Thursday, October 7, 2021



A fmonths ago The Beloved Spouse™ and I had the bright idea to watch both versions of 3:10 to Yuma back-to-back. It was great fun, and educational to boot. We’ve kept up with the practice and have a few more examples, which required me to alter a core belief. We’ll get to that later.


Rio Bravo (1959) & El Dorado (1966). Not announced as a remake, but it is. Same basic story, and the remake is definitely better. The story has more depth, as do the characters. Hell, replacing Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson with Robert Mitchum and James Caan practically guarantees the second would be better. John Wayne’s in both, and, as Chili Palmer says, he plays John Wayne.


The Italian Job (1969 & 2003). Same basic story, updated to reflect advancing technology in the heist department, and audiences’ desire for higher octane action sequences. The first, starring Michael Caine, has a much more whimsical approach. The remake, with Mark Wahlberg in Caine’s role, takes advantage of societal and filmmaking advances to be a lot of fun itself. Neither aspires to be taken seriously, but both succeed admirably at what they set out to do. I give a slight nod to the remake because Charlize Theron.


The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1974 & 2009) Another remake that pays homage to the original in many aspects while still bowing in the direction of contemporary sensibilities, notably in the areas of technology and villain motivation. The skills of the primary actors are pretty much a wash (Walter Matthau vs. Denzel Washington), and, while I’d give Robert Shaw a nod over John Travolta, the screenwriter did a nice job in changing the character to suit Travolta’s style. (Not that Travolta isn’t a fine actor—he’s a favorite of mine—but there was only one Robert Shaw.) I liked the remake a little better. It provided a better sense of urgency and the added subplot involving the mayor (James Gandolfini) added depth to the story. The original ending was better, but overall, I preferred the remake.


Which leads us to my change in philosophy. I always thought remaking what was already a good film was stupid, especially when there are so many candidates for do-overs among crappy films that failed to realize good ideas. I now see that’s not true. Things change, and if the filmmakers choose and execute their material wisely, they can update a film and maybe add a few things that weren’t available to their peers of forty years ago. This would not be true of all films, but I’ll no longer dismiss a remake out of hand. I consider it growth on my part.


(PS. The Beloved Spouse™ and I were considering repeating this process with The Magnificent Seven, but a trusted source waved us off. I may still watch the remake, but possibly to prove the point of another thought I’ve had along these lines as to decide which I like better.)



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