The (Un)necessary Remake Dept. – Fame

Fame (1980)

Generally speaking, for me watching a musical is like going to the dentist:  I just know at some point it’s going to hurt.  I may not know when, or in some instances even how, but pain is pretty much a given.

Which is why I tend to avoid musicals (and dentists), though in reference to the former what bothers me more is when characters sing in dance in situations that don’t warrant such behavior–as if there are that many situations that would.

And then there’s Fame, which is brilliant.  It was directed by Alan Parker, who did the equally remarkable–for entirely different reasons–Midnight Express (a film that had such a effect on me that I wanted nothing to do with Turkey, till I learned that the screenwriter, Oliver Stone, took a whole lot of liberties with his screenplay).

Fame takes place at the High School of Performing Arts, which at least puts all the singing and dancing in some sort of context.

But what’s most important is the tenor of the performances, which are all pretty good though deserving of special mention are Paul McCrane (Montgomery) and Ralph (Paul Miller), who bring an honesty and vulnerability to their roles that I am not entirely sure was on the page.

There has already been a reboot in 2009, which I haven’t seen–though if I had known Charles S. Dutton was in it I might have changed my mind, especially since he has the uncanny ability of elevating just about everything he turns up in.

Fame (2009)

in 1982, prior to the last reboot there was a series on NBC based on Fame as well, though it had relatively little of the edge that made the movie so effective.

Fame TV Series Opening

Though I wasn’t aware that they were still exploiting the memory of those dancing and angsty teens, there’s apparently there’s a play based on the movie going on in London (or at least there was as of last year).

Fame: The Musical

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: The Nun (La Monja)

The Nun movie posterLuis de la Madrid‘s 2005 ghost story The Nun (La Monja) isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch, though that’s not to imply that it’s particularly good, because it isn’t.

Though the greater crime is that there are stirrings of greatness not too far below the surface, which are never given a chance to bloom into horrific life.

First off, the movie shows its ghost with the most way too much, though I think I understand why.

Whenever the ghost appears it’s accompanied by an interesting visual effect: water flowing backward and in slow motion, filling the air like a curtain of light.  The problem is that, once you have seen the bogeyman, it–if not loses all power to frighten certainly suffers diminished potency–and you begin to see it for what it is, namely an interesting visual effect and little else.

Often, particularly in the case of horror films which by their very nature depend upon the suspension of belief, less is more.  If the film had–instead of showing their monster at seemingly every available opportunity–had instead showed some restraint, the movie would have benefitted immensely.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: Creature (1985)

Creature movie posterLet’s be clear:  William Malone’s (who also directed the very entertaining reboot of The House On Haunted Hill, among an extensive filmography) 1985 movie Creature is essentially a low-budget knock-off of Alien, down to the monster itself (when you could see it in its entirely that is, which wasn’t often).

It’s also not a very good movie, though by no means irredeemably so.

The premise involves two companies, the West German Richter Industries and the American NTI, which were working to profit from space exploration and exploiting whatever they happened to find.

The movie, despite taking place in the future, didn’t take into account the possibility of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided East from West Germany, five years later.

What it also doesn’t seem too cognizant of is the nature of corporations, which when they get large enough become almost stateless, borderless entities.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: The Manitou

The Manitou movie posterSome people might call William Girdler’s The Manitou a ripoff of The Exorcist, and in a sense they’d be right in that both involve possession of a sort.  Then’s there’s the fact that Girdler’s film came five years afterwards, though other than that it’s a whole other animal and deserves revisiting.

The movie, based on the novel by horror writer Graham Masterson, revolves around a woman named Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg), who one day discovers that she has a tumor on her back.

Which is a huge mindfuck in and of itself, never mind that the tumor ends up being the doorway–and by “doorway” I mean a full-sized human being grows on her back and eventually rips its way out long before Alien was even an idea for Walter Hill and David Giler–through which Misquamacus, a Native American sorcerer, would be reborn after 400 years.

The premise of the movie is pretty goofy, which works in its favor because it makes it feel more original than it actually is.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: DeepStar Six

No, DeepStar Six, isn’t the latest Ultramarionation feature from Jamie Anderson, but a undersea horror movie from Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th) that was followed in quick succession by George P. Cosmatos’ Leviathan, and culminated five months later in James Cameron’s far superior The Abyss.

DeepStar Six revolves around a US Navy mission to place an undersea missile sled on the ocean floor; an action that only makes sense when you take into account that the United States was approaching the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Dr. Van Gelder (Marius Weyers) is there to ensure that the missile platform is built before they leave the base, the time for which is rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately, the project is behind schedule, so he’s doesn’t have time to putter about.

The area where he choose to place the sled is suspected of having caverns underneath it, which Scarpelli (Nia Peoples) wants to take time to explore, though Dr. Gelder isn’t interested.  Sure, properly surveying the area could have saved them quite a bit of trouble, but what specialist worth their salt let’s safety concerns trump completing a project on time.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise considering one of their own crew, Snyder (Miguel Ferrer, who if James Spader was unavailable to play Ultron in the upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron, should have been on speed dial) is fraying at the seams and should have been evacuated to the surface weeks ago.

And speaking of Ferrer, he’s easily the most convincing character in the entire movie which is why it’s such a pity that he so explosively loses it toward the end.

Another awesome addition to the movie is someone whom you never see, but who’s presence is felt throughout the entire movie, and that’s the awesome score by Harry Manfredini (who’s theme for War Of The Worlds: The Second Invasion has to be one of the best television themes EVER.

Seriously.  It’s that good.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘Damnation Alley’

Jack Smight‘s 1977 feature, Damnation Alley is a movie I recall l fondly from when I was growing up.  It’s (very) loosely based upon a novel by Roger Zelazny, and while it’s an entertaining movie, it’s not a particularly good one.

I while I don’t know how the movie was filmed, it feels epic and looks massive (which had a lot to do with the excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith which managed to be bold and at the same time minimal enough that it didn’t take over).

Events take place after a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  You’re never told who started the conflict or why, though like W.O.P.R. said, “The only way to win is not to play.”

Unfortunaely for these guys, War Games came out in 1983, so they erred on the side of mutually assured destruction.  The United States is devastated and most of the land reduced to desert, while the sky is irradiated and angry with aurora borealis.

Though on what I assume is the last remaining military installation everything life goes on.  Maj. Eugene Denton (George Peppard) is in command, and is military through and through, while Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Keegan (Paul Winfield) don’t see the point of playing soldier any longer, so the former spends his time riding about the desert on his motorcycle, dodging giant scorpions (because radiation does nothing else if not create giant versions of things) while the latter  works on a mural.

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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.