Yes, as far as I’m concerned, there is never an excuse to revisit a previously released movie. If the original is a classic, why would you? If it's not, why would you want to? Move on. The essence of what makes any film memorable comes from the unique circumstances and collaborations that, at a specific moment in time, collide to create something special. The chances of recapturing that illusive mix is virtually impossible, yet, time and time again, studios invest millions in that very task, all eyes on the potential of a box office windfall. It was a press release about the forthcoming reimagining of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (in cinemas 15 January), that triggered this column.
Having watched the trailer, one thing is certain, the 2021 version will likely bear little resemblance to David Lean's 1945 classic, which starred Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings but was gloriously stolen by Margaret Rutherford's unforgettable Madam Arcati.
While that film's Oscar-winning special effects may now be considered rudimentary, they add to the intrinsic charm of a piece from a simpler time. Whether the new take on Wilde's 1941 stage play can compete remains to be seen. It's described as a 'riotous reimagining', the ‘riotous’ already has alarm bells ringing.
It's not just Technicolor classics that get reworked, of course. Not that long ago, John Carpenter's iconic Halloween was the subject of a reworking by Rob Zombie. Where the Horror Master's ground-breaking 1978 vision was a terrifying study in suspense, Zombie's reveled in excess and ultimately proved unsatisfying.
Carpenter, it must be said, has been hard done by when it comes to remakes - his chilling 1976 crime thriller Assault on Precinct proves untouchable when compared with Jean-François Richet’s 2005 effort.
It’s safe to say it is a brave person who decides to redo any Academy Award-winning movie. Just look at the iconic biblical tale Ben-Hur from 1957, not only did it win 11 Academy Awards the famous chariot race has become one of the best loved sequences in movie history. Why on Earth would you try to better that? Nevertheless they did, in 2016. Have you seen it? No, me neither.
Other remakes the cameras should never have rolled on include the 1955 Ealing Comedy The Ladykillers – even casting Tom Hanks couldn’t save the 2004 US-set revisit, and then there was Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, circa 1998, which proved little more than a shot for shot copy of the 1960 original. That budget could surely have been better spent on a new work.
One remake that bucked the trend, however, was Dino De Laurentiis' 1976 take on the 1933 'blockbuster' King Kong. Cinematography had come along way since the days of a screaming Fay Wray and King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, although I'm not sure eschewing that landmark in favour of the World Trade Centre for the finale had the same impact. That said, I've managed to avoid the sequel that film earned, in which King Kong was resurrected thanks to a heart transplant... Mmm? Maybe just as well I missed that one.