James Ellroy is Writing a ‘Laura’ Remake, Which Would Be Terrific if It Wasn’t a Herald of the Apocalypse
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Here’s a remake idea that won’t have you doing a spit-take and attempting to burn Hollywood down to its sinful ashes: Otto Preminger’s Laura.
Yes, the film is an unabashed classic, one of those films noir that’s been vaulted up to mythical, God-like status amongst those who still watch movies from before 1970. The 1944 film follows a detective, Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), investigating the murder of the rich, gorgeous and all-around enchanting Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), who was blown away by an unfortunate shotgun blast to the face. Our dashing detective sinks himself into the case, but as he does he starts to fall madly in love with the deceased dame. Which would be fine (who among us hasn’t developed a little crush on a murder victim now and then?), except the case starts to turn in a seriously weird direction, leaving McPherson the only one to sort out its loop-de-looping plot twists and save the day.
Laura stands perfectly fine on its own, and the world would also be just fine if everyone left the film alone on its pedestal of greatness and didn’t try to match it (unlike that Kickboxer remake, a necessary sacrifice to the elder gods, lest they rain hellfire upon us). But in this case, we’ll allow it. Here’s why: The Hollywood Reporter has James Ellroy re-adapting the story for the screen. Ellroy is one of the biggest crime fiction writers alive, with a self-described style that’s “declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards.” He wrote “The Black Dahlia.” He wrote “L.A. Confidential.” And even if the former kind of sucked in film form, that doesn’t make his writing any less special (or that you shouldn’t keep a close eye on your nards while reading it).
Ellroy hasn’t done much in the way of screenplays – just two, Street Kings and Rampart, neither of which is that noteworthy – but given the source material that is Laura (and also the original “Laura” novel by Vera Caspary), he should be able to hand us a script with genuine merit. Will it live up to the original Laura? Smart money’s on “no.” But it’ll probably be way better than the next Kickboxer.
There is, however, a horrid catch-22 embedded in this Laura remake. If the movie is a festering ball of suck, it’ll bring shame upon an undeniable classic. If it’s a festering ball of greatness (maybe even a non-festering one), it’ll prove that studios can remake the classics and have it turn out okay. And that would give Hollywood carte blanche to tear into every noir gem that’s managed to survive this long under the guise of “it’s too much of a classic to remake.” I have no earthly desire to hear Mark Wahlberg blurt out “the stuff dreams are made of,” nor do I want the car wreck at the end of Out of the Past redone with that Zack Snyder fast-then-slow-motion gimmick.
We have no winning options with Laura. It’s best to prepare your nards for a serious beating either way.