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Thursday 10 November 2011

Editorial: Re-releasing classics instead of re-making them?

As I scanned through the usual sources looking for trailers of now playing and upcoming movies, I noticed something quite odd.  The following movies were in the "Now Playing" sections:

Hitchcock's The 39 Steps and The Birds and Rear Window (Rear Window is one of my all-time favourites)
Ben Hur with Charlton Heston (many years ago I heard a joke: What did Ben Hur say to his sister Ben Him?  We should switch names or they'll start calling me Ben Gay - not that there's anything wrong with it)
Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn (Two icons)
Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (Sick and brilliant movie)
Dial M for Murder with Grace Kelly (Great story stars a great beauty)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail AND The Life of Brian (Love them both)
Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean (Serious Classic)

What a novel idea! Instead of remaking classic films, just re-release!  What a great way to expose audiences to the classics, without butchering the classics with lame remakes.  Speaking of butchering, while I was going to school, I had a job at Colorization.  I used to paint by numbers, on computer, coloring black and white movies.  I was involved in the butchering Colorizing of films such as It's a Wonderful Life, The Stranger (Orson Welles), Otto Preminger's St. Joan (where, in a crowd scene I found someone wearing a wrist watch -  not unlike the Peter Sellers character on the set of a movie in The Party) and the entire Laurel and Hardy collection. 

My point?  One of the key messages of Colorization was: Colorizing black and white classics will expose a whole new audience to great cinema.  The logic was that young people didn't want to watch black and white films. While it exposed me to some great cinema, the concept inevitably failed and so did the company.  Again, what's my point?  I think I'm trying to say that re-releasing will hopefully provide a big screen viewing opportunity for people who likely own these films and maybe expose younger people, too.  I don't know if younger generation movie buffs will seize the opportunity to see these films on the big screen, but I really hope they do.  Movies often reflect our cultural evolution, our changing values and so, for me, it's really cool to glimpse the history of an art form that is only about 100 years old.  Thus, re-releasing classics instead of remaking them is appealing to me.  Maybe when all the classics are re-released, some new ideas will evolve... oh my, I actually sound optimistic.

The first time I saw the film, Casablanca, I marveled at how cliché the sayings were, you know, "play it again, Sam." "There's been a murder, round up the usual suspects..."  "The lives of two people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world..."  But then I realized that many of the expressions we consider cliché had to start somewhere. Many started in these classic, often quoted and misquoted films of yester-year.

While basking in nostalgia and goodwill I had another thought, which is sadly based in cynicism.  You know, cash grab, cheaper to re-release than make movies now that Blockbuster is dead (please see my post on Oct. 27, 2011).  But you know what? I think it's great that we have opportunities to view classics on the big screen.  So, all cynicism aside, I hope movie lovers take advantage of this opportunity because there is so much crap out there.

Think of viewing an old classic on a big screen like putting your money on a sure thing.  Send me your thoughts.  


  1. Greggie, the Curmudgeon10 November 2011 at 14:43

    Yup – and that’s the beauty of cinemas like Bell TIFF Lighthouse – for those in (and out of) the ‘Big Smoke’…unless you’re with the HFT (um, ‘Hate-F-ing-Toronto’ gang – not to be mistaken for the ‘Hot-for-Teacher’ gang, which speaks to a whole other type of genre…;)): http://tiff.net/.
    Greggie (the Curmudgeon)

  2. RE: Re-releasing classics instead of re-making them?

    agreed - it's infinitely better to let people see the ORIGINAL than these incessant (and terrible) remakes. now all we need is for hollywood to stop murdering all my favourite books, and we're set.
    btw, did you see the trailer for The Raven yet? john cusack plays edgar allan poe. (but all i could think of was james earl jones narrating, and bart simpson going "nevermore")

  3. Greggie, the Curmudgeon11 November 2011 at 14:31

    Although directed by McTeigue (the stylish brat who brought us ‘V for Vendetta’), don’t think Cusack can pull a Poe. Pretty wooden performance (from the measly trailer) and not sure he’s done anything that’s dramatically worthy. Probably stick to comedy – like Gross Pointe Blank (kudos for co-writing) and High Fidelity. Leave the ‘Nevermores’ to Bart…;).

  4. I'm still dumb: wrote this+can't post = dumb as post.
    Well, to support your thesis I voted with my feet: my partner and I watched Dial M for Murder at a local rep theatre. While not a revelation, it was nonetheless refreshing to see a movie so in control of story-telling elements: suspense, melodramatic-drama, empathy for the characters.
    A re-telling of one Hitch's finer films - i'd walk past that cineplex and revisit the rep theatre one more time yet.