Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sorry, Wrong Movie...

Woe to the poor young movie buff in the late-20th century, scanning the local TV guide in the hopes of stumbling across one of the classic films he'd been hankering to see for a long time. In those early-VCR/pre-TCM days, one had to become actively involved if he wished to actually see a particular movie. You had to be in front of the set at the given time and pray for no pre-emptions, power failures or static on-screen. So imagine the horror that awaited young Irvin or Marty, settling in with the 27" in his grandma's basement to catch the great 1948 classic Sorry, Wrong Number with Miss Barbara Stanwyck only to discover....
The 1989 TV-movie Sorry, Wrong Number starring Loni Anderson!
This is most likely the only time one would find Anderson and (a slumming) Hal Holbrook in the same airspace, unless perhaps it was at her then-husband Burt Reynolds' house for a dinner party! The on-screen husband in this movie, Carl Weintraub, has a considerable number of credits considering I've never heard of him before in my life! Turns out he also appeared in another one of Anderson's re-dos, Coins in the Fountain in 1990! Anderson had also done A Letter to Three Wives in 1985. The only reason I didn't put those two in this post was because I've already noted them here.
Or how about the nail-biting classic Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum, redone in 1991 with Richard Chamberlain as the sadistic phony preacher in search of some stolen loot?
This redux lacks the atmospheric direction of the great Charles Laughton, has Diana Scarwid in Shelley Winters' old role and doesn't even bother trying to cast an actress of any notoriety in Lillian Gish's part...
Now, granted, the 1965 William Castle shocker was no sterling screen classic, but it did offer the ferocious charms of Joan Crawford to help offset some of the teenage inanity on display. This 1988 remake, I Saw What You Did, offers no such recompense.
Instead the movie enlists two Carradines, Robert and David, for "star power" and hopes in vain that the two young stars (and an even younger Candace Cameron as the sibling of Shawnee Smith) can carry the rest of the dramatic load.
While we have you on the line, let's take a peek at Dial M for Murder, not the 1954 Hitchcock thriller with Ray Milland a Grace Kelly, but a 1981 remake with Christopher Plummer and Angie Dickinson.
Stepping into the roles once essayed by Bob Cummings and John Williams are Michael Parks and Anthony Quayle. (This venerable tale was done once more as a feature film with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 1998 and called A Perfect Murder that time.)
Another Hitchcock movie, the revered 1954 suspense drama Rear Window, was given a redux in 1998. Now we aren't about to pick on the severely injured Christopher Reeve and actually applaud the fact that he, in his disabled state, was able to continue working as an actor and director...
However, like so many remakes of good movies, the end product just didn't quite do it. And the less said about a dressed-down Darryl Hannah in a rendition of Grace Kelly's role the better.
On paper this one looked fascinating. A remake of the 1962 Bette Davis-Joan Crawford thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with real-life sisters, Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave.
In execution it was a dour, dreary, wrong-headed mess, completely lacking the delicious tension and high-pitched emotional flourish of the original.
One nearly always thinks of Doris Day and Mary Crosby in the same vein, right? WRONG. Somehow the slinky babe whose character was responsible for seducing and shooting J.R. Ewing on Dallas wound up as the frantic target in Midnight Lace, a redo of Day's 1960 melodrama.
Stepping into Rex Harrison's (!) shoes was Gary Frank of the TV series Family.
This glitzy 1988 pairing, of Robert Wagner and Lesley-Anne Down, was brought about for the TV remake of 1958's Indiscreet.
The original got by on it's star power (no less than Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman), not on it's thin story of forbidden romance. So this pale imitation really didn't stand much of a chance from the get-go.
If Wagner and Down in any way fell short of Grant and Bergman, imagine John Shea and Jenny Robertson stepping into the pair's shoes for a 1992 remake of one of their more enduring works, 1946's Notorious!
This time, once again, someone was doing over a Hitchcock film that had been a tremendous hit. WHO was even asking for these pale remakes?!
At least this one, 1984's Sentimental Journey, was a remake of a film that wasn't exactly a blockbuster the first time around (in 1946, with Maureen O'Hara and John Payne.) Here, Jaclyn Smith and David Dukes played a married couple faced with the oncoming death of the wife.
Smith insists upon adopting a young boy (a girl in the original) so that Dukes will have someone on-hand to love after she's gone (this was pre-Tinder and possibly even pre-Great Expectations dating service?) Smith later did a lacking remake of 1950's Three Secrets in 1999.
This one was rough. 1985's The Bad Seed was a remake of the 1956 camp classic that had netted Oscar nominations for several of its participants. This pallid, pastel update starred Blair Brown and an utterly resistible Carrie Wells as the title figure.
In Henry Jones' old role of the skeptical and cantankerous handyman, David Carradine took over. Lynn Redgrave also appeared as the smothering landlady (only in this instance, bedecked in horrible '80s clothing, including some gaudy aerobic gear!)
Now the 1939 film Jamaica Inn (yet another Hitchcock redo) was not exactly an indelible classic (in fact, it's the one sound film of Hitch's that I've never been able to get all the way through), so perhaps this 1983 one isn't all bad.
One thing going for it is the fact that Jane Seymour (in Maureen O'Hara's old role) was often highly watchable during this part of her career. Also, apart from Patrick McGoohan in Charles Laughton's part, the movie boasted some great character actors like Peter Vaughan and Billie Whitelaw, so this one might be worth a look.
Jane was back at it the following year, this time in a double dose, for Dark Mirror (the TV title eliminated the "The" no matter what this artwork says), a remake of the 1946 Olivia de Havilland thriller The Dark Mirror.
In the 1980s, pre-Dr. Quinn, Seymour was an EXCEPTIONAL bad girl in a slew of projects, the highlight of which was East of Eden (a remake done as a miniseries.) This movie was a camp hoot but, since it costars Stephen Collins, it isn't likely to be popping up a lot on the tube.
Still going "dark" for a moment, I give you 1976's Dark Victory, starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Anthony Hopkins! Note the way the advertising imposes a smiling, long-haired Montgomery over the short-haired photo of her after enduring a brain tumor removal. What the hell were they thinking? "Samantha Stevens Does Cancer?"
This was one of several serious telefilms that Montgomery made in the wake of Bewitched to reinvent her screen persona and avoid being typecast as a sitcom spellbinder. Note Michele Lee in the inset as her best friend. It may have been an okay film (I don't recall seeing it), though I doubt it made anyone forget Bette Davis' famous 1939 tearjerker!
Christmas is nearly upon us, so I may as well begin to wrap things up in that vein. You say you don't recall 1977's It Happened One Christmas ever being a feature film beforehand? Well, you'd be right if you were going strictly by the title...
The story, however, was a re-envisioning of 1946's immortal It's a Wonderful Life, which starred James Stewart and Donna Reed. Here, we have Marlo Thomas as their grown daughter, about to commit suicide off the side of a bridge until an angel (Cloris Leachman) comes to save her. So it's both a distaff remake and a continuation all in one!  (Or to some, a rip-off!)
I end for good with one more television remake, this time of the musical Kismet (filmed sans music in 1944 with Ronald Coleman and Marlene Dietrich and then in its musicalized form in 1955 with Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Dolores Gray.)  Here, the headliner is Jose Ferrer.
You see, I promised I Dream of Jeannie's Barbara Eden that she could have equal time with Bewitched's Elizabeth Montgomery. Here she is in yet another belly-baring, Arabian-flavored role! (And don't miss her shirtless pal in the background.)
In fact, that's a great place to end this post. It's getting warm in here! This might be one occasion in which the remake is (in at least one way) more "entertaining" than the original. We know there are more of these (Tuesday Weld's 1981 take on Madame X comes to mind), so share any recollections you might have if you wish!


Gingerguy said...

I love this title, lol. What a great idea for a post. This totally happened to me back in the day, but almost in reverse. I was waiting for Natalie Wood's last movie called "Brainstorm" and instead got a black and white Anne Francis thriller (with, I think, Viveca Lindfors) by the same name. "Dial M" for mess- oh Angie! that hair and cleavage is coming off really cheap. I loved "A Perfect Murder" and only watched it recently at the urging of a friend who liked it. I was skeptical but that is one of the few remakes that worked.
Daryl Hannah looks like she has cooties. More than usual.
Baby Jane, I tried, I really did. It's on youtube.
Funny enough, Christmas makes me think of Mary Crosby in general as I watch the old Bing specials (his children were spectacularly untalented singers). I might have to see this Midnight Lace. She was kind of campy in Hollywood Wives and I have always had a soft spot for her.
Bad Seeds are only blond, sorry folks.
Jane Seymour is in her own category here. It must have been a strategy since she was in so many remakes. I kind of miss TV Guides, even though they sometimes pulled a bait and switch! Merry Christmas Underworld.

Cary said...

Lest we forget, there are as TV remake of "Roman Holiday" with Catherine Oxenberg in the Audrey Hepburn role. The horror! The horror! There's nothing wrong with Oxenberg--a real-life princess, dontcha know--but no one can be Audrey. There was a remake of "Three Coins in the Fountain," I think.... I liked the remake of "Baby Jane." It can't replace the original but has its merits. "Jamaica Inn" was good and I didn't mind "The Bad Seed." Still, NO ONE has any business remaking "Wrong Number"!

Rick Gould said...

Good Gawd, Poseidon! Did television remake every movie classic?!
I remember Loni remaking the classics in her plastic image, plus playing Thelma Todd on top of it all! Remember that unfortunate trend of TV stars doing TV bio-pics of screen legends? Loni as Jayne? Cheryl as Princess Grace? And most laughably, Lynda Carter as Rita Hayworth?

Angie Dickinson sure looked...um...tawdry, sometimes! That Pepper Anderson must have rubbed off on her!

I remember as a kid being all excited for Marlo Thomas' version of "It's a Wonderful Life." What can I say? I was a kid...and yet knew it stunk when "It" happened one Christmas!

The one that shoulda been good: the "Baby Jane" remake with the Redgrave sisters. Instead, so FLAT and devoid of tension. I have a recurring nightmare that Ryan Murphy will remake "Jane" with Jessica Lange playing BOTH Hudson sisters!

Here's a few you didn't mention: How about Melissa "Half Pint" Gilbert ruining "The Miracle Worker," "The Diary of Anne Frank," and sigh... "Splendor in the Grass." Lordy, Half-Pint is even with Full-Quarts Loni!

I think you've opened a Pandora's box, Poseidon!
Cheers, Rick

Marc Charrier said...

I remember a tv remake of on golden pond with Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews that turned out pretty good.

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, of COURSE this thing happened to you! LOL Even if it was in reverse... I remember one time I saw that "Lost Horizon" was going to be on AMC one morning and it said "1937" or whatever it was in the guide (not TV Guide, but the Sunday newspaper ones we poor people always used.) I woke up the next day and happened to turn it on JUST as Shawn Phillips was singing the title song of the 1973 MUSICAL, a film I had never seen and had been dying to!!! I hurled a tape into the VCR and hit "record" and that credit-less VHS version was all I had for years until they finally put the damned thing on DVD. Ha ha! BTW, I loved Mary Crosby in "Hollywood Wives" and I can never forget freshly-showered Steve Forrest on the phone with her as she's beckoning him to come over and him saying, "Just let me dry off" and her reply, "Why? I'm just going to get you all wet again!" or some such.... Kathryn Crosby cover your eyes and ears!!

Cary, that's awesome! Catherine Oxenberg....! First, she played Princess Di in a TV-movie, then she was daddy's li'l princess on "Dynasty," so I guess taking on "Roman Holiday" seemed a logical next step. Yes, I mentioned "Coins in a Fountain" in this post. I showed a pic from it in a prior post on movies with three female leads. ;-)

Rick, I did a post all about those horrid TV biopics a while back. Fascinating what they did there... This is the link: http://neptsdepths.blogspot.com/2013/05/faux-ning-it-in.html LOL about Ryan Murphy and his "dream" project. I LOVE the examples you gave of Melissa Gilbert. YES, exactly what I'm talking about and I wish I'd have recalled them for inclusion here. I didn't mind "The Miracle Worker" too much as it was sort of fun to have Patty Duke play Annie Sullivan, but "Anne Frank????" No....

Hi Marc, thanks for mentioning that one. I saw it and liked it pretty well myself, though that was really a representation of the stage play more than a movie remake. I recall heading to a theatre friend's house to watch it together as she had been Maria and I the Captain in "The Sound of Music" and we both adored (and adore still) Julie and Chris! :-)

Kevin Keane said...

The Valley of the Dolls remake with Lisa Hartman as Neely O'Hara and Jean Simmons as Helen Lawson both wildly miscast. It's as if Valley of the Dolls was set in Studio City and Fresno and not NYC and New England. Also the disco version of Double Indemnity with Samantha Eggar as Phyllis Dietrichson and Richard Crenna as Walter Neff absolutely gawd awful. Both however must be seen to be believed.

Poseidon3 said...

Kevin, I've touched upon that crazy VOD miniseries several times here. Unreal. I had totally forgotten about "Double Indemnity," which is bizarre because it's one of the examples I was making at the start of this post!! I had become so fond of Barbara Stanwyck from "The Big Valley" and so I decided to watch some of her old movies and when I settled to for this one, I was staggered to find Richard Crenna and Samantha Eggar in it!!! I don't think I even proceeded to watch it. In fact, I'm sure I didn't

Forever1267 said...

I actually saw and loved that Marlo Thomas version first, as a wee one of 9 or so. The original is, of course, much much much better, but I don't this one is that awful. Cloris Leachman earned an Emmy nomination, and, like the original, it's heart is in the right place.

Some of these seem familiar, especially those Jaclyn Smith ones, but I'm not quite sure I saw them.

Poseidon3 said...

Forever1267, I actually stumbled on ANOTHER ONE this morning! "Miracle on 34th Street" was redone with Sebastian Cabot, Jane Alexander and David Hartman (!) in 1973...!