Thursday, 24 March 2011

Same shit, different era

I think we can all agree that remakes are a very bad thing. Surely, if a film has any kind of 'familiarity factor' with audiences, that's sufficient reason to leave well enough alone. OK, from a financial perspective it might make sense to resurrect a long-dormant property, but as an artistic statement it's on a par with Ronan Keating's new Bacharach covers album.

Justifying their take-the-money-and-run approach, film-makers often argue that Shakespeare's plays have been restaged hundreds of times, without bastardising the Bard's original intent. So why shouldn't the same rules apply to film?

It's a fair point, but most of the films that find themselves eligible for a fresh lick of celluloid don't have quite the same enduring quality as the output of Stratford's finest. Instead, the source of their popularity lies in the nostalgic feeling they inspire of the first time we watched them. This might involve a few key scenes or the tone of the entire piece. Unfortunately, these are usually the first elements to be jettisoned by an avaricious production company that thinks it knows better.

Occasionally, a film-maker tries too hard to honour the original. Which is how the world ended up with Gus Van Sant's shot-by-shot Psycho remake - its only contributions to cinema being a fancy zoom that Hitchcock could only dream of, a flash of Anne Heche's tits and a shot of Vince Vaughn cranking one out. Forget about Mrs Bates' mummified corpse, that's true horror right there.

Most of the time though, some cack-handed novice decides to make an easy buck, 'reimagining' a well-established classic. They'll claim that they're honouring the original but giving it a contemporary twist, only to leave out all the good bits, and fuck up the rest.

So I'll be watching with interest to see what happens with the forthcoming remake of Ed Wood's seminal 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'. Widely regarded as the worst movie of all time, despite Martin Lawrence's repeated attempts to usurp the throne, it holds a special place in heart of anyone who's ever laughed at, rather than with, a film.

If you've never seen it, you really should reward yourself with the strangest 79 minutes ever captured on film. It takes a special kind of artistry to get everything wrong, and still end up with something infinitely more entertaining than anything Michael Bay ever turned his hand to.

Day turns to night and back again during a single scene, the actors put the emphasis on all the wrong words, and the cast's most famous face spends most of its screen-time behind a cape to cover up the fact that the actor in question died before filming began. It makes about as much sense as Mullholland Drive dubbed into Polish, but that's all part of its unique appeal.

It's hard to understand what director-producer John Johnson hopes to achieve by bringing this landmark title back from the dead. A great film might be difficult to improve upon, but perfection (even if it's perfectly awful) must be nigh on impossible.

In all honesty, my expectations aren't too high. Especially since he claims to have taken the basic idea of the film - aliens revive the dead to attack the living in a plot to take over the world - and written his own version. According to a report on, he's aiming for something pitched between Fright Night and The Lost Boys. Without wanting to sound like The Amazing Criswell, the hopeless psychic whose nonsensical predictions opened the original film, I can't see this ending well. But at least Johnson has got one thing in his favour; he's not looking to fill his cast with people with any previous acting experience. A similar approach to professionalism never did Ed Wood's opus any harm.

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