We Don't Joke About Such Things Here
August 29, 2013 6:45 AM   Subscribe

The 1991 CBs made-for-TV movie adaptation of Shadow Of A Doubt and the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock version are based on the same source material and contain many of the same lines, beats, and scenes. So why is one considered a classic film noir and the other a flop? The Dissolve puts the two movies next to each other and tries to find out.
posted by The Whelk (15 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm really loving The Dissolve so far. Hope they keep up this level.

Casting Mark Harmon to re-create a role done by Joseph Cotton is as bad as substituting Steven Weber for Jack Nicholson.
posted by octothorpe at 7:31 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Or as bad as substituting Vince Vaughn for Anthony Perkins.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

That's a neat article. It seems like the 1991 version doesn't leave anything to the viewer's imagination. Also, it is shot (as they mention) in the TV style, with no depth in the scenes, no room for the actors to move.
posted by gjc at 7:47 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I made an amazingly hilarious pun this weekend to the wife and kids. Perfect setup, perfect timing, everything. My wife even dropped the bag she was carrying, she was so stunned by the perfection.

I was tempted to email this incredible pun to everyone I knew that had missed it by not being there. I did not.

I hope this explains why a CBS made-for-TV, near shot-for-shot remake of a classic movie did not fare well.
posted by DU at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Chan-Wook Park's English debut Stoker (from earlier this year) is also essentially a remake of Shadow of a Doubt.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:54 AM on August 29, 2013

I love, love, loooove Shadow of the Doubt. I've read it's Hitchock's favorite, too. Joseph Cotten, Theresa Wright, Henry Travers, Hume Cronyn... All perfect. The script, perfect. The direction, c'mon, it's Hitchcock.

Plus I lived in Santa Rosa for a few years, so seeing it on the big screen was fun. It's a shame what happened to downtown since then... the '69 quake, the mall, the 101 bisection...
posted by entropicamericana at 8:10 AM on August 29, 2013

Shot for shot remakes? It works sometimes. Who remembers the remake of Zero Hour with Robert Stack and Leslie Nielsen?
posted by ewan at 8:20 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I find this kind of thing so interesting. I remember back in 1988 when Big came out, there was also a Judge Reinhold movie with a very similar premise. I had to look it up--it was Vice Versa, a body-switching comedy that required Reinhold to play a kid in an adult's body, much like Tom Hanks did in Big. I remember that the movies even had many of the same jokes.

It was the first time I, as a young person, saw two movies that showed how subtle the distinction could be between a good movie and a bad one. Seeing Reinhold's blank-faced, slack-jawed interpretation of a pre-teen boy showed up all the nuance of Hanks' performance, especially when they were delivering the same jokes. It was like an introductory class in appreciating acting, and after seeing Reinhold's performance I was much more aware of weak acting.
posted by not that girl at 8:27 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

The Dissolve is great. Their week-long examinations of films are fantastic, especially what they've been doing with the great Shadow of a Doubt and also their Repo Man kickoff. The migration of writers has really wounded AVClub though, who are now resorting to writing about things like the least essential albums of 1983.the least essential albums of 1983, and the Dan Quayle/Murphy Brown thing.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:40 AM on August 29, 2013

Fun to read the different descriptions on Netflix, which, if the descriptions of the newer ones are to be believed, alter the primary character/perspective

The beloved Hitchcock original:
Charlie (Teresa Wright), a small-town girl consumed with finding out whether her unhinged Uncle (Joseph Cotten) is a serial killer or not. The arrival of detectives and a suspicious neighbor (Hume Cronyn) only increase Charlie's paranoia. But tension builds as she draws closer to the truth, culminating in a nail-biting scene aboard a speeding train.
1995 revision:
Charley Sloan (Brian Dennehy), a recovering alcoholic and crestfallen attorney, reluctantly takes on a high-profile case to defend his old flame's stepdaughter of murdering her millionaire father. Pressure mounts as an ambitious prosecutor tries to discredit Sloan's competence, and the aging lawyer must overcome all the odds to prove his client's innocence. Bonnie Bedelia co-stars in this drama based on William J. Coughlin's best-selling novel.
Kitt Devereux (Melanie Griffith) is a legal eagle who has quite a case on her hands. Rising rap star Bobby Medina is accused of the brutal murder of the daughter of a high-profile businessman. Plenty of evidence points in Medina's direction, but Devereux will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, and that includes locking horns with her ex-husband -- who's now the district attorney.
posted by phearlez at 8:45 AM on August 29, 2013

Two of those have nothing to do with the Hitchcock film.

The 1995 movie was based on a novel; the Hitchcock and 1991 movies are based on a different, screen-original story. The titles are coincidentally the same, because titles cannot be copyrighted. I'm not sure if the 1998 movie and the 1995 share a source, or if the 1998 film is a third, original plot.
posted by kewb at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2013

On further investigation, the William J. Coughlin novel was written in 1991, so the earlier two productions cannot have been based on it.
posted by kewb at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2013

Whoops! I thought they shared the same novel source. Bad me, no cookie.
posted by phearlez at 9:23 AM on August 29, 2013

Sometimes, the T.V. Movie version comes first, but the big screen version is still superior.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:40 AM on August 30, 2013

Sometimes, the T.V. Movie version comes first, but the big screen version is still superior.

I assumed you were referring to Casino Royale.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:33 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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