Andrew Horton and Stuart Y. McDougal
I don't invent: I steal.
This collection of original essays is dedicated to exploring the scope and nature of remakes in film and in related media, in Hollywood as well as in the cinemas of other nations. We are concerned with remakes as aesthetic or cinematic texts and as ideological expressions of cultural discourse set in particular times, contexts, and societies. Although there has been considerable recent work in film as an intertextual medium, the remake has received relatively little critical attention to date.
Remakes themselves, however, continue to proliferate. Case in point: the 1994 summer blockbuster Maverick . This film suggests some other genre and cultural boundaries we wish to explore beyond the obvious level of new films made from old. In what sense is the film Maverick a "remake" or "makeover" of the old James Garner television show that began in 1957, the year Mel Gibson, who plays Maverick in the movie, was born? What exactly are the boundaries of a remake? At what point does similarity become simply a question of influence? And what is the difference between a remake and the current television label "spin-off"? Darren Star, creator of Beverly Hills 90210 , agrees that his more recent show, Melrose Place , is a twenty-something spin-off of his earlier high school series, which, in turn, he claims, is a spin-off of the film The Breakfast Club . How do we define the complex relations between these texts?
Our collection of essays responds to these questions in a variety of ways and suggests some of the directions that others may follow, either with a more theoretical interest in defining "remakes" or with a more focused interest in cultural studies and the meanings of repetition in whatever shades of difference such texts may suggest.
We begin with the nature of narrative itself. Edward Branigan has recently reexpressed a definition of narrative this way: "[N]arrative is a perceptual activity that organizes data into a special pattern which represents and explains experience" (3). Narratives, therefore, wherever they are found, both represent and explain or comment on by their structure or content, tone or characterization, experiences from "real" life. A remake is, of course, a particular form of narrative that adheres to Branigan's definition but with an additional dimension. We could paraphrase Branigan to say the remake is a "special pattern which re-represents and explains at a different time and through varying perceptions, previous narratives and experiences." And how do we read such a pattern?
"I don't know whether to look at him or to read him," says Robert Mitchum playing a tough detective in Martin Scorsese's 1991 Cape Fear , as he watches a strip search of the heavily tattooed Robert De Niro, who plays Max Cady, Mitchum's original part in the 1962 version of the film. As we consider cinematic remakes, our dilemma is Mitchum's: do we simply watch or read these texts?
Like Mitchum, of course, we do both. As viewers, we can't help both viewing and reading—that is, teasing out narrative inferences, pleasures, contradictions, and implications of any film. But a film like Cape Fear , advertised as a reworking of an earlier film, forces us to read in a different way, by considering its relationship to the earlier film. Are remakes then merely another instance of a state of affairs as old as recorded literature? The Greek dramatists retold classical myths and Homer borrowed almost everything in his epics while transforming the materials to his own ends. Chaucer and Shakespeare also borrowed liberally from their precursors. As the centuries passed, the relationship between such texts often became much more self-conscious. John Dryden's All for Love (1678) was a reworking of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra , and audiences were expected to respond to it as such. Ruby Cohn has chronicled the many transformations of Shakespeare on the twentieth-century stage in Modern Shakespeare Offshoots . Such intertextual relationships have proliferated in modern times. In a universe of ever-expanding textuality, the relationships in a text such as James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) between Joyce and Homer (to say nothing of Joyce's reworkings of Dante and Shakespeare) are complex indeed. How do cinematic remakes differ from any modern work that is itself a tissue of other works? In Jorge Borges's story "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," the title character is quite literally rewriting part of the novel Don Quixote . Borges's story questions notions of textuality, intertextuality, and originality, issues that have become central in modern literary debates. Through her work on Bakhtin, Julia Kristeva introduced the notion of in -
tertextuality, a term to designate the ways in which any text is a skein of other texts. Earlier texts are always present and may be read in the newer text. "The literary word," Bakhtin suggested, "is aware of the presence of another literary word alongside it." Thus texts form what Kristeva calls a "mosaic of citations," each modifying the other, and many modern authors, like Borges or T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land , have foregrounded this issue in their own work. In terms of intertextuality, then, remakes—films that to one degree or another announce to us that they embrace one or more previous movies—are clearly something of a special case, or at least a more intense one.
In Palimpsestes (1982), Gerard Genette expanded on Kristeva's notion of intertextuality through the elaboration of a number of separate categories. These categories form a useful way of situating cinematic remakes. Genette's first category is intertextuality , which he defines more restrictively than Kristeva as the "co-presence of two or more texts" in the form of citation, plagiarism, and allusion. The title of this collection of essays, for example, alludes to a famous line in Casablanca , a line that was remade (and made famous) as the title of a film by Woody Allen. Films emulate literature in this respect, as John Biguenet demonstrates in this volume, and this relationship has a clear bearing on the issue of remakes. Genette's second category, paratextuality , describes the relationships between the text proper and its title, intertitles, prefaces, postfaces, notes, epigraphs, illustrations, and so on. While these relations also apply to film, they are less central to the issue of remakes. Genette's third category is metatextuality , a "critical relationship par excellence " between texts in which one text speaks of another, without necessarily quoting from it directly. The example he cites is Hegel's use of Diderot's Le Neveu de Rameau in his Phenomenology of Mind . Although this relationship does sometimes occur in films, it is quite different from the relationship of texts within a remake. Metatextuality, as Genette notes, is closely related to his fifth category, architextuality . This category, the "most abstract" and the "most implicit," refers to the taxonomic categories of a work as indicated by the titles or, more often, by the subtitles of a text. This too is less applicable to remakes, although like the other categories it provides a context for a discussion of remakes. But the category that occupies Genette most centrally in Palimpsestes, and the one that has the most direct bearing on cinematic remakes, is the fourth type, hypertextuality . Genette defines hypertextuality as the relationship between a given text (the "hypertext") and an anterior text (the hypotext) that it transforms. In the literary example cited above, the hypotexts of James Joyce's Ulysses would include The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy , and Hamlet . This category provides an apt way of discussing cinematic remakes and connects them to other intertextual relationships. In the strictest use of the term remake, a new text (the hypertext) transforms a hypotext. But although Genette's
distinctions provide a useful way of discussing the remake, his terminology does not take us far enough. For our concern here is not only with the remake as a category in Hollywood, where a given film is based on an earlier film, but with an extension of the boundaries of the term remake to include as well works resulting from the contact between diverse cultures and different media. Bill Nichols has recently written of the "blurred boundaries" between fiction and nonfiction today, but his remarks apply to the blurred boundaries between remakes and the texts they draw from or refer to as well. Nichols observes, "Deliberate border violations serve to announce a contestation of forms and purposes. What truths, drawing from what ethics, politics, or ideology, legitimizing what actions, do different forms convey?" (x). We can substitute "narratives" for "forms" and suggest that the remake both pays tribute to a preexisting text and, on another level, calls it into question, as Nichols suggests. And although cinematic remakes—from Anthony Quinn's 1958 remake of his father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille's swashbuckling New Orleans saga, The Buccaneer (1938), in which Quinn was himself a minor star, to Philip Kaufman's 1978 chilling remake of Don Siegel's 1956 Body Snatchers to Kevin Costner's 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves —can stand alone as entertainment and as independent narratives, independence is not what attracted us as editors and/or contributors to this project. This is quite purely a collection dedicated to the pleasure of the pirated text, where remakes constitute a particular territory existing somewhere between unabashed larceny and subtle originality. Remakes, in fact, problematize the very notion of originality. More so than many other kinds of films, the remake and, as we shall see, the makeover—a film that quite substantially alters the original for whatever purpose—invite and at times demand that the viewer participate in both looking at and reading between multiple texts.
Beyond simple remakes of one film to another with the same title and story, we are also interested in extending the definition of remake to include a variety of other intertextual types. What dynamics and dimensions are involved in cross-cultural remakes in which language, cultural traditions, psychology, and even narrative sense may differ greatly. Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954) was influenced by John Ford's westerns, and it in turn became the basis for the Hollywood remake The Magnificent Seven (1960). How do we begin to discuss such a complicated transposition? The titles may or may not be the same and the films may or may not stick to the original narratives, but their relation to those narratives is secure. This, we shall see, especially seems to occur in cross-cultural examples, such as Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies (1989), which is perhaps better called a makeover of Coppola's Godfather done in terms of Yugoslav gypsy culture. And then there are those films that simply allude to or quote from previous films. What does it mean in Honey, I Blew up the Kid to have Japanese tour-
ists look up at a fifty-foot-high kid and shout "Godzilla!" Or when the first word we see posted on the side of the tourists' bus in The Man Who Knew Too Much is "CASABLANCA"? Such questions have a bearing on notions of intertextuality. As films proliferate, so do the relations between them.
In the days when the Hollywood studios held sway, remakes provided a fertile source of material for the theaters' voracious appetites. The bottom line then, as now, was money, and since the studio owned these properties it could cannibalize them at will. John Huston's 1941 film The Maltese Falcon was the third time Warner Brothers had filmed Dashiell Hammett's novel. In recent years, high profits have been garnered by adapting French films for the American screen. The French film Three Men and a Cradle (1985), for instance, grossed slightly over $2 million in the United States, but the Hollywood remake, Three Men and a Baby (1987), has, to date, pulled in over $168 million.
But the issues cannot be explained in terms of finances alone. Sometimes, as with The Maltese Falcon, the remake is a return to an earlier non-cinematic source. Is the filmmaker trying to correct the earlier adaptation, to render a more accurate version of the original text? Here textuality provides but a limited explanation for the remake. In addition, films remake other media—comic books, for example, in Superman, Dick Tracy, and countless other recent films. And films themselves are source texts for other media, among them television and radio. To what extent do these media remake their sources? And finally, what motivates a filmmaker to remake his own work, as Alfred Hitchcock does in The Man Who Knew Too Much? The term remake, then, comprises a broad range of possibilities.
The specific focus of this volume is the phenomenon of movie remakes, especially as practiced in Hollywood. As we approach the end of the century, Hollywood possesses a considerable history it can remake and recycle. One issue seems abundantly simple: there is a film and, for one reason or another, it is remade and re-released at a later date. The differences between the two versions may be significant: in Cape Fear, Scorsese paid complicated attention to why and how Max Cady was framed (the withholding of evidence that the rape victim was a nymphomaniac); or they may be trivial: what does it suggest about Max Cady in the contemporary version that he drinks Evian water from a plastic bottle, while Robert Mitchum drank an endless supply of Bud from cans in the original? The more recent film is defined, in part, by these very differences. After all, at this writing Casablanca and Gone with the Wind are in production or preproduction as updated remakes, and the only thing we can be sure of is that they will differ significantly from their originals. They will tell us as much about our own concerns in the nineties as they will about the films upon which they are based.
The more we think about the issue of remakes, the more we can see how
many significant strands of narrative, cinema, culture, psychology, and textuality come together. Taking the largest possible view—that of human psychology and development—we can, for instance, make the following observation. Experience and development themselves depend upon recognizable patterns of repetition, novelty, and resolution. John Belton has recently written that part of the point of the classical Hollywood film system of narration and style is not only that these films share many narrative and production elements but that, given their similarities, "each strives to be different as well" (American Culture/American Film ). The remake, especially the Hollywood remake, intensifies this process: by announcing by title and/or narrative its indebtedness to a previous film, the remake invites the viewer to enjoy the differences that have been worked, consciously and sometimes unconsciously, between the texts. That is, every moment of every day, we experience what is familiar, what seems "new," and we learn somehow to resolve the difference so we can continue to focus. It was Victor Shklovsky who argued in the early decades of this century that the function of art was to defamiliarize the familiar—to make us experience the commonplace in new ways. One way of achieving this, he noted, was repetition with a difference. In one sense, remakes exemplify this process. They provoke a double pleasure in that they offer what we have known previously, but with novel or at least different interpretations, representations, twists, developments, resolutions.
But there are also, as John Belton makes clear, strong cultural and historical levels to our experience of cinema. To watch Robert Mitchum in the original 1962 Cape Fear and Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's 1991 version is not just to watch widely differing acting and directorial styles but to experience the historical and cultural changes that have occurred within the twenty-nine years separating these films. The dark elements in the original are definitely threatening, but they appear threatening in black and white at a seemingly less complicated period in American history and culture. One year later, John F. Kennedy was dead and America had entered a true "cape fear" and also a "cape hope" as the sixties began in full force on all fronts—civil rights, Vietnam, the coming of age of the baby boomers, and so on. Scorsese's Cape Fear, however, echoes many of the fears and preoccupations of today, caught in stylishly controlled color. Today, after the Los Angeles riots of 1992; rising crime of all sorts, including serial killings and drug abuse; and the decline of many of our institutions from education to government itself, Americans share a different kind of "cape fear." De Niro's edgy performance and Scorsese's restless camera capture much of this contemporary tension in what is still a "classical" Hollywood narrative, but with certain distinct flourishes.
Our investigation of remakes, therefore, takes us into several distinct areas: the personal (psychological), the sociocultural (political-cultural-
anthropological), and the artistic (cinematic narrative: style-substance-presentation). We will be concerned with all of these "voices" as they speak to us in each film, although the individual essays in this collection may focus upon one or more of them. This collection of essays, then, attempts to map out the field and begin clarifying the nature of these relations.
The tripartite division of our collection suggests our major concerns. Part 1 (framed by the essays of Robert Eberwein and Biguenet) focuses on both the nature of remakes and on some of the ways Hollywood has handled this never-ending source of material. Eberwein's essay provides a useful context for understanding remakes within a "framework emphasizing contextualization" and an "analysis of conditions of spectatorship." Biguenet hones in on a particular aspect of the remake, the cinematic allusion. Taken together, the essays argue for a broader understanding of intertextuality in cinema than has commonly been explored.
The whole collection, in fact, celebrates a variety of critical perspectives regarding the remake. Beyond the general divisions established, we encouraged these invited essayists to employ various strategies for considering repeated and recreated texts.
The first pair of essays considers the films of Alfred Hitchcock, a filmmaker whose work has had an incalculable influence on later filmmakers. Robert Kolker offers a refreshingly original examination of Cape Fear and Basic Instinct as efforts to rework Hitchcock but which, for the most part, fail "to get the figures and the figuration right." Stuart McDougal considers Hitchcock as a director who "continuously re-explored themes and techniques from his earlier work." McDougal's study of The Man Who Knew Too Much sheds light on the workings of a director who always felt there was another chance to revise his past work and "get it right" in terms of new demands and interests.
Turning to a popular work that has been remade many times, Cineaste editor Dan Georgakas takes a decidedly political and ideological approach to the various versions of Robin Hood . He concludes that "the entertainment genre romance of Flynn is closer to historical truth and the myth than Costner's politically correct version so many decades later."
A pair of essays consider the different ways musicals remake earlier sources. Jerry Delamater works with A Star Is Born to map out four specific forms of remakes building on principles posited by Altman, Feuer, Delamater, Collins, and others. Krin Gabbard makes use of a variety of versions of The Jazz Singer to detail the oedipal narrative "that may have attracted each of the stars to the story in the first place."
Another examination of the relationship between the oedipal narrative and cinematic remakes is provided by Harvey R. Greenberg, a practicing New York psychiatrist. Dr. Greenberg takes a psychoanalytic look at Stephen Spielberg's remake of A Guy Named Joe (1943) in his Always (1990), relating it to possible unresolved conflicts between the filmmaker and his father. Beyond his "case study" of Spielberg, however, Greenberg clarifies the oedipal condition of the remake as he views it, concluding that "the remaker, simultaneously worshipful and envious of the maker, enters into an ambiguous, anxiety-ridden struggle with a film he both wishes to honor and eclipse."
Part 2 of our collection pays attention to the transformation of narrative across national and cultural boundaries. Realizing that for Hollywood to redo foreign films or for other countries to reshape Hollywood narrative much more is at play than simply translating from English to French or German or Japanese, each of these essays also explores the cultural and aesthetic dynamics of such makeovers.
Hollywood's raid on foreign narratives is given sharp attention by David Wills in his examination of Jim McBride's version of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless and by Michael Brashinsky in his study The Last House on the Left , Wes Craven's makeover of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring . Drawing on his studies of Jacques Derrida, Wills sees film itself as "a web of quotations" and the remake, in this case McBride's Breathless , as only a more blatant form of the whole process of representation. Brashinsky deftly chronicles the transformation of a European high art film into a Hollywood B film.
Andrew Horton and Patricia Aufderheide explore the reverse tradition as Hollywood narratives become the basis for foreign films. Using the Yugoslav makeover of the Coppola Godfather films in Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies , Horton concludes that cinematic makeovers are in part an attempt by foreign filmmakers to feel connected to a world film community and in part a nostalgic impulse at a moment in media history when cinema itself appears in danger of being replaced by other entertainment media. Aufderheide turns to the Far East and details how Hong Kong imitates Hollywood "unabashedly" but, in the process, winds up reflecting much that is prevalent in contemporary Hong Kong culture.
The effect of gender on very different postmodern remakes is the subject of essays by Lucy Fischer and Chris Holmlund. Fisher maps the indebtedness of Pedro Almodovar's High Heels (1991) to Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life (1959) and analyzes it as a postmodern remake through its "highly parodic" intertextuality, its many citations to mass culture, its intermingling of fact and fiction, its crossing of genres, and its presentation of gender. Holmlund stretches the boundaries of a remake even further through her detailed examination of the ways two experimental filmmakers, Su Fried-
rich and Valie Export, reshape Hollywood products. How, she asks, does celluloid surgery resemble plastic surgery? Using the analogy of the ways in which transsexuals and transvestites disturb gender categories, Holmlund demonstrates how experimental filmmakers transform earlier mainstream movies in their own works. In the process she raises a number of important questions about gender, genre, and the relationships between experimental and commercial films.
The final three essays in the collection explore the connections between Hollywood films and three other media: the comics, radio, and television. Luca Somigli examines the differences between "visual narratives on film and paper," clarifying the narrative possibilities of each form, before turning his attention to the ways in which film has drawn upon comic books for material and techniques. Peter Lehman directs our attention to the differences between radio and film. What happens, Lehman asks, when a film is retold as an episode in a radio series? Lehman underscores the important relations between radio and film in the thirties and forties, when directors, writers, actors, and technicians were working in both media. And Elisabeth Weis shows what happens when a film becomes a series on television, where the narrative can be expanded almost limitlessly. Her essay tells us a great deal about the cultural, technical, and narratological differences between a Hollywood film and a popular television series, at the same time that it extends our definition of the remake.
Part 2 concludes with the deathless appeal of vampire narratives. Lloyd Michaels broadens his dialogue on Nosferatu beyond vampires while noting that cinema itself is a specific signifying system that is haunting, since the referent is not an object or place that can be said to have an actual, even recoverable existence. Ira Konigsberg takes on Francis Ford Coppola's recent Dracula and all previous retellings of this story and suggests a popular cultural view of these films that reflects "changing fears and fascinations toward sex, seduction, and mortality."
Let us return for a moment to Maverick . At what point should we begin a discussion of this film made "from" the television series? The answer, we suggest, depends on one's particular interests. Maverick as a remake or spinoff is a complicated case, for it was written by William Goldman, who also wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (among many other films) and who worked closely with director George Roy Hill. Hill not only directed Butch Cassidy but The Sting as well, a film many critics have suggested Maverick , the movie, followed rather too closely.
To begin a discussion of Maverick 's borrowings thus takes in a number of
films the audience may or may not recognize: who can watch Mel Gibson, as he nearly falls into the Grand Canyon, without thinking of two women who purposely drove into the canyon in the film Thelma and Louise , clearly "remade" from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid —but twenty years later from a woman's point of view! Allusions, spin-offs, makeovers, and remakes—all of these terms are needed to characterize the complex nature of a work like Maverick .
The spirit that shapes a work like Maverick has been picked up by filmmakers from Hollywood to Hong Kong as they have sought to enrich the possibilities of their medium by transforming novels, comic books, symphonies, television series and, more recently, video games into films and vice versa. If Maverick can return to the big screen, what cinematic-comic-novelistic figure will be next? And in what form?
We celebrated the first century of cinema in 1995. One recognition of this centennial was an imaginative film project entitled Lumière and Company (Lumière et Compagnie ). A French-Spanish-Swedish co-production, this compilation documentary is an omnibus film made up of fifty-two-second pieces shot by thirty-nine directors from around the world using a camera originally used by the Lumière brothers to shoot the first film, fifty-two seconds in length (Variety , 51).
Each director, including Peter Greenway, Costa-Gavras, James Ivory, David Lynch, Liv Ullmann, John Boorman, Spike Lee, Theo Angelopoulos and many more, was asked to shoot whatever he or she pleased but under the same circumstances as the Lumière brothers one hundred years ago: "homemade" film, with natural lighting and nonsync sound.
As the second century of cinema begins, surely this creative collage is tribute to the power of cinema to remake its magic but, as always, with both familiar and new styles, images, and messages.
Bahktin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
———. Rabelais and His World. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968.
Belton, John. American Culture/American Film. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.
Branigan, Edward. Narrative Comprehension and Film. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Cohn, Ruby. Modern Shakespeare Offshoots. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978.
Genette, Gerard. Palimpsestes: La Littérature au second degré. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1984.
Kristeva, Julia. [*]: recherches pour une sémanalyse. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1969.
"Lumiere and Company." Variety (December 4–10, 1995).
Nichols, Bill. Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Shklovsky, Victor. "Art as Technique," The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents, 1896–1939 , edited by Richard Taylor and Ian Christie, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.