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Posted August 02, 2011 to photo album "Déjà vu"
In adapting the Israeli thriller <em>Ha-Hov</em> into <em>The Debt</em>, John Madden enters the cinematic tradition of remaking foreign language films for English-speaking audiences. We look at some of the best foreign language adaptations, from transforming Kurosawa into a American western to popularizing Japanese horror.
Viktor und Viktoria (1933) to Victor Victoria (1982)
In 1982, Blake Edwards scored a major hit with Victor Victoria, a 1930s-set musical about a down-on-her-luck singer, Victoria Grant (played by Edwards' wife and muse, Julie Andrews), whose dire financial straits push her to pose as a man pretending to be a woman. Her cabaret act, in which her new persona, "Count Victor Grazinski," sings and acts very convincingly like a lady, becomes an overnight success, but Victoria's newfound popularity also brings with it certain problems, the most immediate being the interest of Chicago gangster King Marchand (James Garner), a straight man who is inexplicably drawn to Count Victor – despite his sexual orientation. Edwards' film is a remake of Viktor und Viktoria, a delightful 1933 German musical comedy written and directed by Reinhold Schünzel, which had previously been remade in 1935 in the UK as First a Girl, and then again in 1957 under its original title in West Germany. The Weimar era was a time when the blurring of sexual boundaries and shifting gender roles were being explored in German cinema, however the constraints of censorship meant that filmmakers were restricted in what they could depict. Writing in Senses of Cinema on both the original movie and Edwards' reworking, Rick Thompson says, “One can see why Edwards remade this film. Schünzel’s film is available for psychoanalytical/gender/sexuality/queer readings, but in its gracefully prim (things we don’t talk about) way, extends no invitations. Edwards, of course, being Edwards, goes for the throat, 1982 offering more latitude than 1933 – Edwards wanting to make a much more confronting film than Schünzel. It is surprising how much of Viktor und Viktoria Edwards kept/took for his remake.” Edwards, however, concedes that he “chickened out” with one particular aspect of the movie. In a pivotal scene, Garner's King Marchand famously tells Victor/Victoria, “I don't care if you are a man,” as he kisses him/her. However, it's not as if he is really in doubt of her gender, as in a previous scene we have seen him spying on her naked.