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Kenneth Branagh in “Henry V” (1989). 

Mr. Movie: Remarkable remakes 2

Part 2


Hey, it worked great the first time! Let’s make it again. It happens way too often. And usually does not end well. But, as said in a previous article, there are a few remakes worth your time.


Cape Fear (1962) features an innocent Mom (Polly Bergen) and her daughter fleeing from extremely scary and menacing Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) who is out to kill the entire family to revenge a prior prison sentence. Dad (Gregory Peck) tries to hide the family but Cady finds them. The 1991 version is directed by Hall Of Famer Martin Scorcese and features Robert Deniro as Max, Jessica Lange as Mom and Nick Nolte as Dad. Which one is better? I call it a dead heat. You decide.


John Steinbeck’s marvelous novel about life on a California farm was made into a superb movie. Of Mice and Men (1939) stars Burgess Meredith as George and Lon Chaney Jr. as his mentally retarded sideckick Lennie. Chaney was known for playing in horror films as a wolfman and vampire. Also playing out of position is the old cowboy Bob Steele, on hand as the villainous Curley, son of the ranch owner. His sexy wife Mae (Betty Field) causes trouble by flirting with the ranch hands. George and Lennie’s dream of owning their own ranch is doomed when Lennie’s unaware strength kills Mae. BTW, Aaron Copland did the music for this film! The 1992 version is at least as good. Gary Sinise plays George and directed. John Malkovich is just great as the child-like Lennie. Both Chaney and Malkovich are made to appear much larger than they really are by costuming magic.


Shakespeare’s magnificent Henry V has been filmed at least three times. The 1944 version with Sir Lawrence Olivier as the king is thrilling cinema. Sir Lawrence also directed this stellar version. Kenneth Branagh did double duty in the 1989 version, both directing and appearing in the title role. He won the Oscar for his performance. In both versions, when Henry delivers his stirring speech before the Battle of Agincourt with the French, it made this former colonist want to take to arms for England and St. George! The later movie is a little modernized, but I think no harm done.


The original Ocean’s Eleven was filmed in 1960 and starred the famous Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra (Danny Ocean), Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. Maybe not the greatest heist movie ever made, it’s still a bunch of fun watching these show biz icons rob a casino. The ending is a hilarious surprise! The 2001 edition is just as much fun and has just as many stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Andy Garcia. In both movies, the gang hews closely to Danny’s three rules: Don’t hurt anybody, don’t steal from anyone who doesn’t deserve it, and play the game like you’ve got nothing to lose. Unfortunately the later production didn’t know when to quit and branched out into Ocean’s 12, 13, 14, etc. Which are OK, but pale sequels. 

All of the movies in this article are available on DVD. All are for adults.