Five Movies That Are Safe: Remakes that can’t get made…right??

Posted on 08 June 2009 by ShepRamsey

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that every day there is news of a new movie getting the remake treatment. Many of these filmmakers are trampling some very sacred ground in an effort to make a buck.  There are shreds of integrity left, but for how much longer? How much longer before they take it all WAY too far? Despite Hollywood’s remake fever, I think I’ve found five cinematically relevant motion picture endeavors that we can cling to—five that should be safe…right??


Some movies shouldn’t be duplicated.  Others simply can’t be.


David Lynch’s Eraserhead breaks all cinematic rules in that it has no rules of its own. It’s a fully-realized nightmare dictated to film…a film that’s less about what it’s about, but more about how it plays out. And you can’t remake a how-film. You can’t remake style (which is why I always found that Richard Gere remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless very puzzling). Is someone honestly going to find themselves that obsessed with the mission to remake every cult classic in existence that they’ll take on the task of trying to make Eraserhead new and accessible? I just really, really doubt it.

If I’m wrong: We’ll see a heartfelt, inspirational picture about a guy with crazy hair who lives in Gary, Indiana. He’s sick of the monotony of his job, and when he impregnates his girlfriend, his newfound fatherhood gives him the ambition he needs to…um…start a revolution against the local pencil factory that harvests human heads for erasers. The viral marketing campaign will consist of the sentence “In Heaven, everything is fine” popping up everywhere on the internet.

El Topo

This is one that I kinda see in the same ballpark as Eraserhead, only a whole lot moreso. Who would el-topohonestly want to attempt this? It’s a cult classic sure, but not in the way that The Goonies is a cult classic. Remakes are made to cash in on name-recognition with mainstream audiences, and mainstream audiences have never heard of this film in their lives. I guess what I’m saying—my reason is for even bothering to include it here—is that there are plenty of outstanding obscure cult movies out there that won’t be touched! Maybe your childhood is being stolen from you and bastardized, but your drug-addled college years are perfectly safe! Between this and The Holy Mountain, I’d say that my good buddy Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn’t have a damn thing to worry about. (Although, somehow, I feel like I can see Santa Sangre getting remade.)
If I’m wrong: The basic premise for the film could easily be adapted as a straight western. Of course, if that were done, and all surrealism and Biblical and Zen Buddhist structure were taken out of it, it wouldn’t be El Topo anymore, and thus would be a case of making an ordinary western and calling it El Topo to cash in on name-recognition for which the original film has virtually none. In other words, I’m not wrong.

Any Hitchcock movie

You know, people want to punch Gus Van Sant for making that peculiar shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho inhitchcock3 1998, but I think we should all shake his hand. With it, Van Sant demonstrated how absurd it is to remake a film by the master himself. And we haven’t seen a single Hitchcock remake since. We had seen several before that, however. From the obvious multiple incarnations of films like The Lady Vanishes to that Michael Douglas-Gwenyth Paltrow remake of Dial M for Murder, re-titled as A Perfect Murder. Hell, Hitchcock even remade his own film, turning his 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much into the 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much. But after Van Sant’s version of Psycho, which basically amounted to a parody of the idea of a remake, we were forced to realize that Hitchcock pictures were a sacred ground upon which no newcomer should tread. Sure, studio execs don’t care about such things, but is there a director out there willing to try it? One dumb fucking bonehead cocky enough to think they’ve got what it takes? Well?? Is there??
If I’m wrong: Given the really wide playing field that I’ve laid out here, I feel this is easily where I stand the largest chance to be wrong. And if that’s the case, then we can all look forward to a Michael Bay remake of The Birds with dinosaurs dropping nuclear bombs in IMAX 3-D.

Dr. Strangelove

I’m pretty sure you can’t remake any Stanley Kubrick movie. However, we have seen more recent versions of both Lolita and The Shining, but it needs to be said that both of those strangeloveoriginal films found their basis in two reasonably popular novels for which new adaptations are pretty much expected—but they weren’t really “remakes of Kubrick movies,” were they? His Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is also based on a novel: Red Alert, by Peter George, but I think it goes without saying that Kubrick made this one his own. For starters, the book wasn’t a comedy. But leave it to good ol’ Kubrick to find the lighter side of nuclear war. It’s interesting that the only one of Kubrick’s films to be accepted as a straight comedy—not only that, but widely considered one of the funniest movies ever made—is about an impending nuclear holocaust. And it’s for this reason that I say we won’t be seeing anyone attempting to remake Dr. Strangelove in the near future. You just can’t get away with it today. You can try, but who would? Anyone with the courage to do it would have enough reverence for the original film to not even try. Besides, we’ve already seen a dramatic version of this premise done twice with the 1964 and 2000 versions of Fail-Safe.
If I’m wrong: Most mainstream audiences will hate it because it will be way too dark and evil for their delicate Saw-loving sensibilities, and the fans of the original film will hate it because some asshole went and tried to remake Kubrick. I just don’t see it happening.

The Godfather

Like the films of Alfred Hitchcock, this movie is just sacred ground. But more than that—people still watch this movie today. Everybody watches it and everybody loves it. 

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It’s the quintessential “great movie.” It’s the movie about which mainstream audiences and pretentious film snobs like myself can unite and say “You’re remaking The Godfather? What the HELL is the matter with you??” Just the nerve of the idea kinda gets me a little upset and I think maybe I need a nap now. The Godfather is the kind of movie that’s ripe for about a hundred re-releases before somebody actually thinks about trying to capture that lightning in a bottle again. And they still won’t. Why? Because it’s the fuckin’ Godfather! I just don’t see how I can make this any clearer.
If I’m wrong: I’m not.                           

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Conrad Says:

    two words: SCARFACE

  2. B2 Media Consulting Says:

    Why aren’t movie companies saving money by re-releasing classic movies that don’t need to be remade? Teen Wolf? Why? Escape From New York? WTF?

    If you knew these movies were classic now, wouldn’t you bring them back to the theater?

    Honestly, releasing the directors cut of Terminator and Terminator 2 would have been a great summer option instead of the P.O.S. Salvation. And they would have netted as much.

    Studios willing to spend money on what they THINK will sell is getting out of hand. If more people would stop making movies to “make” actors, we would have a much more profitable Hollywood.

  3. Jim Says:

    Should we even bring the sequel to Raging Bull into this debate?? It’s not a remake, but still a cinematic crime!

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