I have lost what little control I used to have over my mind, so I have no idea why I was thinking about Black & White films. I love cinema but I’m afraid I’m losing the urge to see modern films on a regular basis. It may be an age thing or maybe there really have been very few good films of late. In a way I blame CGI because it removes the need for invention. You don’t have to be smart to get an effect nowadays, you just need to throw money at it. If you ever need an example of what I mean check out the two versions of The Haunting. Robert Wise’s 1963 version is restrained and measured. Very little happens on screen – most of the chills are hinted at by sound effects and the reactions of the cast. There are two ‘jump out’ moments, literally, but everything else is merely suggested. Yet this is one of the most unsettling films ever made. The 1999 version helmed by Jan De Bont and starring Liam Neeson (a more meaningful reference point for those who know De Bont as well as I do) is a special effects nightmare. The walls pour with blood and Catherine Zeta Jones does hysteria. The 1999 version throws at us everything it can think of in its efforts to scare us. I barely raised a laugh to be honest, though it was risible.
So I put together a short list of B&W films that should, imho, never be remade. In no particular order they are:
Sunset Boulevard – I defy you not to be blown away by this portrait of lost hope and despair.
The Last Picture Show – Oops, more lost hope and despair, but with fin de siecle cowboys (though there’s really only one) and tumbleweeds.
The Third Man – Orson Welles, post-war Vienna and some bloke on a zither (Anton Karras).
Dr. Strangelove – A stellar cast including Peter Sellars and Peter Sellars and Peter Sellars. Ably backed by Peter Sellars, George C. Scott, Slim Pickens and Keenan Wynn as the wonderfully named Col. ‘Bat’ Guano.
Young Frankenstein – I defy you to watch the ‘monster’ eating soup with Gene Hackman’s blindman without busting a gut. My personal favourite is the name of the previous owner of the monster’s brain – ‘Abby someone,” Marty Feldman says with a pained expression. Follow the link for the full exchange, though watching the film is a good option also.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – Good Bogey gone bad. But no steenking batches.