The Hollywood Recycling Machine

posted by Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 7:52 am

I recently turned 40 and I have to say that nothing had lately caused me to feel my age until Hollywood began remaking so many movies that I grew up with during the 1970’s. So many of them (POSEIDON, THE LONGEST YARD, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, etc., etc., etc.), and not one of them can claim to have marked any kind of significant place in our movie-culture or made any phenomenal killing at the box office.

Mind you, I don’t condemn remakes entirely. Some are great (THE FLY, DRACULA, KING KONG, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), but some…well, let me just say one name to you all…Gus Van Sant! I don’t think I’ll ever, ever forgive him for remaking Hitchcock’s masterpiece, PSYCHO. And now, in recent months, I learned of more remakes to come, including HALLOWEEN, THE INVASION, THE THING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.

The point is – when the hell is it going to stop?? When does enough become enough?? Has Hollywood completely run out of new and original material to put on the screen? How are intelligent scripts (there must be a few left out there) ever going to be given a fair chance if all we keep seeing on the screen is recycled material? When is some Hollywood big shot who makes the green-light decision going to finally say, “No. It’s been done already.”

Most (not all, mind you) of these remakes inevitably discredit and even disrespect the original film that may have already made cinematic history (see my above comment for PSYCHO). When does a film become sacred enough not to be touched?

The answer is simple, but probably impractical – when the movie-going audience decides that they’ve had enough and refuses to waste their time and their money on these remakes. Perhaps it can start with one person; me! At the start of this year, I decided it had to stop and refused to go see anymore remakes, sequels or franchise films and instead, focus my attention on independents, subtitled or at the very least, new stories – even if they did manage to be distributed by the major Hollywood studios.

During this summer of Hollywood blockbuster garbage, I’ve seen only two films: MR. BROOKS (Hollywood, yes, but I loved it!) and A MIGHTY HEART. To all other films that have been done before – you lost me as a customer!

Does anyone else out there feel this way, or am I simply “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore”?

Comments (31)

CatherineDiMartino on August 2, 2007 at 8:39 am

It’s interesting to note that most of these remakes don’t do very well at the box office. The “King Kong” with Jack Black was pretty good. Remakes have been around since movies began. “His Girl Friday” I believe, was a remake of “The Front Page.”

What’s even more interesting is that movies like “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Knocked Up” all did very well at the box office.

Remember back in the 1980s when songs were getting remade or rereleased right and left? There was Natalie Cole’s “Pink Cadillac”, the awful “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “I Saw HIM Standing There,” “Drive My Car.” “Stand By Me,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Daydream Believer” were all rereleased circa 1986.

Since you quoted “Network”, let’s hope that movie doesn’t get remade.

MiltonSmith on August 2, 2007 at 8:46 am

Well, the trend seems to be to remake everything. I’m scared by the fact that in 10-15 years someone will probably want to remake all the 80s John Hughes movies. However, it does seem that Hollywood doesn’t seem to like original ideas anymore. They are all “hey! this made a ton of money the first time! let’s do it again!”. At least with sequels you get a new story. But with remakes, you already know what’s going to happen, you saw it before!

I saw a commercial for “The Invasion” and its like “wait, I saw this movie before, wasn’t it called ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ then?” Guess they are trying to be clever to hide the fact its a remake, like with Poseidon instead of Poseidon Adventure.

But yes, all the remakes are beyond annoying, I don’t plan to see any of them as I saw them already!

vic1964 on August 2, 2007 at 9:20 am

It is the greed of taking advantage of a built in audience instead of taking a chance with a fresh idea.It would stop if people stopped going to them.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 10:24 am

Catherine, it’s interesting that you brought up Peter Jackson’s KING KONG, because that’s one of the few (if not the only) remake I enjoyed in recent years. Hell, I loved it! I paid to see it twice. In fact, it was the last time I truly enjoyed the huge screen-large popcorn-large soda-epic movie-going experience. That a year and a half ago. My only gripe about it was that I thought it should have reflected the present day rather than be set in the 1930’s. In fact, my first PG-rated film ever was the 1976 remake of KING KONG. I was nine years-old. I saw that one before ever seeing the original 1933 film, if you can believe it.

I suppose it cannot be ignored that remakes have been around since movies began. At the very least, 50, 60, 70 years ago, movie ideas were still fresh and had the possibility for originality, even the remakes. It would have been a shame if Bram Stoker’s DRACULA had stopped with Murnau’s NOSFERATU or if Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN had stopped with Thomas Edison’s 1910 ten-minute film. We’d never have had Karloff and Legosi’s legendary characters. Today’s Hollywood attitude, I’m afraid, cannot be given the same slack.

You know what else I think it is? And remember, please, that I can only generalize my opinion, as there are always exceptions; not only in films, but in people, too. I think that somewhere in the course of the last decade or so, those that run Hollywood decided that today’s younger movie-going audience (age-range 18 to 35) are either too dumb or too indiffernet to be exposed to old films, outside of required viewings in film school. This combined with the fact that old films are almost never re-released in theaters anymore, leads me to believe that Hollywood feels it should simply remake the film to appeal to today’s younger audience and to take in their box office earnings fast.

THE INVASION (2007) will mark the fourth version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Fourth??? Is this really the only way today’s audiences can appreciate the original and classic story. I’d sooner pay full ticket price to see the original 1956 classic on screen before watching Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig waste their talents on recycled material.

A few years ago, I was discussing films with a young man in his early 20’s). I finally raised the subject of old black and white films and asked him if he’d ever seen CASABLANCA. His response was, “I never heard of CASABLANCA.” For a moment, I was frozen stiff. How was this possible? Because he’s a young kid and it’s such an old movie? I don’t accept that! Are kids today never to know and listen to Mozart and Beethoven simply because they were way, way before the kid’s time?? It scares me to think that the only way kids today might know the story of CASABLANCA is if Hollywood remade it with Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Simpson (Oh, man, I don’t want to joke about that!!!).

One more thought on the subject – there’s a sequence from the movie THE PLAYER that I always remember. Tim Robbins plays a Hollywood big shot who tells Vincent D'Onofrio that they’re thinking of remaking THE BICYCLE THIEF. D'Onofrio responds by saying, “You’d probably give it a happy ending!

They would, you know. They really would.

KJB2012 on August 2, 2007 at 10:56 am

well if you pitch a remake, studio execs feel comfortable. The story at least has a track record. So when you pump in a hundred million to remake “Casablanca' in Digital 3D, at least the big wigs know the show had an audience once upon a time.
They title it "Invasion” or “Poseidon” because people have short attention spans now days, and most can’t read very well. They can manage “Invasion”. But would they understand “of the Body Snatchers”? Maybe not. Some might think it’s a porn film.
Yes, beware of “orignial ideas”, if they don’t work you’ll get all the blame. Do a remake and you can share the blame with the original artists.
If you really have no talent whatsoever, remake an old TV show. As they say, “there’s no business like show business”.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 11:12 am

Kirk, I like your sense of humor. Cheers!

There’s a line in MEN IN BLACK that I love…

Smith – “Why keep it a secret? People are smart. They can handle it."
Jones – "No, a person is smart. People are dumb as sh*t!”

Still makes me laugh!

By the way, for those who don’t know, the third version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was called BODY SNATCHERS (1994). The fourth is called THE INVASION (2007). Someday, the fifth will probably just be called OF THE!

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 11:44 am

Some remakes I HAVE loved, by the way…

KING KONG (1976 and 2005), DRACULA (1979 and 1992), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), THE FLY (1986), THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004), SABRINA (1995), TITANIC (1997), THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999), ALWAYS (1989), RANSOM (1996).

Some remakes I was stupid enough to pay to see before I knew any better…

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990), PLANET OF THE APES (2001), THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (2004), THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005), THE FOG (2005), ALFIE (2004), POSEIDON (2006 – My wife dragged me! I’m not responsible!).

One remake I did not see, would not see and feel the director should be strung up, nonetheless…

PSYCHO (1998)!!!

Alto on August 2, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Apparently, recycling isn’t only good for the environment. In the realm of cinema, this summer’s plethora of sequels (perhaps the most popular and efficient form of recycling) dominate a movie crowd that is predicted to earn record seasonal box office receipts:
“Will 2007 Be a Record Year in Box Office?” (16 April 2007)
“Hollywood on Track For Record Summer” (31 July 2007)

“That’s the Ticket” (Entertainment Weekly â€" 27 July 2007, Issue 945, p.17) also reports that the summer of 2007 may be the highest grossing summer in history for the motion picture industry. The article states that the box office intake must surpass the $3.8 billion mark that was set in 2004. The article names several movies that are responsible for the high numbers, including “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

Like it or not, it’s become an industry trend that’s not going to end anytime soon. Almost out of nowhere come “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Rush Hour 3” with atypical late-summer release dates; meanwhile Hasbro and Paramount are already discussing a “Transformers” sequel. Even remakes of Broadway musical productions (“Hairspray”) are becoming a regular occurrence, even if they aren’t always successful (as in 2005’s “The Producers”). And of course, television is also fair game (“The Simpsons” â€" which THANKFULLY turned out to be a surprisingly fresh and original movie).

Incidentally, I don’t classify “Hairspray” as a remake of the John Waters original (that would be sacrilege), as its musical numbers clearly originate from the stage show (if it was, I would refuse to see it!) – THAT was a classic that could NEVER be duplicated. Speaking of classics, just look at some of the other horrible remakes of recent times: 2005’s “The Honeymooners” and currently “Who’s Your Caddy” (undoubtedly “Caddyshack” was the inspiration…just when you thought 1988’s “Caddyshack II” wasn’t bad enough).

On the other hand, there are other analysts who say “enough is enough” to sequels:
“Too Many Sequels Spoiling the Box Office?” (20 June 2007)
“Summer Box Office Falling Short of Lofty Expectations” (25 June 2007)
”Summer Cinema’s One-Week Wonders” (18 July 2007)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm

The 1941 Maltese Falcon, the one we all know and love with Humphrey Bogart, was a remake.

MiltonSmith on August 2, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Well, I don’t have a problem with sequels. Especially with movies that are open-ended (such as “Spider Man', "X-Men', "Transformers”) as they lend themselves to telling new stories with the same characters. There are others (like the previously mentioned “Caddyshack II”) that just shouldn’t have a sequel because the story that needed to be told was told. It had a very obvious beginning, middle and end. As for “Bourne Ultimatum”, isn’t that from a series of books and therefore logical to conclude the whole series of books would be made into movies if it was successful and not just 1?

I think the big beef being discussed here is Hollywood’s obsession with remakes. Sequels, for the most part, have their place and I get those. I just don’t get retelling the same story over and over. I could see it for something where limitations of technology (such as in a Sci-Fi movie) or censorship might have made the story difficult to tell properly. However, most of these sequels just seem to be for the sake of a fast buck, not because the story could be done any better now.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Ron, you learn something new everyday. Tell me about the first one.

Here are a couple of movies I actually WOULD like to see remade:

  • THE FOUNTAINHEAD – Don’t get me wrong. I loved the original film with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. But if you read the book, then you know how long it is and that it’s impossible to make into a movie less than two hours without omitting many, many valid points and subplots of the book. This needs to be remade into a 3-hour plus epic, or even better, a TV mini-series, with a real red-headed actor to play Howard Rourke.

  • FLASH GORDON – When I saw this 1980 movie, I thought it was campy, silly and stupid…and I was only 13 years-old! The only thing I liked about it was the hit song, “Flash” by Queen. Now that we’ve seen the dark and disturbed side of comic book heroes with X-MEN and BATMAN BEGINS, Flash Gordon could use a total do-over.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm

I’ve never seen the 1931 Maltese Falcon, nor the 1936 remake which was called Satan Met a Lady. So I can’t tell you much about either one, other than they existed.

MiltonSmith on August 2, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Well, on the subject of Flash Gordon. There is going to be a new TV series made of it on the Sci-Fi network so, we shall see what happens there. If its of any merit it might make a jump to the big screen, who knows?

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Ron, I just put my name down on the reserve list with my local library for the three-disc special edition of THE MALTESE FALCON, which happens to include the 1931 version and SATAN MET A LADY. So it looks like I’ll see those films as soon as they’re available.

Thanks for the tip.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 2:44 pm

I also recently learned that they’re remaking the 1972 film, SLEUTH, with Michael Caine and Jude Law. The original starred Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine.

Once again, Hollywood has nothing original to contribute to the world. The only credible factor I can find in this is that the remake is directed by Kenneth Branagh, whose past films, like DEAD AGAIN, PETER’S FRIENDS and HAMLET, I enjoyed. Still, that’s not enough of a reason to get me to pay full ticket price at the theater. Perhaps when it becomes available on Netflix, we’ll see.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 2, 2007 at 2:48 pm

speaking of Hamlet … how many times has that been (re)made?

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 2, 2007 at 2:51 pm

As a theatrically-released motion picture, I’m only aware of four (4) versions:

  • 1948 with Lawrence Olivier (won best picture!)
  • 1990 with Mel Gibson
  • 1996 with Kenneth Branagh
  • 2000 with Ethan Hawke

Am I missing anything?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 2, 2007 at 3:03 pm

IMDB lists 64 things called “Hamlet”, though some are non-English-speaking and some were made for TV.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on August 2, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Films with a good story line, script and acting DON’T need sequels… and when movie-goers STOP paying good money for trash movies, then perhaps the greed of Hollywood will die a hopeful early death… amen!

CSWalczak on August 2, 2007 at 3:16 pm

I think there’s a difference between a re-make and a re-imagining of a movie’s story or plotline. I think the quality remakes – many cited above – fall into that category, i.e., where the newer version shows some real creativity. I get irritated where the remake seems to be more like simple recycling or an excuse to use bankable stars or just an excuse to show off special effects or go for more explicit sex, violence or gore. As some have noted, remakes, per se, are not new; both Hitchcock and Capra remade films they made before.

I find it interesting that on Broadway, new stagings or revivals of shows occur frequently and few object; in fact there’s even a Tony award for Best Revival. Perhaps the quality of remakes might improve if there was an Oscar for “Best Remake”?

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 3, 2007 at 6:02 am

CWalczak, since you mentioned Broadway, I have my small share of gripes with that, too.

My wife is a Broadway and showtune guru. She loves to see every new musical that opens, and I’ve been dragged to a number of them. But lately I told her that I refused to go to anymore shows that were based on movies. I realize that legendary shows like 42ND STREET and SWEET CHARITY (based on Fellini’s NIGHTS OF CABIRIA) were originally films, but those are just examples of few exceptions.

Over the last ten years or so, the Broadway stage has seen a lot of movie-based musicals, including THE LION KING, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, THE PRODUCERS, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, SPAM-A-LOT (based on MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL), LEGALLY BLONDE (?), and the soon-to-open YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (???).

It would seem that Broadway audiences feel most comfortable with material they already know. Broadway producers and those responsible for the theater cash cow seem to have no problem in recycling old material into a musical to make their money good and fast!

Well, just like the movies, it’s no longer going to be me who helps to contribute to the ongoing recycling effort of todays entertainment!

As we’ve all said before, it can all come to a crashing end if audiences simply refuse to spend their hard-earned money on recycled garbage any longer!

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 3, 2007 at 6:59 am

Hollywood had always remade their pictures, even back in the golden era. Someone mentioned The Maltese Falcon, but off the top of my head I can think of A Star is Born, Love Affair, The Front Page, The Women, The Jazz Singer, and Little Women, usually adding Technicolor, Cinemascope and sometimes musicalized.

Even Alfred Hitchock remade his own 1930’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in the 1950’s. Que sera, sera.

JodarMovieFan on August 3, 2007 at 8:06 am

Love movies, I’m almost as old as you are but as this topic has been discussed over and over again, as long as these remakes, or re-imagined movies make money, we’re going to see them again.

Can you believe they are remaking Footloose with Zac Effron? I saw that when I was still in school. Makes you feel old doesn’t it? I hope they don’t update the music by using rap. Kenny Loggins' was da bomb during the 80s with his string of soundtrack single hits.

CSWalczak on August 3, 2007 at 8:31 am

Obviously Love Movies and I see the situation on Broadway differently, and I doubt if one medium’s using material originally presented in another will ever stop. Frankly, I look forward to seeing new Broadway shows based on much-loved films though the result is not always successful.

For my money, if Hollywood wants to remake anything, I wish they would make some quality remakes of some Broadway musicals they trashed, especially in the 70s. I would love to see a quality remake of “Hello, Dolly!” or “Mame” or ‘A Chorus Line,“ re-imagined as a film using people appropriate to the respective roles and who can really sing and dance.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 3, 2007 at 9:01 am

Those three disasters are crying for remakes.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on August 3, 2007 at 9:23 am

I would like to see HAIR revived on Broadway. Obvisously, I was too young to see it on stage in the late ‘60’s, but it’s one of the few movie musicals (a Milos Forman film) that I enjoyed.

“Let if fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees, give a home to the bees in my hair!”

Alto on August 3, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Regarding Broadway shows based on movies…

No discussion can overlook the currently-running smash hits “Hairspray” and “Xanadu”, both very successful and receiving positive notices from critics and audiences alike

“Xanadu” is a prime example of a big-screen flop to big-stage success – completely reworked, cleverly campy and flamboyant; and both shows contain musical numbers that are new and/or different from their earlier film counterparts.

Sometimes people are willing to pay big bucks to see the already-familiar on stage (even if it was cheaper to see it on the screen), provided it gives an creative or clever take on previous material.

scorpio1949 on August 3, 2007 at 6:32 pm

Corporate Hollywood is cheap. They go for easy money…they don’t want to buy new scripts when they can churn out this old stuff on the cheap. We are all guilty of going to this stuff. We need to quit going to it and maybe it would send a message. Yes they redone movies back in the good old days but not to the degree they are doing it now. Yes some are fairly good but most are not….I frankly have quit going to the movie theatre as much as I used to as I am tired of this. I try to go and support my historic theatre when something worthwhile and new comes around but that isn’t happening as much as it used to. I don’t even want to rent most of these rehashes…that is how bad some of them are.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on August 4, 2007 at 3:27 pm

I’ve been meaning to add my 2 cents to this for awhile. Look at some of the films that have done surprisingly well over the past few years. Last year THANK YOU FOR SMOKING did very well. I saw it twice and both times the theatres (the Lake and the Piper’s Alley) were packed for that film. It was not a big-budget film and it was an intelligent, well-written satire. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was another that did well too.

In 2005, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and MARCH OF THE PENGUINS were two of the biggest films. This was a year of big-buck films that bombed if I’m not mistaken. Both were also intelligent films. Even the comedy newspaper THE ONION took note of PENGUIN’S success with an “article” about Hollywood’s dismay over this (ie. “We come out with these big budget "blockbusters” yet all you people want to see is a French documentary about aquatic birds").

This summer, the best movie I’ve seen so far is RATATOUILLE, which is doing well at the box office. Compare that to the disappointing (but predictable) numbers for SHREK THE THIRD. Both animated films, the Sun-Times praised the former while stating that everyone in SHREK THE THIRD seemed to be doing it for the paycheck.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Please.please.Don’t remake Kubrick’s 2001.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on November 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Now a remake of “TRUE GRIT” glad the Duke isn’t here to see this.

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