Ten Films Remade by their Directors

What could possibly fire the urge to remake one’s own film? Could it be the money? Perhaps the opportunity to crack a new market. Maybe the director thought the original was rushed, miscast or even made in the wrong genre.

Whatever the motivation the auto remake is a lonely island in the ocean of film history, not least because the moment the second version is released the director must realise he or she is being judged directly against their own work.

Here is a list of ten directors who for myriad reasons have revisited and remade previous film efforts:

Good Morning

I was born but… (1932) remade as Good Morning (1959) by Yasujiro Ozu

What’s the Difference?
Remade in colour and right in the heart of post war consumerism. The remake features the acquisition of a new television as the driving point of the whole story.

Was it Worth it?
Absolutely. The original is pretty good but boy is it dated. I’m not complaining about its nature as a silent piece or the pacing but rather the humour which is just awful. Good Morning runs with its central gag with ease from beginning to end.

Verdict
The reamke is hands down the better film. The young brothers are a scream and once the petulance starts so does the fun.


Lady for a Day

Lady for a Day (1933) remade as Pocketful of Miracles (1961) by Frank Capra

What’s the Difference?
Glenn Ford takes over as the debonair hood who takes a shine to the hard up neighbourhood apple seller; Bette Davis adds a good deal of panache to the central role and the sentimentality is really amped up.

Was it Worth it?
As much as I love Glenn Ford he ain’t no Dave the Dude. Warren William was made to play the part – in fact he trips straight outta the pen of Damon Runyon – and cannot be bettered. Moreover the tongue-in-cheek gangster vibe works much better in the 1930s that it does transposed to the early ’60s. The story needs a dose of whimsy but the remake is just too twee.

Verdict
Capra knew he should have left it alone and even trashes the remake in his own autobiography. Don’t bother.


The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) remade as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) by Alfred Hitchcock

What’s the Difference?
The remake definitely has a lighter feel than the ’34 version. There is a permanent shroud of menace in the original that the remake manages to pierce quite often, at times approaching what Brian Aldiss might have called a ‘comfortable catastrophe’.

Was it Worth it?
There’s no Peter Lorre, fresh from Lang’s M and menacing as hell but there are moments of high terror in the remake that keep it gripping.

Verdict
I’m firmly of the belief that every film ever recorded can have many minutes trimmed from it. This remake very nearly doubles the running time but, you know what, it works. Both Marrakech and South London look great and the villains are a riot. Both versions are well worth a watch.


Ball of Fire

Ball of Fire (1941) remade as A Song is Born (1948) by Howard Hawks

What’s the Difference?
Music. Singing. Dancing. The Gangster’s moll hiding out amongst bookworms story is maintained, as are most of the character names but the musical talent (Kaye, Satchmo, Dorsey etc) get to strut their stuff. Virginia Mayo is pretty good but gets nowhere near the heights of the OTHER remake she made in 1948.

Was it Worth it?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to judge this, being that I am about as far from the Danny Kaye target audience as could be imagined.

Verdict
I suppose there is plenty of fun to be had in the remake but whereas Hitchcock used Doris Day’s singing sparingly (and indeed her song choice was crucial to the plot in TMWKTM) the musical numbers here just seem so very shoehorned in.


High Sierra

High Sierra (1941) remade as Colorado Territory (1949) by Raoul Walsh

What’s the Difference?
A noirish gangster pic becomes a western, the protagonist is given much more of a back story and his moll turns out to be as tough as him.

Was it Worth it?
The remake really benefits from the broadening of the two female roles. Whereas Velma, the crippled girl in High Sierra is a target of Earl’s attention because she is a pretty naif, her Colorado Territory counterpart Julie Ann reminds McQueen of his lost wife and when her character turns, boy does it make an impact. Virgina Mayo is extraordinary too, really adding to the role and acting Joel McCrea off the screen every chance she gets.

Verdict
Cinema is immeasurably enriched by having both of these films in existence.


Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo (1959) remade as El Dorado (1966) by Howard Hawks

What’s the Difference?
A (semi) change of cast and a whole new first act. However the structure, vibe, final hour and rather astonishingly some of the sets all remain the same.

Was it Worth it?
The first act of the remake, which introduces Thornton is somehow more memorable than Rio Bravo’s and James Caan is far superior as a presence than crooner Ricky Melson but it’s difficult to watch the second outing and not pine for Deano.

Verdict
Not many westerns can compete six shooter-to-six shooter with Rio Bravo but El Dorado has enough charm to stand up on its own two (shaky) feet.


Heat

LA Takedown (1989) remade as Heat (1995) by Michael Mann

What’s the Difference?
Well, money for one thing. The original is a made-for-TV movie shot on videotape that ages it immediately and has no name stars. The remake features the first, iconic, never bettered screen meeting of Pacino and De Niro, looks like a million bucks and has a much more satisfying denoument.

Was it Worth it?
Is the Pope, you know…?

Verdict
So good it almost single handedly justifies all remakes. McCauley’s death is far more poignant at the airport than at the hands of the scumbag Waingro, the set pieces have better pacing and the love story is much more believable.


Funny Games

Funny Games (1997) remade as Funny Games (2007) by Michael Haneke

What’s the Difference?
An almost shot for shot remake. The action is transposed to the United States and the script translated into English.

Was it Worth it?
Hmm, you could ponder that one for hours. I’m tempted to say no. The cast is more recognisible to an international audience but really, if you want the thrills just learn to live with subtitles. It’s a matter of taste of course but I think the original actors who played the home invaders were more mesmerizing.

Verdict
Haneke is on record justifying the remake because he wanted the message to reach a wider audience. Fair enough.


Ju On

Ju-On (2002) remade as The Grudge (2004) by Takashi Shimizu

What’s the Difference?
More or less the same plot with a slightly different ending that opened up the remake as a franchise in itself. The action stays in Tokyo, with American actors in the lead roles.

Was it Worth it?
Shimizu maintained the creepy atmosphere of the original and did not compromise his vision when including big American names. It also made $180 million world wide so from that point of view, an emphatic yes.

Verdict
Both versions are pretty good but if you want the biggest scare see the original TV movie (yes, this is very meta: the first film is itself a remake of a made-for-TV film).


Tzameti

Tzameti (2005) remade as 13 (2010) by Gela Babluani

What’s the Difference?
Much like LA Takedown / Heat – stars and money. Also the American remake is in colour so we get to see Jason Statham’s receeding hairline in all its glory.

Was it Worth it?
With a larger budget and a known cast it must be a real temptation to tinker with and greatly add to a previous work, and Babluani creates back story motivations for almost all of the ‘other’ participants in the Russian Roulette game. Some are fun but the original was more spare with the supporting cast and was better for it.

Verdict
This thing more or less sank without trace, consigned to the straight to DVD shelf. A pity, the potential was there.


I’m delighted to offer this review as part of the “They Remade What?!” Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.

Remakes