Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes and "Eight Below"

Michael McCaskey mccaskem at georgetown.edu
Thu Jul 6 16:09:00 EDT 2006

Dear Matthew,

Thank you very much for the information, which I will follow up on, and which I very much appreciate.

What I'm still after right now is how and when Japanese/American remakes got started, in order to provide a brief intro giving historical perspective.

The main things I'm focusing on are: 1) the remake situation now--and, secondarily, 2) the previous five decades of US remakes of Japanese films, mostly focusing on samurai action films, turned into Westerns, mainly in the 1950s and 1960s. Kurosawa's films Seven Samurai and Yojimbo are the main examples, but there are others as well. I may also 3) touch on recent US attempts to make "Japanese-seeming" films like Last Samurai, and Memoirs of a Geisha, dispensing with the need for a Japanese original.

Re 2), I found a particularly useful essay by Prof. Iwamoto Kenji, who specializes in film history at Waseda. In a book Iwamoto edited, he touches on this subject, and gives a pretty good brief account of how samurai films became popular in the US, how US film makers adapted the material, and how that in turn may have affected Japanese film making. He goes on to talk about how the samurai film image in Japan has changed more recently, as shown in films by Yamada Yoji, Takita Yojiro, and Kore-eda.

Samurai Imeeji no Hensen
Evolution of the Samurai Image
(時代劇伝説、岩本憲児、東京:森話社 2005、268~289)

But so far I haven't tracked down much parallel information on other film genres for the same period, nor what history there may be of any Japanese remakes of US/European films or vice versa back before WWII. I have searched electronically in Japanese, but mostly what I have found is about the here and now, Ju-On 2, etc. I still have lots of books to go through for background, but maybe someone out there specializes in this area, and/or can give me some helpful tips, as you have.

Many Thanks,
Michael McCaskey

The US DVD of perhaps the latest completed US remake, Eight Below, came out June 20--
and it seems to be exactly what Aaron predicted it would be:
"Stranded in Antarctica during the most unforgiving winter on the plant, Jerry's beloved sled dogs must learn to survive together until Jerry--who will stop at nothing--rescues them. Driven by unwavering bonds of friendship, enormous belief in one another and tremendous courage, Jerry and the dogs make an incredible journey to reunite in this triumphant and inspiring action-adventure the whole family will treasure." 
The original film, Nankyoku Monogatari, has also been reissued in DVD form in Japan, where the US version is also available. The American version package says it was "suggested by" the Japanese film--it's the first time I've seen that phraseology, but it probably won't be the last.

----- Original Message -----
From: Matthew Bernstein <mbernst at emory.edu>
Date: Thursday, July 6, 2006 2:11 pm
Subject: Re: Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes

> Michael,
> depending on what you're looking for, you might want to look at my 
> piece on 
> the adaptation of Ed McBain's KING'S RANSOM into HIGH AND LOW (as 
> well as 
> the account of it in Stuart Galbraith's THE EMPEROR AND THE WOLF). 
> My piece 
> is in James Naremore's FILM ADAPTATION.
> Matthew
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Michael McCaskey" <mccaskem at georgetown.edu>
> To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2006 1:14 PM
> Subject: Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes
> > I'm still pursuing a study of recent Japanese/American remakes, 
> and I am 
> > very grateful for a great deal of helpful information a while 
> back from 
> > many people on this list about recently completed and planned 
> American 
> > remakes of Japanese films.
> >
> > As historical background, though, I'm also looking for some 
> information 
> > about earlier Japanese remakes of US or European films, or vice 
> versa.>
> > I know that Kurosawa's Subarashiki Nichiyobi was, according to 
> Kurosawa 
> > himself, a remake of a now pretty much forgotten American D.W. 
> Griffith 
> > film about difficulties for a couple in post-World War I 
> Germany. I think 
> > that Kurosawa's Lower Depths was a remake of an earlier French 
> version, 
> > Renoir's les Bas-Fonds 1936, and that maybe Kurosawa's Idiot was 
> based on 
> > Georges Lampin's earlier 1946 French version. High and Low was 
> inspired by 
> > an American story by Ed McBain. I would greatly welcome any 
> corrections or 
> > additions re Kurosawa remakes.
> >
> > I also am trying to find some information, as historical 
> background, on 
> > any significant pre-1940 Japanese remakes of any US or European 
> films. 
> > There must have been some, I would think.
> >
> > US and European films "set in Japan" before WWII were mostly 
> about the 
> > doings of Americans or Europeans who happened to be in Japan, 
> and I don't 
> > think more than one (Fanck's 1937 Atarashiki tsuchi/Tochter des 
> Samurai) 
> > was actually filmed in Japan. I think the same was largely true 
> of US 
> > pictures set in Japan after WWII, though Japanese locations were 
> used, and 
> > some Japanese actors appeared. I don't know if there were any 
> pre-1950s US 
> > or European actual remakes of any Japanese films.
> >
> > Many Thanks for Any Help,
> >
> > Michael McCaskey
> >
> >
> > 

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