And so the remakes continue apace. While we shudder at the prospect of butchered returns to Suspiria and the like, this weekend we can head on over to Prom Night and pretend it’s 1980, particularly since, by all reports, a not-very-good movie has been redone as an awful one. But it didn’t have to be this way, which is what motivates today’s musings. Let’s say I’m in a if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em frame of mind. If the remakes are going to happen, the subjects of the remakes might as well deserve it. Prom Night is a case in point: it’s not like they were messing with a classic here. The Amityville Horror is another example. The original, though dear to my heart, is, if I’m being brutally honest, not exactly what one could call “good.” And yet the remake was even worse.
Well, I can’t be held responsible for the incompetence of the new filmmakers, but in a spirit of psychotic optimism, let me suggest another film that could certainly do with a remake. Call this a promising idea hopelessly bungled, and so deserving of being done right the second time around. The film is the 1976 opus The Sentinel.
No buried gem this. I thought it was bad when I first saw it, and I was right. But this is bad on such a grand scale that devotees of the irredeemable will be rewarded. This is a touch of The Exorcist meets a whole lot of Rosemary’s Baby, and it’s directed by Michael (Death Wish) Winner, a man who is perhaps the world’s most perfect definition of ham-fisted mediocrity. The tale told is that of a fashion model (Christina Raines) who rents an apartment in a building that turns out to be built over the entrance to Hell. And oh, what joys. There’s the Big Name Cast: Chris Sarandon, Burgess Meredith (as Satan!), Jose Ferrer (as a priest!), Arthur Kennedy (as a priest!), John Carradine (as a blind priest!), Ava Gardner, Jeff Goldblum, etc. etc. etc. There’s Law & Order’s Jerry Orbach as an irritable commercial director with an pimp moustache. There’s the spectacle of Sylvia Miles and Beverley D’Angelo turning in what must be THE most overwrought, hysterical caricature of lesbianism ever put on film. If someone can find a more egregious example of male phobic paranoia (totally unconscious too: their homosexuality is equated with murder and played for horror in and of itself), I promise to eat it. You have never seen anything like this. Miles, for instance, does a teutonic accent and, got up in a grotesque ballet outfit, comes across as The Simpsons’ Ranier Wolfcastle’s worst nightmare. And that’s only the start.
And then, as if that weren’t enough, there’s the climax. What, to the minds of Winner and author-of-novel/scripter/co-producer/King-of-Adverbs Jeffrey (“You know how vicious a dyke can be when provoked”) Konvitz, can possibly be more terrifying than female homosexuality? Wait, I know! THE DEFORMED! Let’s bring out a whole whack of REAL (and really) DEFORMED PEOPLE (no make-up now!) and HAVE THEM PLAY DEMONS!
What can I say? A class act all around. But the idea of a protagonist being fated to mount guard for the rest of her days over the gate of hell is pretty bleak and creepy. It could be done well.
I’ll believe that when I see it.