The 25 Movies They’d Better Never Remake.
These films are not just near and dear to our hearts, they should be considered OFF-LIMITS to those jerks at the studios. The films on this list were special when they premiered and continue to be so today, and we’re going to explain why they shouldn’t be remade – as well as why they can’t be. So enough jabbering, on with the list!
THE THIRD MAN (1949)
DIRECTED BY: Carol Reed
WRITTEN BY: Graham Greene
STARRING: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard..
Arriving in Vienna looking for work and some quality time with an old friend, novelist Holly Martins (a cool-as-fuck Joseph Cotten) discovers that his pal Harry Lime died in a rather tragic car accident. Sticking around for the funeral, Martins meets some of the people that were involved in Lime’s life and, after hearing a few contradictory stories he becomes convinced that Harry met his end as a result of foul play. He gets all up in the investigation, tries to get all up in Harry‘s lover (the stunning Alida Valli)and eventually learns that Mr. Lime had gotten himself involved in a racket that provided less-than-adequate treatments of penicillin to patients who were dealing with a shortage of the medicine. The ones who didn’t die ended up in the mental ward and Harry became a wanted man. Not content to just let it be, Martins goes deeper and deeper into the investigation, looking for the mysterious Third Man that was apparently at the scene of the accident.
Spoiler: It’s Harry Lime! In an effort to throw off the cops, he murders one of his accomplices, passes the dead dude off as himself and goes into hiding. He emerges from the shadows (literally) to see and reason with his old friend, and that’s when the movie really kicks into subtextual high gear.
The Third Man is one of those rare movies that’s everything all at once. On the surface it’s a tight little film noir – a search for whodunit and a slow steady buildup to The Big Kiss at the end. But all of that goes out the window when Orson Welles pops out of a recessed doorway with that smug little grin on his face.
At that point, and in the minutes that follow, you start to realize what the movie is actually about. It’s a sad tale of disillusionment with the people you thought you knew (Holly‘s story), but it’s also a movie about grief, loss, love and devotion (Anna’s story), along with all of that it’s a story of greed and corruption and how one person’s selfishness can ripple out and cause destruction everywhere (Lime’s Story). The thematic weight this cast carries is fairly heavy and the way they effortlessly carry it from scene to scene, from title sequence to end credits, is astonishing.
And that’s saying nothing of the technical marvels. As a character piece it still manages to make a subtle spectacle of itself, with supremely tight and intuitive editing, photography that’s gorgeous, and a score that’s simultaneously out of place and a perfect fit for the mood that’s established. The shots of long tunnels and hallways, the way everything’s tilted – it really gives you a sense of paranoia and not knowing what’s what or who to trust. And it doesn’t have to go out of it’s way to tell you any of these things because you feel it just from watching. On paper it’s a straight-forward, run of the mill little thriller, but it manages, through sheer will and the strength of those involved, to become, well, a masterpiece.
- The Sewer Chase and its sense of geography and space
- The Cuckoo-Clock Speech (That whole ferris wheel scene, really)
- The performance of the little kid repeatedly calling Martins a murderer (plus the fact that half of that scene was in German and they didn’t use any subtitles to tremendous effect)
- That last shot and everything it says about our leads in those scant few seconds
- And this…
The obvious answer? Orson Welles. I don’t know if there’s anyone alive who could play that part with as much slimy charisma as he did. You just look at his face and you kinda love him, and then you realize he’s a world-class douche of the highest order and…well…you STILL kinda love him. That’s not easy to pull off.
But, other than that, everything about this movie is simultaneously timeless but also of its time. They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Static shots that don’t have a lot of crazy, sweeping, dramatic movement, supporting characters that are full, actual characters and not just expository symbols or one-note fillers…you can’t recreate the magic of a film like this because it’s a perfect combination of everything and everybody involved. It can not be duplicated.
Michael Bay’s been producing remakes all over town, using his Platinum Dunes company as a front. So naturally he’d be the logical choice to spearhead any attempt at remaking this classic. How would it pan out, you ask?
- Orci and Kurtzman get the writing gig
- Set it in America and make Anna a Mexican, so you can keep the passport/illegal documents subplot but make it relevant in today’s society!
- Cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lime (Oh shit, I think I just fancasted the remake of the movie I don’t want to be remade.)
- Put the camera on a big crane and swoop the living shit out of everything
- Replace the sewer chase with a subway chase and have Harry Lime blow up one of the trains in an effort to escape (Obligatory Bay Explosion!), only for him to somehow be hooked to or otherwise restrained by said train resulting in his being exploded too! Final shot of his screaming face engulfed by flame and then a slow fade into Holly (and change his name too, he’s not a LADY) and Anna embracing and looking longingly into each other’s eyes while an Aersomith song plays in the background. Credits roll before he offers to show her HIS Third Man, kna’mean?
Welles wrote that Cuckoo Clock speech himself. He also decided to take a straight salary for the film as opposed to a percentage, then kicked his own ass when it became so successful. Ebert loves it too – calls it his favorite film of all time. Hi-five for that guy.
REBUTTAL: None! We all agree.