Movie remakes that don't suck!

To celebrate the release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we pick our favourite remakes available on Blu-ray... 13 Assassins

Remake of: Jûsan-nin no shikaku

Remaking classic movies isn’t solely the preserve of Hollywood – as this Japanese gem shows.

Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 samurai film was given a high-profile update in 2010 by controversial filmmaker Takashi Miike. What emerged was one of the director’s most accomplished works – an epic tale that recalls the best of Kurosawa before bowing out with a breathtaking 45-minute punch-up. Artificial Eye’s UK BD does the film proud with a fabulously cinematic AVC 1.85:1 encode and dynamic DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. And, while it only includes the shorter International Cut of the film, the disc does serve up the missing 24 minutes of footage as deleted scenes.

The monochrome original is currently unavailable on BD in the UK – or anywhere else come to that

An Affair to Remember

Remake of: Love Affair

Regularly cited as one of the most romantic movies ever made, this 1957 smash starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr could be seen as the Gus Van Sant’s Psycho of its day. While not done shot-for-shot, director Leo McCarey used the same screenplay that was penned for the 1939 film Love Affair. A subsequent remake, returning to the original title and starring Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, followed in 1994.

While opinion is split over which is the better out of the ‘39 and ‘57 versions (Grant himself favoured the original), it’s impossible not to fall under the spell of the latter – especially now that Fox has made it available on a feature-packed, bargain-priced Blu-ray with a superb transfer.

Love Affair is currently unavailable on Blu-ray and may never be – it fell into the public domain in the US in 1967 when its copyright wasn’t renewed

Ben-Hur [1959]

Remake of: Ben-Hur [1925]

Published in 1880, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ quickly became the best-selling American novel of all time until Gone with the Wind arrived in 1936. So it’s hardly surprising that Hollywood has returned to the story numerous times over the years. Ignoring a 15-minute 1907 effort, the first serious adaptation came in 1925 (the most expensive silent movie ever made at almost $4million). However, it’s the 1959 version starring Charlton Heston that has gone on to become the king of the Hollywood epics. Last year this led to the film getting the royal treatment it deserved with a meticulously restored three-disc Blu-ray edition.

A standard-def version of the original is included as an extra on the Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the ’59 remake

Cape Fear [1991]

Remake of: Cape Fear [1962]

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro followed their Goodfellas collaboration with their own spin on J. Lee Thompson’s lawyer-in-peril thriller. De Niro absolutely steals the show as psycho trailer-trash rapist Max Cady – the sight of him dressed up as a woman is enough to give the HCC team nightmares – while Scorsese proves his mettle in genre cinema. Cape Fear also marks the director’s first movie shot at a 2.35:1 ratio, and Universal’s recent BD release does it justice – although the studio once again has felt the urge to apply Digital Noise Reduction, which isn’t ideal.

The original 1962 version is available on BD in the UK from Universal, priced around £10

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Remake of: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Tim Burton enjoyed more success with this 2005 remake than his ill-fated Planet of the Apes, bringing in regular partner Johnny Depp to star as Roald Dahl’s oddball confectioner Willy Wonka. It’s more than a match for the 1971 iteration, with Burton making use of modern-day CGI to give life to Dahl’s unique vision – casting the diminutive actor Deep Roy as all 165 Oompa Loompas is a stroke of genius. And, let’s be honest, Depp’s version of Wonka is slightly less terrifying than Gene Wilder’s. Warner’s UK Blu-ray is a garish, ghoulish treat.

You can get the original on BD in the UK from Warner Home Video – but you may want to import the region-free Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Dawn of the Dead [2004]

Remake of: Dawn of the Dead [1978]

While people have tried, and failed, to successfully remake George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Zack Snyder’s decision to revisit the sequel pays off handsomely in this 2004 horror. Key to its success is Snyder’s insistence that zombies don’t have to shuffle about laboriously – here, the undead rampage at breakneck speed, and are all the more terrifying for it. Sure, it lacks some of the subtleties of Romero’s flick, but offers more than enough blood, guts and guns to keep any zombiephile happy, and Universal’s DTS-HD mix (on the region-free US BD) ensures the flesh-eaters’ spine-tingling snarls are never too far away.

Arrow Video’s BD edition of the original – complete with Dario Argento’s edit – is a must-own disc, too

Death Race

Remake of: Death Race 2000

The original ‘70s exploitation flick starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone has rightly acquired a cult following, but it’s not so much of a sacred cow that a remake isn’t welcome – particularly when it’s delivered as effectively as it is here. Yes, the races have been moved from the US highways to a money-hungry prison, and pedestrians are no longer part of the scoring system, but with the reliable Jason Statham behind the wheel – and Paul WS Anderson behind the camera – Death Race provides high-speed thrills, fisticuffs and some sly nods to its predecessor. On Blu-ray it benefits from a riotous DTS-HD mix and a solid transfer.

There’s no hi-def UK release yet of Death Race 2000 yet. The US disc is Region A locked

The Departed

Remake of: Infernal Affairs

Another entry for Martin Scorsese, this Oscar-winning crime thriller takes the basic premise of the Hong Kong hit Infernal Affairs (an undercover cop faces off against an undercover gangster) and dumps it in the middle of Boston, allowing Scorsese to also tell the story of the city’s Irish Mob and feared boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger (here renamed Frank Costello, and played by Jack Nicholson). In that regard this is more than a mere retread, and the ensemble cast (including Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin) are on top-form. Violent, nail-biting, tightly-scripted and served up on BD with an excellent TrueHD 5.1 mix.

Is the original available? Yes, on Region B Blu-ray from Tartan. You can also get the complete trilogy

A Fistful of Dollars

Remake of:  Yojimbo

It took only three years for Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood to get their remake of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo in the can, which makes it sound like a typical Hollywood cash in. Except it’s not Hollywood as such – directed by an Italian and filmed in Spain – and it launched Eastwood to movie stardom, so we’ll forgive them. To top it all there’s Ennio Morricone’s amazing original score. Getting it in hi-def in the UK involves buying the whole Man With No Name trilogy, but who wouldn’t want to spend more time in the company of Clint’s cigar-chewing gunman?

Yojimbo is available in hi-def, but only on a Region A Criterion Collection platter

The Fly [1986]

Remake of: The Fly [1958]

Canadian auteur David Cronenberg managed to find the perfect balance between his love of ‘body-horror’ and mainstream success with this astonishing remake. While the lurid CinemaScope original stayed close to George Lanelaan’s short story of the same name, Cronenberg transformed the material into something far more affecting. Brilliantly written, acted and directed, this new Fly also had the benefit of stomach-churning Academy Award-winning FX from Chris Walas, and Fox’s gorgeous Blu-ray release allows you to examine them in even more detail, as well as learn all about the film’s gestation thanks to its bountiful extras.

Currently, the original version of The Fly is only available on DVD

Friday the 13th [2009]

Remake of: Friday the 13th 1-4 [1980-84]

Why settle for remaking just one movie when you can do four at once? Not that Platinum Dunes’ remake of the legendary stalk-n-slash series crams in every moment from the first four films in the Friday the 13th franchise – instead it picks various elements to craft a reboot that feels both new and yet familiar. Throw in lashings of gore and sex – particularly in the Blu-ray’s re-edited Killer Cut – and you have a film that succeeds in introducing Jason Voorhees to a new generation while keeping old-school fans happy.

The original Friday the 13th and the first two sequels can be picked up cheap on Blu-ray but Part IV is only available on DVD in the UK and US

The Hills Have Eyes [2006]

Remake of: The Hills Have Eyes [1977]

The hills are alive with the sound of slaughter when a holidaying family battle a clan of cannibals in this bloody shocker. While Wes Craven’s 1977 original has earned its place as a cult favourite, it’s every bit as rough around the edges as you would expect from a low-budget flick and a director still learning his craft. Alexandre Aja’s remake manages to be both slick and sick, mixing modern filmmaking techniques (including a terrifying DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix on Blu-ray) with scenes of excruciating violence that easily match the original. Which means as much as we admire Craven’s film, Aja’s is the version we keep coming back to.

The original is available on a Region A-locked disc in the US. There’s still no word on a UK release

Insomnia [2001]

Remake of: Insomnia [1997]

Let’s face it – you didn’t watch the original Norwegian version of this snowbound thriller, did you? No worries, because Christopher ‘The Dark Knight’ Nolan’s English language update is first-rate. Al Pacino (in an increasingly rare great performance) takes on the role of the sleep-deprived cop investigating a murder in Alaska, while Robin Williams is positively creepy as the local killer. The film’s ending remains suitably downbeat, suggesting Tinseltown might’ve learned you can’t tag a happy finale on everything. Annoyingly, it remains unavailable on UK BD – although an All-region US disc exists.

Unsurprisingly, you can’t get the original on Blu-ray here, either

Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1978]

Remake of: Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956]

Like a couple of other films on this list, Don Siegel’s 1956 sci-fi has been remade a number of times over the years. Which is oddly fitting for a story about people being replaced by identical duplicates. Undoubtedly, the best of the bunch is Philip Kaufman’s award-winning chiller, which relocates the action to San Francisco. While only available on DVD in the UK, the film was released on Blu-ray in the US in late 2010 (as part of a BD/DVD double-pack). Oddly, this Region A-locked BD includes all of the DVD extras except the director’s commentary – which therefore remains an exclusive to the standard-def version.

There's no word on a UK release yet, but Olive Films has just announced that it will be releasing the film on Blu-ray in the US on July 17

Piranha 3D [2010]

Remake of: Piranha [1978]

Written by John Sayles and directed by Joe Dante, the tongue-in-cheek Piranha is easily the smartest and wittiest B-movie Jaws knock-off. But as brilliant as it is, this 3D remake by Alexandre Aja (who seems to be making a career out of Hollywood horror remakes) is just as much fun. What it lacks in political satire, the remake makes up for with the most outrageously gory onscreen mayhem we’ve seen in years. Add in some gorgeous leading ladies and fun stereoscopic FX and you have the ultimate party Blu-ray!

The only BD of Dante’s original is a feature-packed Region A-locked disc available from the US

Scarface (1983)

Remake of: Scarface (1932)

A fifty-year gap means many people won’t have been too concerned that Brian de Palma was remaking Howard Hawks’ genre-defining classic. Some may not even know it’s a remake – especially as it moves the action from Chicago to Miami, ramps up the violence and drugs to obscene levels, and plays out against a backdrop of Cuban/American tension. Yet the PiP bonus feature on Universal’s barnstorming Blu-ray (7.1 DTS-HD mix? Yes, please…) shows how de Palma even framed some shots to be identical to the original – and the basic morality tale hasn’t changed a bit. A defining movie of the 1980s, and proof that you can always go back.

Fans of the 1932 original can only enjoy it on DVD – no hi-def transfer yet!

A Star is Born [1954]

Remake of: A Star is Born [1937]

Alcoholism. Addiction. Suicide. These aren’t things that most people associate with Hollywood musicals (at least, not on the screen). But then most Hollywood musicals aren’t quite like the ‘50s remake of A Star is Born. A heartbreaking look at the price of fame, this celebrated update features great performances from both Judy Garland and James Mason alongside some toe-tapping musical numbers. As there’s still no word on a UK release, fans should import Warner Bros’ All-region Deluxe Special Edition Blu-ray from the US for its stunning VC-1 encode (based on a new 6K frame-by-frame restoration) and bumper crop of extras.

There’s no UK BD of the original, but an All-region US disc was released at the start of February

John Carpenter’s The Thing

Remake of: The Thing from Another World

Incredible as it may seem, John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror was a flop at the box office on its original release – during the Summer of 1982 audiences were more interested in seeing the adventures of a friendly alien with a glowing finger than one that twisted the human body into shockingly obscene shapes. Thankfully, Carpenter’s masterpiece has since been rediscovered and reappraised as one of the best chillers of the decade. And while the BD does suffer from Universal’s trademark DNR scrubbing, it still provides the best showcase to date for Rob Bottin’s legendary creature effects.

Having missed the chance to tie-in with the 2011 ‘pre-make’, don’t expect the 1951 classic to hit Blu-ray any time soon

True Grit [2010]

Remake of: True Grit [1969]

The Coen brothers aren’t exactly strangers to the world of the remake. As much as we (and maybe even they) might try to forget it, the acclaimed filmmaking duo came unstuck back in 2004 when they mounted a do-over of the Ealing classic The Ladykillers starring Tom Hanks. Thankfully, the Coens found themselves on much surer ground with this magnificent Western retread. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, this is a cinematic triumph that quite simply wipes the floor with the John Wayne original. That it arrived on Blu-ray with a flawless AVC image and DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack only helped to cement its place as a firm favourite in the HCC office.

The John Wayne classic hit UK BD to coincide with the cinema release of the remake

And here are 10 that we wish could be unmade...

A misfire from director Roland Emmerich, this 1998 revamp is a pure Hollywood monstrosity

Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton’s 2001 ‘reimagining’ took all the good ideas from the original and, er, ignored them

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Did we need a retread of Wes Craven’s seminal horror flick? Not one as bad as this, no

The Pink Panther
Memo for Hollywood: Steve Martin isn’t as funny as Peter Sellers. ‘Nuff said

The original French cop-comedy is a treat, but this US remake doesn’t get out of first gear

Swept Away
Madonna stars in this hideous update of the ‘70s Italian drama

City of Angels
Nic Cage’s love-struck angel ruffled feathers in this remake of Wings of Desire

The Haunting
A masterpiece of suggestion and suspense transformed into a hyperactive 1999 CGI-fest

The Vanishing
Hollywood remade the nerve-wracking 1988 Dutch thriller but altered the ending

The Wicker Man
One of the greatest horror films of the 1970s became one of the worst horror films of the 2000s