Not Quite "Based on a True Story"

After reading about the controversy behind Disney’s HIDALGO, I was wondering about other “based on a true story” films which are either totally fictional, greatly embellished or exaggerated, and/or simply factually incorrect. (As it is, I rarely put any stock in the historical accuracy of any Disney adaption.)

Off the top of my head, I can think of FARGO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and APOLLO 13. (We landed on the moon. Yeah, right! :wink: Did the CANNIBAL films (FEROX and HOLOCAUST) claim to be true stories?

What are some other films which try to pull a fast one of the audience? And are there any interesting stories relating to the creation of these films and the public response after they’d been released?

(I wish TCM had simply claimed to be “inspired by actual events” - i.e. the Ed Gein story. That would have made things more unsettling, IMO. Claiming to be “based on a true story”, yet knowing otherwise, takes away from the real horror. Anyhoo…)

HIDALGO? Pardon?

There’s been plenty of controversy over U-571 (ie, the American spin on the movies), and some nitpicks over Braveheart and Titanic.

And remember that TCM was the first spatter horror flick, so the ‘based on a true story’ schlock carried a lot more weight than today.

Nearly all Hollywood movies based on true stories take serious liberties with the facts. Even at the most accurate, they conflate incidents and characters to help the story move better on the big screen.
Or, when they want to make the main character look more heroic, they leave out embarrassing parts of the story, as in Hurricane or A Beautiful Mind.

As a NASA brat, I’m going to nitpick and say that Apollo 13 shouldn’t be put in the same category as Blair Witch :slight_smile:

It is based on actual events, and the filmmakers went to long lengths to ensure as much accuracy as possible. My father was out at KSC while they were filming bits and those guys were asking questions about everything. Yeah, dialog had to be written and ideas and conversations were embellished, but the events depicted in the movie pretty much happened the way they were shown.

Now Armageddon is another story :smiley:

I saw the controversy of Hildago. I’ve never seen a clearer example of people who really need to get a life. I had thought there might be a limit to anal retentiveness, but I guess not.

Look, “Based on a True Story” is not and never has been anything other than a marketing ploy. It is an absolutely meaningless phrase that for some reason seems to sell movies. Whether a movie is based on a true story or not is utterly irrelevant to whether it’s a good film.

JFK is also based on a true story, but has no truth in it.

Plan Nine from Outer Space was based on “sworn testimony”, according to the introduction.

When the “real” Maria von Trapp saw Sound of Music she stated “It’s a beautiful story, it just doesn’t happen to be mine”, and that was true of most musicals based on true stories. Essentially there really was a Maria von Trapp who really did marry an Austrian baron and flee the Nazis, but the rest of the story is hogwash (among other discrepancies, the real marriage wasn’t a love story but more of a convenience matter [he was old enough to be her father], they were married for a decade and had two children [and she was pregnant with a third] when they left, and they “fled” not from a concert but by the less dramatic method of buying train tickets in their own names and getting on board, besides which the real Maria was about as sweet as Mommie Dearest.)
Anna and the King of Siam , The King and I and Anna and the King are three movies based on a “true story” that never happened. (There really was an Anna Owens [not “Leonowens”, but “Owens” in real life] and she really did work as a tutor at the Siamese court of King Mongkut, but the rest is hogwash- any relationship she had with the king [who was a generation older than the actors who have played him and had spent most of his life in a Buddhist monastery] was very formal and very occasional- he had ample foreign born advisors and unlike the king in the book and the movies he did not kill concubines who left him.)

The Amityville Horror was a grossly exaggerated adaptation of the book which in turn was a grossly exagerated account by hack author Jay Anson of the actual events. The real Lutz family has disavowed the book and movie for more than 25 years now but to little avail. The house itself finally was given a new address and a remodelling so radical it can’t be recognized in order to stop the tourist traffic and the current owners report nothing strange (or at least certainly no blood pouring from the walls).

Whitley Streiber’s Communion and Shirley MacLaine’s Out on a Limb are two movies based on “non fiction” books that I’d take with a boulder sized grain of salt.

Well, no, it wasn’t. Herschell Gordon Lewis, made his name in that genre a decade earlier with Bloodfeast. It happens to be a very well made film, but it’s not a splatter flick despite it notoriety.

BTW A film that was much closer to real events of the Gein story was made the same year as TCM, called Deranged. Closer to documentary in style, with an on screen narrator who walks into the scene like Ray Bradbury. Very odd film.

Wasn’t the murders that occurred in the house the only part of the Amityville story that was actually true? I thought someone admitted that the blood dripping from the walls and all that was made up for publicity.

I saw some photos of the place after the remodel. Most noticeable was the removal of the odd “eye” windows toward the top of the roof.

How about the Mothman Prophecies? I believe they said it was “inspired” by a true story, but the only thing I think was true about that is the one or two sightings of a giant moth-man.

Pretty sad.

October Sky. The movie leads you to think they got scholarships - none of them did. And the main character (Homer) never worked in the mine, his mother wouldn’t let him. He comes across as a bit more of a “momma’s boy” in the book. Oh, and Valentine (?) just sleeps with him out of pity - there’s nothing more to the relationship.

It is spelled HIDALGO. At least the movie is; I just looked at the poster…

And I was joking about APOLLO 13. You may not have noticed the old-school plain-text smilie…

Hasn’t there already been quite a bit of controversy about THE ALAMO?

I believe the film version of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is actually more accurate than the original bio-novel. (Though it’s been a while since I’ve read it.) Abagnale has admitted to a lot of exaggeration in the book. (Though, off hand, I can’t think of any specific details.)

Yes, the original murders in the Amityville house did occur, but all the haunting stuff afterwards was a sham…

Can anybody come up with any more “true story” films that are purely fictional, like FARGO? (I know I’m missing a real obvious one.)


Uhhh, Ray Bradbury?

Pardon me for butting in, but I think the word you’re looking for is Rod Serling.

In other news . . .

A man of many odd tastes am I, and my favorite horror film is a little confection from 1981 called Student Bodies. It begins with two cards. The first:

followed by:

Yes, that’s what I heard too. One thing I did like better about the book is that he explained many of the scams he ran in much more detail than you could on the big screen. In the film, Tom Hanks just kind of “glosses over” Abagnale’s use of the MICR line to play with the routing numbers on checks, while IRL Abagnale invented that particular scam. I guess my main complaint is that in the film Abagnale comes off as just getting by on his looks, while in the book you realize that he was one smart cookie.

Ack, I totally missed the parenthetical comment after Apollo 13. My excuse is that I have a head cold :stuck_out_tongue: No offense intended, but I’m used to people trying to tear that movie apart for errors that aren’t really errors - it’s a pet peeve.

The Patriot was supposedly based on history, but the man Mel Gibson’s character was not what you would call an altogether nice guy, so his name got changed up a bit and his good deeds were exaggerated. The fictional British commander wasn’t just the “bad guy,” he was practically Satan incarnate. I can’t blame the Brits for getting irritated at his characterization.

The Emerald Forest was claimed to be based on a true story, but turns out to have been pretty much a near total invention.

  • Tamerlane

Oh, I dunno about that. During the FBI briefing that introduces Hanks’ character, he’s describing Abignail’s scam as a “new type of bank fraud I’ll call ‘the float’”. It may seem glossed over because of Hanks’ no-nonsense performance and the blasé reaction of the other agents, but the film never leaves Abignail’s cleverness in doubt.

Knawck knawck…

Gah! I’m always getting the two names mixed up.

The bridge collapse was VERY true. Point Pleasant, VA- 1966, I think. And author John A. Keel claims there were people claiming encounters with “Indrid Cold” which had severe emotional repercussions.

The Philadelpha Experiment. Charles Berlitz’s “based on true events” book, on which the film is based, is pretty much pure fiction.

Well, I meant that Abagnale went in to more technical detail about his scams than they showed in the movie. I know the scene you’re talking about, but it’s 20 seconds of film while there’s 2 or 3 pages about it in the book (total). To be fair though, I don’t know how you could show that in an “entertaining” way… I can’t believe that they didn’t show the “night deposit” scam though - too rich!

Also, I wanted to pimp for the flick Sweet and Lowdown. It’s a “mockumentary” based on a ficticious musician (Sean Penn) that has a love\hate relationship with (non-ficticious) Django Reinhart (hope I spelled that correctly - I’m terminal serviced into my home box and don’t have the time or bandwidth to check). ANYWAY, it’s a great movie, even if you don’t like Woody Allen (who appears in the “interview sessions”, but does not play a “role” in the film, and I don’t think he directed it either).