I was at Sonic today, and I thought I’d try their new Molten Fudge Turtle Sunday thing. So it came out, and because it had hot fudge on it, I figured I should eat it before it became soup, so I started on it before I ate my burger.
While doing that, the kid and I were talking about movies versus remakes, and the question of whether the original is always better or not. We both agreed that the original is *not* always better, and there are plenty of examples of a superior remake. People don’t tend to notice this, though, because when a remake outshines the original, the original is generally forgotten. Examples: The original “10 Commandments” from the silent era, or the pre-World War II version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
Then I sort of realized I’d eaten an amount of Molten Fudge Turtle Sunday roughly equivalent to the mass of half a human head, which kind of started me bazooka puking. Then I stupidly took another bite, then I started bazooka puking again. Then I gave up and threw it out.
Seriously, that crap is so sweet you kind of need to lick sand after every bite to clean off your palate.
During the long, humiliating drive home (“I just paid $14 to vomit! Twice! Hooray!”), I got to thinking that a common advantage remakes have over the original is budget, and this very often works against them, because the threadbare quality is often one of the factors working in favor of the original, particularly in the case of horror films, but in others as well. This brought me – once again – to my aging punk rocker stance that I prefer things that are kinda’ crappy.
Not flat out terrible, mind you, but a little raw is better than too slick, and I’m more likely to overlook a small mistake by people who are trying really hard than I am to overlook one by people who are phoning it in, and hoping to fix stuff with overindulgent CGI.
“The Last Man on Earth” (1972) with Vincent Price was remade as “The Omega Man” (1971) with Charlton Heston, which was then remade as “The Last Man on Earth” with Will Smith at some point within the last decade, but I’m too lazy to look it up because it’s a lousy Will Smith movie, and I don’t give a crap. (Remember when we all used to like him? And now we all kind of quietly resent him? Definitely some poor career choices there, Mr. Fresh Prince, sir.)
Anyway, the original (Which I’ve reviewed here. Look it up. I’m too lazy to do that, too. What do you want from me? I just threw up. Twice.) is a pretty inept no-budget film made in Italy pretending to be California, shot poorly in black and white on low quality film stock by a cinematographer who doesn’t seem to be fully paying attention, and lit – apparently – with entirely by car headlights in the night scenes. The murky visuals, the continual ghoulish moaning, the barely-organized drunken stagger of the ghouls, the negligible soundtrack, and the general lack of dialog all work together to make the film better than the sum of its parts. Conversely, “Omega Man” has a bigger budget, better actors, a better script, is shot in color, is clearly focused in on what it wants to do…and is a vast disappointment. And the Will Smith remake – with a budget larger than the GNP of Peru – makes it look good by comparison.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre – incompetently filmed by Tobe Hooper with such low values that it almost feels like you’re watching a home movie that just happened to get interrupted by a psycho killer. The remake is bigger, faster, better, sexier, more competent, grosser, and pretty much utterly forgettable because of all that.
Both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead have been remade by people who are vastly more competent and accomplished on every level (Despite being one of my heroes, George Romero is kinda’ in-and-out in his production abilities), and the remakes are very respectful of the originals. One of them even has a pre-B5 Pat Tallman, so what’s not to love? And yet somehow they’re inferior.
Actually, the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” is a line judge call. It’s basically a better movie. It’s more deftly told, the script is tighter, it introduces some new elements that add a lot to the story, and it completely circumvents the shitty ending the original had, which was the biggest failing of that movie. I really, really like the new “Dawn of the Dead.”
I got to wondering why, and ultimately I concluded that the original simply had more heart. That’s not something you generally attribute to horror films, but, ya’ know, when you’re talking about old low-budget horror films, it’s really an issue. George Romero was the cinematic equivalent of a little league kid with a legbrace, swinging with all his might and - oh my God, he got a hit! And oh my God, he got a base! And then he locked his knees for too long while waiting for the next batter to hit, and he blacked out, and the paramedics came, but, hey, big hand for the little guy, ladies and gentlemen, the kids’ got heart! God bless him for trying!
Conversely, Zach Snyder making the movie is like an MVP at the peak of his career sauntering out and hitting a homer. Well what the hell else did you expect? He’s a professional, there’s no struggle there for him. Where’s the heart?
Then there’s the ‘50s and ‘70s versions of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” This one, too, is a tough call. The original has a tacked on frame story and no budget, the remake is a better movie in every demonstrable way, excepting fashion. I find it hard to decide. My head is with the remake, but my heart is with the original. Even so, I think the remake is better, and wins – UNLESS – you’re at a revival theater and they cut out the frame story, in which case the original is the better movie, once again, because of its crappyness.
There are numerous examples, but that’s enough. I’ve repeatedly said “Creativity is just a byproduct of lacking the skills to copy everyone else.” My kid says it even better, “Art is the inability to do what you want.”
Either way, I like things a little bit crappy.
But seriously: Don't eat those Sonic Turtle Fudge Lava Brownie Sunday things, man. Seriously.
Kevin Long used to be the head writer of this site here, but then he had a crisis of some histrionic sort or another, and quit, and now he’s the head writer at http://www.kevin-long.com which is pretty awesome and you should check it out. He’s currently a hired gun here at Republibot, but not a member of the staff anymore.