Goofy Translations of Film Titles

:confused: Of all the movies that don’t need a remake! How would they do it anyways? Will they just keep the East German setting and redo it in English? I don’t see how it would work anywhere else, because no matter what you say about the Patriot Act it’s nowhere near as intrusive as the Stasi. I bet the remake never happens – the movie’s just big right now because it won the Academy Award, so someone grabbed the remake rights just in case.

About a decade ago, the Wall Street Journal did an article on a man whose job it is to retitle American films for foreign audiences. Among some of the more memorable retitles included Nixon, which became The Big Liar, and As Good As It Gets, which inexplicably became Mr. Cat Poop. (This article then took on a life of its own: the article was sent across the Internet with a list of intentionally funny fake translated movie titles from a humor site called attached to it. The New York Times did its own take on The Journal’s original story with gag list attached, thus claiming that not only were The Big Liar and Mr. Cat Poop real foreign film titles, but so were Big Dumb Monkey Man Keeps Whacking Tree With Genitals* and Help! My Girlfriend Has A Penis!** Even the TV news got into the act- I still vividly remember ABC’s news anchor Peter Jennings telling his audience that “Babe’s title in China reminds us Communism is alive and well there***.” I still can’t believe the Times fell for that- who would really think that the Japanese know Twister as Run! Run! CLOUDZILLA!?)

*George of the Jungle
**The Crying Game
***The Happy Dumpling-to-be who Talks and Solves Agricultural Problems

I can see the problem there- when I was a kid, I didn’t realize Dances With Wolves was supposed to be an Indian’s name and thought the title inferred that the main character enjoyed dancing with actual wolves.

These anecdotes remind me of two other anecdotes regarding title changes of films- one true, one false:
The False One: The British film The Madness of George III was renamed The Madness of King George in the United States so audiences wouldn’t think the film was the third in a Madness of George series. (It was the play that had the “III” in it- the film was known as King in both the UK and the U.S.)
The True One: The Australian film Crocodile Dundee was renamed “Crocodile” Dundee in the United States so audiences wouldn’t think the main character was an actual crocodile.

Forrey Ackerman’s magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, used to run features on this all the time – foreign titles of monster films were frequently bizarre, sometimes invoking the name of a monster not even in the film (like Frankenstein).

of course, here in the US we frequently change titles all the time. The French films listed here are nothing like the original titles;
**Pardon Mon Affaire

Femmes Fatales


Spy Magazine did an article about this topic way back when.

In Hong Kong, The Shawshank Redemption was released as…


Don’t forget that Hollywood did a remake of “Wings of Desire” with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan called “City of Angels.” I didn’t bother to see it. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but in this case, I’m not so sure.

So far in tis thread, I think “He’s a Ghost!” for “The Sixth Sense” is the best one. I’m still chuckling over it. Giving the secret away like that in the title; incredible!

Maybe a German speaker could help me with this one? My favorite German movie (and one of my favorites of any nationality) is Das Schreckliche Mädchen, and the American version is called The Nasty Girl. But that’s not quite right, is it? For one thing, all my American friends think I’m talking about a porn movie. But I’m not – the movie is about a young woman who asks troubling questions about her hometown’s Nazi past, and the townspeople disapprove of her impolite behavior. Wouldn’t That Awful Girl or That Dreadful Girl be a better translation of the title?

In the 80s, a lot of films were translated into Japanese as something-something *no ai * (blah-blah love) or something-something koibito (blah-blah lovers). I saw at least one film translated that way that did not, in any way shape or form, have anything to do with love, romance, or any facsimile thereof. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any examples of those titles right now, though I used to have about three or four I could recite right off the top of my head. A stroll through my local video store would probably give me at least a couple of candidates.

It was common enough and noticeable enough that a couple of buddies and I would try to make up ~ai or ~koibito titles out of stuff that didn’t follow the pattern, especially titles transliterated in katakana. And the more inappropriate the title was for the movie, the better for humor purposes. For example, Friday the 13th would be Hôchô no Ai (Kitchen-Knife Love) or we’d call Armageddon Shôwakusei ni Iru Koibito (Lovers on an Asteroid).

Yes, dreadful/awful/horrible would be a more accurate translation of schrecklich.

You were wise. Though there was never a better example of a truck ending outside of Michael O’Donoghue (see lesson 2).

“Suddenly, everyone got run over by a truck.” It’s the epitome of an author using a lame ending to solve the problem when he can’t think of anything else.

That’s hardly false; you’ve just got the story wrong. The story is that the movie was renamed from the play. And it clearly was – the director has conceeded that dropping the “III” was at least partially to avoid the idea it was a sequel.

More French translations"
Gentlemen’s Agreement = The Invisible Wall (not bad, actually)
It Happened One Night = New York Miami
The Browning Version = A Man’s Shadow
The Purple Heart = Prisoners of Satan
Footlight Parade = Prologues (arguably even better than the US title)

In Mexico, it’s all about dumbing down the title, to make something subtle and interesting into something obvious and boring, because the cinematic decision-makers (wrongly) think the Mexican public is too stupid to want to see the film otherwise. A typical example: “Jaws” is “Tiburon”, which simply means “Shark”.

Quebec is a fun place to watch for these title translations. The otherwise forgettable, “High School High” was rendered as, “l’École, c’est secondaire” (School is Secondary).

That what I was saying- that the play was called The Madness of George III and the movie was called The Madness of King George. The legend (which, as I stated, was false) is that the movie was released as The Madness of George III in the UK and The Madness of King George in the United States- it was known as The Madness of King George in both countries.

The Swedish multi-award-winning film Fucking Åmål was retitled Show Me Love for its American release. Åmål is the name of a town, though I never found out what “fucking” means in Swedish.

I think it means “fucking”.

Several times, the girls complain about the town, using the titular phrase.

As in my friends’ favourite quote: “Varför måste vi bo i fucking, jävla, kuk-Åmål.”

“Why do we have to live in fucking, goddamn, cock-Åmål!”

I find it particularly amusing when movies with English titles get a different, but still English title in Scandinavia.

Die Hard - Mega Hard (Die Hard with a vengeance - Danish title)
Skate or die (Gleaming the cube - Norwegian title)

Now admittedly the original titles wouldn’t have worked, but if you have to change them…

Shouldn’t this be “The man who let the cats dance”? I don’t see the word “like” anywhere in that title.

Most of the Japanese titles are just transliterations of the original English titles, but occasionally some get changed.

Juon, originally a Japanese film, got remade in America as The Grudge (accurate translation). The American version was then released in Japan as The Juon.

Stripes became Paradise Army.

After Pretty Woman Garry and Penny Marshall have been condemned to have every subsequent film named “Pretty…” in Japan. Runaway Bride became Pretty Bride, A League of Their Own was Pretty League, and The Princess Diaries became Pretty Princess.

The one that still has me confused, though, is why did The Karate Kid become Best Kid?

Sublight, I have no idea what they were thinking there either. You would think that that would be a nice straight across translation. Maybe they were so appalled at Morita and Macchio’s “karate” that they decided not to have any association with the martial art in the title, lest someone who actually does karate watch the film and sprain something from either laughing or groaning. The Juon sounds dumb, but so did The Grudge. I think they should have kept just plain Juon for the English title in both the US and Japan.

The re-emergence of this thread reminds me, my wife made me watch Miss Congeniality a few years ago and it was retitled as Dangerous Beauty for some reason. It actually confused me because the English title was changed on the promotional material and the box, not just the katakana version, so I thought for the longest time that Dangerous Beauty was the actual title.

Dangerous Beauty on the other hand, was a halfway decent period piece that I’d seen a couple of years before I came to Japan. That was retitled 娼婦ベロニカ (Shôfu Beronika; Veronica the Prostitute/Whore) in Japan. Why they used that particular word instead of 愛人 (aijin; lover, mistress) or simply using courtesan in katakana, from the title of the source book, The Honest Courtesan, I don’t know. They didn’t even prefix it with 高級 (kôkyû; high class/rank) but instead used plain old “prostitute”.

While the term isn’t quite as weighted in Japanese as in English, the tone of the movie doesn’t match the feeling of 娼婦, I think. It’s about how she is both more and less free as a concubine than she was as a “respectable” woman, and later concerns mostly the love affair between her and a client. The money part is only referred to once or twice in the movie, and is mostly used as one of the typical romantic devices to cause strife and place barriers between the two who are supposed to be together by the end of the story. Come to think of it, I’ll bet that Joss Whedon was inspired in part by this movie to create the idea of Companions in Firefly.