Monday, April 02, 2012

Hunger Games Is A Rip Off Of...

THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) is based on a novel from 4 years ago - and happened to be the #1 film of the weekend again.




So there’s a funny little picture being passed around on Facebook with a shot from PULP FICTION and the question - “Do you know what they call HUNGER GAMES in France? BATTLE ROYALE with cheese.” Amusing, but shouldn’t it be Japan?

The thing that I find most amusing about this are the people who think that HUNGER GAMES is just a rip-off of BATTLE ROYALE - as if the history of cinema began a dozen years ago. Hey, this story has been around almost as long as film! At least 80 years ago they made the same basic story!

"Do you like Gladiator Movies?"

So I thought ot would be fun to look at some of the films that came before HUNGER GAME and added to it’s story...

We’ll get to CONDEMNED (2007) when we look at the movies about prisoners who get chosen to play the game where they fight to the death, but first let’s take a look at innocent school children who are chosen in a lottery to fight to the death...

You are probably thinking about BATTLE ROYALE, and we’ll get to that, but about the same time as BATTLE ROYALE came out one of my favorite movies that no one has ever seen came out - SERIES 7. This indie flick is about a hit reality TV show where random people are chosen to fight each other to the death as SURVIVOR-like camera crews follow them. Instead of an island or an abandoned part of the city or a wooded area these contestants play in the city. They hunt and kill each other in the real world. The film follows a handful of contestants including the pregnant champion and a *cheerleader* who is driven to kills by her parents. I love this movie! It’s savage and funny and looks just like an episode of SURVIVOR.

SERIES 7 (2001)


Just before SERIES 7 we had the Japanese version of the story which seems most similar to HUNGER GAMES... except the tone is completely different and the characters and motivations and reasons for the game and even the details of the game are completely different. The parts that are the same? Kids as contestants. If you consider how many times this story has been made and how many other variables there are that are direct-connections to HUNGER GAMES... plus LORD OF THE FLIES which was remade the same year (2000) and was *originally* made in 1963 (Peter Brooks) and based on a novel that predates the BATTLE ROYALE novel by *decades*, why the heck is this the first film people think of when they are looking for a HUNGER GAMES source?

BATTLE ROYALE (2000)


By the way, BATTLE was directed by the same guy who gave us GREEN SLIME (not the pink stuff). The novel was written in 1996... which is long after Stephen King’s RUNNING MAN (published in 1982) which was made into a movie 3 years before BATTLE ROYALE. Hey! How come no one points to RUNNING MAN as the source for HUNGER GAMES? Probably more similarities between the two - the major difference being prisoners instead of just kids... but if you have read the book you know the prisoner thing was an invention of the screenwriters, in the book the protagonist was an out of work guy from a District called Co-Op City which is very much like the coal mining world of District 12, who volunteers for the game to save his daughter. The tone and feel of the book is similar to HUNGER GAMES - they almost share the same dystopian future. The movie?

RUNNING MAN (1987)


Though there are plenty of battles to the death on an island (HELL IN THE PACIFIC, 1967) and people hunting each other flicks (RUN FOR THE SUN (1956), NAKED PREY (1966), and the cheese-fest DEATH CHASE from 1988), but if there was ever a source for HUNGER GAMES it’s a crazy Italian film from 1965 based on a novel by Robert Sheckley called THE TENTH VICTIM. The film is about a TV reality show where ten normal people are chosen at random and given guns in order to hunt each other through the city. There is an MC, there is a TV audience, there are bets made on the outcome, just about everything in HUNGER GAMES is in this film... including the “star crossed lovers” aspect! Because the strangest part about THE TENTH VICTIM is that it’s kind of a rom-com! Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress are contestants who fall in love along the way - even though they must kill each other in the end. Will they change the rules so that two can survive?

TENTH VICTIM (1965)


I love Ursula’s bra-gun! My James Bond parody film FOR SORE EYES ONLY featured a villainess named Greta Goodtits who had machineguns surgically implanted in her breasts - a pair of blazing 38s! The most amazing thing about this film is that it was made in 1965 and predicts reality TV shows... but the Sheckley story was published in 1953! How the heck could he have predicted reality TV shows in 1953?

I mentioned that RUNNING MAN changed the unemployed everyman who would have fit right in working in those District 12 coal mines with a prisoner played by Ah-nuld, but for the past 20 years or some we have had many versions of this story as junky action films about *prisoners* who get a chance at freedom if they kill each other on live TV. CONDEMNED was a recent version where prisoners fought to death on an island (like in BATTLE ROYALE), and the DEATH RACE remake they fought to the death in cars. There are a zillion steel cage match movies like THE OCTAGON which feature fights to the death, and lots of movies like HARD TARGET and SURVIVING THE GAME where the game isn’t televised - but still is played to the death,

I believe I am probably the only one who has seen this Prisoners Battle To The Death On A TV Game Show flick in a cinema - DEATHROW GAMESHOW directed by Northridge’s Mark Pirro... who makes films on Super 8mm, though this was shot on 16mm. I saw this flick at AFM one year...

DEATHROW GAMESHOW (1987) - caution: boobies!


But all of these films go back to that film shot at the same time and on the same sets as KING KONG, the amazing MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) based on a story by Richard Connell published in 1924. Here we have the island, the hunting of people, the star-crossed lovers... and the hounds! Those killer dogs in HUNGER GAMES? They are in this version of the story, too! Not the DNA mutants from HUNGER GAMES, but dogs specially breed to find humans. I was looking for a trailer or good clip of the film, but could only find the whole damned movie (it’s in public domain). So don’t click on the clip below unless you have over an hour to kill watching people hunting people on an island.

MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) - the whole danged movie!


So there you go - 80 years ago the first film that could be called a source for HUNGER GAMES was made, and in every decade since there have been a handful of movies with the same basic plot. Like all basic stories, this one is as old as time. There were probably cave men telling the story of fighting each other to the death... Hey, wait a minute - how does 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY begin?

What's important about a movie or screenplay isn't the similarities, it's the differences. Every story is like a bunch of other stories, but what are the elements that make *this version* unique?

- Bill


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4 comments:

Richard J. McKenzie said...

I saw BATTLE ROYALE. To me, it was symbolic of the social struggles that kids have in school, only the stakes have been turned up to '11'. The kids react in various ways, together or alone.

The sequel is bad - the ending has a second ending tacked on, and a third...

My favorite part of SERIES 7 was on the golf course, when the girl is chasing her victim and her parents are cheering her on.
Typical parents. I could almost see myself doing that for my kids.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Saw "The Most Dangerous Game" on t.v. when I was a kid and was later indignant when I saw a Columbo episode called "The Most Crucial Game" that did not copy it. It was about football. Later, I was thrilled to see another Columbo episode open with the title "The Most Dangerous Match". Surely, this one would plagiarize that great film. Nope. It was about chess.

I love gladiator movies.

James said...

Glad you pointed out Running Man. When I first saw the trailers for HUNGER GAMES I thought it was a cross between THE LOTTERY and RUNNING MAN.

Stephen King has several stories that are similar to THE HUNGER GAMES. THE LONG WALK is another.

That PULP FICTION -- BATTLE ROYALE with cheese meme going around made me near choke to death on laughter. Love me some double puns.

The biggest difference between HUNGER GAMES and the others is that HUNGER GAMES is a Young Adult book crafted for a PG-13 audience. Most of the ones that it draws from or is compared to are hard Rs. The success is less about content and more about maximizing the audience.

wcmartell said...

Without having to look it up - CRUCIAL GAME starred Robert Cup and DANGEROUS MATCH starred Laurence Harvey. I know my COLUMBO!

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