The Harder They Come…Again!

There will be a remake of The Harder They Come, the popular 1972 sensational low-budget movie of filmmaker Perry Henzell. Henzell’s daughter, Justine Henzell, told The Jamaica Gleaner last week that filming is scheduled to start later this year in Jamaica and London.

Chris Salewicz, the respected British writer, did most of the writing for the new-look movie but Henzell said a cast is still being assembled. Salewicz has written extensively on reggae including the book, Songs of Freedom, as well as an authorised Bob Marley biography. He also wrote the screenplay for the 1999 movie, Third World Cop.

The Harder They Come remake is a joint venture between Henzell, British company Xingu Films and Conquering Lion Pictures which is based in Toronto. “Over the years, many people have approached us with remake ideas but for the first time I am confident we have a team that will honour the original, while creating a new narrative worthy of the legacy,” Henzell said. The Harder They Come is expected to be released in 2012, 40 years after the original, which starred singer Jimmy Cliff, was first shown in Jamaica.

Remakes of classic films have become vogue in Hollywood. The Manchurian Candidate and 3:10 To Yuma have been two of the more popular examples in recent years. Henzell admitted that a new version of The Harder They Come may irk some purists.

undisputed classic
“I have no doubt that some people will object, but we will take that as a compliment of the original work which is an undisputed cult classic,” she said. Perry Henzell, who died from cancer in 2006, was universally known for The Harder They Come, an urban drama that starred Cliff and Carl Bradshaw. A former advertising executive, Henzell said he wanted to make a movie based on the life of Ivanhoe ‘Rhyghin’ Martin, a notorious gangster who besieged west Kingston in the late 1940s.

Cliff played Ivan, a country boy who comes to Kingston hoping to make it as a singer but ends up leading a criminal life. Released at a time when reggae music was taking off internationally, The Harder They Come was an international sensation. Shown in small cinemas throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, it gave fans an intimate look at Jamaica’s emerging pop-music culture and won the Best New Cinema award at the 1973 Venice Film Festival.

Its soundtrack included songs like the title song, You Can Get It (If You Really Want) and Sitting In Limbo, all performed by Cliff; Pressure Drop by Toots and The Maytals and By The Rivers of Babylon, done by The Melodians. A stage version of the film opened in London in 2008, and has played in south Florida and Toronto. The Harder They Come’s trailblazing achievements were recognised last year by the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles.

© Howard Campbell, Writer Jamaica Gleaner

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