Thursday, May 31, 2007

Remake the bad movies instead of good ones

A tender scene from "Manos: The Hands of Fate."
The summer movie season has begun, leading off with the usual crop of sequels, including the third installments of “Spider-Man,” “Shrek” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

But strangely, this season seems short on remakes. I know Hollywood hasn’t given up recycling, but maybe the studios are running out material.

Fortunately, I’m here to help. My advice: Instead of remaking good movies, try remaking bad ones.

“Night of the Lepus”: Ranchers in the Southwest face a threat worse than cattle rustlers when mutant rabbits the size of Volkswagens attack their isolated desert town.

How can anyone not love a movie about giant, killer bunny rabbits?

Released in 1972, “Night of the Lepus” was shot on the cheap. The “giant” bunnies were real rabbits, filmed on model sets, and men in rabbit suits. But now, through the wonders of technology, we can do all of the special effects by computer. Hollywood can now produce the vicious, bloodthirsty bunnies people crave.

The original co-starred the late DeForrest Kelley, the acerbic Dr. McCoy from “Star Trek,” so the remake should feature Robert Picardo, the acerbic Emergency Medical Hologram from “Star Trek: Voyager.” He needs the work.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”: Martians kidnap Santa Claus because there is no one on Mars to give presents to the little Martian children. (Maybe that’s what Elton John meant when he said, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise a kid.”)

Again, this is a perfect opportunity for modern special effects wizardry. Instead of the original film’s Martians, who were just guys wearing green leotards and crash helmets with retractable antennae, the remake could have computer-generated Martians with bulbous heads and slimy tentacles. Instead of kidnapping Santa in order to get toys for their children, the Martians would be after Santa’s toymaking super-technology, with the intention of converting it to the manufacture of weapons for an invasion of Earth.

Of course, the Martians won’t count on one thing: In my remake, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who isn’t going to be California’s governator forever, plays Santa. What better vehicle for him to get back into movies than a family-friendly action flick with lots of explosions and dead extraterrestrials?

I can see the movie poster now: a cigar-chomping Schwarzenegger in a Santa suit and holding a bazooka. The tagline will be, “He knows if you’ve been bad.”

“Manos: The Hands of Fate”: Probably the worst film ever made, “Manos” is beloved only by fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and masochists. No surprise, it was written and directed by a fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas.

The original involves a family stranded at a remote house with an evil cult leader called The Master; his bowlegged minion, Torgo; and his harem of lingerie-clad wives. The wives mostly just argue with each other and have a pillow fight that doesn’t involve pillows.

My version will be a shot-for-shot remake, so Gus Van Sant, who directed the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” can direct. We’ll use the original script, which has prize dialogue like “Dead? No, madam. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always.”

The only difference is, my version will be a ballet and will have a minimalist classical score by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet. That will turn the “pillow fight” scene into pure cinematic gold, and my “Manos” will be the hit of arthouse theaters nationwide.

Actually, no. All of these remakes would be terrible. But at least no one could accuse Hollywood of trampling on the memory of good films.

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