Vital Signs

Twice-Baked and Twice as Bad

Every couple months or so, my wife and I host an event we call Twice-Baked Tales.  We’ll have friends over for a home-cooked meal followed by a screening of a movie (usually from the 1930’s, 40’s, or 50’s) and its remake.  So far we’ve watched Out of the Past (1947) and its 1984 remake, Against All Odds, and both versions of The Killers and The Manchurian Candidate.  We’ve considered Cape Fear for an upcoming installment, but I’m not so sure I can sit through the Martin Scorsese version again.

One thing has become abundantly clear over the course of these three screenings: The newer versions are never a patch on the originals.  Hollywood seems incapable of updating a movie from its Golden Age without piling on all the sex, violence, and profanity that are now de rigueur in modern films.  Directors and writers may cloak this crass pandering under the guise of exercising their hard-won “artistic freedom,” but whatever they want to call it, it means that we the viewers have to suffer through stink bombs such as Against All Odds.  Director Taylor Hackford makes every wrong decision imaginable: replacing the stoic Robert Mitchum with a simpering Jeff Bridges; adding tedious fight scenes and unerotic sex scenes; introducing an absurd subplot involving professional football; and insisting that every minor character’s...

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