Guillermo del Toro‘s Nightmare Alley (Searchlight, 12.17) intends to resuscitate 1940s noir melodrama with all the pulpy trimmings — a rural old-style carnival, fake mind-readings, geeks biting off chicken heads, a slimey snake-in-the-grass lead (Bradley Cooper) and secondary characters with names that scream out yokel origins — Clem Hoately, Pete and Zeena Krumbein, Ezra Grindle, Bruno, Hayseed McGillicutty. (Okay, I made the last one up but the other five are real.)
We all understand that Guillermo and Kim’s basic idea was to remake the Power film, which was directed by Edmund Goulding, but to massage it in their own way by leaning on the novel. And yet each and every time a famous film is remade, the filmmakers always say that they were guided by the original book. They never, ever say that the initial film adaptation was the inspiration.
Born in 1914, Power was in his handsome-young-man prime (32 or 33) when he played Stanton “Stan” Carlisle in the Goulding film, and I think it’s fair to say that his youthful aura mitigated or modified Carlisle’s sleazy maneuverings. Cooper was 45 or so when he played the same character in the Del Toro version. (Silver Linings Playbook was eight years ago.) It’s a different thing when a guy who’s close to pushing 50 plays a doomed, duplicitous character; age often makes an actor look a bit weary, creased and compromised.
The 1947 original ran 111 minutes; Guillermo’s version run two hours, 19 minutes. The newbie opens on 12.17.21 — three months hence.
For those who know the ’47 original, here’s how the casting lines up:
Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Bradley Cooper now, Tyrone Power then); Molly Carlisle/Cahill (Rooney Mara now, Coleen Gray then); Zeena Krumbein (Toni Collette now, Joan Blondell then); Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett now; Helen Walker then); Bruno (Ron Pearlman now, Mike Mazurki then); Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins now, Taylor Holmes then).