Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TV-Movie-Remakes-a-Go-Go: A Wish List!

Bleargh, aargh and ugh.

Those are the lovely sounds I make when I think of most remakes. I have never been shy about my disdain for our re-boot culture and I tend to dislike all the horror re-imagining that is so popular these days. Of course, a few come down the pike that make you think maybe someone was actually thinking about the film (Dawn of the Dead, I’m looking at you), so I know it’s not impossible for a remake to be good… it’s only unlikely.

Yet, despite all that negative energy (which is so un-70s of me), I find that I enjoy the world of TV movie remakes. OK, so it’s a much smaller planet, with very few features inhabiting its orbit, but I have thus far enjoyed the bulk of the films which have found new life through their re-imagining. Like, I know Satan’s School for Girls 2000 is in no way better than the original, but it’s a pretty fun little flick, as was the Initiation of Sarah reboot from 2006. What I like best about these films is that they come from truly legitimate obscurities and shine a light on originals that might otherwise only be a part of the ultra-cool lexicon of the ultra-cool TV movie fan. So maybe 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls won’t touch a nerve with young girls of today, but the Charmed friendly updo (complete with casting Shannen Doherty in the lead) certainly strokes our inner wiccan.

Now TVMs are getting remade in a big way. Two films are due out, The Woman in Black will (hopefully) get a release date soon and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is gearing up for a major theatrical run starting August 26th. Despite my apprehensions about Katie Holmes (and really, that’s only elicits the slightest of hesitations… Go rocked!), I have high hopes that Dark will be a great piece of horror filmmaking, and inevitably some eyes will turn to the original. The thing about the first film is that it stands in a certain place and time. It’s still a classic and it's sure to garner new fans, but how could it be as popular as, say, oh, Ladykillers which is replete with nubile male strippers and the blonde Tina Turner wig?

What? You say male strippers aren’t that popular anymore?!? Where have I been? Oh, I know... 1986. It's good here.

When Lance from Kindertrauma suggested we compose a list of potentially great TVM remakes I instantly pulled some titles off the table. The big classics such as Duel, Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Bad Ronald seem untouchable to me. Is Bad Ronald perfect? No. But I can’t imagine any one other than Scott Jacoby filling those creepy shoes. While it’s not always the case, I believe most remakes should come from a mostly unseen source. The films should have good bones but lack a certain oomph that takes it to classic status. I know not everyone feels that way, but it’s how I roll. Lance offers some strong arguments though, and everyone should check out his fantastic list.

OK, so here’s where we are… By and large I normally detest remakes unless they are made from TV movies (preferably obscure). There are certainly plenty of films to choose from, and the list I compiled came from metaphorically pulling names from a hat (i.e. I made a random list and chose whatever titles made me say, “Oh, OK!”). Here is the unsystematic list I put together of ten films I think are worthy of throwing a few of the big Hollywood bucks at:

Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate (1971): I teetered on adding this one to the list because the original is so wonderful as it is. The four leads: Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Mildred Natwick and Sylvia Sydney are perfect in their parts as elderly women who jokingly create the perfect woman for a computer dating service. The idea is that the correspondence from potential male suitors might liven things up for these fiery old ladies, but instead they lure a psycho (Vince Edwards) into their lives. He is determined to meet his dream girl any way possible. The story is fun and original, but what really makes Mutilate such a great film are the pre-Golden Girls ladies who refuse to kowtow to stereotyping. They drink, have a wicked sense of humor, and enjoy living their lives to the fullest. In today’s society we see too many women fighting the age clock with every superficial weapon possible, instead of embracing their lives as fulfilled, experienced (sometimes wrinkled), and most importantly, vital people in the world. I think if someone could manage to hire actresses more interested in accepting their age rather than hiding from it, we could have a friggin’ revolution on our hands! OK, maybe not a revolution, but would someone please call Judi Dench, please… I have a movie idea for her! (Click on title for review)

Crawlspace (1972): I’ve been thinking a lot about this film which stars Arthur Kennedy and Theresa Wright as a retired and childless couple who allow the bug-eyed Richard (Tom Happer) into their house. At first Richard just wants to hang out in the crawlspace in their basement, and while no one is quite sure why he’s so off his rocker, the sweet couple believes they can bring him back to society with a little parental love. Of course the whole thing backfires and we come to learn that inherent distrust isn’t always a bad thing. Directed by the John Newland who also helmed the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Crawlspace (both the film and novel) focuses on how some disconnect with civilization, and why some people will never stop reaching out those self imposed loners. While we like to think of ourselves as an iPhone culture, knee deep in social networking, some of us find that we are farther from society than ever before. There’s something here in Crawlspace that could easy transcend to contemporary culture, and it could be as equally moving if done correctly. (Click on title for review)

Madame Sin (1972): Madame Sin should be a well known film. Let’s look at the cast; we’ve got Robert Wagner as a James Bond type and Bette Davis as an Asian (!) evil super force! She kidnaps Wagner and holds him hostage in her Scottish (!!) castle in the hopes she can use him to steal a Polaris submarine…!!! Holy cow!!! What is this? This lush and engaging spy thriller was directed and co-written by David Greene with such a sure hand you start to buy the crazy plot. The main reason I’d like to see this remade is because then we might get a DVD of this sadly overlooked and charming oddity.

Where Have all the People Gone? (1974): Hey baby, it’s the year of the rapture and the apocalypse is coming! Why not celebrate with a film featuring the disappearance of 90% of the people in earth? Peter Graves starred in this excellent slow burn of a film that relied more on mood than overt terror. While I appreciated the (mostly) off screen dog attacks, imagine what could be done now? Also, it’s a timely issue, since we are in a non-stop argument over the environment and our place in it. Watch nature take its course in what could be an absolutely brutal retelling. (Click on title for review)

She’s Dressed to Kill (1979): Want to remake a slasher? Try this rarity featuring beautiful models stranded in a large mansion on top of a secluded mountain. The setting and atmosphere of Dressed is full of creepy ambiance. It’s also a relatively unknown slasher that screams glamour and begs for an update. In modern horror, films tend to want to encourage antagonistic female relationships, so why not put them in a situation where being hostile is part of its charm? And the clothes, oh the clothes... Where's Travilla when you need him?

This House Possessed (1981): Whoa, wha-? I don’t want certain films like Duel or The Night Stalker touched, but I’m OK with my all time favorite made for TV movie hitting the re-chopping block? Yes, sir. As much as I love Possessed (and trust me, I love it), I wouldn’t mind seeing it redone on an epic scale. The house hauntings are orchestrated through modern equipment and I love the idea of the vast gadgetry that could wreak vengeance on the protagonists. All I ask is that someone give Parker Stevenson the role of the music manager (originally played by Slim Pickens). Throw a cowboy hat on my main crush and give him a slightly earthy southern accent and I’ll be at every screening of the film! (Click on title for review and read another review here)

Desperate Lives (1982): OK, so I see this movie as the Reefer Madness of the 80s, and remember how that one got a re-do as a musical? Picture it - a little dance number while a girl has a giant drug freak out before she jumps through a window. That’s good stuff! What makes Desperate Lives work (and yes, it does work in an overwrought fashion) is that it’s so earnest in its message, but so overt in its direction. It is completely misguided and ridiculously fun - all it's missing is a good beat I can dance to!

I, Desire (1982): While we’re living in a modern world replete with emo-vampires, I think it’s about time to resurrect this sexy little thriller and put the campy back in vampy! The anti-Twilight crowd says they want something edgy, and this might make a good compromise. Desire isn’t the deepest film ever made, but it does have feature a vampire doubling as a prostitute, so there’s your edge. It would be really fun to get knee deep in a little vampire sleaze and take away that clean cut image they have been getting. (Click on title for review)

Deadly Lessons (1983): Although I didn’t get a chance to see it until much later, I remember when Deadly Lessons first aired. I was desperate for a slasher film that might be less gruesome than the more popular output (by the way, I was a chicken shit when I was a kid). This film looked destined to be the chance I had to experience some fun stalk and hopefully a little toned down slash, but for whatever reason, the film escaped me until I was an adult. Unfortunately, by then I could handle a lot more gore and looked to Lessons as more of a kitschy addition to the gene. It is also unfortunate that Lessons isn’t either scary or cheesy. It’s not horrible, but it’s not great either. I love the setting and I even enjoyed the killer’s reveal, so there’s much here to work with and I’d like to see this get the royal slasher redux treatment.

Velvet (1984): Seriously, this pilot movie about a band of female agents who work undercover as aerobics instructors is just gold waiting for pick up! It’s sort of like an unabashed Charlie’s Angels rip with more leotards. One agent even has a lipstick tube which doubles as a bomb detonator. Sorry, this pilot movie needs to be remade, perhaps is should still take place in the 80s, embracing every neon-tipped stereotype it can handle. And don't touch that awesome theme song... OK, it's awesomely bad, but still...

I whittled down this list from a couple of dozen titles. Far be it from me to say this is the end all, be all... Do you think there is a title that should be on this list?


Ross Horsley said...

Wow, as always you've given me loads of new leads (She's Dressed To Kill looks amazing!). I'm seeing the Don't Be Afraid of the Dark remake tomorrow and can't wait! Thanks for this great list :)

kindertrauma said...

I wish I had thought of I, Desire and Deadly Lessons. I would love to see those remade too. I wouldn't be able to resist THP either!

I think I told you this before but "Where Have All the People Gone?" so reminds me of my childhood. It was at least partially filmed in Agoura Ca. where I lived as a kid!

BTW, I've never seen "She's Dressed to Kill" I must find that one!

Arthur Teagarden said...

"midnight offerings" was always a favorite. Melissa Sue Anderson vs Mary Mcdonough and throw in Cathryn Damon?! I forgot who the cute guy was but now a little Gossip Girl and a lot of The Craft... sounds like a potent potion.

Toon said...

I think I remember a 70s TV movie about a teen witch that starred a girl from Zoom as the younger sister. My memory is fuzzy from those years.

Amanda By Night said...

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting.

Ross and Lance, She's Dressed to Kill is pretty awesome. Catch it if you can.

Arthur, I thought of Midnight Offerings. I agree, anything you can make Craft-friendly would make a great redo!

Toon, I'm not sure what movie that is, but I love teen witches. Must look into! :)

Mike said...

I've got a few:

*Curse of the Black Widow,
*Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell,
*The Missing Are Deadly (I've been wanting to see this one for years!).