The remake (or reboot or whatever) of 1979’s dystopian “Mad Max: Fury Road” hits theaters this weekend and, like most sci-fi fans, I have very strong opinions about such matters. These things just prove that Hollywood has a limited imagination and is devoted to dollars above all else. I remember I once had to explain to a film major in college that Shakespeare’s “Richard III” was not the sequel to his play Richard II — but the writer is the low-paid flunky in Hollywood. Go figure.
However, if the idea is to breathe new life into these stories for younger generations, I can be persuaded on a case-by-case basis that remakes (reboots, prequels, sequels what have you) serve a useful function. Here are 10 sci-fi films from the 1970s that deserve remaking if only to make the 3-D IMAX generation pay attention to them — each more important than “Mad Max.”
10. “Westworld” (1973)
This was a lovely little story about a resort where humans interacted with robots in an Old West setting. Of course, when the robot goes off the rails, hilarity doesn’t ensue so much as death and destruction. Yul Brynner, James Brolin and Richard Benjamin were in the original. HBO is doing it as a series this year. Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden will be in it.
9. “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” (1978)
This was a remake of a 1950s film, and there have been a few other remakes (“Bodysnatchers” in 1993, “The Invasion” in 2007). The premise is that human beings are being replaced by exact replicas of alien origin that lack emotions. Donald Sutherland was great in it, and the bagpipe version of “Amazing Grace” that forms the background is eerie and wonderful. Why remake it again? Because soulless bastards still seem to be taking over the world.
8. “Soylent Green” (1973)
On an overpopulated Earth, feeding people had become a problem, but not as big a problem as Charlton Heston’s acting. He plays an NYPD detective investigating the murder of the CEO of the big food company Soylent (soybeans and lentils — OK?). Soylent Green is a much more nutritious and palatable product than Soylent Red and Yellow were. Turns out it isn’t vegan. I’d remake it with John Cusack or Ed Norton just for fun.
7. “The Terminal Man” (1974)
This centers around computerization and mind control and has lots of the scary crap we’re dealing with today. The protagonist, Harry Benson, winds up with electrodes in his brain that attached to a computer in his chest. Update this baby with Internet stuff and the Millennials will eat it up. George Segal was Harry the first time out, I say we get Joaquin Phoenix this time. He already did “Her,” so why not?
6. “Colossus: The Forbin Project” (1970)
Since people make mistakes, some bozo in the government decides to put our nuclear arsenal under the control of a supercomputer. The Soviets have done the same. The two computers square off and decide that it’s the people who are the problem. So we wind up as slaves to computers with nukes to back it all up. I would remake this with Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking in cameo roles since they are so worried about artificial intelligence. And maybe Dakota Fanning and Scarlett Johansson because I haven’t seen them work lately and why should the boys get all the work?
5. “The Andromeda Strain” (1971)
Germ from outer space comes to Earth on a probe returning home. People die. Government scientists save the day. Get every A-Lister in movies involved. This could be “Ocean’s 11” for the sci-fi crowd. Besides, doesn’t everyone like a story about Ebola? This is even better because we find a cure. Starring: Kerry Washington, Jim Parsons and the cast of “The Walking Dead.”
4. “Solaris” (1972)
Yeah, I know, Clooney remade this in 2002. Doesn’t count because it sucked — if sci-fi fans hate one thing, it’s dumbing things down. The Russian original was beautiful and complex; the American remake was not. Remake it, and do it right. Ridley Scott (“Alien”) should direct. And while I like Georgie-boy, he lacks the twistedness needed to pull this off. Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy and Kevin Spacey have more appropriate vibes.
3. “Rollerball” (1975)
Again, we had a dumbed-down remake in 2002. Stop it! What was with 2002? Anyway, the original with James Caan and John Houseman was a look at corporate power and controlling populations with bread and circuses. If ever a theme was appropriate to our times, this is it. Have Idris Elba as Jonathan E. and let Anthony Hopkins or Sigourney Weaver play the evil corporate executive.
2. “Slaughterhouse-Five” (1972)
The Kurt Vonnegut masterpiece about the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, and a bunch of stuff that also happened. Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time, and the events of his life happen in a rather random order, including the Dresden scene, living on the planet Tralfamadore as an exhibit in a zoo and being a suburban dad in Ilium, N.Y. Cameron Monaghan, who is the Joker on “Gotham” and Ian on “Shameless” is Billy Pilgrim, for my money. Miley Cyrus and Saoirse Ronan would be great as Montana Wildhack and/or Barbara Pilgrim.
1. “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)
Alex DeLarge is a very bad teenager in a very bad future Britain (looks rather like it does now, truthfully), and he and his droogs (friends, how people who don’t know Russian can follow the movie or the book is beyond me) are violent little bastards. He is put into an aversion therapy program, and things don’t exactly go according to plan. Shia LaBeouf or Michael Cera would be good as Alex, and making Malcolm McDowell, who played Alex in the original, take the part of Mr. Alexander would be wonderfully adept casting.
BONUS REMAKE: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
Fox is threatening to redo this as a TV event for the 40th anniversary. If the network really wants to make it work, though, it needs to take advantage of the fact that millions already know the lines and have the costumes. Do a whole series a la “American Idol” to find Dr. Frank N. Furter, Janet and Brad. Lord knows Fox needs to do something to fill in the time slot that is opening up …
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.