/Lost in Translation/ is going to take it easier the next few weeks starting today after submerging into Prohibition and Chicago of the eaerly 30s. Fan adaptations will be on the menu for the next few weeks. This week, a look a Kadir Deniz‘ “KITT vs KARR” series. A quick reminder about the approach Lost in Translation takes with fan works – the quality isn’t as important as the understanding of the source works. Fan works are good for learning storytelling and film techniques without the pressure to produce something for sale.
The series that Deniz is adapting, Knight Rider aired originally from 1982 to 1986, was created by Glen A. Larson, and starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight and William Daniels as the voice of KITT, the Knight Industries Two Thousand. KITT is an artificially intelligent vehicle, aiding Michael as he works for the Foundation for Law and Government, bringing justice to people who are often above the law. KARR, the Knight Automotive Roving Robot, voiced by Peter Cullen, was FLAG’s prototype, an early design put aside in favour of KITT. The difference between the two is that KARR was programmed for self-preservation while KITT’s programming placed the life of his passengers and the people around him above his own. KARR was introduced in the first season episode, “Trust Never Rusts”, and thanks to fan interest, returned in the season three episode, “K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R.”.
In the first episode of Deniz’ series, KARR is portrayed as he appeared in the latter half of “K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R.” The music and dialogue are pulled from existing episodes. Deniz, though, created the storyline for the series of videos. The camera angles used are a mix and include classic angles from the TV series to new angles possible thanks to being CG animated. The only real hints that the series is CG animation are how Michael moves and how the trailer breaks apart. KITT and KARR are spot on, and Michael is wearing his classic ensemble from the series.
There’s a nod to the 2008 Knight Rider series with the black Mustang Shelby, the car that portrayed KITT in the remake series. Again, the episode is all CG animation. The cinematography is based on the original series, but expands, allowing Deniz to make the episode his while still being a fan work. KITT’s abilities are all ones that have appeared in the series, even the skiing.
The latest episode available. KARR’s plot continues and he has help from someone with a grudge against Michael. There’s still classic camera angles as seen in the original series, almost indistinguishable. The problem seen with the tractor-trailer as KITT turbo boosts through in the first episode is more cleaned up this time around. The chase reflects the series; KITT’s shell could withstand bullets, but missiles were to be avoided. The final twist, Airwolf, comes from the Donald Bellisario created series, Airwolf, starring Jan Michael Vincent as Stringfellow Hawke and Earnest Borgnine as Dominic Santini. Hawke had a deal with Archangel, played by Kent McCord; the Firm would get Airwolf back if Archangel could recover String’s brother Saint-John, a POW in Viet Nam. Airwolf, as it appears in the third episode, is a perfect replica of the model used in the TV series. Even how it appears up from behind the cliff rings true; Hawke and Santini often came from below the line of sight in the helicopter. The end theme of the third episode blends the the themes of both Knight Rider and Airwolf, which caps a note perfect episode.
Deniz’ series isn’t complete. He’s working on it as he can, but he has released some test footage for future entries on his YouTube channel. He has captured the feel of the original series and has created a work that fits with the tone of the series while telling his own story.
As a semi-recurring feature of Lost in Translation, I take time to discuss how adapting, rebooting, and remaking affects the choices made for elements in the project. This week, what happens to a key vehicle when progress makes it out of date? What can be done? Normally, a car is a car, a truck is a truck. However, several works have memorable models that feature prominently, either because the show was based around the car or because the vehicle was chosen specifically for its appearance. Here’s how some remakes handled it.
The vehicle: A black 1983 GMC Vandura van with red stripe and spoiler.
The remake: Reused, then crushed.
In both the original series and the remake movie, the van belonged to B.A. Baracus. The van makes an appearance early in the film as the characters are being introduced and is destroyed when Murdoch accidentally drops a roof ventilation system on it. The appearance of the van helped assure viewers that the original series would be respected. It was replaced by a HMMWV* later in the film.
The vehicle: A black 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am, modified with front scanner.
The reboots: In both the 1991 Knight Rider 2000 movie and the 1997 Team Knight Rider series, KITT was transplanted and the original Trans-Am was not seen. For Knight Rider 2000, the replacement was a modified Dodge Stealth camouflaged as a Pontiac Banshee. TKR, however, had KITT in a non-mobile installation. The 2008 Knight Rider updated KITT, giving him a black Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang.
Knight Rider provides an interesting challenge for updating. KITT, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, was an integral character to the show. Removing KITT removes a large element of the show’s appeal. The original KITT was, as mentioned, a black Pontiac Trans-Am with extra bells and whistles to show the high tech nature of the base car. The 1991 Knight Rider 2000 starts with KITT disassembled, then later placed into a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air. Not quite the technological marvel, and KITT did remark on the downgrade. Later, KITT received the “Banshee”. With the TKR series, the concept of “one man can make a difference” changed into a team making a difference. The show also had a sponsor in the form of Ford, so all the vehicles were either came from Ford or a Ford subsidiary, which Pontiac was not**. Ford was also the sponsor for the 2008 Knight Rider series, thus the Mustang with two sensor lights instead of one***. However, the Mustang was the Knight Industries Three Thousand, a descendant of the original KITT.
The Dukes of Hazzard
The vehicle: An orange 1969 Dodge Charger with the Confederate battle flag on the roof and the number 01 on the door.
The remake: The same make and model.
The Dukes of Hazzard featured many car chases. The titular characters’ car, the General Lee, appeared in all but one episode, either chasing or being chased. Fortunately, the Charger was already a decade old when the show first aired. The 2005 movie could easily reuse the same model**** as a result. Any differences would be under the hood, usually out of sight of the audience.
The vehicle: A Type 40 TARDIS with a broken chameleon circuit
The reboot: The same TARDIS
When /Doctor Who/ first aired, the Doctor’s “spaceship” was hidden in a junk yard and disguised as a British police call box. As the show continued, call boxes were phased out of use by British police in favour of radios. However, the Doctor’s TARDIS remained in its form. This was later explained by a broken chameleon circuit, which would allow a properly functioning TARDIS to blend into its surroundings. The Master’s TARDIS had a working circuit and could hide in most terrain. The Doctor did try to fix the circuit, but wardrobes were just as obvious as the call box in the middle of a wilderness. The reboot brought back the TARDIS in its much-loved form, with only the inside changed, reflecting the organic look from the 1996 Fox TV movie. Over the run of the series, the exterior received minor, cosmetic changes, but the essence remained.
Next week, how technological updates will affect more classic movie vehicles.
* aka, the Hum-Vee.
** Pontiac was a brand of General Motors until discontinued in 2009.
*** Like an original Battlestar Galactica Cylon being upgraded.
**** Many 1968 Chargers were totaled in the original Dukes.