As we recently pointed out, a lack of creativity in the entertainment world is nothing new -- people have been doing adaptations, reboots and remakes since the first stories were told. What you may not have realized, however, is that some of the great landmark motion pictures were themselves just remakes of originals that nobody remembers.
We're guessing there are zero-point-zero people reading this who don't know about the multiple award winning classic children's tale of a lion, tin man, flying monkeys and witchslaughter with young Judy Garland in her star-making performance as Dorothy. But a remake? The thing was made in freaking 1939. Were there even movies before that?
We mean besides pornos.
Yep. And a bunch of them were The Wizard of Oz remakes.
All of them are based on the children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, published in 1900. And by "all of them" we mean there were at least 10 freaking movie versions before the quintessential 1939 film. Perhaps none captured the roiling sexual subtext NOT EVEN REMOTELY found in the book better than the major 1925 silent adaptation by Baum's son Frank Joslyn Baum.
Hold on to your hats, because things are about to get freaky.
Some might even say "nightmarish."
The 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz opens with Dorothy openly flirting with her uncle's farmhands in the days leading up to her 18th birthday. The farmhands in question are played by Oliver Hardy and the self-cast director Larry Semon. Sooo ... the 35-year-old director cast himself as the frustrated suitor of a family farm Lolita. And, yes, his name was Semon. But don't worry guys. The two actors were married in real life, so everything was totally kosher.
A match born in the deepest nightmares of the most composed serial killer.
So a tornado carries Dorothy to the Land of Oz, where the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion characters are introduced. But it isn't really the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion -- it's the horny farmhands in disguise, hiding from Ambassador Wikked and Prime Minister Kruel, presumably while President Badd Guye and Emperor Stok Kharakter Villun were vacationing in Helll. Dorothy is crowned Queen of Oz and marries Prince Kynd (sigh) and decides to stay in Oz forever, because hey, why not?
Meanwhile, the Tin Man turns evil and tries to kill the Lion and the Scarecrow. Then the Scarecrow falls out of an airplane and dies.
Doesn't matter. You cannot kill what dwells within that.
This celluloid travesty bankrupted its studio and shockingly never got a wide release. Which is probably a good thing, considering how much sooner fan fiction would have gotten off the ground if it had.
If you were a teenage boy at any time in the past 30 years, odds are good that you have seen the gloriously overwrought cokehead Mafioso epic Scarface. Al Pacino is Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who rises through the ranks of a Miami drug kingdom with nothing but an aloha shirt, an accent cranked to 11 and an M-damn-16 assault rifle with a miraculous supply of bullets.
A movie that could have also been Pacino's personal biography.
Pacino, writer Oliver Stone and director Brian De Palma earn every morally ambiguous hip hop ode that has been spat in honor of this both Golden Globe and Razzie nominated crime classic. More specifically, Al Pacino earned the honor of teaching Spanish speakers how to roll their R's like they mean it.
The original Scarface was based on the 1929 novel also called Scarface, which was a thinly disguised biography of dermatologically challenged real-world gangster, Al Capone.
"Blood Acne Face" was already taken by another gangster.
It was such a grisly film that censors delayed its release and multiple versions resulted. You might even say it was the Scarface of its era.
When producer Martin Bregman set out to remake it in the 1980s, his intention was to do a gangster period piece faithful to the original. Ironically, the the filmmakers found the Prohibition-era Chicago setting too "melodramatic" so Sidney Lumet suggested changing the backdrop to the modern Miami cocaine cartel world.
Needs more cocaine
Oliver Stone, who had just kicked a wicked coke habit, was hired to rewrite the screenplay and boom! A million ethnic stereotypes and college dorm posters were simultaneously born. All because Oliver Stone is really good at reining in melodrama.
Quick! What comes to mind when you think of Clint Eastwood in a classic western? A poncho? A cigarillo? How about a bunch of non-English speaking Europeans on location in Spain with their lines overdubbed like a kung fu movie? Boom. You win the jackpot.
If you are familiar with the term Spaghetti Western, you can thank the wild popularity of A Fistful of Dollars. Shot in Spain by an Italian crew with an international cast, Dollars sets grizzled American Clint Eastwood against rival gangs in a "Mexican" border town. The only thing missing from this melting pot of a movie was some Asians.
Oh wait, never mind. Because A Fistful of Dollars was a Japanese movie before it was an Euromerican one. Specifically, it was a frame-for-frame remake of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1961 samurai picture Yojimbo. Only when Kurosawa made it, he used robes instead of panchos and swords instead of guns.
And princess buns instead of hats.
Ripping off foreign movies had been done before, but Sergio Leone didn't bother to get the rights to Yojimbo before he set about remaking it, which was why Yojimbo's producers were eventually awarded 15 percent of the remake's worldwide gross in a successful lawsuit. Kurosawa later claimed that he earned more money off of A Fistful of Dollars than he did from his original movie.
Via Wikimedia Commons
And why all of his sons were named "Clint."