My well of inspiration has been pretty dry lately. As is often the case in Hollywood as well. So they do remakes and sequels… of good movies, bad ones, doesn’t matter.
For instance, I watched the original George Romero Night of the Living Dead on an oldies channel in Wisconsin recently, and scarewise it still holds up surprisingly well, despite low production values and a general sloppiness. Zombies were fairly new at that point, but by now that movie has been redone in so many ways (including versions where aliens or horrible viruses or kings of pop stand in for the walking dead), that now its hard to tell a new zombie story of any kind… unless you’re doing a parody or homage like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland (haven’t seen it yet, but I’m betting it’s hilarious).
Or look at The Crazies, out now. It’s a remake, based on another old George Romero movie of the same name from 1973… Romero and Roger Corman being the two reigning kings of the low-budget horror/oddball movie that gets ripped off and makes millions for another studio and director years later.
Take the folks who will rake in the dough with the new Nightmare on Elm Street, which I’m sure they justify by saying it’s for a “new generation” or “needs an update”. Screw that. In a world where teens and young adults have almost NO sense of history -culturally, politically, artistically — they should be strapped into a chair a’la Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch great old movies to develop some decent taste.
Which leads to today’s news. On a hunch, I picked up an odd little 1975 B -movie this week called A Boy and His Dog, featuring a young Don Johnson (but don’t let that scare you, he’s good in this). Something about it rang a bell… like as a film student or sci-fi aficionado, I had bookmarked it in my brain as a little-known gem. Which it is. Writer and director L.Q. Jones is an interesting character, too. Been acting since the ’50s, especially in westerns… a favorite character actor of Sam Peckinpah. Since he doesn’t appear in the movie, I wanted to see his face, ’cause I figured I’d recognize him. And when I went looking, I did . Maybe you do, too.
ABAHD is a cult classic for which L.Q. Jones also –very unusually –handled all the distribution himself, and he kept it going on late-night or revival-house screens across America for over ten years. Remember when many movie theaters did that midnight cult movie thing–a concert film, a horror film, or something to bring the stoners out? I didn’t go to many (nor was I much of a stoner, really), but as a kid and teen, I was always glad to know they were out there. Without them, there’d be no Tarantino.
So anyway, A Boy and His Dog was great. It’s surprisingly funny. The dog, “Blood”, is one of the best animal actors I have ever seen. The look of Jones’ post-apocalyptic world was a direct influence on George Miller’s designs for the world of Mad Max. Plus anything with Jason Robards automatically has my stamp of approval, and he’s great in this.
I should have known in advance that the story would be good, since it was based on a novella by Harlan Ellison, the brilliant creative mind behind such material as Babylon 5, Bladerunner, and some of the best philosophically and politically-charged sci-fi of the past forty years or more. Harlan even wrote a time-travel episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, which you can watch in its entirety right here. Ellison, a fascinating figure, marched with MLK from Selma to Montgomery the year I was born(’65), and in ’66 he got into a fistfight with Frank Sinatra guring a pool game. And he’s still cranking out fiction, at 76.
So now fast-forward to 2010, and there are now two potential remakes on the horizon: one rumored to be coming out of Japan for which not much info is available, and a second animated version slated to be released in 2012, directed here by up-and-coming indie director David Lee Miller. Whether it’s actually going to get made is another question, of course, as it most likely grinds its way through some hellish financing and rewriting process that may or may not ruin it.
So whether it’s hipness homework so you can tell your friends about the “better original”, or just a lark to see how they made dogs talk in the era before all that “Air Buddies” animated lip b.s., stop by your library, local specialty video store, or NetFlix, and pick up the 1975 version.