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I Died a Thousand Times vs. High Sierra


slaytonf
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One wonders why anyone would even consider remaking High Sierra; and not so much of a remake as a reshoot, using almost the identical script. Well, perhaps at the time there wasn't the same reverence for old(er) movies as there is today. I didn't think it would be worth watching, but it surprised me by not being so bad. Comparisons are inevitable, so I will avoid them, except to say the sexuality is more apparent in the later movie. Lee Marvin and Earl Holliman, playing lightweights in the movie come off a little lightweight as actors, themselves. Jack Palance brings his characteristic brittle violence to Earl's role. He also evidently looked to mix in a certain amount of sensitivity and vulnerability. It's different--not worse, just different. --Ok, it's disconcerting.

 

Stuart Heisler does a good job using CinemaScope to bring the mountains into the movie sooner and more prominently. They appear as a curtain, or wall across the screen, with all the foreboding implications of that. They stand as mute, impassive witnesses to the puny tragedy played out by the human beings below (hey, that's not so bad). The chase is more violent and exciting, with some nice wipeouts by motorcycle cops.

 

I don't mean to diss Shelly Winters, but her delivery of Mary's closing lines is nothing to the gut wrenching cry from the soul Ida Lupino makes. But it's unfair to criticize her, it's one of the great moments in movies, and no one should be expected to equal it, or even come close.

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Remakes were routine in the old days, of course they still are today. But back then, before dvds, tapes, tv, etc. audiences saw a film when it came out and that was it. After 10 years or so the old film was faded in some people's memories and a younger generation was around that never saw the previous version. I know some older films got reissued to theaters for limited runs but how many had the opportunity to see them? Comparing the two films, the Palance version isn't bad, but the Bogie version is a home run. The newer film is shot in color, so its good as a travelogue at least.

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Yes, it is obvious why a producer would take good source material and make a remake prior to consumers having fairly easy access to view films not available at their local theater.

 

To me the biggest difference between the two versions is the casting. The 41 version has Bogie, Lupino and a young Kennedy (a supporting player I always find interesting even in his early WB films). I especially love the scenes with Bogie and Lupino. Lupino was really talented but like all WB actresses once Davis became the queen, she was underutilized. But when given a solid role Lupino delivered and this is the case here. We also have Joan Leslie a solid WB contract player.

 

I also like the supporting players more. This is not to say the actors in the 55 version where weak. Most did well but not at the level we see in the 41 version.

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Personally I prefer the 1949 remake "Colorado Territory" with Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo in the leads and again directed by Raoul Walsh. Dorothy Malone was a darker and more devious character then the Joan Leslie role in the original. The great Henry Hull appeared in both of Walsh's versions. As "Doc" Banton in the first and as the father {Henry Travis in "High Sierra"} of Malone. It worked very well in both genres, gangster and Western.

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Well my preference would be HS, than CT, than IDATT.

 

Yes, Malone was darker but since Joan Leslie's persona is so 'clean' it comes as a bigger surprise (to both Bogie and the audience), when she shows her true colors.

 

But CT is a creative remake; taking a solid plot and putting it into another genre with a very different lead actor (and one made for that genre).

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I guess I agree with most of you about the two movies. The remake is not bad, but it's just not the same. As far as casting, I had the most problem with Shelley Winters. Maybe I'm just too fond of Lupino's interpretation. I kept wondering why anyone would be attracted to the character that Winters played, whereas Lupino's character was more likeable. And the matching of Joan Leslie and Lori Nelson for the same role was great. Both had a wholesomeness about them, and in both cases I could understand why the male lead would be attracted to them.

 

Terrence.

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