The son of a wealthy businessman is kidnapped. An ominous phone call demands a ransom of money if the parents want to see their son again. It seems like the father has no choice to comply, However, he makes a radical decision. The father dramatically goes on television and declares he will not only refuse to pay the ransom, but make it a reward for the kidnappers capture!
A whirlwind drama follows as everyone reacts to this seemingly reckless decision. The police, the press, the public and his worried wife plead with her husband to pay the kidnappers. Did the father just guarantee the death of his son or will this gamble pay off.
Originally a televised stage play, Ransom! was adapted into a feature film in 1956. Starring Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, Leslie Nielsen and Robert Keith. A suspenseful, emotional yarn plays out as surrounding characters all have their own personal feelings about what the father has done and everyone awaits the final outcome.
Thirty years later in 1996 Ransom got a polished remake from director Ron Howard. The same general story is presented starring Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo and Gary Sinese. This time however the focus shifts to a game of chicken with the father of the kidnapped boy Gibson and lead kidnapper Sinese.
Upon its release it seemed most of the general audience was unaware that Howard’s film was in fact a remake. Even today most don’t know it. Unfortunately, the original film doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. When I would tell someone of its existence and explain that Ransom ’96 is in fact a remake of an earlier film, I’ve become accustomed to the reaction that most folks are surprised and they never had any idea, nor ever heard of the ’56 film.
I take a look at both the 1956 and 1996 films.
The biggest thing that hit me was that this movie was in fact A REMAKE!
I remember when I first saw the commercial for Mel Gibbon’s Ransom on television. My friends and I were working on a computer while the TV was on in the background. There was no trailer, it was just Mel giving a monolog about how he will not pay the ransom and put it on the kidnapper’s head.
And we thought that was pretty cool.
I went and saw the movie. But if I could sum up the experience, it would be “One and Done.” Once the story played itself out, I had no motivation to see it again. Not on TV. Not on VHS, Blu-ray, or Streaming.
I’m surprised the angle of this being a remake wasn’t played up more by the usual movie shows at the time. They usually never fail to do so.
But the 50’s version of the film, does look interesting. Even if its mostly shot on one set (more or less). I’m going to have to give it a look.
What I wouldn’t give to have some of those Golden age of Hollywood screenwriters working today.
Back in late 1996, I was a senior in high school when Ron Howard’s Ransom was released. My parents and I were huge fans of the director’s work and would watch anything with Gibson and, yet, there was a genuine collective disappointment when the credits rolled. After comparing notes with some friends we went to see the movie with, we were all in agreement that after the first attempt to pay the ransom goes awry, the movie loses all of its grip and credibility. The first half was quite strong and suspenseful, but the payoff (no pun intended) was just lousy and needlessly violent, all comparisons to the 1956 original aside.
Plus, my father and I had already seen the original on TCM several years before the remake so we were a little surprised that Howard, of all people, was taking a crack at it. I was writing movie reviews for my high school newspaper and practically everyone who read my piece was shocked that the film was a remake…even a few teachers were surprised by this revelation. In fact, I recall few critics at the time pointing out this fact as they seem to be as unaware as the audience; to be fair, it had been four decades since the original. I don’t believe they even acknowledged the original in the opening or end credits which seems kind of wrong, but this is Hollywood after all. The studio no doubt didn’t care.
Even though I haven’t seen the film since its release, I highly doubt my feelings would change with a re-watch; besides, the original is a still lot more satisfying in its story and compelling in its performances. After watching your Recon, I’m inclined to believe that I would cringe at Sinise’s supposedly fool-proof plan; watching those scenes with him again made him look like a real idiot, particularly with his ragtag posse of kidnappers who all seemed to be just clueless stereotypes. On top of all that, I’ve never liked Rene Russo..never; would take Ford/Reed over Gibson/Russo any day of the week (in fact, I thought she was the weakest part of those Lethal Weapon sequels).
Terrific review, very well presented!