The Spiral Staircase (2000 TVM)

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Not so much a remake, more a sorry porridge!
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Canada, US / 88 minutes / color / Shavick, Saban International Dir: James Head Pr: Shawn Williamson Scr: Matt Dorff Story: Some Must Watch (1933) by Ethel Lina White and (uncredited) The Circular Staircase (1908) by Mary Roberts Rinehart, plus screenplay by Mel Dinelli, Helen Hayes and Robert Siodmak for The SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945) Cine: Gordon Verheul Cast: Nicollette Sheridan, Judd Nelson, Alex McArthur, Debbe Dunning, Christina Jastrzembska, Dolores Drake, David Storch, William McDonald, Holland Taylor, John Innes, Brenda Campbell, Candice McClure (i.e., Kandyse McClure), Dallas Thompson, Charles Payne, Kristina Matisic.

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Although this movie claims in its opening credits to be a remake of Robert Siodmak’s classic period noir The SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945), just about everything that distinguished the original movie from a run-of-the-mill murder mystery has been excised.

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Despite all the plot-changes, this remake is ready to offer the occasional visual quote from Siodmak’s original.

Perhaps most importantly, the killer’s motivation has been altered. In the original, the killer has a psychotic detestation of disabilities in women; this puts our heroine, who’s a traumatic mute, in severe danger of being his next victim. Here the motive’s just the humdrum one of financial gain—there’s an inheritance up for grabs—and, when this motive is suddenly produced in the final minutes, it makes no sense, because we’ve been told the killer has been murdering and assaulting pretty young women at random for some while. Furthermore, the muteness of the central character has no real impact on the plot—in fact (and this is actually quite cleverly done), we’re a good few minutes into the movie before we realize she’s mute at all.

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Helen (Nicollette Sheridan) hears a strange noise outside her bedroom.

Here’s the plot in short:

There’s a prologue in which a young girl (not properly identified in the credits) is walking home at night in Westport, Washington State, when she encounters Continue reading

Witness for the Prosecution (1982 TVM)

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A very good remake of a classic movie!
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UK, US / 102 minutes / color / United Artists Dir: Alan Gibson Pr: Norman Rosemont Scr: John Gay Story: “Traitor’s Hands” (1925 Flynn’s Weekly) and Witness for the Prosecution (1953 play), both by Agatha Christie, and the screenplay for Witness for the Prosecution (1957) by Billy Wilder, Harry Kurnitz and Larry Marcus Cine: Arthur Ibbetson Cast: Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr, Beau Bridges, Donald Pleasence, Wendy Hiller, Diana Rigg, David Langton, Richard Vernon, Peter Sallis, Michael Gough, Frank Mills, Michael Nightingale, Peter Copley, Patricia Leslie, Primi Townsend.

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Christie’s play has been filmed several times. The most famous adaptation is quite clearly Billy Wilder’s 1957 movie Witness for the Prosection, featuring Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, Tyron Power and, in what’s effectively an unorthodox version of the femme fatale role, Marlene Dietrich.

Because of the fame of the Wilder adaptation, it’s easy to think it must have been the first. Not so. As far as I can gather, the first movie adaptation was Continue reading