12 More 'Twin' Films From The 80s & 90s - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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12 More 'Twin' Films From The 80s & 90s

Deja vu, part two..

Recently we looked back at 12 'Twin' Films from the 1980s and 90s, but being that the coincidental practice occurred more often than you may think we're taking another dip into the archive with 12 more.

If you're wondering what a 'Twin' films are, they are movies with either the same or a very similar plot, both produced and/or released at around the same time by two different film studios. There are variety of reasons as to why these films get made; sometimes twin movies deal with topical issues or significant anniversaries, resulting in multiple productions occurring concurrently. Other times they are just put down to two or more production companies investing in similar scripts around the same time, resulting in a race to distribute the films to audiences. Occasionally, though, twin movies are said to be the cause of industrial espionage, sometimes in the case of executives moving from one studio to another and knowing what their previous employer was working on.

Whatever the reason here are 6 more pairs of twin films from the 1980s & 90s you no doubt remember from some very different genres of cinema. But to up the stakes this time we're adding a 'triplet'. Oh yes! Although these examples below are all primarily known as twin films in all cases there was another. Often a much lessor known triplet but a triplet all the same. But did you watch all three?

1. Big & Vice Versa
No stranger to twin films, Tom Hanks starred in the opening movie of our first twin films collection 1989's Turner & Hooch (with its twin K-9). The previous year he also got in on the twin action with Big, arriving in cinemas three months after Vice Versa. Although the two films weren't exactly identical - Big featuring a boy who transforms into a man, Vice Versa seeing a boy switch bodies with his father -  the two were greenlit at the same time by Hollywood executives feeling a famous actor playing a child-in-the-body-of-a-man would be the in-thing for the Summer of 1988, and it's this scenario that saw the two films pitted against each other in much of the marketing; the child like wonder and enthusiasm, the dancing on the workdesk/keyboard in a department store, the awkward female encounter, and the realisation that they were actually better off in the first place saw these two films twinned in many of the story beats.

The concept behind these films wasn't exactly new and many of you may instantly go to Freaky Friday for the inception of the adult/child switcheroo scenario, but it can be traced back long before that. In the case of the Judge Reinhold starring Vice Versa it was actually the fourth big screen adaptation of F. Anstey's 1882 novel of the same name, following the British films released in 1916, 1937 and 1948, and there was also a 1981 UK television series starring Peter Bowles and Iain Cuthbertson. Back in 1988, reviews were quite mixed for the latest version of Vice Versa, and it struggled at the box office, eventually doing better business on home video in the wake of Big. However, I think time's been quite kind to this twin film. The cast are all pretty good, and whilst Big is clearly the better film of the two I still think it's overly poorly maligned.

Big was indeed BIG. Propelling Hanks already rising star with a $151 million take on an $18 million budget. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Screenplay. It is clearly a great film and one of the best 80s movies for a rainy Sunday afternoon with the family.

However, both Big and Vice Versa were beaten out of the gate, in release date alone, by 1987's Like Father Like Son...

The Dudley Moore comedy vehicle, and I use the word comedy in the loosest possible sense here as Like Father Like Son is dreadful with almost no redeeming qualities and even fewer laughs. It exists solely as a payday for Moore, who saw a rather sad end to his earlier Hollywood movie career, but if it's notable for anything then it is the film that kick-started the late 80s body-swap craze and quite possibly the reason both Big and Vice Versa were greenlit. As the triplet of the bunch, Like Father Like Son was even included on a double feature DVD release with Vice Versa some years later - clearly the distributors of the release were trying to put people off purchasing it!

2. Gremlins & Ghoulies
A critical and commercial success (although often criticized for its violence) 1984's Gremlins can trace its origins back to Steven Spielberg's abandoned Close Encounters Of The Third Kind sequel, combined with a story developed by Chris Columbus.

When the Joe Dante directed film was in production, distributors Warner Bros. discovered a similar themed lower budget movie was being produced on a neighbouring Los Angeles studio set. The film in question was Ghoulies and both were aiming for Summer 1984 release dates. Warner Bros. briefly sued the filmmakers of Ghoulies. Not, at that time, because of similarity of plot (as they were unaware of the actual storyline) but rather from using the name "Ghoulies" as it was too similar to "Gremlins". Warner Bros. lost and it looked like the two films would be heading for a showdown. However, halfway through shooting, Ghoulies producer Charles Band ran out of money and the filmmakers then scrambled for months to find additional funds to complete the shoot. This allowed Gremlins to be released first, with Ghoulies arriving six months later in January 1985.

Released first or not, Gremlins is clearly the film that stands the test of time and the most loved of the pair. For most Ghoulies will always be remembered, and indeed reviewed at the time as, "a cut-rate 'Gremlins'" with more gore than story. However, the success and notoriety of these two twin films saw several other Gremlins-like movies arrive over the next couple of years, primarily Critters, Troll, Hobgoblins and Munchies.

Critters especially could be referred to as a 'triplet' with Gremlins and Ghoulies, as the script was written before Gremlins went into production and green-lit after the success of the other two films. Determined to avoid comparisons, director Stephen Herek oversaw rewrites to reduce the apparent similarities between Critters and the other two films. I'm not sure he was successful.

3. Weird Science & Real Genius
These twin films not only feature teens dabbling in mad science experiments and ending up in over their heads but they also both arrived in U.S theatres days apart in the same week of August 1985. John Hughes' Weird Science would be the box office winner, taking almost $39 million on an $8 million budget. The similarly budgeted Val Kilmer starring Real Genius stopped at $13 million, despite receiving many more favourable reviews at the time.

I'd wager that Weird Science is the film the majority of you remember favourably - we certainly do - and it became a fim favourite when it arrived on home video, cementing its legacy. It's popularity even led to a TV series based on the film, running for 88 episodes from 1994 to 1998. Not to be outdone, it's twin Real Genius was continually shopped around at this time during pilot seasons, yet no one took the bite until 2015 when Adam Sandler's production company Happy Madison announced they were developing a sit-com based on the film.

If audiences that first weekend of August 1985 were confused as to which of the mad teen scientist films to purchase tickets for, Weird Science or Real Genius, their dilemma was made even harder as there was a third...

Clearly Hollywood dug teen science nerds in 1985 as My Science Project was in production at the exact same time as Weird Science and Real Genius, and was released into U.S. cinemas two days after the latter. Once again, featuring teens in over the heads after a science experiment goes awry, to differentiate from it's similar twin films My Science Project was poorly advertised as a cross-between Back To The Future and Ghostbusters. The irony being that in trying to find an audience by disassociating it from the two films it was closer in the theme to, that were in theatres at the same time as it, by comparing it to two other movies, released within the year previous, ended up seeing My Science Project receive a rather muddled reception and become a box-office bomb. Did you watch it? I certainly didn't.

4. Kalifornia & Natural Born Killers
Although many of you no doubt remember the Oliver Stone directed, Quentin Tarantino penned Natural Born Killers, the film that beat it to the box-office by 11 months, arriving in September 1993, didn't have anywhere near the legacy even though it is very similar in storyline and inspired by the same events.

In the early 1990s, the potential return of the death penalty was often debated in the state of Nebraska. Eventually, in 1994, the people of the state voted to restore the return of capital punishment, 35 years after the last execution took place which was that of Charles Starkweather the American spree killer who murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming between December 1957 and January 1958, when he was 19 years old. He killed ten of his victims between January 21 and January 29, 1958, the date of his arrest. During his spree in 1958, Starkweather was accompanied by his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate.

Although Starkwater had often been referenced and depicted in popular media over the years (like Bruce Springsteen's 1982 song Nebraska and the 1973 film The Badlands) it was the resurrected interest in his case during the death penalty debate that saw a flurry of new productions inspired by his killing spree greenlit by Hollywood studios.

Kalifornia stared Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, David Duchovny, and Michelle Forbes, and tells the story of a journalist (Duchovny) and his photographer girlfriend (Forbes) traveling cross-country to research serial killings, who unwittingly carpool with a psychopath (Pitt) and his childlike girlfriend (Lewis). Despite favourable reviews the film bombed, taking $2.4 million on an $8.5 million budget. It's worth digging out if you can find it though. It's not the most comfortable of watches (but then it doesn't claim to be anything else) but Brad Pitt is especially good in this early role.

Not saying she was risking becoming typecast but Juliette Lewis followed up Kalifornia with Natural Born Killers, playing an almost identical role as the younger partner of Woody Harrleson's psychotic character. Natural Born Killers had a lot more mixed reviews than Kalifornia but ultimately made a lot more money ($50 million+), however both of them were beaten onto the screen by their less-remembered triplet...

Originally filmed as a U.S. TV miniseries but released theatrically internationally and edited into an 153 minute film for home video, 1993's Murder In The Heartlands is arguably the best of the three films. A much more direct take on the Starkwater killing spree and the subsequent trial of Starkwater and 14 year old Fugate, it stars Tarantino collaborator Tim Roth in the title role with Fairuza Balk as his young accomplish - perhaps Juliette Lewis wasn't available?

5. Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat
Nowadays in 2020 the thought of a film based on a video game is not such a surprising idea. After all we've had successes in recent years like Sonic The Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu. But back in the mid-90s the critical and financial disaster of Super Mario Bros. cast a long, long shadow and if Hollywood was going to make a new video game to film adaptation it would go for an entirely different format. Which it did when both Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat received the movie adaptation treatment.

Both films are, of course, martial arts action adventure movies based on one-to-one fighting video game franchises. Neither received particularly good reviews but both outperformed expectations; Street Fighter taking $100 million on a $35 million budget, Mortal Kombat returning $122 million on just an $18 million investment. Ch-ching!

The pair arrived within a few months of each other, at the tail end of 1994/start of 1995, and one can't help but wonder if the producers of both movies were soiling their respective pants having witnessed the November 1994 release of the martial arts video game adaptation triplet and it's terrible box office take...

It might not be popular opinion but as a game I'd go into bat for Double Dragon over either Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat and have many a great memory of lining up the coins on the arcade cabinet and preparing for some post-apocalyptic melee action. However, as a film, not even the talents of Robert Patrick and Alyssa Milano could save Double Dragon, as it bombed hard. Taking $4 million on a budget twice that, a home video release at the time of Mortal Kombat's big screen success couldn't even save Double Dragon as it quickly found itself consigned to the bargain bins of HMV.

6. End Of Days & Stigmata
We've had comedy/horror, family, martial arts, violent thrillers, teen sci-fi and now the turn of some supernatural horror. Both End Of Days and Stigmata were released toward the end of 1999 when conspiracy theorists of the day would've had you believe the impending Millennium would see the end of days and the coming of the Rapture.

Both films are supernatural religious horror affairs involving the Catholic Church, and although both were met with negative reviews and were said to have underperfomed, they both made money. End Of Days doubled its $100 million budget, whereas the very modest Stigmata tripled its $30 million cost. Both End of Days and Stigmata star Gabriel Byrne as a main character. Neither are particularily great, End Of Days coming at a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger was running out of box-office steam and trying to find different avenues for his particular brand of acting. Stigmata is unintentionally funny in places and poorly acted, so much so with Gabriel Byrne found himself nominated for worst supporting actor at the Razzies for his performance here. To add insult to injury, Byrne also appears in End Of Days and was nominated for that too! He was damn lucky The Phantom Menace and it's Jar Jar Binks backlash took home all the awards that year.

Both these films were shot in 1998, alongside their triplet Lost Souls...

Lost Souls features an incredibly similar plot to End of Days with the theme of Satan taking possession of a man's body, and like that film and Stigmata it sees the Catholic Church in on the action.

Lost Souls was initially set for release in October 1999, slap bang between End Of Days and Stigmata, however to avoid becoming lost in the flood of end of the world/supernatural horror movies a decision was made to delay the film. Eventually arriving in October 2000 the delay did nothing to help as Lost Souls bombed hard, taking $30 million on a $50 million budget.

And there you go, 12 twin films and their triplets. Did you watch any of these films? Which one did you prefer? And can you name any other twin/triplet films? Let us know in the comments below.

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