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NOTHING NEW: REMAKES RULE THE SCREEN

OK, quick now, what movie ends with the following line of dialogue:

"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes - it was beauty killed the beast.""King Kong," of course . . . too easy.

And whether that line will be included in the new '90s remake is not known, but Variety (the show-biz trade paper) reports that a third "King Kong" is on the way.

This high-tech, jazzed-up version will be directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, who gave us the true story of matricide "Heavenly Creatures" and whose horror yarn "The Frighteners" is scheduled for release July 19.

The fact that Jackson managed to bring in the special-effects-heavy latter film for "far less than half" what it would normally cost has prompted Universal Pictures to strike the deal, and Jackson's plan is to film "Kong" in New Zealand at the same high-tech facility he used for "The Frighteners."

No script yet, and no actors have been cast, but Variety says we may see it in theaters as soon as next summer.

Meanwhile, TriStar Pictures is still planning a big, special-effects-heavy version of "Godzilla."

This one has been on the start-and-stop track for several years now, but it is reportedly finally ready to get rolling under the direction of Roland Emmerich, who helmed "Stargate" and the upcoming "Independence Day" (scheduled to open on Wednesday, July 3).

Is it possible we'll have duelling monster movies next summer? Maybe.

Then, for the summer of 1998, maybe they could remake that cheesy 1963 Japanese epic "King Kong vs. Godzilla"?

You think that's a ridiculous idea?

Well, it is - but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

- THERE ARE TONS MORE movie remakes coming, some of which are enough to make a classic-film buff cringe.

In fact, the dearth of original movies is in nearly plague proportions.

You think I'm exaggerating? Consider how many are playing in local theaters right now:

- "The Birdcage," a remake of the French comedy "La Cage aux Folles."

- "Cry the Bloved Country," which was also filmed in 1951 with Sidney Poitier.

- "Jane Eyre," filmed several times previously, most famously in 1944 with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles.

- "Mary Reilly," yet another adaptation of the oft-filmed "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde."

- "Mrs. Winterbourne," a comedy adapted from Cornell Woolrich's "I Married a Dead Man," which was previously made into two serious dramas, "No Man of Her Own" (1950), starring Barbara Stanwyck, and the 1982 French film "I Married a Shadow."

- "Oliver & Company," a Disney animated musical based on "Oliver Twist."

- "Sabrina," a remake of the 1954 comedy with Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden.

- "Sgt. Bilko," from the '50s television sitcom that starred Phil Silvers.

- AND NOW CONSIDER these upcoming remakes, which will be hitting theaters in the next few months:

- Eddie Murphy stars in "The Nutty Professor," a reworking of Jerry Lewis' 1963 comic take on "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde."

- Disney's summer animated feature this year is a musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," a character who has been played in previous films by Lon Chaney, Charles Laughton, Anthony Quinn and Anthony Hopkins.

- "The Phantom," as played by Billy Zane, is the comic-strip character that originally came to big-screen life in a '40s multichapter serial.

- Jane Austen's "Emma," starring Gwyneth Paltrow, is essentially a remake of "Clueless," since that film was based on the same source material. ("Emma," however, will retain the period flavor and, hopefully, be more faithful to the book.)

- "The Adventures of Pinocchio" is a live-action version, with Martin Landau, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and special-effects by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

- "Last Man Standing" is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1961 samurai classic "Yojimbo," which was the basis for Clint Eastwood's starmaking spaghetti Western "A Fistful of Dollars" in 1964.

- "Romeo and Juliet" gets another go-around, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the young lovers.

- The cartoons "101 Dalmatians" and "The Jetsons" get live-action reincarnations.

- "The Women," a very funny Clare Boothe play made into a hilarious 1939 film with Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard, will now star Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan.

- AND THERE ARE PLENTY more on the horizon, in various stages of production or pre-production:

- "Planet of the Apes," the 1968 sci-fi classic that starred Charlton Heston, undergoes a '90s facelift by Oliver Stone for star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

- "Titanic" will take another look at the infamous cruise ship disaster, explored previously in the 1953 film of the same title (with Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck) and the even better 1958 British version, "A Night to Remember."

- "Diva," the glossy 1981 French thriller, is being Americanized as a vehicle for Diana Ross, her first big-screen movie in nearly two decades (the last was "The Wiz" in 1978).

- Wim Wender's superb German fantasy "Wings of Desire" (1988) will also get the American remake treatment as "City of Angels," as a guardian angel falls in love with the woman he's assigned to watch over. Reportedly, Johnny Depp and Meg Ryan will star.

- The role of "The Saint," the debonair detective played by several film actors over the years, but made famous by Roger Moore in the TV series, will be taken over by Val Kilmer.

- "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the Shakespeare comedy that was filmed in 1933 with an all-star cast that included James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland and Mickey Rooney, gets a facelift, as does "Hamlet," adapted and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the title role.

- Disney has lined up musical versions of "Tarzan" and "Hercules" as animated features - both of which have been filmed many, many times.

- And big-screen remakes of vintage TV series continue as Martin Short becomes "My Favorite Martian," based on the '60s sitcom that starred Ray Walston; Tom Arnold heads the cast of "McHale's Navy" and "The Love Boat" sets sail.

- IF THAT'S NOT ENOUGH, consider these upcoming made-for-TV remakes:

- Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," slated to star real-life soulmates Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, trying to fill the able comic shoes of Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

- O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief," which has been filmed many times before, will star Christopher Lloyd and Michael Jeter as the kidnappers.

And there are two more in this category, both of which are particularly troubling to me.

- "Harvey" will star Harry Anderson and Leslie Nielsen - but is this TV version really going to improve on the classic film that stars James Stewart, who was reprising his Broadway role? Let's face it, if Stewart is identified with any single role, this is it! (And let's just hope they don't show the rabbit!)

- And can a more sensational, four-hour TV adaptation of Truman Capote's groundbreaking docu-novel "In Cold Blood" be any more insightful or artful than Richard Brooks' still-shattering 1967 black-and-white film?

- OK, SO BE HONEST - you thought I was making too much of Hollywood's tendency to feed on itself, didn't you?

Well, we haven't even gotten to movies that are unofficial remakes (or ripoffs, if you prefer), such as "The Pallbearer," which reworks "The Graduate," and the trashing of "Casablanca" by "Barb Wire."

And don't get me started on sequels . . . .

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Roger Moore, currently playing a comic villain in Jean-Claude Van Damme's "The Quest":

"Maybe some misguided producer will see `The Quest' and say, `Oh, he's still alive! We must use him!' "