This week, the Criterion Collection unveiled a new Blu-ray edition of The Vanishing, George Sluizer’s critically acclaimed and bluntly effective 1988 Dutch thriller. But it’s also a film with a tainted legacy, as most American moviegoers are far more familiar with the inferior and ill-conceived 1993 remake, starring Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, and Sandra Bullock. Yes, it was another case of the disastrous American remake, and rest assured, for every Departed or Birdcage, there are three or four stinkers like these.
The most depressing thing about that 1993 version of The Vanishing is that director Sluizer didn’t just see his noteworthy original violated; he had to do it himself. The picture carries his credit as director, though it seems reasonable to guess that the muckety-mucks at 20th Century Fox may have been the authors of its most upsetting element: a loathsome happy ending that neutralizes the grim power of the original. Salon’s Matt Zoller Seitz dubbed it the worst remake of all time; Roger Ebert wrote that Sluzier “savaged his masterpiece as thoroughly as if a hired hack had been brought in to do the job,” and called its reworked ending “an insult to the intelligence and also, by implication, to American audiences.”