The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Stuff’

Let’s be clear:  Larry Cohen‘s The Stuff isn’t anyone would call a good movie, but it is a damn interesting one.  What it has going for it is a timely premise (the idea of consumerism run rampant combined with corporate and government malfeasance) and some very interesting special effects.

The movie plays like a twisted version of Dan Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (speaking of which, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is one of the few films that has benefitted from multiple remakes; The Invasion, notwithstanding) but with a more culinary bent in that a white substance is found bubbling from the earth, that happens to be edible.  This mysterious foodstuff, marketed as The Stuff, takes the country by storm, making some people very rich.

But there’s a problem.  The company selling it has co-opted the some scientists in the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), so that no one quite knows what’s in The Stuff, which is a very bad thing because The Stuff is alive.  It’s similar to yogurt, except with a will, and a drive all its own.

In other words, when you eat it, it eats you.

The Stuff Pic

Are you eating The Stuff, or is it eating you?

A possible angle for a reboot could take would make the stuff called ‘The Stuff’ a genetically modified organism (GMO), as opposed to a naturally-occuring one, giving new meaning to the phrase “smart food.”

What needs to remain is the practical nature of the special effects.  There’s something significantly creepy about the mouth of a animatronic head opening wider than humanly possible, as opposed the way such things are typically done with CGI, which more often than not look like a video game (See: I Am Legend).

Since the movie falls apart somewhere around the midway point,  when Paul Sorvino turns up as a disgraced military commander–curiously similar to quite a few Right wing radio hosts–I would chuck that entire subplot and instead concentrate on how futile it it would first seem for people who haven’t been co-opted.

That way, the entire film would focus on the efforts of a disgraced FBI agent working against the odds to unmask the horror of The Stuff.

In the (Un)Necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Incredible Melting Man’

William Sach’s 1977 movie, The Incredible Melting Man is probably the first Intelligently Designed movie every made.  I don’t mean in the religious, pseudo-scientific sense or even in a particularly intelligent one, but in that it disregards anything that even relates to scientific accuracy.

And I am OK with that.  From Night Of The Living Dead to Star Trek, science fiction and horror has a proud history of ignoring anything approaching real science in the effort to terrify, or amaze.

I have always assumed that this was because more often than not requires scientific accuracy requires some sort of explanation, though the truth is probably that the facts around how an event happens are often a bit dull, which isn’t what you want from a movie.

Nothing else that I can think of can explain such a brazen disregard for established scientific principals–never mind logic.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘Krull’

Krull logoLet’s be clear:  Peter Yates’ Krull isn’t a particularly good movie, but it is an awesome one and easily deserving of a remake to correct the problems–which I will go to in a moment–that are there.

How can one movie be two seemingly contradictory things?  Mediocre and awesome at the same time?  Quite easily.  Visually, Krull is a fascinating movie though the Sanford Sherman-penned screen story  could have benefited from a few more rewrites to tighten things up.

The movie revolves around a kingdom on an alien world.  The citizens of this land look human, and technology-wise are at a medieval level of development, as is the structure of their society–they also happened to be primarily British, except for Ken Marshall, which tells you a lot about the origins of the production.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘Anatomy Of A Murder’

Anatomy Of A MurderOtto Preminger is a directer of some renown, having directed 42 features according to IMDB.

And of those 42 films, I am only aware of four:  Carmen Jones, The Boy With The Golden Arm, Porgy and Bess and Anatomy Of A Murder. And of those four, I have only seen Anatomy of A Murder.  

Twice.  

It’s an entertaining movie, though it has always bothered me because, despite such a heavyweight cast that includes actors like James Stewart, Lee Remick, George C. Scott, Ben Gazzara and Murray Hamilton, it feels like is a product of it’s time–1959–and hasn’t aged particularly well.

James Stewart plays Paul Biegler, an attorney who’s convinced by his friend and fellow attorney, Parnell Emmett McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) to take the case of Lt. Frederick Manion (Gazzara), who’s accused of murdering a man who may have attempted to rape his wife, Laura (Remick).

The movie is well-acted but at times seems so relaxed that for long stretches I was not quite sure what feelings Preminger was trying to evoke.  In fact it often felt somewhat like a meandering stage play, oddly rural and countrified, while the music by Duke Ellington is dangerous, filled with switch-knives and bright lights.

Such slinky, at times almost brazenly erotic music needs a movie as subversive as it is. And unfortunately, Anatomy comes up short, that is till we meet Assistant State Attorney General Claude Dancer (Scott).

He brings an edginess–and an incredibly mocking stare–to his role that’s missing from anywhere else in the movie.  And speaking of “edginess” his face, with his aquiline nose and noble features, seems almost carved from a block of granite.  The tension comes from the way he gives the feeling that, despite being on the side of the angels, you can tell that he’s more than a little bit acquainted with devils.

The man is a predator, and within the dichotomy of his character Ellington’s music makes sense. Continue reading

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Black Hole’

As far as remakes go, there are few films that would benefit from it as much as Disney’s 1979 sci-fi epic, “The Black Hole.”  The good news is that, while Disney is working on a remake, they have been doing so since 2009.  The first draft was written by Travis Beecham (“Pacific Rim”) then rewritten sometime in 2013 by Jon Spaihts (“Prometheus,” “The Darkest Hour”).

The last I heard Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy,” “Prometheus”) was going to direct.

It’s an ideal property for reboot because the science revolving around black holes has grown since the film originally was produced.  Then there’s the fact that the original film lacked focus.  It was a bit too intense for children, yet sometimes too silly for adults (though it was one of the first Disney films produced with an older audience in mind).

V.I.N.cent design by Robert T McCall

V.I.N.CENT design by Robert T McCall

“The Black Hole,” originally known as “Space Probe One,” was not the only aspect of the production that went through different iterations, the robots did as well. While the version of V.I.N.CENT (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) we’re most familiar with is perhaps a bit too cute–due to the influence of R2D2 from “Star Wars,” (despite the fact that “The Black Hole” was in production before that film came out) it’s significantly better than an alternative design proposed by Robert T. McCall.  His V.I.N.CENT is too off-putting and ungainly, and in my view would not have worked.

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‘Wishmaster’ and ‘Wishmaster 2′

As I repeat often enough, remakes are evil (except when they’re not).  Recently I watched “Wishmaster” and “Wishmaster 2″ on Netflix, and got to thinking…

I decided to deal with both movies at the same time because, despite one being a sequel, they’re essentially the same film.  Sure, you have differences in casting and the quality of special effects the second time around (they’re marginally better, though not as inventive) but the story, like the song, remains the same.

Which is:  An evil djinn (jinn.  Islamic Mythology, any of a class of spirits, lower than the angels, capable of appearing in human and animal forms and influencing humankind for either good or evil) is attempting to force the person who frees him from his prison to make three wishes, which would enable him to free his brethren from the Limbo-like dimension that holds them, and rule the world.

Though, unlike with the Dictionary.com definition, there’s no doubt where this particular djinn’s loyalties lie.

And to my dismay, I soon discover that, instead of taking what could have been a rich mythology and building upon it, the Wishmaster comes off like a Middle-Eastern ‘Freddy’ (which is interesting, since Robert Englund, plays ‘Raymond Beaumont’ in the first film), a schtick gets old really fast.  That being said, the concept of an evil djinn trying to free others like him in an attempt to depose humanity as the dominant species on the planet is actually pretty interesting and predates either “Underworld” (vampires and werewolves versus humans) or “Legion” and “The Prophesy” (Humans versus angels).

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Silent Running

Silent RunningMost of the films that are being remade these days don’t need to be, while those that could really use it, generally aren’t.

For instance, Douglass Trumbull’s “Silent Running,” a film about a future Earth that exhausted its resources, is a prime candidate for rebooting because its ‘dying earth’ theme is even more relevant in these days of global warming and environmental degradation.

The movie entirely takes place aboard the ‘Valley Forge,’ one of three space freighters that each hold three huge domes, habitats filled with plants and (small) animals.

Speaking of which, that particular plot point doesn’t really make sense to me because large animals – assuming that they haven’t been killed off – would need conservation as much as smaller ones (which could have been done, though there was no mention of it).

The purpose of the plant life is to re-green an Earth that has undergone some sort of environmental cataclysm.

Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern, who must have been the Nick Cage of his day) tends to the flora and fauna.  He’s there with three other astronauts, and soon the order comes to destroy the habitats that hold the forests, because the freighters that they are attached to are going to be repurposed.

While the others are ready to leave, Lowell is a firm believer in the importance of Nature, and doesn’t want to destroy the habitats.  Speaking of which, what doesn’t make sense as to why they are destroying them, when they could easily be put into orbit around Earth (they’re able to detach from the freighters) as opposed to destroying them.

What’s also sort of odd is that despite all the potential for drama, the movie isn’t terribly dramatic, despite the fact that Freeman Lowell murders the rest of the crew.

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