June 22, 2013 / by tom
Movie #2 – Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
Year – 1985
Every studio dreams of creating the “American James Bond” – a suave, cool, action-hero that can be passed on from actor-to-actor and generation-to-generation. In 1985, MGM thought they had just the thing – Remo Williams. Remo Williams was based on The Destroyer, which was a popular paperback collection and one of the oldest “men’s adventure series.” It dates all the way back to 1971 and is amazingly still being published today. Quite a feat even if it is exclusively an e-book series.
The backstory is that Remo Williams is a tough New York City cop (is there any other kind?) who is accidentally killed. However, his death has in fact been faked, and he is made a member of CURE (which undoubtedly stands for something awesome). CURE is a shadowy organization that preserves the Constitution by working “outside” of it. Which is kind of like losing weight by going to Dairy Queen but, um, sure…ok, I’ll roll with it. He also had an Asian trainer named Chiun who’d be considered a rip-off of Yoda did he not pre-date him (in the books anyway). Remo was played by Fred Ward who is probably best known for playing Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff. Which is to say, he’s probably not well known at all.
So how certain was the studio that they had a big hit on their hands? Well, besides the fact that they subtitled the movie “The Adventure Begins”, they hired Guy Hamilton to direct. Hamilton had helmed multiple Bond films including Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. Unfortunately, the film couldn’t even muster up $15 million at the box office.
So what went wrong? Honestly, it’s tough to say. Sure, it would be easy to point to casting a decidedly non-Asian actor (Joel Grey) in the role of Chiun. However, people weren’t as concerned about that stuff back then. Rightly or wrongly, it had little to no impact on the film’s box office take. Also, the make-up was surprisingly convincing; garnering the make-up artist an Oscar nomination. The film was actually enjoyable in a “mid-‘80s” kinda way and it has managed to develop a bit of a following over the years. Ultimately though, it was never able to click with audiences. There was an attempt to revive it as television show. A television series probably makes more sense than a movie – given the fact there were over 120 novels – but it never made it past the pilot stage.