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Dial R for Remake; If it's a winner once, then Hollywood reckons it's got to be a winner again. THOMAS QUINN assesses Tinseltown's often misplaced passion for remakes.

The current motto in Tinseltown seems to be "If it`s worth doing, it's worth doing again." And the release this week of A Perfect Murder - basically a pounds 40million glossy remake of Alfred Hitchcock`s film noir classic Dial M For Murder (starring Grace Kelly, pictured above) - proves yet again that Hollywood is having something of a nightmare when it comes to dreaming up new ideas.

If the dreaded sequel is the movie industry's greatest money spinner, the remake surely comes a close second. More often than not, reworking the celluloid greats is guaranteed to leave audiences wondering why-oh- why did they bother!

All too often when the original production has carved itself a niche in big screen history, the remake is bound to suffer by comparison and is destined to be little more than a giant flop just waiting to happen. But that's not always the case.

Occasionally our modern movie makers do manage to match the past masters frame for frame. Here's our rundown of the remakes that have hit - and those that have missed by miles.

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens (above) 6/10

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1996) Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett 7/10

Jerry Lewis's brand of gurning comedy is an acquired taste at the best of times. Still, his tale of a geeky college professor who invents a potion to turn him, Jekyll and Hyde-style, into a cool campus heartthrob was watchable and, to his die-hard fans at least, very funny. Murphy's updated spin is to turn the elixir into a fat-reducing drug which transforms obese Professor Sherman Klump into a super slim hunk. Although both films are fairly entertaining, Murphy's version benefits from the use of amusing computer effects whereas Lewis had to rely on his trademark facial contortions.

FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor (above) 10/10

FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991) Steve Martin, Kimberley Williams 4/10

Spencer Tracy was at his best in the sparkling original film about an over-possessive father staggered at the cost and chaos caused by his daughter's wedding. And Liz Taylor displayed all the charm and acting talent that were to turn her into a living legend. Years later Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and Kimberley Williams transformed the saga into a pedestrian, overly sentimental affair. The treacly remake is only saved by a few magic Martin moments which rise above the tawdry script. Ironically the later version made enough at the box office to warrant a sequel.

SABRINA (1954) Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn (above) 10/10

SABRINA (1995) Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond 1/10

Billy Wilder's romantic comedy about a young girl who returns from Paris to be fought over by two very different, wealthy brothers manages to be funny and astringent by turns. It also helped establish Hepburn as the leading lady of her generation. British actress Julia Ormond got the thankless task of reprising the Hepburn role and, frankly, failed in it. But Ormond still looked like a genius next to Harrison Ford, who just won't learn that light comedy is not his forte. A two-dimensional drag, the remake was, unsurprisingly, a dismal flop at the box office.

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G Robinson (above) 10/10

BODY HEAT (1981) William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Ted Danson 7/10

This is one example of Hollywood dabbling with its past and getting away with it. Just. Billy Wilder's original, based on James M Cain's novel, is a film noir classic which won Barbara Stanwyck a deserved best actress Oscar. One of the most admired movies ever, it probably would have been best left alone, but William Hurt and Kathleen Turner did a pretty good job of bringing it up to date. The modern sex scenes turned the movie into an erotic thriller. A creditable effort, but there's still no matching the panache of Wilder and co.

CAPE FEAR (1961) Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Martin Balsam 8/10

CAPE FEAR (1991) Nick Nolte, Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Martin Balsam 10/10

This was a rare occasion when Hollywood took a classic and got it right the second time around too. In the dark, moody 1961 version, good guy Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum at his evil best were brilliant, with Peck playing the lawyer whose family is threatened by a murderous ex-con (Mitchum) he sent to jail. Cut to 1991 and director supreme Martin Scorsese - a great admirer of the original, and who recast several actors from that film in cameo roles - proves he is one of the very few who can rival the golden oldies. Robert De Niro reprises the Mitchum role of Max Cady, injecting his character with renewed energy and brutality. De Niro's final demise is unforgettable - one of the great scenes of all time.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Quinn, Thomas
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 16, 1998
Previous Article:HOW TO KILL A THRILLER; The A List Review: A PERFECT MURDER (15, 108mins) The remake of Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder falls far short of the perfect...
Next Article:Out Takes.

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