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Universal Studios

9 Movies You Might Not Realize Were Remakes

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Though it might seem like Hollywood is rebooting more classic films than ever before, this trend is nothing new: Studios have always remade movies. In fact, some of your favorite films are remakes of other popular movies. Here are nine of them.

1. Remake: The Wizard of Oz (1939) / Original: The Wizard of Oz (1925)

While many are aware of the film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, and Margaret Hamilton, L. Frank Baum’s children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was adapted a few times before the classic we know and love was released in 1939. The most notable was the first feature film version of The Wizard of Oz released in 1925. Silent film actor and director Larry Semon adapted the film with Baum’s son L. Frank Baum, Jr., as the pair took a more realistic and romantic approach to the 1900 source material.

In the silent film version, the Scarecrow, Tin-Man, and Cowardly Lion are not actual characters, but rather three farmhands in disguise after they were transported to the Land of Oz with Dorothy, who is revealed to be the long-lost princess of Oz. The silent film also features Dorothy courting various suitors, including the Scarecrow, the Tin-Man, and Prince Kynd, the crown prince of Oz.

In 1939, movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer commissioned director Victor Fleming to direct a musical version of The Wizard of Oz that featured the more fantastical side of L. Frank Baum’s novel and used new Technicolor film technology. Despite being nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Wizard of Oz was a box office bomb and didn’t gain widespread admiration until the film was first re-released in 1949.

2. Remake: A Fistful of Dollars (1964) / Original: Yojimbo (1961)

In 1964, director Sergio Leone released his second film, A Fistful of Dollars, and started a cinematic revolution in the Italian Western or Spaghetti Western genre. Although the movie launched Clint Eastwood’s career into super-stardom, the Spaghetti Western classic wasn't fully original—it was a remake of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo.

While both films feature a mysterious stranger who is caught in the middle between two crime families vying for complete control of a small town, A Fistful of Dollars exchanges Yojimbo’s samurai swords for cowboy gunplay. The similarities between the two films are so prevalent that Kurosawa and Toho Studios, the movie studio behind Yojimbo, sued Sergio Leone; the Italian director eventually settled the lawsuit out of court for 15 percent of his film's total box office receipts. A Fistful of Dollars went on to be a giant success for Leone and Eastwood when it was released in the United States in 1967, while it also spawned two sequels with For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the Man With No Name trilogy.

3. Remake: You’ve Got Mail (1998) / Original: The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Nora Ephron’s romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail is actually a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 film The Shop Around The Corner. Both films are about an unlikely pair—in Shop, the couple is played by Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, while in Mail, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan take on the roles—that can’t stand each other in real life, but are unaware they are both falling in love with each other through an anonymous correspondence. While The Shop Around The Corner uses letters to facilitate the pair’s correspondence, Ephron updated the plot device for You’ve Got Mail with America Online's email for Ryan and Hanks’ onscreen characters. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly’s small bookshop is called “The Shop Around The Corner,” which is a direct reference to Lubitsch’s classic romantic comedy.

4. Remake: Meet The Parents (2000) / Original: Meet The Parents (1992)

In 2000, Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller starred in Meet The Parents, a comedy directed by Jay Roach that grossed more than $330,000,000 worldwide. The film was based on a small indie film of the same name, released in 1992. While the original Meet The Parents went mostly unseen upon its release (and we couldn't find any footage online), Universal Studios liked the premise of a man meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time and acquired the film’s remake rights in 1995.

The movie studio hired screenwriter Jim Herzfeld, who exchanged the original’s dark comedy for an edgy family-friendly film. The remake also spawned two sequel films (Meet the Fockers in 2004 and Little Fockers in 2010) and two failed TV shows (the reality show Meet My Folks and the sitcom In-Laws), both for NBC.

5. Remake: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) / Original: Purple Noon (1960)

Author Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley was adapted twice for the big screen: First, in 1960, came the French film Purple Noon from director René Clément; then, in 1999, came a remake of that film, which bore the same title at the novel and was directed by Anthony Minghella. While both films examine the psychology and charms of a serial killer, the original French version takes a more conclusive approach to Tom Ripley’s fate, while the remake is far more ambiguous with its ending. Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley are both praised for their stars’ stellar performances from Alain Delon and Matt Damon, respectively.

6. Remake: The Ladykillers (2004) / Original: The Ladykillers (1955)

Joel and Ethan Coen’s films effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

While the original film is regarded as one of the greatest British comedies ever made, the Coen brothers’ remake received a mixed critical response when it was released in 2004. The remake earned a moderately successful box office, while the original enjoyed BAFTA Award wins and Academy Award nominations.

7. Remake: Brewster’s Millions (1985) / Original: Brewster’s Millions (1914)

Wikimedia Commons

Believe it or not, Brewster’s Millions has been remade 10 times since author George Barr McCutcheon wrote the original novel of the same name in 1902. While the first was a silent film—which is now considered lost—from legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille in 1914, the most popular version of Brewster’s Millions was from director Walter Hill and starred Richard Pryor and John Candy from 1985. In total, there have been three silent films, two films from England, two more from America, and three film adaptations from India since 1914.

The story of a young man who inherits millions, only to be enticed to a deal that would involve him spending all of his inheritance without any assets remaining by a certain time period to claim even more money, has stayed relatively the same. The money involved has changed, though: In the 1914 version, Brewster would have to spend $1 million within one year to claim $7 million, while in the 1985 version he would have to spend $30 million in 30 days to claim $300 million.

In 2009, screenwriters Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan were commissioned to write a yet another remake based on McCutcheon’s original novel for Warner Bros.

8. Remake: The Last House on the Left (1972) / Original: The Virgin Spring (1960)

In 1972, Wes Craven made his directorial debut with the low budget horror film The Last House on the Left. The story of two parents seeking revenge on the murderers who raped and killed their daughter is actually a remake of Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 art-house film The Virgin Spring, which was based on a 13th-century Swedish ballad, "Töres döttrar i Wänge" ("Töre's Daughters in Vänge").

While Bergman’s original is about the morality of vengeance from a deeply Catholic point of view, Craven takes The Virgin Spring’s story and infuses it with gruesome blood and gore. Needless to say, The Last House on the Left was quite controversial when it was released in the early '70s. In fact, the horror film was banned in the United Kingdom for excessive scenes featuring sadism and violence. Craven’s debut was eventually released in the UK, after 31 seconds were cut from the film, in 2002.

9. Remake: The Bourne Identity (2002) / Original: The Bourne Identity (1988)

Although the spy novel The Bourne Identity spawned a widely popular trilogy starring Matt Damon—and a less-popular spin-off, The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner—not many people are aware of its TV movie counterpart. The Bourne Identity aired in two 2-hour installments over the course of two nights on ABC in 1988. The made-for-TV movie starred Richard Chamberlain as amnesia-stricken undercover superspy Jason Bourne, while Jaclyn Smith played his love interest, Marie St. Jacques. While the 2002 version directed by Doug Liman is action-packed, the television movie adaptation is more faithful to Robert Ludlum’s first installment of The Bourne Trilogy. Chamberlain would later earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for his performance in 1988.

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10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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15 Podcasts That Will Make You Feel Smarter
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iStock

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the podcast options out there, but narrowing down your choices to the titles that will teach you something while you listen is a good place to start. If you're interested in learning more about philosophy, science, linguistics, or history, here are podcasts to add to your queue.

1. THE HABITAT

The Habitat is the closest you can get to listening to a podcast recorded on Mars. At the start of the series, five strangers enter a dome in a remote part of Hawaii meant to simulate a future Mars habitat. Every part of their lives over the next year, from the food they eat to the spacesuits they wear when they step outside, is designed to mimic the conditions astronauts will face if they ever reach the red planet. The experiment was a way for NASA to test plans for a manned mission to Mars without leaving Earth. The podcast, which is produced by Gimlet media and hosted by science writer Lynn Levy, ends up unfolding like a season of the Real World with a science fiction twist.

2. STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW

Can’t pick a topic to educate yourself on? Stuff You Should Know from How Stuff Works is the podcast for you. In past episodes, hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark (both writers at How Stuff Works) have discussed narwhals, Frida Kahlo, LSD, Pompeii, hoarding, and Ponzi schemes. And with three episodes released a week, you won’t go long without learning about a new subject.

3. THE ALLUSIONIST

Language nerds will find a kindred spirit in Helen Zaltzman. In each episode of her Radiotopia podcast The Allusionist, the former student of Latin, French, and Old English guides listeners through the exciting world of linguistics. Past topics include swearing, small talk, and the differences between British and American English.

4. PHILOSOPHIZE THIS!

Listening to all of Philosophize This! is cheaper than taking a philosophy class—and likely more entertaining. In each episode, host Stephen West covers different thinkers and ideas from philosophy history in an approachable and informative way. The show proceeds in chronological order, starting with the pre-Socratic era and leading up most recently to Jacques Derrida.

5. MORE PERFECT

In 2016, Radiolab, one of the most popular and well-established educational podcasts out there, launched a show called More Perfect. Led by Radiolab host Jad Abumrad, each episode visits a different Supreme Court case or event that helped shape the highest court in the land. Because of that, the podcast ends up being about a lot more than just the Supreme Court, exploring topics like police brutality, gender equality, and free speech online.

6. SLOW BURN

The Watergate scandal was such a important chapter in American history that it has its own suffix—but when asked to summarize the events, many people may draw a blank. Slow Burn, a podcast from Slate, gives listeners a refresher. In eight episodes, host Leon Neyfakh tells the story of the Nixon’s demise as it unfolded, all while asking whether or not citizens would be able to recognize a Watergate-sized scandal if it happened today.

7. LETTERS FROM WAR

Instead of using a broad scope to examine World War II, the Washington Post podcast Letters From War focuses on hundreds of letters exchanged by four brothers fighting in the Pacific during the period. Living U.S. military veterans tell the sibling's story while reflecting on their own experiences with war.

8. LEVAR BURTON READS

Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the soothing sound of LeVar Burton’s voice reading to you. The former host of Reading Rainbow now hosts LeVar Burton Reads, a podcast from Stitcher aimed at adults. In each episode, he picks a different piece of short fiction to narrate: Just settle into a comfortable spot and listen to him tell stories by authors like Haruki Murakami, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

9. BRAINS ON!

Brains On! is an educational podcast for young audiences, but adults have something to gain from listening as well. Every week, host Molly Bloom is joined by a new kid co-host who helps her explore a different topic. Tune in for answers to questions like "What makes paint stick?" and "How do animals breathe underwater?"

10. SCIENCE VS

There’s a lot of misinformation out there—if you’re determined to sort out fact from fiction, it can be hard to know where to start. The team of “friendly fact checkers” at the Science Vs podcast from Gimlet is here to help. GMOs, meditation, birth control, Bigfoot—these are just a few of the topics that are touched upon in the weekly show. The goal of each episode is to replace any preconceived notions you have with hard science.

11. FLASH FORWARD

No one knows for sure what the future holds, but Flash Forward lays out the more interesting possibilities. Some of the potential futures that host and producer Rose Eveleth explores are more probable than others (a future where no one knows which news sources to trust isn’t hard to imagine; one where space pirates drag a second moon into orbit perhaps is), but each one is built on real science.

12. HIDDEN BRAIN

What motivates the everyday choices we make? That’s the question Shankar Vedantam tries to answer on the NPR podcast Hidden Brain. The show looks at how various unconscious patterns shape our lives, like what we wear and who we choose to spend time with.

13. PART-TIME GENIUS

The fact that it’s hosted by Mental Floss founders Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur isn’t the only reason we love Part-Time Genius. The podcast from How Stuff Works wades into topics you didn’t know you were curious about, like the origins of Nickelodeon and the hidden secrets at the Vatican. Each episode will leave you feeling educated and entertained at the same time.

14. ASTRONOMY CAST

It’s a big universe out there—if you want to learn as much about it as possible, start with Astronomy Cast. Fraser Cain, publisher of the popular site Universe Today, and Dr. Pamela L. Gay, director of the virtual research facility CosmoQuest, host the podcast. They cover a wide range of topics, from the animals we’ve sent to orbit to the color of the universe.

15. SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS

The Science of Happiness podcast from PRI is here to improve your life, one 20-minute episode at a time. Science has proven that adopting certain practices, like mindfulness and gratitude, can make us happier—as does letting go of less unhealthy patterns like grudges and stressful thinking. With award-winning professor Dacher Keltner as your host, you can learn how to incorporate these science-backed strategies for happiness into your own life.

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