A Different Kind Of Remake

Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 8:08 PM

Sometimes I watch a movie from a long time ago (the 80s - sad to say that is almost the dark ages, in some respects) and wince at it. Not because it's a bad film, but because styles and technology have changed so much in the intervening years that it feels dated and creaky.

The most obvious difference, especially for me, are things like the visual effects, which back then were entirely practical or optical, which is to say they were literally filmed on top of the original film using another camera, or were drawn on by hand. Almost no computers were used at all for filmmaking back then (except for motion control cameras and some crude computer graphics).

But there's also audio quality, colour grading, title sequences, soundtrack orchestration, and the pacing of the editing. All of these have improved, or changed, quite significantly in the last decade or so, and have altered our expectation of how our entertainment plays out.

And it occurred to me how interesting it would be for someone to take the original footage of an entire shoot from a film made in the 80s, and completely re-cut it, from the ground up, into their own movie. They would have to be unfamiliar with the movie, so it shouldn't be a much-loved classic, but can't be a completely obscure lump of nothing, so I figure a typical 80s fantasy film that could do with a few tweaks to boost its quality would be ideal.

Krull was not a runaway success on its initial release in 1983, but as cheesy 80s fantasy movies go it did a lot of things right. Some of the casting was excellent, with rough-hewn Alun Armstrong, a pre-fame Liam Neeson, a very amusing David Battley, and a noble and wise Freddie Jones.

But it also did a lot of things wrong. Lysette Anthony was very pretty, but they dubbed over her voice so she had an American accent! Why? Almost none of the other cast were American, so why change her lovely voice? Plus her role was to be a damsel in distress, which in this day and age is unacceptable.

The lead was played by Ken Marshall, who has not done anything else of note, and it's no wonder as his acting is mediocre at best; He has some charisma and charm, but absolutely no energy and is certainly no hero; As a prospective King he would be a weak and ineffectual ruler.

The bad guy is a monstrous creature, known only as the Beast. He doesn't play much of a proactive role in the story. Yes, he kidnaps the princess and throws challenges at the band of heroes, but all from a distance.

And finally, the magic weapon, the glaive, is all style and no substance. It isn't used as a knife or sword, instead it is mystically operated to fly around and slice in a method not adequately explained or explored.

A few other factors are also worth mentioning. The score is suitably grandiose, with a couple of pieces being very cool, especially the piece accompanying the fire mares. The Beast's soldiers are really creepy, as they scream when they die. Rell the cyclops is very well done, and is a great character. The landscape is quite epic and beautiful, especially as much of it was not augmented by matte paintings, but were genuine Italian locations. And the adventure as a whole, where they travel across the kingdom picking up members of their band as they go, was well structured and had a lot of time for us to grow to love the characters.

So I think it would be marvellous to be able to go into the original takes and edit the film my way: Choose new shots, with new edits; Use the original voices of the cast; Replace all the visual effects, matte paintings, and model shots with CG and digital set extensions; Improve the makeup on the creatures and cyclops; Colour grade to bring out the vividness of the colours and match the interior sets and the exterior scenes. Re-record the soundtrack to match my new cut; and make it faster, funnier, and more exciting.

I figure with a small team of ten or so to achieve it, especially not having to actually organise and shoot the film itself, it would cost only a couple of million dollars and take 18 months to get it looking perfect, perhaps sooner.

Who do I talk to to get this happening?

5 Reasoned Responses:

Dags said...

Although it sounds like a great idea, you'd probably be met with a lot of criticisms from people who believe that old films should never be modified. Still, having said that, Krull wasn't exactly a big hit so it's not like you're tampering with Gone With the Wind.

Sure FX since the 80s has dated heaps, but the last thing you'd want to do is get hold of Krull, "fix it up" with modern techniques and then look at the film 25 years later and say "gawd those FX are so out of date!"

Ultimately only a handful of films really stand the test of time and of course there are those that do look terrible 25+ years later, still if they're watched with the mindset for when they were created, it's usually not so bad - even though 80s synthasised music can be a tad painful.


GuanoLad said...

What interests me is the experiment. Take something already filmed, so the shots, casting, acting, and story are already rigidly defined, but put a new spin on it by using a different editing sensibility, and improved quality of effects and audio.

Not that it would ever happen, because as you say even the crappy films are looked on as precious and "of their time" but I'd still be fascinated to see someone try it.

Dags said...

As it turns out Director's Cuts are the closest to what you're talking about - especially the ones that occur decades after the film was made (THX 1138 and Star Trek The Motion Picture are good examples of this).

Ironically the same can be said about the Star Wars Special Editions yet their success has always been questioned.

Ideally it would be interesting to try your experiment with a REALLY bad film ala Star Crash to see if that could be improved though I suspect you'd need longer than 18 months to achieve it :)


Peter A said...

Maybe the Phantom Edit is closer to what you're trying to achieve?

As you probably know I've had similar thoughts about a pretty unloved slice of 80s Doctor Who, Colin Baker's Timelash. Again, some interesting ideas, an engaging guest companion in (spoiler!) Herbert George Wells, some very good monster makeup on the villain and Paul Darrow opening up an entire smorgasbord of ham. Oh, and a fun version of the mercurial Sixth Doctor. On the other had cheap cheap cheap effects, awful music, ropey acting and two endings to choose from, neither of which are fantastic. Timelash will never make a great story, but it could make a better one, which is maybe what you're also saying about Krull.

Sadly without access to extended footage, isolated scores and score-free shots, camera scripts and the like, anything like this must eventually be an exercise in reduction as you trim, trim trim away the bad stuff and hope not to bore your audience with extended establishing and SFX shots - the 'landing strut' movie as I think an AICN reviewer once called Phantom Menace.

I get really excited by this idea though, and Krull seems like a good subject. Hawk the Slayer could do with some loving - maybe Battle Beyond the Stars? Maybe not.

GuanoLad said...

I didn't want to bring up the Phantom Edit, and the other various recuts, because like you said, you're trapped by the existing fixed footage, score, sound effects, and all, and it isn't really what I'm getting at. I'm not even trying to improve the film as a whole, as that may not be possible.

I just think it would be interesting as an experiment for someone else to be let at something, armed with today's technology and using a modern approach. How different would it be? Would it bring in new audiences for a forgotten and dismissed film that does have at its core some good material? Would it sell on DVD? Would it even be fun to make?

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