Saturday, April 7, 2012

RETROGRADE REVIEWS Presents Almost Up-To-Date!

FACE OFF


Pre-Remade 30-12-2011

Remakes. They suck. It's a rule, like gravity.

Taking my interest in movie baddies to a bizzare extreme, here's a selction of no good nics who have had the dis/honour of being ressurrected. 

Paul Mallen/Gregory Anton, GASLIGHT 

The 1944 remake starring Charles Boyer is better known, but arguably falls short in one key respect. Boyer is a servicable villain, his natural charm effectively masking the character's intentions, and lending an air of plausibility to his attempts to drive his wife insane. However, when compared with Anton Walbrook's mesmerising performance in the original, his characterization can come off as something of a one-note.

From the moment he steps onscreen, Walbrook dominates the movie. His voice dripping with disdain Walbrook's simpering, utterly hateful performance is a marvel. The very definition of a cold fish, Walbrook's Mallen gives Thorold Dickinson's movie a sense of earthy, nasty menace sadly lacking in its glossier counterpart.

The Jackal, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL/THE JACKAL

Here's one that proves star power can completely undermine a character's credibility. In the guise of British character actor Edward Fox, The Jackal is a cipher, a rather bland-looking nobody who doesn't look like a hired killer. Which is kind of the point.

As played by Bruce Willis, the Jackal is Bruce Willis - and where Bruce Willis goes, explosions, bad wigs and Jack Black must folllow.

Hannibal Lecktor/Lecter, MANHUNTER/EVERY OTHER HANNIBAL MOVIE

Hannibal Lecter is a role that will always be associated with Anthony Hopkins. And quite rightly so. It was a charismatic, star-making performance. It's a pity however that Hopkins' success was such that it has eclipsed the fine work Brian Cox accomplished as Lecter (renamed Lecktor) in Michael Mann's MANHUNTER (1986). With hindsight, Cox's performance comes across as something of a revelation.

Compared to Hopkin's various touches, Cox delivers a remarkably restrained performance. What is equally amazing to me is how Cox's performance manages to match Hopkins' without any of the OTT lines or stage business we associate with the character. In contrast, Cox's Lecktor is a cold blank slate. 

Appearing in only three scenes, we don't see any of his crimes, and we don't get any insight into what he did to mentally screw up hero Will Graham (William Petersen). Isolated from the film's more obvious touches of horror, it is a testament to Cox's performance that Lecktor's empty, mocking sneer provides the film's most unsettling image.

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