Hollywood loves a remake. They really do. Sometimes, these movies turn out better than the originals did. But most of the time, I find myself cringing. Take the news of the remake of the classic 1960 film The Magnificent Seven, for example.
No joke, ^this^ was me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, but how can you possibly replace Yul Brynner in a black cowboy hat?
That’s right, you can’t.
(Before anyone comments, yes, I am aware that The Magnificent Seven is itself a remake of Seven Samurai. Am I a hypocrite? A little, because Yul.)
At any rate, I could talk for days about the original films that I far prefer to their remakes, but I have narrowed it down to five.
That Darn Cat! (1965)
I mentioned That Darn Cat! briefly in my previous post about remakes, but felt that it needed a bit more attention. This is a jewel in the deluge of Disney films from the 60s, full of cheesy jokes, witty innuendo, and the combined antics of Hayley Mills, Dean Jones, and Roddy McDowall. The cast has great chemistry, the music is catchy, and it’s a great example of Disney-fied 60s culture. It’s also just plain funny, especially if you have a cat yourself.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
Yes, this is also a remake, but hear me out. Cecil B. DeMille produced and directed a silent version of The Ten Commandments in 1923, and decided to remake it once various advances in filmmaking had been explored. The famous storyline of brothers being at odds, that has been repeated in every version since? Yeah, that came from this dramatization of the Biblical narrative. Not only is this story sweeping and beautiful, but it features one of the biggest film sets ever made, is an Academy Award winner, and has become the definitive retelling of Moses. And hey, let’s face it. If I’m going to watch a white washed version of the Exodus story, it’s going to be the one that has Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner shirtless.
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
I blame this movie for a lot of things. My desire to live in a treehouse, for one. My fear of snakes, for another. How many of you remember when Tarzan’s treehouse in Disneyland was the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse instead? I do. This film is one of the first I ever remember watching, and it has stayed with me in so many ways. If you enjoy the stranded-on-an-island trope, or just like old adventure flicks, then I suggest trying this one out. Just avoid the 1998 atrocity.
Bachelor Mother (1939)
I will be pleasantly surprised if anyone reading this has watched Bachelor Mother, or even its remake. The fabulous original stars Ginger Rogers (yup, that Ginger) and David Niven, and was a surprising story to tell in 1939. Polly Parish (Rogers) is a single girl who ends up taking care of an orphaned baby that doesn’t belong to her. Everyone believes she is the mother of the child, even her boss and her boss’s son, David Merlin (Niven). Although it is ultimately a comedy, it has a lot to say about single mothers and the stigmas attached to those who have children out of wedlock.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
In my previous post, I said that I didn’t want to talk about the number of times the story of Robin Hood has been told. I changed my mind. The Adventures of Robin Hood is the third in a long line of remakes (eleven, if I’m not mistaken), and in my opinion is the one that properly captured the essence of the legend. (Nothing against the 1973 Disney film or 1993’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights—any and all shade is toward the other films that honestly fell short of the mark.) The list of things I love about this movie is extensive. The characters are perfectly cast, the music is phenomenal, and the costumes are on point. That’s right, you can ignore the dark and drab atmospheres of the other retellings, because the Normans loved bright colors. This film also features the work of the amazing Bob Anderson, a master fencer who trained Errol Flynn. Anderson’s primary work was choreographing the sword fighting scenes not only in Robin Hood, but in a slew of other films with memorable fencing scenes, including The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Do you have any films that you prefer over their remakes? Share them with us in the comments below!
Until next time,
The Collected Mutineer