Greetings Manic Fans. Les here to talk about remakes. You know…when a modern director/producer can’t think of anything original and decides to borrow the story from a film that’s already been done. It seems to be becoming more and more popular a thing to do. Usually, the results are insulting to anyone who’s seen and loved the original. However, every now and then the opposite occurs and the remake is miles better than the original. I’m going to list my top 12 remakes I feel were a huge improvement over the films they were based on.  These won’t be ranked.

 

Warning: Spoilers and better results ahead….

 

The Fly(1958)/The Fly(1986)

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The original is a 1950’s B-movie classic featuring Vincent Price in a supporting role about a scientist who invents a teleport machine and has an accident that leaves him with the head and hand of a common housefly(and vice versa). He slowly goes insane and begs his wife to kill him in a metal press(possible inspiration for the way Sarah Connor killed the first Terminator, now that I’m thinking about it….but I digress….). In the climatic ending, the other victim, the fly, now with the head and hand of a human, is stuck in a spider web crying out for someone to “HEEELLLP MEEEEE!….HEEEEELEP MEEEEEEE!!!!)…and before the spider finishes him off, the police officer crushes both with a rock. Now this is a B-film, no mistake about it. 1950’s Science Fiction was typically like this. It’s cheesy and over-emoted…but interesting and a lot of fun to watch(Even before Riff-Trax gets ahold of it).

 

David Croenberg’s remake in 1986 improved the story and characters many times over the original. Seth Brundle(Jeff Goldblume) is the scientist who invents the telepods and Veronica(Geena Davis) is the reporter/love interest who is there when he has the accident…almost. What makes this a better film is the way the accident happens, how the transformation occurs and how the love story becomes a love tragedy. In this one, the combination occurs at the genetic level and Seth slowly metamorphoses into a man-sized fly physically while his mind is slowly corrupted at the same time. In the climax, he has a second accident attempting to combine himself with Veronica to use her healthy DNA to counter the Fly DNA and he’s combined with part of the telepod, instead. Horribly mutated and in agony, he uses pantomime to beg Veronica to blow his head off with a shotgun…which is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes ever filmed. This is a great drama, and a tremendously tragic love-story…with amazing gore makeup effects.

 

The Thing(1950)/John Carpenter’s The Thing(1982)

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The Thing was the first Science Fiction film of the 1950’s, who’s success at the box office, set the stage for the most prolific genre of that decade. A group of arctic explorers discover a buried flying saucer and inadvertently unleash a horrible monster, the Thing(James Arness). They spend the rest of the film attempting to survive and kill it(The scene where they use kerosene to light it on fire is amazing!). In the end, they electrocute it and a reporter with the group gets on the radio to warn the world to “Watch the skies.” and the film has a happy ending.

 

John Carpenter took the basic story in his remake and added paranoia, fear and some of the most shocking imagery and scares ever put in a horror film. In this one, the Thing exists at the cellular level, infecting whatever comes into contact with it and copying the host DNA to hide in plain sight while waiting to attack its next victim. The result makes for about 1 1/2 hours of nail-biting suspense and scares galore. The attacks are bizarre, bloody and absolutely hideous. This film definitely doesn’t have a happy ending and it’s very disturbing. The far superior horror film.

 

The Blob(1958)/The Blob(1988)

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One of the all-time great B-movie science fiction/horror films starred Steve McQueen in his first lead film role. Pretty simple plot: Meteor falls to the ground. A hobo pokes it with a stick and it splits open revealing a gooey center. He spears some of it on the end of a stick and it oozes down toward his hand. At the last moment, he flips it over…and the stuff climbs the stick and envelopes his hand…eventually absorbing him and growing bigger with every victim it ingests. Grabbing love interest, , and taking refuge in a meat freezer, they discover that cold repels it….almost…later when they’re using a CO2 fire extinguisher to put out a fire and it makes the Blob back away, THEN they put 2 and 2 together and understand that it can be frozen. Friends break into a firehouse and grab 20 CO2 fire extinguishers and save them. The Blob is then parachuted to the Arctic North where the final words on screen are “The End?”

 

In the remake, Kevin Dillon grabs the role done by Steve McQueen and clearly has a blast with it. What makes this remake better are 3 factors:

1.  This Blob isn’t an alien invading us, but a man-made parasite that mutated into a monster…and those responsible want to use it as a weapon and are willing to let an entire town be destroyed to protect it. This makes for a double threat with the heroes fighting the Blob and the military-like secret organization out to use it.

2.  This Blob isn’t mindless…it clearly enjoys doing it’s best to terrify its victims before eating…which it does extremely well.

3.  Special and makeup effects really improved between both films and the Blob and the ingestions are more disturbing in the remake.

 

The Lord of the Rings(1978)/The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring(2001)/The Two Towers(2002)

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Ralph Bakshi animated the first one….using roto-scope technique(painting over live action film) in several places when he ran out of money to make the whole thing animated. Visually, it’s fairly well done and well designed. The voice cast is pretty good too with the best voice going to John Hurt, as Aragorn.

 

And then Peter Jackson came along, put WETA Workshop into action and completely blew the first film out of the water with a truly epic series of adaptations of the tale by JRR Tolkien. The Actors are magnificent with special mentions going to Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf, John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, Sean Astin as Sam, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Sean Bean as Boromir, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Vigo Mortensen as Aragorn and especially Andy Serkis as Gollum. The Art designs/sets/costumes/swords are fantastic. The use of “forced scale perspective,” CGI and larger than life prosthetics convincingly made the Hobbits and Dwarves smaller than the Humans and Elves. The on location areas in New Zealand were breathtaking. The makeup on the Orcs/Oruk-hais were terrifying and the music by Howard Shore was inspirational.

 

Ocean’s 11(1960)/Ocean’s Eleven(2001)

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The first film was the debut of the “Rat Pack,” and as such, had a lot going for it. The cast, headlined by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Caesar Romero gave a stellar performance and some pretty great musical numbers(“E-O-Eleven,” “Ain’t that a kick in the head”). The plot of Danny Ocean(Sinatra) to use his old Army unit to pull off a mega-heist caper to rip off 4 Las Vegas Casinos on New Year’s Eve was a very clever plan. However…since it IS the Rat Pack, they end up losing the money in a very ironic twist kind of ending(This happens in all Rat Pack films…).

 

Then George Clooney was a re-imagined Danny Ocean who, in this film, is an ex-con thief mastermind who hires 10 specialists in the field: Rusty Ryan(Brad Pitt) the professional thief, Saul Bloom(Carl Reiner) the veteran con man, Basher Tar(Don Cheadle) the demolitions man, Linus Caldwell(Matt Damon) the professional pick-pocket, Frank Catton(Bernie Mac) the inside man, The Amazing Yan(Shaobo Qin) The grease man, Livingston Dell(Eddie Jemison) The surveillance/hacker techman, Reuben(Elliot Gould), the financier and the Malloy twins(Scott Caan, Casey Affleck), the transporters. He puts into motion a plan to rip $180 million from Terry Bennedict’s(Andy Garcia) Casinos(The MGM, The Mirage and The Bellagio) to pay him back for stealing his wife, Tess(Julia Roberts). The plan is brilliant and the execution through the film is very clever. Also…they don’t lose in this one like the Rat Pack did.

 

The Nutty Professor(1963)/The Nutty Professor(1996)

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The original is a classic, no doubt about it. Jerry Lewis is great as the nerdy professor who develops a “Dean Martin Cool” alter ego named Buddy Love, when he drinks a chemical potion he invents.

 

In the remake, Eddie Murphy ups the ante by making the shy professor a 400 pound man(in amazing makeup by Rick Baker….as well as playing 4 other members of his family(including the Mother and Grandmother). His alter-ego Buddy Love is thin Eddie Murphy with all the confidence in the world. It’s a really great acting job by the comedian to take on 6 completely different roles in the same film.

 

Titanic(1953)/Titanic(1997)

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The original was a drama about an estranged couple who come to terms with themselves and their children aboard the doomed Ocean Liner.  It is a fairly good, if fairly historically inaccurate in several areas, movie with interesting characters and pretty good model effects of the Titanic for the 1950s.

 

Then James Cameron came along and brought out all the stops to make his Titanic a spectacle as real as possible(To the point of building a 3/4 scale set of the entire ship on hydraulic platforms so he could actually sink…and re-sink the vessel for interior/exterior shots. The star-crossed lovers story of Jack Dawson(Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose(Kate Winslet) was compelling and the music/songs by James Horner were wonderful.

 

King Kong(1933)/King Kong(2004)

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To be fair, 1933’s “King Kong” is a tremendous film achievement as well as a great movie. The special effects and stop-motion photography of Willis O’Brien are legendary and fun as hell to watch.

 

Then Peter Jackson, hot off his success with The Lord of the Rings, put WETA workshop and Andy Serkis(as motion-capture Kong) to work on this remake and the results were breathtaking. With a bunch of clever nods to the original to respect it, this King Kong had far more emotion going for it. Kong and Ann Darrow have an onscreen chemistry that’s believable and quite heart breaking in the final moments of the film. Plus, Skull Island is a lot creepier and the monsters in it are phenomenal(the Kong fight with the 3 T-Rexes is spellbinding).

 

Freaky Friday(1976)/Freaky Friday(2003)

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The original is a Disney Classic….but it’s also severely dated…and by that, I mean incredibly sexist with outdated stereotypes that make it a little harder to get into from a modern perspective. That said, Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris and John Astin put in enjoyable performances.

 

The Remake is far more relatable taking the Mother/Teenage Daughter conflict and really playing it like it might happen with a Single, but engaged Mother would while dealing with an angst ridden teenage daughter. Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis put in tremendous acting jobs making you believe they’ve swapped bodies. It’s a better film for it.

 

Dune(1984)/Frank Herbert’s Dune(2000)

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I might catch a little hell for this one…However, David Lynch’s “Dune” is an extremely well done B-film. The characters are pretty good and many elements of Frank Herbert’s classic tale are in the film. However, there are certain liberties taken with the story that make it different. For instance, the weirding modules that amplify sound as a weapon…never existed in the book. The visuals are striking, but quite dark with a predominantly black design in costumes and interior sets that make the film nearly predominantly dreary and bleak.

 

Sci-Fi’s “Frank Herbert’s Dune,” on the other hand, really put the work into the artistic design. Each world has a unique look to it. Arrakis is far more dessert-like in the realization of the town of Arakeen and the Fremen villages. Giedi Prime has a far more industrial look to it with leather wardrobes. Kaitain is opulent and grand with colorful silks and upper class fashions. The CGI sandworms are magnificent. The story more faithfully follows the book and all the actors played their roles better with one or two exceptions…I preferred Kyle MacLaughlan’s Paul Attreides in the original and also Jurgen Prochnow as Duke Leto. In every other role, the new film wins out.

 

Little Shop of Horrors(1960)/Little Shop of Horrors(1986)

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The original is a classic B-movie filmed by Roger Corman who finished principal photography on it in 2 days. This film marked Jack Nicholson’s debut(as a dental patient with a pain fetish), and had great riff-able moments in it.

 

The Remake, done as a musical was definitely more polished and stronger for the characters-especially Audrey II, the plant done as a very elaborate puppet operated by muppet veteran Frank Oz and voiced by Levi Stubbs. Jack’s role is done by Bill Murray in this one, and opposite him is Steve Martin in one of his best roles ever as the sadistic dentist.

 

Captain America(1990)/Captain America: The First Avenger(2011)

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The first one…didn’t even get a theatrical release, it was so bad. This Steve Rogers was lame and uninteresting. When he had the suit on, he wasn’t much better. The Red Skull in this film is lackluster and the story is stupid.

 

Then came Marvel Studios The Avengers: Phase One that started with “Iron Man” and had films for The Hulk, Thor, Black Widdow and Hawkeye that set up “The Avengers.” Right before the film about the Asgardian with the hammer, the fans finally got a great Captain America film with “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Chris Evans was a wonderful Steve Rogers. You believed his purity, goodness and never say die attitude when facing bullies. His Captain America was inspiring and heroic. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is intimidating and charismatic. The story was interesting and a lot of fun to watch.

 

And that’s my top 12 films I felt were better as remakes than the original versions. Did I miss any of your favorites? I’d love to hear what films you felt were better remade, my friends. Peace.

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