So good they made another
REMAKES of good films — studios like to call them retellings — need more than a good story. They need to be true to their time. And this is where the Steve Martin retelling of Cheaper by the Dozen (Friday, 7.30pm, 7Mate) falls down. The original was set in the 1920s, the golden age of big American families, and the humour sprang from Clifton Webb’s efforts, aided by Myrna Loy, to impose order on 12 boisterous children. The fun was in the loving suppression of chaos. In the Martin film it is in the chaos: madcap mealtimes, rampaging kids, crashing furniture, escaping pets, orgies of goodnatured destruction. Naturally it was a boxoffice hit (with another retelling in 2005).
At least The Ladykillers (Tuesday, noon, Gem) is the original article. Alec Guinness plays the criminal mastermind (a role filled by Tom Hanks in a 2004 remake by the Coen brothers) and it’s a wonderful story: a gang of crooks, disguised as musicians, rent rooms in an old woman’s house to plan a robbery, only to discover their landlady is smarter than she looks. And Then There Were None (Thursday, noon, Gem) is an Agatha Christie evergreen. Ten people are invited to a lonely island where someone starts bumping them off. It was the most popular of all Christie’s books and the story was retold three times. This dark, moody film, directed by Rene Clair, is the best.
There have been no retellings, so far as I know, of Cool Hand Luke (Friday, 1.40am, Gem), a chain-gang prison drama, and one of my favourite Paul Newman pictures, or The Beat My Heart Skipped (Tuesday, 9.30pm, SBS Two), a fine French thriller about a would-be concert pianist trapped in a life of crime (a retelling of 1978 film Fingers). No one has dared to retell The Castle (Saturday, 9.30pm, Nine), that much-loved but somewhat patronising salute to Aussie family values. Cate, Hugo, Richard, what about it?