Those who grew up during the 1980’s and 1990’s have a real appreciation for the consecrated dubbings that the classics of cinema played in our Manly Brazil. I don’t think any other generation can identify so much with this special place in time for movies. The 80s were the heyday of popcorn cinema at its best and purest. Thus, video rental stores appeared like fever on every corner. It was the popularization of movies like never before. Added to this, we had the dear broadcasts of open TV.
Yes, it is true that even today there are people from the younger generations who prefer to watch dubbed movies or those who value both without excluding any – many young people like to check out both the original and the dubbed versions.
And this is not a phenomenon that only occurs in Brazil, but something common and recurrent in different parts of the world. It’s okay that something can get lost in translation and we often don’t understand a joke or a reference – that’s because dubbing professionals need to adapt a slang or a meaning that resonates with the country’s audience.
Before translating the films, however, it is necessary to choose their title. Yes, in many cases the simple direct translation of the title can prove to be very effective. And an increasingly recurrent case is the worldwide standardization of a title kept mostly in English – such as, for example, Star Wars e Star Trekwhich are no longer Star Wars e Star Trek. More recently, we have the case with series, such as Stranger Things among others.
Going back to the 1980s, have you, who are of this generation, ever stopped to think how, as much as some titles here in Brazil are emblematic in themselves, they have nothing to do with the original? In this way, we decided to revisit some movie titles from this period, which are classics, but whose translations often don’t even remember their original version. Check it out below and comment which one was better or worse than the original.
The astro Eddie Murphy is on the rise again and soon Heavy Duty Cop 4 will debut on Netflix. It’s nice to see that those responsible will continue to keep this title – and it couldn’t be otherwise. The curious thing is to notice how dated is the expression “heavy”, something straight out of the 80s and that today behaves a lot like “old slang” or that “uncle slang”. This is to get a feel for how quickly using slang in movie translation can get dated. In the original, as many may know, the “hard cop” is simply the “Beverly Hills cop” or Beverly Hills Cop. By the way, “strip” is also a dated expression to refer to a police officer. The American “Cop” is still used to this day.
Rambo – Programmed to Kill
the first movie Rambo, 1982, is based on a book that serves as a critique of the war. Thus, in the original the film was named after the book, First Blood. The expression means something like “who draws blood first”, or who sheds blood first. Who attacks first. In other words, “first blood”. Difficult to translate right?; because it is a specific expression. In order not to go too far and stay too long, here the people in charge solved the problem in two steps. First they decided to give “names to the oxen”, putting the name of the hero lived by Stallone: “Rambo”. Then came the subtitle, which defines his personality well – “programmed to kill”. It’s curious and flashy, but if we think about training the subject, it makes sense. And the thing worked out, as even the Americans adhered to the use of the character’s name in the title in Rambo – First Blood Part 2 for continuation.
That was almost, but it didn’t hit. classic of buddy cop movies made by Mel Gibson e Danny Glover, in both the original and the translation the title makes reference to the more than efficient technique of Gibson’s character in wreaking havoc on the criminals on duty. In the original, the title is Lethal Weapon – or Lethal Weapon. It wouldn’t be bad. But here in Brazil the lethal was changed to deadly. Okay, both have the same meaning. However, when translating the original weapon, Brazilians decided to opt for “machine”, which can be anything from a car, a washing machine or a photo machine. And that was before the slang “this guy is a machine”, which had not yet emerged.
The 80s were amazing, but some titles today make younger generations angry. It’s ok, it’s a thing big uncle cringe, we agree. And if there’s something that irritated even the generation that grew up at the time, it was the need that Brazilian titles had to put “heavy” and “noise” in everything that was a comedy film. Horror films, on the other hand, had the summary “the hour” in the title. Into this came “the hour of the undead”, “the hour of astonishment”, “the hour of the werewolf” and so on. And no, none of them had anything close to that as their original title. The most notorious, of course, was the infamous Freddy Krueger movie franchise, here immortalized as “nightmare time” – which would obviously be when the person went to sleep. However, the original referred to a specific address, Elm Street, which was where all the action in the film took place. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” would be the literal translation, which would make many Brazilians possibly wonder what the hell this street is.
Following another flawless classic of horror, now we come across a curious type of Brazilian title. Here we have a kind of translation that aimed to summarize the entire film in a single sentence. “Enigma from Another World” is basically what the movie is about, in that they got it right. And at a time when the public is overly concerned about spoilers, this kind of translation would never be approved. Even more so if we think that the original was something so succinct and that it could mean a million things. In fact, this is the title: The Thingor “The Thing”.
With each new item in the list, a new “modality” of translation. Here, we go back to the classic comedies of the 80s. In this category, the translators simply invented a new word for the Portuguese vocabulary, which did not exist before. “Insanity”. Yes, it’s a combination of the words “crazy” and “gym”. A “crazy gym”. We get it. If they were going to follow the original, maybe the public wouldn’t get the message, since in the US the films of this comic franchise are known only as “Police Academy”, or simply “Police Academy”. The “crazy” was on us.
An absolute classic of open TV reruns, many may even remember when the film premiered on Globo on Tela Quente. Yes, it was a good time that will never come back. The film is one of those that will forever be remembered with great affection, as one of the most outstanding of the period. Teenager “171” Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, is one of the most charismatic characters of the seventh art, so much so that in the original he earned his name in the title. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, or “Ferris Bueller´s Day Off” pretty much sums up the spirit of high school skipping class to have fun with friends like there’s no tomorrow. In Brazil, many might wonder who is Ferris Bueller? Well, the solution was to put a title that also summarized the film, but with two “slang”. The first, like, is still used to this day (whatever social networks say). The second one, “crazy”, may have passed a little bit of time.
Continuing through movies John Hughes epoch-making, a year before Ferris Bueller hit theaters, we were presented with this teen comedy that played with the classic Frankenstein. Here, two geeks create the perfect woman on their computer. And yes, the title in Portuguese, in addition to having to do with the plot, pays homage to the flawless beauty that was the British Kelly LeBrock. Today, it might be a bit in bad taste to rate a woman for her beauty. However, I believe that the title here makes reference jokingly with that of another film. Note 10 woman (Ten) was a very successful comedy with Dudley Moore in 1979. Here, they followed this line when translating “Weird Science”, or “Strange Science”.
Another huge title in Portuguese, however, this one was also quite long in the original English as well. The translation pretty much sums up the spirit of this matinee and fantasy film by John Carpenter. What many may have wondered at the time was what was this “forbidden neighborhood”? Well, he refers to Little China, the Chinatown of San Francisco. In forbidden he has nothing, other than the fact that there’s a whole supernatural subculture lurking beneath him. Many American cities have their Chinatown, the Chinatown that is home to immigrants from that country. And in the literal translation, “Big Trouble in Little China” would be something like “Big Trouble/Trouble in Chinatown (Little China)”. So, did the Brazilian get better?
Ending the list we have a film that, although it has marked an entire generation, seems not to have echoed for the present day and for the younger ones. Despite this, the film is produced by Steven Spielberg. In fact, even those who lived at the time may not remember the title, only its premise that talked about little alien robots arriving from space to help a group of residents of a poor neighborhood, to save their expropriated building. An insane premise, but very much in keeping with the times. The film was not a great success, being rediscovered as a cult in the rental stores and on TV reruns, where it proved to be good company in the double session with Cocoon, for example. The curious thing is its ambiguous original title: “*batteries not included”, or “batteries (batteries) not included”. You know, those warnings when we buy an electronic item. And the title even has an asterisk and lowercase letters. Creative, but not very objective. The Portuguese version sums up well what we will see, however, it sounds like some religious movie when using the word “miracle”.