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John Scalzi – The Sci-Fi-Remake Column, Part II: The Seventies!


Here’s an amusing e-mail I received a couple of days ago, which I suspect (or, at least, hope) is fake:

As a film executive, thank you for your list of 80s science fiction films that are ripe for remaking. I have now optioned them all. Please now do the same for science fiction films from the 1970s. In return for your efforts, I will give you net points on every film I make.

Oh, net points! How can I resist? Also, I have a deadline. So: ten science-fiction films from the seventies I can see being remade. (As opposed to needing to be remade, because no movie needs to be remade.) As with the eighties-film piece, I’ll do one from each year of the seventies, in chronological order.

1970: It’s tempting to suggest Toomorrow, a film
in which a very young Olivia Newton-John is abducted by aliens to
entertain the people of space with the power of song, but, instead, I’ll
pick Colossus: The Forbin Project, in which a U.S. supercomputer
and a Soviet supercomputer start talking and decide that, like, humans
are so lame. Yes, now you know where Skynet comes from. At one
point, Ron Howard was scheduled to remake this, but, at the moment, that
remake seems on hold.

1971: The Andromeda Strain
got a TV remake, and The Omega Man became I Am Legend (sort of), but Kubrick’s interpretation of A Clockwork Orange is just
sitting there, daring some young director with more hubris than brains
to take a shot at it. Orange writer Anthony Burgess apparently
hated Kubrick’s take on the material, so who knows? His ghost (or literary estate) might be open for another take.

1972: Silent Running — the
ecoconscious sci-fi film I mentioned a couple of weeks ago — seems like an obvious candidate
for this year, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone actually were
looking at this for a low-priced, quick-hit remake to grab some bucks on
a slow February movie weekend. They’d probably add a serial killer to
it, though, and then market it as a horror flick.

1973: Here’s an actual challenge: the horrifying premise of Soylent Green
has become so devalued as a punch line — “Soylent (insert ironic noun) is people!” — that the director who could take the concept of that
film (or its underlying story, by science-fiction grand master Harry
Harrison) and make people freaked out about it again — well, that
director would be the hero of the day, I’d say.

1974: As
much fun as it would be to dare someone to take a whack at John
Boorman’s completely incomprehensible Zardoz (featuring a
mustachioed and braided Sean Connery in a postapocalyptic red Speedo!),
I’ll show some mercy and, instead, suggest that John Carpenter’s debut
movie, the darkly comic Dark Star, might benefit from a
modern-day redesign and a budget larger than the original’s bare-bones
$60,000.

1975: The films already remade from this year
have not fared particularly well (The Stepford Wives, Rollerball,
Death Race). But I’m guessing that if some reasonably canny
filmmaker wanted to take a stab at Shivers, the
parasite-transplant horror flick that was director David Cronenberg’s
first feature, they might be able to reverse that trend.

1976:
Hollywood keeps trying to reheat Logan’s Run, the science-fiction film that closed out a run of largely dreary early-seventies
postapocalyptic science-fiction films and helped make Star Wars
such a breath of fresh air the next year. But I say run past Logan and
pick up The Man Who Fell to Earth. You won’t be able to top
casting David Bowie as an anodyne spaceman, because, dude — David Bowie. But it’d be interesting to see someone try.

1977: Yes, yes: Star Wars. George Lucas already remade it with the special edition (and will again, one suspects, with the inevitable 3-D release). I’ll tell you what I have a hankerin’ for, though: a $200
million, totally, ridiculously blown-out version of Damnation Alley.
Nuclear annihilation! Postapocalyptic madmen! Mutated man-eating
cockroaches! RVs! This film’s got everything, man.

1978: The
smart, cynical side of me wants someone to tackle Capricorn One,
since faking a mission to Mars is (sadly) as futuristic today as it
was 32 years ago. But the side of me that is 13 years old and likes
seeing stupid things wants to see someone remake the Roger Corman
crap-tacular splatter spectacle Deathsport. Someone flip a coin
for me, will ya?

1979: No less a director than Steven
Soderbergh tried (and mostly failed) to remake a project of the great
Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky. But where Soderbergh fell short with Solaris,
some ambitious young filmmaker with a digital camera, a wrecked industrial landscape, and more guts than sense might be able to
creditably tackle Tarkovsky’s existential road film, Stalker.
It’ll be huge at Sundance.

Now, where are my net points?

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