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10 Cult Films Ripe for TV Adaptation

Updated on May 15, 2014
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Film to TV adaptations are tricky. For every M*A*S*H there is a Ferris Bueller lurking in the annals of TV history. Yet with Television undergoing somewhat of a creative renaissance, the frequency and quality of TV film adaptations is on the rise.

The latest cinematic migrants to land on the small screen; Fargo and From Dusk Till Dawn, have sought to use the existing material as both inspiration, and as a jump off point for telling more expansive stories. Each manages to remain distinct from the original, whilst capturing the heart and spirit, via high production values and inspirational casting choices.

Listed here are 10 other cult film properties, which could make for intriguing Television shows.

Also included with each entry is a recasting suggestion involving a key background character. This reflects how the casting of Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Patrick in Fargo and From Dusk Till Dawn respectively, help capture the tone and quality, yet distinguish the material from the preceding films. This is also to presume that each series would follow the format of having a principal cast that would consist of unknowns, backed by strong, recognisable, respected character actors.

The Tarantino-verse

Reviving one of the great abandoned and mythologised Tarantino projects; The Vega Brothers, (conceived as a spin off from Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction), could continue the idea of expanding the film narrative. Characters from Tarantino's interconnected universe could make appearances, and if the casting maintained the standard of the Patrick/Keitel recast, it could be interesting to see Vincent and Vic at the centre of a world where Mr Pink loses money on Butch's fight, or Alabama learns from her mentor Mr White/Larry Dimmick.

Recast: John Leguizamo as Mr White/Larry Dimmick (Originally played by Harvey Keitel)

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Leguizamo would make a perfect fit for the Tarantino universe, its almost surprising he is yet to appear in one of his films. He would bring just the right amount of danger and likeability to Mr White, in a way which wouldn't make you instantly think of Keitel, but would inspire a similar identification with the character.

The Lost Boys

Do we really need a post-Twilight version of The Lost Boys? Perhaps not, but after two lacklustre sequels, television may offer the best option for capturing the spirit of the original and offering some redemption to the ailing franchise. If it were to follow the structure of the film in the same format as the From Dusk til Dawn series, then another brothers-based narrative involving vampires emerges. However a Lost Boys TV series could distinguish itself from From Dusk til Dawn, and other TV vamps, by playing on the subculture aspects of the story, presenting a band of brothers story more akin to Sons of Anarchy.

Recast:Christopher Lloyd as Grandpa (Originally played by Barnard Hughes)

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If you need somebody to provide comic relief, yet also hint at being a slightly crazed, potential badass, then Lloyd is your man! The confused stoner qualities he brought to Jim from Taxi would also sit well with the character of Grandpa, without making you pine for Barnard Hughes.

Grosse Pointe Blank

The existential angst of professional hit-man Martin Blank could offer a rich source of inspiration for a TV adaptation. Blank's world could be expanded upon by contrasting his assignments, and the politics of his industry, with his personal relationships and the mundane day-to-day aspects of his life. Blank's ideological opposition to the character of Grocer, could be one of the central conflicts that drives the narrative forward.

Recast: Christopher McDonald as Grocer (Originally played by Dan Aykroyd)

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The inspiration for this casting decision owes more to McDonald's voice-only performance of FBI Agent Kent Mansley, in The Iron Giant, more than his signature role of Shooter McGavin (Happy Gilmore), though both could inform a fresh take on the unionised hit-man, so memorably portrayed by Aykroyd.

The Frighteners

Peter Jackson's supernatural serial-killer comedy, could explore all manner of creepy and fantastical story-lines, through the character of 'ghost whispering' paranormal investigator Frank Bannister. Other crimes of the 20th century could act as the basis for new story-lines, in the same way the Charles Starkweather case inspired the Charles Bartlett plot.

Recast: Jeffrey Combs as Milton Dammers (Originally played by Jeffrey Combs)

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The Frighteners is the one film on the list where the recast actually involves recasting the same actor. The same argument could be made elsewhere, but truly, only Jeffrey Combs could portray disturbed FBI agent Milton Dammers.

Ghostbusters

Whist speculation on a third entry in the series remains rife, Ghostbusters could find a more suitable home by making a return to the small screen (after fondly remembered Animated series The Real Ghostbusters). With the possibility of Ghostbusters 3 looming, a series could still be executed in a way which doesn't conflict with the proposed sequel. Perhaps naming the series Ghostbusters Inc. and following a different franchise, say in Los Angeles, would keep the series fresh, but allow expansion of the underdeveloped Ghostbusters universe.

Recast: Ed Helms as a Spengler-like Ghostbuster (Originally played by Harold Ramis)

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Given the apathy towards the 'young Ghostbusters' idea touted for the sequel (with names like Seth Rogen bandied around) this casting is perhaps the most divisive. However the idea of Helms portraying a character with elements of Spengler and Stantz, reminiscent of the originals, would be in-keeping with the franchise, but with a freshness of its own.

The Omen

Another property which has proven longevity, albeit in a list of rapidly diminishing sequels and remakes. The true spirit of the original (and it's entertaining sequel Damien: Omen II) could be recreated, by focussing on the political aspects of the story, and take inspiration from Game of Thrones' unscrupulous culling of characters. Young Damien could be shown gradually wiping everybody out, from his Nanny to his own parents, to humanity itself (almost!). One of the 2006 remake's few plus points was it's casting, which is a testimony to the strength of the characters as portrayed in the original.

Recast: Brian Cox as Carl Bugenhagen (Originally played by Leo McKern)

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This one is a no brainer, though Michael Gambon made a fitting choice for Bugenhagen in the 2006 remake, Cox would crush the role of the archaeologist/exorcist, who holds the key to Damien's destruction.

They Live

It would be fascinating prospect to see a They Live series done to the exacting standards of modern day television. By incorporating the ideas of modern conspiracy theorists, and writers who have explored similar themes (most prominently David Icke), the conspiratorial themes of the original could be given new life in a post-911 context.

Recast: Thandie Newton as Holly Thompson (Originally played by Meg Foster)

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Thandie Newton could bring a real gravitas to the duplicitous role of reporter Holy Thompson, it is easy to imagine her producing something akin to Claire Danes' role in Homeland, with a nice play on the "whose side is she on?" trope.

Videodrome

Whilst a film remake remains in development, there is a beautiful symmetry to the idea of David Cronenberg's classic finding a new home on the medium so central to it's original narrative. Using television to comment upon online media, in the way cinema addressed television in the original, adds to the poignancy and intriguing possibilities such a series could explore.

Recast: Chloe Sevigny as Nicki Brand (Originally played by Deborah Harry)

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This casting choice is more to do with the New York, style-icon, kinship of the performers, than the character itself. Sevigny would be perfect for this role, bringing a Blondie-like cool, and femme fatale quality to the proceedings, in homage to her predecessor.

Dark City

The theme of a city where it is perpetually night, and nothing is as it seems, could make for a great noir/sci-fi, detective series, with an off-kilter David Lynch feel. The world of Dark City is so rich with detail and atmosphere, that it welcomes expansion. The mystery aspect translates well to television, and the Strangers would make for an excellent antagonistic force. In a similar way to Fargo, a Dark City TV show could tell a story genetically derived from the original, but with its own distinct feel.

Recast: August Diehl as Dr Daniel P. Schreber (Originally played by Kiefer Sutherland)

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Diehl is one of those unusual actors who can portray a keen intelligence and animalistic danger in the same heartbeat. You don't know whether he's going to kill you, or play chess with you? It is these qualities which makes him a perfect fit for the role of Schreber.

Point Break

Another property soon to be remade, but perhaps Johnny Utah's infiltration of a gang of bank robbing surfers could have more scope on the small screen? The action scenes belong to cinema in many ways, but the undercover-cop narrative finds a suitable home on television, perhaps even as a mini-series event in the same vein as NBC's recent adaptation of Rosemary's Baby.

Recast: Daniel Baldwin as Pappas (Originally played by Gary Busey)

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Maybe its the fact they're both mavericks and members of an acting dynasty? Maybe it's their shared ability to portray grizzled cops, one shift away from retirement. Whatever it is, Daniel Baldwin would make the role of Pappas his own, in reverence to Gary Busey's own idiosyncratic portrayal of the character.

Which of these cult properties would you most like to see made reimagined on television?

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Conclusion

Whilst each of the listed titles demonstrate how well certain films could be re-imagined, the list only serves to illustrate the potential for cult cinema as the basis for some interesting television. Fargo and From Dusk Till Dawn are proof we can step back into long forgotten worlds, but to the delight of those familiar with the source material, in a way that furthers the property, rather than slavishly repeating it. If Fargo and From Dusk Till Dawn prove successful then there is strong likelihood we will see a mining, and resurrection, of cult gems we never thought we'd see again.

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