Could The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 — a superior version of a pretty good, much-loved ’70s film — signify the launch of a new wave of ’70s remakes? Not a bad idea on the surface, but which ’70s films are conceivably ripe for plucking? I’ve looked at a list of the 100 most admired ’70s films and thought it over, but not that deeply or thoroughly.
The key would be to avoid the landmark ’70s films and remake the ones that seem to have a shot at fitting into the 21st Century — i.e., those with a certain fluidity of theme which seem less iconic and invulnerable. This obviously leaves out remakes of the Godfather films, A Clockwork Orange, Chinatown, Barry Lyndon, etc. I’ve come up with 21 that could work again — maybe.
M*A*S*H (’70), d: Robert Altman. Verdict: Conceivably. The ’60s ‘tude and loose-shoe alchemy that went into Altman’s original could never be duplicated or imitated, and what would be the point if someone managed a half-decent job of this? But the premise — hepcat military surgeons saving the lives of soldiers and getting with away all sorts of irreverence and hooliganism during their off-duty hours — is eternally cool. Transplant to Iraq or stay with the Korean War?
The Gypsy Moths (’69), d: John Frankenheimer. Verdict: I’m not sure. Maybe. A troupe of existential wanderers/death-tempters in the form of skydivers interact with residents of a small town prior to and after a local performance. Do skydivers do this any more? (Forget the year of release — Moths is a ’70s film.)
The Outfit (’74), d: John Flynn. Verdict: Yes! As long as they remake it in the same hardball, stripped-down fashion of the original, which costarred Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker, Robert Ryan.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (’75), d: Milos Forman.Verdict: Maybe. It has a kind of timeless appeal. There are probably tens of millions of under-30s who’ve never heard of the ’76 original, much less seen it. Casting suggestions for the new McMurphy and Nurse Ratched?
Mean Streets (’73), d: Martin Scorsese. Rethought and reconfigured, the story of a flawed but at least semi-focused ne’er-do-well doing what he can to protect and guide a throughly irresponsible and self-destructive friend could work again.
Last Tango in Paris (’72), d: Bernardo Bertolucci. Verdict: Throw out the title and the Paris locale and go with the basic erotic tale of a moody, melancholy man in his late ’40s or early ’50s having a nameless, identity-free affair with a girl in her early 20s. Most actors would be scared stiff of the Brando footprint but maybe.
Five Easy Pieces (’70) d: Bob Rafelson. Verdict: Definitely. A musically talented pianist with avoidance issues and irresponsible tendencies going back home to confront his hated father, etc. This could easily be redone.
Other potential 21st Century adaptables: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Scenes from a Marriage, Day for Night, Days of Heaven, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Hospital, Shampoo , The Last Detail, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Klute, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, The Candidate, Save the Tiger, Heaven Can Wait. Comments?