Adapting SF/Fantasy story into a Movie without Acknowledgment

PRANAfilm in Germany pretty famously got in trouble by turning Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula intoi the film Nosferatu without asking permission (or paying royalties). Stoker’s widow Florence sued the pants off them and tried to get all copies of the film destroyed. Fortunately, she didn’t succeed. Since then, filmmakers surreptitiously adapting somebody else’s work for the screen without getting their say-so have done a better job of filing off the serial numbers.
In what follows, it’s therefore not completely clear that the people making the movies were trying to adapt an existing work. In some cases they may just have stumbled across the same idea (as when Gene L. Coon wrote that Star Trek episode with the Gorn, and somebody pointed out that it bore a suspicious resemblance to Fredric Brown’s classic short story Arena, so they bought the rights to the story and changed the title.). The cases are necessarily going to be ambiguous, because when the movies HAVE been stealing things, they want that shield of ambiguity.
The Hidden – I love this low-budget independent film, but the similarities to Hal Clement’s novel Needle are too obvious – One parasite/symbiote chasing a criminal, renegade member of its species on Earth, where they both inhabit human bodies. I can’t believe they didn’t have Clement’s novel in mind.

The Brain Eaters – We know that they were ripping off Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, because he took them to court, but settled for $5000 and keeping his name off the film.

Panic in Year Zero – another low-budget SF independent film that I love, but many people (including the SF Encyclopedia) are sure that it lifts from Ward Moore’s stories Lot and Lot’s Daughter.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars – another pretty good low-budget effort, but many are convinced that it derives from Rex Gordon’s No Man Friday. (Ironically, there IS a “Friday” in the film)

It Conquered the World – as I pointed out recently on this Board, this low-budget Roger Corman film features a pink lobster-clawed alien who’s really a fungus that collaborates with human sympathizers to take over the world, which makes it suspiciously similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness.

Total Recall – the original 1989 Paul Veerhoeven film gives credit to Philip K. Dick’s We can Remember it for you Wholesale, but they exhaust that material in the first 20 minutes or so. I’ve long maintained that the rest of the plot was lifted, without credit, from Robert Sheckley’s The Status Civilization.

The Terminator – I love this film. Cameron admitted that he’d been inspired by things like the works of Harlan Ellison. Ellison thought he’d been too inspired by his Outer Limits scripts Soldier (based on his own short story of that name) and Demon with a Glass Hand and sued, getting post-credits credit.

Sword and the Sorceror – the best parts of this film were the bits they lifted directly from Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, without giving credit. There’s more Howard in this film than in all three “legitimate” Conan films combined.

Event Horizon – Not a close match, but I swear that the scenes with the Burning Man on the space ship make me wonder if this film didn’t start life as an adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars my Destination/Tyger,tyger. Uncredited, of course

Jupiter Ascending – critics hated this, but I kinda like this entry from the Wachowskis. But I can’t help but wonder if it started out as some kind of adaptation of Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia – civilization run by space-going alien super-civilization with system of feudal titles, Everyone fighting for the drug that extends life and gives youth, an Underclass of animal-derived people, and al of Earth being “owned” by a single young person). Again, no credit.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space – I don’t really think that this is a ripoff of A. E. van Vogt’s Black Destroyer, because the only thing the two have in common is the Killer Alien Creature Loose on the Starship. I DO think that Ridley Scott’s Alien is a total ripoff of Jerome Bixby’s It!, though.

Quest of the Delta Knights – I was just watching the MST3K version of this, and you couldn’t miss the similarity to Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy at the beginning. Of course, Heinlein himself was ripping off Rudyard Kipling’s Kim

Honey, I Blew up the Kid – I don’t really think this was ripped off from Kit Reed’s Attack of the Giant Baby, but you do have to admit the similarity of the imagery.

Much of the setup of Idiocracy is taken from Cyril Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons.”

Forbidden Planet, if you categorized The Tempest as fantasy.

About half of the story in the movie Logan’s Run is taken from the novel Logan’s Run. But the other half of the story is very similar to the plot of Glen and Randa, a relatively unknown SF movie that had been made five years earlier.

That’s interesting – I’d never heard that before.

There’s definitely an echo of The Marching Morons in the original Veerhoeven film Robocop, with the criminals seeking out cheap entertainment, speaking in advertising tag lines, and the like. Plus, of course, the TV game show you keep seeing bits of has the tag line “I’d buy that for a dollar!”, which is clearly modeled on “Would you buy that for a quarter?” from The Marching Morons.

Inflation, I guess.

I think this is reaching - several of those elements also occur in other SF, like the Dune series. The mode of Earth “ownership” is way different in Norstrilia.

And knowing the Wachowskis, the animal-derived people (who don’t all seem to be any more of an underclass than the non-noble humans we see) are as likely to be derived from manga/anime tropes than from old SF.

Not an underclass? The animal people were all servants. And, as in Smith, their names reflected their animal nature. Even before they told me the name of that elephant-derived steersman, I knew it’s be something like “Ganesh”. But the combination of animal people + life restoring drug + single person “ownership” of earth (with that person being ruthlessly pursued by the other side, she he/she takes refuge with the animal people) occurs in both Jupiter Ascending and in Norstrilia, and nowhere else that I know. It does no god to point out that individual pieces appear elsewhere* – it’s the concatenation that persuades me that there’s a connection.

*The similarity between Dune and Norstrilia is definitely there. I’ve pointed it out on these boards before. Both stories started appearing as shorts in the magazines about the same time. But Dune, while it has the life-extebnding drug derived from giant animals on a desert planet, lacks the animal underpeople and the single ownership.

The TV show Outer Limits episode “Cry of Silence” features Eddie Albert and June Havoc as a city couple that gets attacked driving along the desert – by tumbleweeds. Later by rocks and animals. When you describe this episode to other people, it sounds like the worst sort of science fiction, like it’s the really weird try-out for Green Acres, or something. “Attacked by tumbleweeds? Really?”

But it’s much better than it sounds. The tumbleweeds, rocks, and animals are sort of "possessed by alien beings, who finally possess an old prospector, through whom they can talk to the couple.

As Wikipedia points out, the beginning, with the attack by tumbleweeds, resembles Algernon Blackwood’s story “The Willows”. But, overall, the episode seems remarkably similar to Fredric Brown’s novel The Mind Thing, with the possession of animals, and eventually a human, by an alien. Brown wrote it originally as a screenplay that he thought could be filmed with minimal and easy-to-do special effects, but he couldn’t interest anyone in it.

The Outer Limits episode credits the story to Louis Charbonneau and the script to Robert C. Dennis. It was broadcast in October of 1964.
I don’t know exactly when Brown was shopping his script around, but it had to be before he decided to publish it as a story. It was going to be in parts in the magazine Fantastic Universe[, starting in March, 1960, but the magazine folded after that issue. He published the whole novel the next year as a paperback with Bantam Books.

(Although translation were published, it wasn’t published in English again until almost twenty years later in the UK. It wasn’t published in the US again until NESFA press collected Browns stories in 2002. More recently Gateway/Orion republished it in 2011.)

So were humans. So, seemingly, was anyone who wasn’t in the Houses. That’s not the same as the situation with the underpeople.

Look, I like the movie, I’ve read up quite a bit about it, and I’ve never seen the Wachowskis cite Smith in reference to it. They talk about Alice in Wonderland and Oz, and there’s the obvious Gnosticism, but not the Instrumentality universe.

And the House of Abrasax are nothing like the Lords of the Instrumentality, anyway.

And Rod wasn’t a reincarnated Lord, just very rich. I don’t think he parallels Jupiter’s situation very much at all. Feudal inheritance is not remotely the same as buying a planet.

I wouldn’t say Jupiter “took refuge with” animal people the way Rod did.

Like I said, I think you’re reaching in your parallels.

Welkl, I disagree. In any event, I’m not saying it was an adaptation. There’s a lot less resemblance between The Stars m,y Destination and Event Horizon. I just think they wanted to get some of the ideas and visuals into their movie , and suspect they started with that book. The similarity of visions is just too close.

A weird case is The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. As with all of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion projects, it really started with his sketches and images, in this case about a prehistoric monster roaming around New York City. as usual, he got a writing team to try to string his iconic scenes into a coherent story. The film was originally to be called The Monster from Beneath the Sea, but then Ray Bradbury published his evocative story The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in the Saturday Evening Post, and they bought the rights to that. The story didn’t feature an attack on a city, but it did have a great title and featured the monster being called out to a lighthouse by the foghorn. (In later publication, the title of the story was changed to “The Foghorn”. Bradbury later turned it into a stage play, with the same title.) This is all kind of fortunate, because Harryhausen added a scene where the monster does, indeed, attack and destroy a lighthouse. Shot mostly in silhouette, it’s one of the more beautiful stop-motion scenes in the film. so the story definitely DID add imagery to this story.

Bradbury was given credit, in this case. certainly he was paid for it. I suspect the Powers That Be figured that the attribution to The Saturday Evening Post (rather than one of those “pulp” magazines, like Astounding) added a touch of class to the production.

I’m sure Bradbury didn’t much mind. He and Harryhausen had been high school buddies.

I’ve read that some believe Scott (or one of the screenwriters?) directly lifted from another van Vogt Space Beagle story – Discord in Scarlet:

It seems that elements of Black Destroyer made their way into Alien, as well, though.

I love the movie, too, and have read the book, and think they’re dissimilar enough that I don’t see a problem.

Bill Warren, in his seminal book Keep Watching the Skies, also suggests Clement’s novel as a source/influence on The Brain from Planet Arous. Again there’s the idea of an alien policeman pursuing an alien criminal, both of whom have possessed the bodies of human beings.

Interesting speculation

The movie I Robot had nothing to do with Isaac Asimov. It was stolen from With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson

Something I read a while ago and found again: on Flavorwire By JenniferLewis Aug 13, 2012
Ruby Sparks (2012) / “A World of His Own” (1960)
The Truman Show (1998) / “Special Service” (1989)
Midnight in Paris (2011) / “A Stop At Willoughby” (1960)
The Village (2004) / “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” (1961)
Final Destination (2000) / “Twenty Two” (1961)
The Box (2009) / “Button, Button” (1986)
Poltergeist (1982) / “Little Girl Lost” (1962)
The Sixth Sense (1999)/ “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1962)
Child’s Play (1988)/ “Living Doll” (1963)

Some others:
Mediocre movie Time Lapse 2014 has a machine that takes pictures 24 hours into the future.
Classic episode A Most Unusual Camera 1960 has a camera that takes pictures of the future.

Another Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar is surprising similar to The Whole Truth about a used car salesman that buys a car that forces him to tell only the truth.

Brat Farrer, a classic crime novel about a lookalike impersonating the vanished heir to a fortune. The original wasn’t science fiction. However it was completely ripped off by the 1991 *Addams Family *movie.

Interesting list. I don’t agree with all of them.

But The Box was explicitly based on Richard Matheson’s “Button Button”. They said so., and gave him full credit

I’m pretty sure William Tenn reported that he spotted a late night movie on TV that was clearly based on one of his short stories (“Everybody Loves Irving Bommer” maybe) but when he consulted with a lawyer it was too late to do anything about it.

Josephine Tey’s 1949 novel Brat Farrar is a classic. But (due to plot elements I won’t spoil here) the Addams Family movie owes more to the legend of a Romanov daughter surviving the 1918 slaughter of the Russian Imperial family, as depicted in the 1950s stage play-and-movie Anastasia.