DVD Article

Stolen Stories

Remakes with different titles -- We review and compare ''The Seven Samurai'' and ''The Magnificent Seven,'' ''High Noon'' and ''Outland,'' and more

You could call it video vu — that feeling you get when you're watching a rental movie you could swear you've seen before in a theater or on TV, although you know for a fact that you haven't. The truth is, some movies are essentially remakes of past films, disguised by different titles, time periods, and settings. Here are some of the best pairs of movies and their veiled remakes, rentable together as intriguing video double features.

The Seven Samurai (1954, Nelson) The Magnificent Seven (1960, MGM/UA)
In Akira Kurosawa's epic, seven samurai warriors protect a village from a horde of bandits. In John Sturges' Western translation, The Magnificent Seven, the heroes are cowboys (Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen) in a south-of-the-border town. Kurosawa's was inspired by the American Western; Sturges simply brought the idea full circle. The Seven Samurai: A+ The Magnificent Seven: A-

High Noon (1952, Republic) Outland (1981, Warner)
Frontier marshal Gary Cooper faces an outlaw gang in High Noon. For futuristic marshal Sean Connery in Outland, the showdown takes place on one of Jupiter's moons. Each man stands alone while a clock ticks down to the moment of truth. It's Coop's last act as a lawman, Connery's last chance to prove he is a lawman. There's a world of difference between them, but they're two of a kind. High Noon: A Outland: B+

Vertigo (1958, MCA) Obsession (1976, RCA/Columbia)
Obsession is Brian De Palma's acknowledged homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo. Like Vertigo's Jimmy Stewart, Obsession's Cliff Robertson blames himself for the death of the woman he loved. Also like Stewart, Robertson seeks renewal by re-creating his lost love in a look-alike surrogate. There is, however, a tragic difference. Stewart is doomed to repeat his fatal mistake, while Robertson narrowly escapes the same fate. Where Hitchcock leaves you haunted, De Palma lets you off the hook. Vertigo: A Obsession: B+

Rio Bravo (1959, Warner) Assault on Precinct 13 (1976, Media)
In Howard Hawks' classic Western Rio Bravo, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) and three deputies stand guard against an imminent jailbreak. In John Carpenter's urban version, one cop, two cons, and a secretary defend a deserted police station against a rampaging street gang. While their stories are similar, the movies are very different in style: Hawks' film is loose and loquacious, Carpenter's is lean and mean. Rio Bravo: A- Assault on Precinct 13: B

It Happened One Night (1934, RCA/Columbia) The Sure Thing (1985, Nelson)
Frank Capra's screwball comedy It Happened One Night teams runaway heiress Claudette Colbert and hotshot reporter Clark Gable as reluctant road companions. Rob Reiner's version, The Sure Thing, stars John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga as incompatible college kids traveling cross-country together. As always, opposites attract: Both couples fall in love. Few films can match the wit of the Capra classic, but it's fun to watch how close Reiner comes while staying within contemporary teen-comedy parameters. It Happened One Night: A+ The Sure Thing: B+

Originally posted Mar 29, 1991 Published in issue #59 Mar 29, 1991 Order article reprints