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Universal Studios

9 Movies You Might Not Realize Were Remakes

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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)

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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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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.