Destry Not Again
The only law I believe in is the law of self-preservation - Phil Decker
When you think of remakes you often think of a director trying to deliver his vision of another director's movie, you don't necessarily think of the same director remaking their own movies. But that is what director George Marshall has done with "Destry" remade his own movie that of "Destry Rides Again" from 1939. Now you would think that with time a director remaking his own work would be able to improve on what he has done before but sadly "Destry" is a case of being slightly worse. The main problem is that for the most the stars of "Destry" just don't have the same power as those in "Destry Rides Again". And with many scenes being carbon copies "Destry" often feels like a poor imitation.
In the old west a small town's sheriff is murdered, shot in the back by the devious Phil Decker (Lyle Bettger - Drums Across the River) as he cheats his way into controlling more and more of the town, aided by the town's mayor Hiram J. Sellers (Edgar Buchanan). In need of a new sheriff they give the job to Reginald T. 'Rags' Barnaby (Thomas Mitchell - It's a Wonderful Life), the town drunk, believing that he won't be up to the job but Barnaby brings in Tom Destry (Audie Murphy - Gunsmoke), the son of a legendary lawman to be his deputy. Despite being a peaceful man who doesn't like guns Destry soon starts to make his presence felt causing things to come to a head when he discovers that Decker was behind the murder of the previous sheriff.
As with "Destry Rides Again" what is nice about the storyline is that it centres on a few locations and it still works making the movie about the storyline rather than the big open spaces. It also means that it is still the battle of good verses evil with the good being a really nice guy who would rather do things by the book than by the gun. All of which means that "Destry" is almost identical to "Destry Rides Again" when it comes to the storyline and there are countless scenes which are identical right down to the dialogue. That is unfortunately a problem as watching a like for like remake is not very enjoyable especially when the original had better performances.
Although having said that director George Marshall does tweak a few things this time around as he tries to improve on what he did before. The most notable tweak and most definitely an improvement is the big climax as Destry's patience is pushed to the limit. It delivers a greater amount of tension than in the original and although still features some over the top performances is a pleasure to watch. There are other tweaks, a few of the lesser characters have changed and the judge instead of playing chess paints but for the most these other minor tweaks doesn't have any great effect on the movie.
Now I readily admit that I am a fan of James Stewart and so anyone who tries to recreate a character he's already played is going to struggle but I enjoyed Audie Murphy's take on Tom Destry. Murphy manages to deliver the law abiding nice guy side of things perfectly and whilst it sometimes feels forced when we watch Destry saying "I read this book once" the actual action sequences are a huge improvement. At the same time I enjoyed Thomas Mitchell's take on town drunk and deputy sheriff Reginald T. 'Rags' Barnaby but then Mitchell was always great at delivering amusing characters.
But sadly that is where my enjoyment of the performances stops as the rest of the cast struggle to make their characters more than 2 dimensional. Whilst for me Mari Blanchard was a better singer than Marlene Dietrich she didn't manage to bring her character of Brandy, originally Frenchy in "Destry Rides Again", to life. And that is the same issue I have with all the performances, Lyle Bettger, Edgar Buchanan, Lori Nelson and Wallace Ford all failed to make their characters more than 2 dimensional cliches.
What this all boils down to is that "Destry" whilst still an entertaining movie ends up being an inferior remake. There are some good things about it such as the much improved ending and the performances of Audie Murphy and Thomas Mitchell both work very well. But other than that the fact that many scenes right down to the dialogue are identical and the characters seem 2 dimensional means that it feels weak.
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