So good they made an­other

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Evan Wil­liams

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?

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