#3. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Since this is an Alfred Hitchcock joint, we're going to give you the quick and dirty recap: Everyday man and stylish blonde protagonist find themselves in a tangled web of espionage business they don't understand. There are chases, double agents, murders, a kidnapping, beautiful Moroccan scenery and a frazzled looking Jimmy Stewart cocking his head and looking intensely befuddled.
"That's my trick ear, Clarence! Speak louder!"
Not only was it a remake, it was a remake by Alfred Hitchcock of a 1934 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
The unexpected new spin of this version was ... well, basically, that it was in color and had an American cast instead of a British cast. Also, they added a cute blond-haired kid. Seriously, that was it. Other than a couple of changed locations, it had the same plot, down to the same extended dialogue-free Albert Concert Hall climax, which was set to the same music.
What we're saying is, Alfred Hitchcock made the same damn movie twice.
We like to think that he just legitimately forgot about the first one.
It turns out that Hitchcock was insecure about his early British films. He pitched Hollywood on doing loose Americanized adaptations of them, or sequels, or (as in this case) flat out point-for-point remakes, just so he could take another crack at them. In particular, he obsessed that his 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much was the work of a "talented amateur".
And then he just sat there and thought about what he did until his father got home.
It's as if Vincent Van Gogh decided his masterpiece self portrait wasn't good enough, so he returned from the grave to do a photorealistic airbrush version on the hood of a Trans-Am.
And, actually, that sounds pretty bitchin'. So good job, Hitch.
#2. The Last House on the Left (1972)
And no, we're not talking about the 2009 reboot here.
Maybe you were raised by positive, nurturing role models, and movies that revel in prolonged sexual torture aren't a part of your pristine, Disney-fed consciousness. So maybe you're not aware of Wes Craven's 1972 directorial debut The Last House on the Left, which tells the inspirational story of two parents who gruesomely murder the murderers of their gruesomely murdered daughter. Love it or hate it, this movie struck a chord. Produced for only $90,000, it made millions worldwide and became a notable forerunner of an entire subgenre of 1970s slasher films. Until just recently it was banned in Australia and the U.K. due to extreme sadism and violence.
Not only was it a remake, it was a remake of a high-falootin' Swedish art movie. It all started with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960), which tells the story of a medieval Christian who grapples with his faith after violently avenging the rape and murder of his daughter. Like its more popular remake, The Virgin Spring was controversially graphic. Unlike its more popular remake, it won several awards including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
And a Beardy for Creepiest Beard in a Movie that isn't About Beards.
So Wes Craven started his career by remaking a legendary director's Academy Award winning classic as a low budget horror flick. That's pretty brash. It would be like a first time director remaking Schindler's List as torture porn.
P.S. If anyone actually does that and attributes it to us, we are going to be really angry.
#1. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Even if you've never seen the Academy Award nominated 1941 classic starring Humphrey Bogart, the title has probably already conjured up some badassery in your mind: a hard-faced, stone cold detective in a trench coat; a lispy, probably-not-straight bad guy patsy; a slithering femme fatale slinking her way around like some kind of lady-snake hybrid.
And that's without even getting into the plot. You know The Maltese Falcon because everyone from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Muppet Babies to this hilarious website has parodied it in some form or another. It's the movie that kicked off the whole film noir genre, and the movie that makes you want to take up smoking and slapping people.
Among the inspirational forces behind this cinematic achievement was a 1931 film called, um ... The Maltese Falcon. Like the classic Bogart film, the original followed the book closely, often ripping whole scenes of dialogue straight from the novel. Besides having the same title, characters, plot and tone, it was also produced by the same studio.
A whole different thing
So why remake it? Because the original Maltese Falcon opens with a young woman adjusting her stocking as she leaves Sam Spade's office, implying the two just did some unmarried nastiness. Later, Spade's femme fatale client stays overnight in his apartment, shares his bed and is shown almost-nude in his bathtub.
Which was why Hays Code censors gave the big "hell no" to an attempted re-release of the movie in 1936, probably for areola related reasons. So Warner Bros. really wanted to get another movie out of this great story, and they decided a gritty reboot was in order. Oh no, wait. They decided a zany reboot was in order. Warner Bros. changed the character names and recast the whole cockamamie thing as a light-hearted comedy. This time it starred a young Bette Davis and was called Satan Met A Lady.
So when John Huston endeavored to tell yet another sanitized version of the same exact story, it wasn't even sloppy seconds. It was sloppy thirds.
And THAT is how you pioneer a cinematic movement.
Jeff Beauvoir is a producer and songwriter in the great Northwest. Hear his only slightly ironic music at www.signorgroove.com.
For more icons that are totally unoriginal, check out 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs. And check out some "remakes" that are totally awesome in 9 Foreign Rip-Offs Cooler Than The Hollywood Originals .