Norwegian film from the beginning. Or the terrifying Danish film Nattevagten from 97.

    And can someone give Kenneth Branagh a voice coach for the next Wallander film? They where quite impressing but he CANNOT pronounce Swedish words.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 23.

    Scorsese's Cape Fear is brilliant and The Departed is very watchable. I haven't seen the original Insomnia, but I thought Nolan's version was very good.

    When doing an English language remake, even retaining the original director will not help the remake's chances. You just have to look at Sluizer's The Vanishing, Bornedal's Nightwatch and Haneke's Funny Games.

    As someone else suggested, remaking a film that offered great promise but wasn't brilliantly executed, might be the way forward.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dr K,

    I've been a podcaster for almost 18 months now, and I've heard you mention David Lynch's Eraserhead and Inland Empire on the blog and with Dr S - but not Mulholland Drive. As it is one of my favourite films, I would love for to hear your thoughts on it.

    Thanks in advance,

    Journo in traning, Ben Hobson

  • Comment number 25.

    Re - IanSchultz - Wow, I had no idea that a sequel to Donnie Darko had been made at all. It looks truly awful I must say. Did it go straight to dvd? It certainly looks like the kind of film that would!

    Dr Kermode - I definitely agree with you that Breathless is better than A bout de souffle. I've been a long time fan of Breathless for years. Let's face it, a film that combines The Silver Surfer, Jerry Lee Lewis and Philip Glass's wonderful music can only be a good thing!

  • Comment number 26.

    When is a remake not a remake?

    Let's see, The Maltese Falcon (1941) is the *second* remake of the film of the same name from 1931. Or is it? Perhaps they are just versions of the same novel. The later film is quite different in tone (darker) and also because the earlier film was pre-code, some of the risque themes were toned down or censored altogether. TMF(1941) is considered by some to be the first example of Film Noir. Can a film that is the first of its genre really be a remake?

    What about The Ten Commandments? Two versions were made by Cecil B deMille but one is silent and partly black and white and one is in colour with sound. Do we ever think of films that are so different in format to be just remakes? Anybody out there think that Ben Hur(1959) or The Wizard of OZ(1939) are not the definitive versions?

    Are the the newer incarnations of Batman and Superman remakes?

    Camerons's Titanic(1997) has similarities to the 1943 German film and a Night to Remember(1958) even includes some footage from the same film, but do people think of these as remakes rather than individual films in their own right? Incidentally, the Germans decided to make Titanic, a film about a British subject, in the German language. Can you imagine that, Mark?

    The best remakes I can think of are

    1. The Maltese Falcon (OK, so it really is a remake ;-) )
    2. A Fistful of Dollars
    3. The Magnificent Seven
    4. Heaven Can Wait
    5. Cape Fear
    6. King Kong (the Peter Jackson version). Well, I enjoyed it.

    One that doesn't quite fit this list is Young Frankenstein. If you've seen Bride of Frankenstein the similarities are so unmistakable (they even used the same laboratory props that were used in Frankenstein(1931)) that you might have to consider this a remake though obviously it is a completely different film and it is too good to just be a spoof.

    The most pointless remakes I can think of are

    1. Psycho
    2. The Manchurian Candidate
    3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    Now, does anybody fancy remaking The Exorcist, Citizen Kane, 2001?

  • Comment number 27.


    12(2007) is a Russian remake of 12 angry men. I don't know if this was released in the UK, it had a limited release in the US. In Russia you don't need a unanimous not guilty verdict, in fact if 6 people vote not guilty you must return a "not guilty" verdict, but rather than set it in the US and make it in the English language as no doubt Mark would advocate, they set it in Russia in Russian and Chechen languages.
    It's 159 minutes long (so if we only had to get 6 not guilty verdicts, that would have shortened the film considerably). With remakes you can take liberties and there is an interesting twist (or two) that happens near the end that is not in the original. Otherwise it was perfectly fine if you dont mind reading subtitles for two hours (which I don't but there are some challenging moments where you are trying to watch the actions of some jurors while trying to read translations of words that are being spoken by other jurors that are off camera and obviously the whole thing is quite wordy). If you watch it now, the American original is quite creaky (some of the sentiments and music really date it) but it is still obviously a classic. I don't think you could say that this remake is better or as good as the original.
    Apparently it brought a tear to Putin's eye when he saw it - for whatever that is worth.

  • Comment number 28.

    As for the remake of Breathless being better than the original, well that's just not true, though I'd like to ask what your problem with French New Wave is.
    Also I think Carpenter's The Thing is a brilliant remake, that scares the shit out of me to this day.

  • Comment number 29.

    antimode, you beat me to it. I think King Kong was crying out for a remake and I personally think Peter Jackson did an amazing job.

    But then I also liked Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead so I'm not sure how much weight my opinion holds :)

  • Comment number 30.

    Remakes aren't pointless by default - the point is, can the filmmakers make something fresh, different and equally relevant that can comfortably co-exist with the original without? That's why The Thing and The Fly are successful, whereas the remake of The Hitcher, for example fails; it's almost exactly the same as the original, with some of the furniture rearranged. (In the case of The Hitcher, the remake's script skewed so closely to the original that the WGA gave the original's writer, Eric Red, a co-writer credit even though he had nothing to do with the development of the remake!)

    Of course it goes without saying it would be nice to see some more original ideas than another remake.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dr K,

    I don't really have an objection to remakes as I've never regarded the originals as sacred texts that Must Not Be Interfered With, any more than adaptations of novels or plays need to stick to the letter of the source. But equally I'm not convinced remakes should be done at all unless you're bringing something new and exciting to the table. Even if it's nothing other than gloopy special effects (Fly, Thing) or pointy 3D (My Bloody Valentine), or megastar casting (Ocean's Whatever) or a different political subtext (various incarnations of Body Snatchers). Just doing it in English doesn't count (Quarantine).

    But don't remake classics! Don't remake these things unless you can improve upon them! Don't remake The Exorcist or A Nightmare On Elm Street or Conan The Barbarian because those bars are set way too high. Remake Zoltan: Hound Of Dracula instead! The bar's way down low on that one so even the Michael Bays of this world should be able to do something with it.

  • Comment number 32.

    Dear doctor,

    So glad you made the point on remaking trash because I emphatically endorse this concept. Surely you'd prefer a remake of Exorcist 2: The Heretic than one of Friedkin's original?

    I personally loathe and dread the ever increasing, classic-cloning,creativity-mocking celluloid filth that is spewing out of Hollywood these days.

    What is to be their next unfortunate victim?

    LEAVE JAWS ALONE! Go nuts with a remake of Jaws 3. Have a stab at Jaws: The Revenge for heaven's sake. I exclude Jaws 2 because I believe it to be a pretty good little sequel.

    On the 'original-flagging' note:
    Just purchased and watched The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). Not too bad, considering it was made by the hack that helmed...(gulp)...Jaws: The Revenge!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Some remakes aren't all that bad I suppose, but it would be better if new and more interesting films were made instead of trying to make a quick buck by remaking a already good film, even if it was a bad film.
    Leave it alone unless you can really do something new and unusual with it.

  • Comment number 34.

    I second that Thomas Crown Affair is better than the original, which except for the chess scene is largely boring.

    The Departed is a respectful remake, even if it's not a patch on the original (it's way too long for one) and it saddens me for all the outstanding work Scorsese has done, it's THIS that he got the recognition for.

    Logan's Run is in definite need of a remake. Logan's Run has a fantastic first half but peters out to nothing in the second half.

    Like you say Mark there are examples where remakes are very good but boy they're few and far between. Most film-makers who make a film from a remake seem to miss the entire point of the original film. All the nuts and bolts are there but none of the magic is present, which made the original so enjoyable in the first place.

    Of course, if you've seen the original it's hard to have as much enjoyment for the remake, as you usually know exactly what is going to happen next. I saw The Departed with friends and the scene where the police of chief departs from the movie was of no surprise whatsoever. That scene is entirely lifted from Infernal Affairs. At least Scorsese (and the writers) significantly changed it in other ways.

  • Comment number 35.

    Dear Dr. Kermode,
    Am a huge fan of your reviews.

    On the subject of remakes, I think you're right in saying that, in principle, there is nothing wrong with doing remakes of films. But I was just wondering a couple of things:

    1. What is your opinion of remakes which are made out of direct tribute to a director, such as the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho?

    2. Considering that almost every horror film of the 1970s and 1980s is now being remade (and not always well) how long is it before we can expect, heaven forbid, a remake of The Exorcist? If the whole Bride Wars wager doesn't come through, would this prompt you to resign?

  • Comment number 36.

    Dr. K,
    Are there still plans to make a sequel to the remake of The Italian Job? Saw the remake and hated it, love the original, RIP Troy Kennedy Martin


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