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5 Remakes Which Haven’t Been Made – But Should Be

March 26, 2014

While debate rages over the necessity of this year’s Robocop, I thought I’d take a moment or two to reflect on some older movies which are perhaps more deserving     of a remake …

landmaster damnation alley

1 – Damnation Alley (1977)

Several years following World War III, self-absorbed anti-hero and lone biker of the apocalypse, Hell Tanner, is coerced into driving an armored truck loaded with plague serum from LA to Boston across an irradiated, mutant-infested wasteland known as Damnation Alley. Well – that’s the book, anyway. The central premise of Roger Zelazny’s 1969 novella was completely discarded for the dreary filmed version released eight years later – ditching the character of Hell Tanner altogether and replacing him with George Peppard and Jan Michael Vincent as boring-as-Hell US Airforce officers on an aimless jaunt across a boring-as-Hell, barely apocalyptic generic landscape. And it’s a real shame – as Hell Tanner is the original post-apocalyptic anti-hero – a proto Snake Plissken in a Mad Max world. He is clearly     the inspiration behind Plissken – as evidenced by the word-for-word rip-off of a scene where Tanner is offered a pardon for every known criminal offence he ever committed in the United States. With the highly-anticipated Mad Max: Fury Road due to hit theaters next year; now would be an opportune time to greenlight a new version of Zelazny’s post-apocalyptic road movie more faithful to the source.

altered states tank room whirlpool

2 – Altered States (1980)

In a story inspired by actual research conducted in the 1960s; an obssessed scientist uses sensory deprivation experiments (combined with powerful hallucinagens) in his search for the ultimate truth and meaning of existence – with dire results. Celebrated screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky (Network) had his name removed from Ken Russell’s filming of his novel after famously clashing with the director over his perceived mishandling of the film’s psychadelic imagery. If truth be told, the hallucinatory sequences as written by Chayevsky were virtually unfilmable due to the inherent limitations of practical and photographic effects at the time. Utilizing the best that present day 3D and computer graphics have to offer (and sporting a visionary at     the helm, like, say, a David Fincher or a Darren Aronofsky) – an authentic remake     of Altered States could potentially be the greatest drug trip movie of all time.

dreamscape nuclear explosion

3 – Dreamscape (1984)

An aloof psychic with the ability to enter the dreams of others is recruited by a secret government agency to protect the US president from a crazed assassin planning to take him out from inside his dreams. One could be forgiven for thinking this is nothing more than an Elm Street knock-off. But the fact is – this Dennis Quaid-starring sci-fi thriller predates Freddy’s debut by at least a year. While the look of the film has certainly dated, the premise is just as intriguing as ever – providing unlimited scope for Inception-like dream imagery if it were remade today.

incredible shrinking man -spider

4 – The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

An ordinary man’s domestic surrounds take on monstrous scale when he finds himself shrinking smaller and smaller. He continues to diminish while fending off attacks from the family cat and a gigantic spider – finally facing the existential horror of subatomic oblivion. Richard Matheson’s classic tale of survival would work extremely well as a remake using the immersive 3D and visual effects technology available today. Think in terms of the one-hander tone of Tom Hanks in Castaway, crossed with the ‘pure cinema’ aspect of Cuaron’s Gravity and you’ll begin to see     the possibilities.

quatermass and the pit martian

5 – Quatermass & The Pit (1967)

Forget Prometheus or ‘Chariots Of The Gods’, the concept of ancient astronauts creating humans was first popularised in the 1950s by British television writer Nigel Kneale, with this, the third of four Quatermass tales adapted for the big screen (featuring the titular scientist Professor Quatermass). The excavation of a London tube station reveals a Martian spaceship buried for millennia, along with the skeletal remains of proto-humans engineered as slaves by insectoid Martian overlords. Things turn nasty when the reactivated craft begins to emit a psychic force – turning the people of London batshit crazy. An intriguing blend of sci-fi and metaphysical horror, Quatermass & The Pit (along with the previous installments) was a massive hit for Hammer Films back in the day. Interestingly, Dark City director Alex Proyas was     set to helm a remake (relocated to Sydney Australia) in the late 90s – but the project never eventuated. Perhaps with the recent revival of Hammer as a producing concern, it might be time for Quatermass to reacquaint himself with a whole new generation of genre fans via a remake.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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5 Comments
  1. QUATERMASS & THE PIT is one of my very favourite movies, and I adore the recent Blu-ray release it got. When I was a kid, it scared me absolutely shitless. Still gives me the creeps, its just such an amazing concept with its shades of Lovecraft. Not so sure I’d want to see it remade, so many things could go wrong with it and the original is fine.

    Likewise ALTERED STATES. Yes the fx could be done better but for me the beauty of the film was the characters and the exemplary acting- big cgi fx would only distract from that. Like with the threatened remake of JACOB’S LADDER, dreading that one.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Yeah, Quatermass & The Pit is terrific and I agree – it looks great on Blu-ray! I first saw it on television when I was a kid (and that shot of Julian Glover – fried from the glowing ship; hasn’t lost any of its shock value). And Altered States, yeah, absolutely agree with you on the cast. I love all that great banter between Charles Haid and Bob Balaban. In fact, now I think about it – I reckon this was the beginning of my wild appreciation for Haid (can’t wait for the restored cut of Nightbreed coming out later this year, by the way). As to whether Altered States should be remade or not – it’s not so much that the FX could be done better – but more that all the freaky stuff that’s in the novel which didn’t appear in the movie – (and there is A LOT) – can now be done. And I agree that Jacob’s Ladder is a perfect movie (and a personal favorite), but like with Altered States – if they do recreate all the Boschian Gothic imagery which is in the original screenplay (which helped garner the script a spot on American Film Magazine’s top ten greatest unfilmed scripts of all time list) – then I’m okay with the idea of remaking it. Honestly, I think I’m at a point now where I’m actually pretty much okay with the idea that all these thirty year-old films I grew up on are being remade. There are positives to come out of this of course – like the fact that these remakes (awful or not) may well be beneficial in drawing attention to all these terrific older movies we both love which younger audiences may not necessarily know about or be inclined to watch otherwise – and in the process save these little gems from disappearing into total obscurity (which is probably what would happen). 🙂

  2. Jake permalink

    I read “The Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny when I was ten. Movie from 1977 should be covered by the curtain of charity, excluding interesting idea of Hell’s vehicle and the beginning with realistic scenes of the nuclear war and Earth soon after nuclear apocalypse. With the really good cast (Jason Statham as Hell Tanner, for example) and script, Mad Max and other fall-out movies could be defeated. Now I am 42, and the remake of “Damnation Alley” is still my “idee fixe”.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Jason Statham as Hell Tanner? Sure – why not?! 🙂

  3. frantic1971 permalink

    Damnation Alley is just begging for a modern-day remake. Even the producer Paul Maslansky, in the DVD comments for the movie, states that he would like to see it remade. Because in 1977 the f/x technology that the movie deserved, weren’t up to what he wanted.

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