It must be odd for film directors to see their own work remade, to have someone take something you've slaved over and twist your story into something you'd never intended. One way around this is to do the remake yourself. When Vince Vaughn's new movie Delivery Man arrives in cinemas in January it will be the second time that director Ken Scott has told the story. Last time it was as the much smaller film Starbuck, which had the same plot, about a man who discovers that sperm donating spree in his youth has made him the father of over 500 kids who want to know where they came from, but no big stars and a much smaller release.
Scott is far from the first to take another shot at his own movie; it's been happening for decades. Sometimes a do-over results in an even better film, sometimes it really does not...
George Sluizer – Sporloos/The Vanishing
In 1988, George Sluizer made a Dutch-language film about a woman who goes missing at a petrol station and her boyfriend’s long journey to learning just what became of her. It’s a cold, relaxed study of immense evil and though only seen by a small number of people it caught the eye of someone in Hollywood and Sluizer was asked to make it again, but with big stars and nobody speaking foreign. The remake, which features Kiefer Sutherland, a young Sandra Bullock as the girlfriend and Jeff Bridges as the man who knows her fate, deflates the horror of the ending and thus undoes the whole film.
Alfred Hitchcock - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956)
Hitchcock said of his twofer that “the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second is made by a professional”. But neither should really be considered inferior to the other. Fascinatingly, they’re the same story told with very different intent. The first version is has a more sinister feel, in large thanks to Peter Lorre’s leering villain, while the latter effort is much more a zippy star-driven thriller, with James Stewart and Doris Day dashing about to try and scupper an assassination plot and save their kidnapped son. Hitchcock prefers the second one, but many disagree.
Takashi Shimizu – Ju-On: The Grudge/The Grudge
Ju-On: The Grudge was quite an effective Japanese horror movie that had a lot of jumpy moments but a pretty casual approach to sense and explanation. That kind of unresolved storytelling doesn’t go over so well with the US market, so the remake, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, is much more straightforward horror, although in trying to make sense of the original it winds up with a very thin plot. The best moments are those taken directly from the original. Despite middling reviews it did well enough to get two sequels, with Shimizu coming back again for number 2, which was well rubbish.
Michael Haneke – Funny Games (1997 and 2007)
Michael Haneke had intended to set the original movie, about two young men who take a family hostage purely for their own amusement, in America but practicality forbade. He got his wish when he remade it 10 years later, in 2007, with an almost shot-for-shot repeat with a different cast. The purpose of it is still unclear but there’s not much to choose between the two. So pick based on whether you want recognisable stars or one with subtitles for that more artsy feel.
Michael Mann – L.A. Takedown/Heat
In 1989, Michael Mann made a TV mini-series about a detective on the trail of a professional criminal and the great similarities of their lives. It was only ok. In 1995, Mann reworked his original script for the big screen, casting Al Pacino and Robert De Niro as the detective and the criminal. It was absolutely freakin’ amazing.
Gela Babluani – 13 Tzameti/13
Gela Babluani’s feature debut, in which a man finds a set of instructions for an unknown job and decides to follow them with no idea of where he’s heading, immediately drew comparisons with Alfred Hitchcock. The American remake was supposed to be his calling card, with a cast including Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Sam Riley and Jason Statham. But the new version had none of the atmosphere of the original and the film ultimately went straight to DVD. Hopefully Babluani will come back with something that lives up to his initial potential.
Pang Brothers - Bangkok Dangerous (1999 and 2008)
The Pang Brothers, Danny and Oxide, are hugely successful in Asia. They made three instalments in the horror series The Eye, but that grew from the success of their first movie, Bangkok Dangerous. It told of a deaf assassin still holding onto the rage of being bullied as a child. The 2008 remake with Nicolas Cage keeps little more than the name. It was so negatively received, failing to even make back its production budget, that it’s only really remembered for a poster that shows great disdain for both physiology and Photoshop.
Cecil B. DeMille – The Ten Commandments (1923 and 1956)
This one is a case of remaking being entirely acceptable. When DeMille first made the story of Moses in 1923 it was silent and in black-and-white, because that was the limit of technological possibility at the time. By the mid-1950s things had moved on considerably. Colour had been invented. As had ‘VistaVision’, a higher resolution, wider version of 35mm. As had Charlton Heston. DeMille really went for it in his revisit and the 1956 version was, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made. It was also nearly 100 minutes longer than its predecessor. It was a huge box office success and the chariot race is still considered one of the greatest action sequences in cinema.