For, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015

The bargain DVD label Mill Creek has come up with something novel, a series of reissued double-feature DVDs labeled “Remake Rewind”: Each set has an original film and its years-later remake. And you can buy them starting at $7 each on Amazon.

The first four sets in release are each from a different genre: The murder-mystery “D.O.A.” (the 1950 original and the 1988 remake), the horror thriller “When a Stranger Calls” (1979/2006), the World War II romance “The End of the Affair” (1955/1999) and the gangster chase picture “Gloria” (1980/).

The first “D.O.A.” is an excellent black-and-white tale of a womanizing businessman (Edmund O’Brien) who is poisoned during an out-of-town trip but doesn’t know why or by whom, so he spends the rest of the picture unraveling the mystery in flashback. The remake is also pretty good, with Dennis Quaid as a college professor and Meg Ryan (his wife at the time) as a student helping him solve the mystery of Quaid’s poisoning. This is the best of these sets and well worth the price.

“When a Stranger Calls” was initially adapted from a short film, and the first 20 minutes or so is essentially a remake of that short as a baby-sitter (Carol Kane) is terrorized by phone calls and discovers they are coming from inside the house. Then the film jumps ahead seven years and generally falls apart — yet, for some reason, remains popular. The remake casts Camilla Belle in the role, updates things and advances the story overnight without jumping years ahead. (Fans of the Marvel movies may enjoy seeing Clark Gregg as her father; he’s better known these days as Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

“The End of the Affair” is an OK romantic melodrama with Van Johnson having an affair in wartime London with the wife (Deborah Kerr) of a neighbor (Peter Cushing), which leads to her suffering from guilt, especially after she makes a promise to God. The remake, set after the war, is, like the first film, awfully schmaltzy, with Ralph Fiennes romancing Julianne Moore. The plotting is basically the same, including discussions centering around God and a tragic ending, but it also contains a surprising amount of R-rated sex and nudity.

And “Gloria” is a John Cassavetes film, perhaps his most accessible directing effort, with his wife Gena Rowlands as a gangster’s moll on the run with a child that’s been targeted by gangsters for information he may or may not have. Rowlands is great and makes the movie. The remake, by director Sidney Lumet, stars Sharon Stone in the same role and it’s basically the same story. Rowlands earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for the earlier film. Stone earned a Razzie nomination as Worst Actress for the remake.

One of the more interesting aspects of these movies is that the original “D.O.A.,” since it was made well before ratings were created, is unrated and contains no offensive material. Similarly, the original “The End of the Affair” is an early, unrated movie. And the first “Gloria” is rated PG.

But the remakes of all three movies are rated R, adding content that was clearly unnecessary in telling the stories.

Ironically, the only original of these to be rated R is “When a Stranger Calls” — and its remake is rated PG-13!

Go figure.