High Road from Khartoum was a classic larger-than-life adventure tale, one of the great Paramount Technicolor epics from the 50’s. Richard Burton and Rock Hudson had headlined a star-studded cast as British refugees fleeing the Seige of Khartoum during the Mahdist Uprising. It was really nothing more than an elaborate adaptation of Mason’s The Four Feathers with modifications to keep from paying royalties and rewritten to appeal to a postwar audience, but the film had influenced countless others with aspects of the final charge scene in particular appropriated by everything from Zulu to Star Wars.

And Collstein wanted a new adaptation on his desk by Monday. In the old days they might have called it a “remake” or a “re-imagining,” but he called it a “reboot,” that detestable buzzword that implied sweeping away decades of cinematic history was as easy as turning over an old Presario.

I glanced wearily over the producers’ notes. They insisted that the time frame be updated to the present day, that the suicidal charge be modified into a triumphant victory, that the two-dozen pursuers be upgraded to a massive (CGI) army. The Richard Burton character, a retired Army captain, was to be rewritten as a wisecracking photojournalist so the role could be played by a popular rapper who’d lobbied for the part. I was required to work at least of his songs into the film in a diagetic manner. The Rock Hudson part, perhaps appropriately, was to be female and written for the latest pretty young thing to come out of Australia (covering her native accent, of course). There was also a detailed combat requirement: three major firefights, two airstrikes, and a body count of at least 100. I was given leave to use the “f-word” exactly once to guarantee a PG-13.

“There isn’t enough coffee in the world,” I sighed.