John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Remakes are evil

Word has it that Paramount is preparing a remake of The Manchurian Candidate, starring Denzel Washington in the role originated by Frank Sinatra.

I am not in favor of this. For one thing, remakes usually stink. But more to the point, even when they stink, remakes frequently tend to obscure the originals. I remember a time when the Sebastian Cabot version of Miracle of 34th Street was rebroadcast every Christmas season on one of the Big Three networks, while only small local stations (it was WGN in Chicago) would broadcast the Edmund Gwynn original. Of course, now the Cabot version has been relegated to the ash heap of history, and the Gwynn has been rightfully restored to its place of preeminence. (Oddly, the 1994 Richard Attenborough remake, which was better than the Cabot but still not very good, never seemed to threaten the Gwynn. Probably because now there are networks like AMC that broadcast the original and promote it aggressively.

My general antipathy toward remakes notwithstanding, I'm specifically opposed to remaking The Manchurian Candidate because it's one of my top ten favorite movies. I remember going to see it at the old Fine Arts Theatre in Chicago with my family when it was re-released in 1988, and I just fell in love with it. There were so many things I liked: how it dropped you into Korea with no explanation of what was going on; the bizarre conversation between Sinatra and Janet Leigh; the amazing 360-degree pan through the garden party during Sinatra's first dream sequence; Angela Lansbury's brilliant performance as Laurence Harvey's mother; and of course the climax at Madison Square Garden. It's a brilliant film, one I never get tired of watching. And one that can't possibly be improved. So what's the point of remaking it?

(By the way: The Manchurian Candidate is being shown on AMC tomorrow at 3:15 AM. If you've never seen it, and you have cable, record it!)

On the plus side, I have to assume that the remake of The Manchurian Candidate will have a different name. I don't think Communist China is viewed as much of a threat nowadays, so making them the bad guys in the remake wouldn't make much sense. And without the Reds, bringing up Manchuria would be kind of pointless. Unless they're planning to make it a period piece. But even then, would the studio be willing to release a movie with a title that no one under 45 will understand? When the novel was published in 1958, eight years after the Communist Party seized control of China, people knew that Manchuria had been the cradle of the Chinese Communist party. But do people still know that, 52 years after the fact?

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