TV & FILM
brian-mcgee - August 10, 2018
Remakes suck. They just do. Nothing good really ever comes from them, but like every rule, there are exceptions. Every now and again, however, one comes along that does the unthinkable and is actually better than the original.
True, it doesn't happen very often. In the long history of film, you could probably count the number of remakes that were better than the original on two hands. Today's open post is gonna focus on those remakes that surpassed the original. I'll get the conversation going with my Top 5 remakes that were better than the original and then I'll turn it over to you guys to leave your favorites in the comments section below...
I'm in the bag for Werner Herzog, so this one feels like a bit of a cheat since the original is such a beloved film and still maintains much of its eerie charm nearly a hundred years after it was made. However, Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu deepens and enriches the original film, taking the vampire myth and making it feel more accessible and more romantic.
Of course, Herzog's most ingenious idea was casting long-time collaborator, friend, and sometimes nemesis Klaus Kinski in the title role. Kinski is an otherworldly dude with no makeup on, so seeing him in full vampire regalia is the stuff that nightmares are made of. However, Herzog is also savvy enough to paint Kinski's Count Dracula as a pitiable character, mired in eons of loneliness that make him surprisingly easy to empathize with.
Herzog is able to conjure up some haunting imagery that rivals anything Murnau had done seventy-seven years earlier. Add in the also beautifully cast Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz as the Harkers, and you've got a truly special horror movie that works on a gut level as well as an emotional one.
For the record, there's no topping The Duke's portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the first adaptation of Charles Portis' novel True Grit, but the movie surrounding him is less than stellar. Thankfully The Coen Brothers went back to the source material for their 2010 adaptation, and created a much more wholly satisfying film in the bargain. Reuniting with their "Dude," Jeff Bridges, the Coens managed to surpass the original in nearly every way.
The remake's cast is vastly superior across the board with the other leads, Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon, handily surpassing Kim Darby and Glen Campbell as Mattie Ross and LaBoeuf, respectively. The film's added element of danger is much more palpable, as well. God love John Wayne, but you never really feared for Mattie because the biggest swinging dick in Hollywood history was there to save her. That's gone thanks to Bridges' drunken ineptitude, which is on display at nearly every turn, substantially increasing the opportunities for drama in the story.
Although the Vincent Price-starring 1958 original is a campy horror classic, it can't hold a candle to the body horror created by David Cronenberg in his 1986 remake of The Fly. One of the best practical effects films ever made, Cronenberg's The Fly is a gross masterpiece about the ambition and arrogance that leads to the downfall of scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum).
Nobody does eccentric weirdos like Goldblum, making him the perfect leading man for this project, and his chemistry with off-screen lover Geena Davis only enhances the narrative. It's the Oscar-winning makeup design by Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis, though, that really sends this film into the stratosphere. Flies are gross disgusting creatures, and translating their look to Goldblum's six-foot four-inch frame only magnifies just how truly unsettling they are.
This film and the next two on my list are so good that they've more or less erased any memories of the originals in the public conscious, and with good reason. Sometimes, a film is just that damn good that it makes you forget it's a remake in the first place.
If Cronenberg's The Fly is one of the best practical effects films of all-time, John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing is, hands down, the best practical effects film ever made. Like The Coen's True Grit, this one isn't strictly a remake so much as it is another adaptation of a book that was already turned into a film. Just like that film, however, The Thing's faithfulness to its source material—John W. Campbell's novella "Who Goes There"—than the previous adaptation of the work, 1951's The Thing From Another World.
Anchored by a terrific lead performance by Kurt Russell as helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, The Thing is your classic paranoia thriller where no one knows who the real threat is, and just about everyone's a suspect. Russell is ably supported by a brilliant cast that includes the likes of Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart, Richard Masur, and Keith "I didn't take it out for air" David.
Between Halloween and this film, Carpenter forever cemented his legacy as one of the masters of horror, and creature effects wizard Rob Bottin did some of the most amazing work ever done in the realm of visual effects. Sadly the film was a bomb at the time of its release, but it has since earned its place as one of the greatest horror films ever made, and most certainly one of the best remakes of all time.
1939's The Wizard of Oz is my favorite film of all-time, so it kinda had to top this list. Officially the seventh big screen adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic work The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this MGM musical classic endures as one of the few beloved films that's so good, no one has even bothered attempting to remake it in the interim.
The Wizard of Oz is a deeply strange film, for one thing, likely the product of having no fewer than five directors—though only Victor Fleming got the credit. It's also thoroughly wholesome, yet can be terrifying to very young children. It's the first major fantasy film to play equally well across all demographics, and its timeless message that "there's no place like home" still resonates with audiences today.
Yes, it doesn't help that the prior adaptations were fairly disposable, making this something of a layup as far as being better than previous versions, but it's the fact that no one has gone near this property again that really solidified this as the best remake for me. Lord knows some money hungry studio exec is chomping at the bit to remake this, but they've all slowly and surely come to the realization that you can't mess with perfection.
So there you have it. What are some of your favorite remakes? Did I take all the good ones away from you? Sound off in the comments section below.