Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Last week, I covered the most adapted character ever. That got me to thinking about works that aren’t as adaptable, characters that are intrinsically tied to specific actors, works that are a product of their time. So, to add to the previous list, here are more works that I don’t see being adapted anytime soon.

Columbo
Columbo was a twist on the standard police procedural and murder mystery TV shows. Instead of following the lead character as he gathered clues to discover the murderer in the reveal at the end, the series led each episode off with the murder with the killer in plain view. The attraction of the series was to watch Columbo work through the clues and just keep asking questions of the suspects until a the murderer contradicted himself. Adding to the appeal was Peter Falk’s portrayal of the detective; Falk provided all of Columbo’s wardrobe from his own closet and created the distinctive mannerisms on the set to keep the actors off balance. And there’s the reason why a remake would be difficult. A lot of Columbo came directly from Peter Falk himself; it is difficult to imagine a different actor in the role.* It will take a long passage of time before an audience is ready for someone new as Columbo.

The Blues Brothers
In this case, I’m referencing the original movie and Blues Brothers 2000. I’ve written about the original movie before, but, to sum up, the movie’s plot is about two shady musicians who try to raise money for their old orphanage by gathering back the old band and getting an audience. The movie and its sequel, though, were about the music. Blues Brothers 2000 was Dan Aykroyd’s love letter to the blues and a way to say goodbye to the late John Belushi. The sequel failed at the box office, not even making back the film’s budget. Part of the problem was bringing back the band without John Belushi; he was part of the core, and with him gone, many felt that the sequel wasn’t complete. A remake without Aykroyd, well, that’s the rest of the core. Anyone wanting to remake The Blues Brothers would be better off starting fresh, with today’s blues performers.

Airplane
The 1970s saw its share of trends and fads – muscle cars, platform shoes, and even disco music. In theatres, the big draw was disaster movies. Starting with Airport in 1970, big budget disaster movies were the blockbusters of the era, and included The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. The trend died neared the end of the decade, with Airplane coming along to drive the final nail in place, not with malice, but with laughter. Airplane, riffing off the movie Zero Hour, featured a propeller-driven jet liner** whose crew comes down with severe food poisoning and has to be flown by ex-fighter pilot Ted Striker, who has PTSD from losing his squadron over Macho Grande. The movie has been named on a number of lists of top films, both in comedy and in general. The problem with remaking it, though, is that while Airplane is well known, the movies it parodied aren’t. Disaster movies changed between the closing of the 70s and the mid-90s, when the genre revived. Gone were the vehicular disasters***; replacing them were natural phenomena or extra-terrestrial threats.**** All the tropes that Airplane spoofed are largely unknown now, making a parody difficult.

So, are there any works that you feel aren’t remakable?

Next time, back to the reviews.

And a note РLost in Translation will go biweekly over the next two months as NaNoWriMo will start eating my brain.

* Oddly enough, the TV series was adapted from a stage play adapted from an anthology TV series episode adapted from a short story, none of which Peter Falk was involved with.
** The studio wanted a jet, so they got the jet. They just didn’t get the engines’ sound effects with the jet.
*** The exception being Titanic.
**** Or both; 1998 had two movies featuring large rocks hurtling at Earth.


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