April 4, 2010
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      I don’t like remakes.

      It’s as old as Hollywood.   Film makers seem to remake the screen classics every generation.   And they almost never get it right.   The remakes are almost never as good as the originals.   In fact, you have to wonder why they even try.   If something is that good, then isn’t remaking it just asking for disappointment???


      Sure.   But they do it anyway.

Harry Hamlin as Perseus

Harry Hamlin as Perseus, hoisting the head of Medusa








      There’s a remake that just hit the theaters this week.   Clash of the Titans”, a no-doubt-totally-special-effects-driven rehash of the 1981 cult classic of the same name.   It stars Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, good friends from their slaphappy “Schindler’s List” days, now reunited.  

      I just watched the ’81 version of “Clash” a couple weeks ago and, oddly enough, was planning on reviewing it for you anyway.   Then my kid told me there was a movie with the same name coming out soon.   I told him he was mistaken.   He argued with me.   I thought he was delusional.

      But I soon discovered he was right.   Kids are so smart.  

      Anyway, another remake.   Which now makes this review all the more timeless and timely at the same time.   The message is simple:

      Remakes usually suck.

      Many of the finest movies ever made have been re-made.   They include “It Happened One Night”, “Mutiny on the Bounty”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “From Here To Eternity”, “The Caine Mutiny”, “Inherit the Wind”, “Cape Fear”, and “Father of the Bride “.   In every case (in my opinion) the original was better.   Most of the time far, far better.

      That’s what I predict for this year’s “Clash of the Titans”.   It is the story of Perseus, the mythological Greek hero who cuts off Medusa’s head (you know Medusa, right? — that female “gorgon” monster with snakes for hair whose gaze turns men to stone?).   Perseus also rides the winged horse Pegasus, and he both saves and marries the beautiful princess Andromeda.   The 1981 version doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s why it works.   It’s a very good movie, but not a great movie.   It doesn’t try to do more than a sword-and-sandal film can do.   Namely, entertain and transport the viewer, back in time to the era of gods and monsters.   The special effects—done frame by frame in the pre-digital era by the legendary animator Ray Harryhausen—are a little clumsy by today’s high-tech standards and, therefore, more “real”.   Sort of.   More plausible, anyway.   More digestible.

      And the 1981 “Clash” cast is superb, headed by Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, and Burgess Meredith.   Some of the very finest performers in motion picture history.   Even Harry Hamlin (in his pre-L.A. Law days) is okay.   At least he’s as handsome as a Greek hero like Perseus should be.   Additionally, as an interesting anecdote, Hamlin was living with the glamorous Swiss actress and sex symbol Ursula Andress at the time, the latter playing the role of Aphrodite in the film….

      Anyway, the 1981 version rocks.   This year’s version?   I fear it will obtain the same fate as the ill-fated remakes listed above.

      In fact, off the top of my head, just about the only remake I can ever remember topping the original was 1957’s “An Affair To Remember”, it being a big improvement over 1939’s  Love Affair”.   Cary Grant gets most of the credit for that.   He was even better than he usually is in that one (his usual being better than just about anyone else’s best), and Deborah Kerr was great too.   But then Warren Beatty went ahead and blew it by remaking “An Affair To Remember” in 1994, calling it “Love Affair” again, and predictably the latter fell far short of the former in just about every way.  (With the notable exception of us getting to see 87-year-old comebacking screen legend Katherine Hepburn, in her last film appearance, utter the word “fuck” on screen.  That was cool.).      

      Anyway, the point here—I say again—is that remakes usually suck.

      It’s why I no longer allow myself to go see a remake.   Not anymore.   Call it a religious thing.

      In fact, the only thing that might tempt me to actually go see this particular remake is Neeson.   I’m a big Liam Neeson fan.    I confess I am more than a little bit interested in what he does with the role of Zeus, a role handled effortlessly by Laurence Olivier in the original.   Neeson has the credentials.   His resume is terrific.   He was maybe the best on-screen folk hero I’ve ever seen in “Rob Roy”, the best on-screen secret agent in “Taken”, and the best on-screen Nazi screwer-over in the aforementioned “Schindler’s List”.   He was even one of the best ever on-screen step-dads in “Love Actually”.   He is tall, talented, watchable, provocative, and authoritative.   He is one of our greatest living actors.   He is a genuine movie star.

      But he is also no Laurence Olivier.

      Not Neeson’s fault, of course.   Only Olivier can be Olivier.   Perhaps no actor in history absolutely nailed more roles or bespoke better line-by-line dialogue on screen than did Sir Laurence (excuse me—I mean Lord Olivier….late in life the Queen gave him a promotion).   Somebody has to be the best, ‘might as well be him.   A true acting chameleon.   But that means that anyone reprising one of his roles has two strikes against him before he even gets up to bat.   And it makes any remake very unlikely to eclipse an Olivier original.   Olivier was Zeus.   Bad luck for Liam.

      Anyway, remakes usually suck.

      But don’t take my word for it.   Buy or rent the original 1981 “Clash of the Titans”.   Then go see this year’s remake, currently airing in a theater near you.   Then let me know what you think.   If it’s good, really good, maybe I’ll go.   Maybe.   I don’t know.   It’s a religious thing….



Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland, our Dr. of Ancient Filmology, is a movie buff and film historian, as long as the film was made before 1985 or so.  (So if you want to hear about crummy new-release films, pick up a

Times).   Special effects and gratuitous anything have no place in his celluloid world.   Primarily a fiction writer, Brad has written four novels and over 20 short-stories.  Here are some samples of his best work:




















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