''Sommersby'' and ''The Vanishing'' are the latest attempts by Hollywood to re-hash foreign art-house films

By Michael Sauter
Updated February 19, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

It’s a recipe for success that’s as American as french fries: Take a foreign film, add some bankable names, lose those pesky subtitles — and voila! — you’ve transformed an overseas oddity into a hot domestic property. Sommersby and The Vanishing are the latest attempt by Hollywood studios to rehash foreign art-house favorites, but there will soon be a lot more where they came from.

Due in March is Point of No Return, based on the 1991 French action thriller La Femme Nikita. Bridget Fonda packs a pistol as a hardened killer who turns top-secret assassin to avoid execution. Harvey Keitel is her cold-blooded colleague; Gabriel Byrne and Anne Bancroft play her mentors. Also on Hollywood’s roster, in various stages of development, are Cinema Paradiso, inspired by the 1989 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film; The Killer, based on the 1991 action epic by Hong Kong director John Woo; Randall & Juliet, French director Coline Serreau’s remake of her own 1990 comedy that was released in the U.S. as Mama, There’s a Man in Your Bed; Men, a battle-of-the-sexes satire based on the 1986 film by German director Doris Dorrie; and Cross My Heart, adapted from the 1991 French heartbreaker about school kids who band together to help a recently orphaned friend.

Can Hollywood recapture the je ne sais quoi that made these films so attractive in the first place? Well, a good idea for a film is a good idea in any language. At least that’s what they thought when they gave the green light to Breathless, Cousins, Three Fugitives, The Man Who Loved Women, The Man With One Red Shoe, The Woman in Red