Influence vs Plagiarism

A discussion from the Quentin Tarantino mailing list.

NOTE: Everything here is unedited. All spelling errors and phrasing is the authors own. said:

There is an another so called "influenced " scene in Pulp Fiction:

In the movie Batman, The Joker always says " Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" before he shoots someone. Very similiar idea to the Bible quote Samuel L. Jackson's character always says before HE shoots someone.

My question to you is: at what point is a scene an "homage" rather than a blatent felony thieft?

There are SO many similarities --- Res. Dogs is an almost shot by shot rip-off ( oh, wait I mean Influence) of City on (of ?) Fire.

Don't get me wrong .there are totally cool scenes in both films and I liked them when I saw them ,But now that all this "homage" info has come out I can't help but wonder If I look hard enough at old and forgien movies will I find even more very similar idea's, dialogue and shots ?

Where do you draw the line ?


In response Glen Brazier ( said:

First of all its important to note that the best type of movies are personal stories told with a certain passion and a distinct vision. It is apparent in Pulp Fiction that Tarantino has a distinct vision and it is HIS film. Some bits and pieces may be similar to bits and pieces from other films but so what? The film as a whole belongs to QT and if he stole some ideas to make the film as good as it is...GOOD FOR HIM!!!(and good for us too!). Every writer, poet, painter, and yes every director steals a little and massages it in with his own ideas. That's what your supposed to do! We are all influenced by the outside world to a degree that we cannot control. No one can claim to be entirely original.

As in any profession people are drawn to making films from experiencing other peoples films. A director takes memorable scenes and dialogue and so on and integrates them into his own films. They become conventions which are repeated through generations. It's not a major problem. Many of the most popular stories are completely lifted. Homer did not create the Odyssey. A lot of Shakespeare's stuff is said to be "stolen" from other stories. This seems like kind of a silly example but there are approx.. 350 versions of Cinderella for example. Does everyone criticize Disney for their version of Cinderella? The fact is it doesn't change anything as long as you end up with a good story that says something and in the end can be said to belong to you as a director. It's only in recent times that people have been so uptight about originality.


The second response from Scott Boros <FSCOTT@GEAUGA.NET> said:

First off, although one doesn't come to mind at the very moment, I'm sure that "Batman" wasn't the first movie where someone has a certian phrase he says each time he kills someone. As far as similiar scenes from other movies showing up in Tarantino's work, someone once said that there is nothing new under the sun. This is especially true in movie making. There have been possibly hundreds of thousands of various films made since movies were invented, so its obvious that when trying to make a movie, whatever idea you would like to put in this movie will have been done somewhere before.

Virtually every movie is based in part on some previous film. For example, "Under Seige" was "Die Hard" on a battle ship, etc., etc, etc. If you want to get really technical, the first director to film a scene where one of his characters gets shot in the head is the inventor of that idea, and anyone else who films a character getting shot in the head is ripping him off. Would any rational person say this? Probably not.

What's important is not that the ideas are recycled from other places, but that any paticular director puts these recycled ideas into the context of HIS creation, then they become part of his movie, and belong to both the new production and the original source. Tarantino may have borrowed ideas from "City on Fire," but anyone who recognizes this by watching both movies should see that both films are unique. Sure, certian scenes are the same, but would anyone say "City on Fire," as a whole, is the same as "Reservoir Dogs?" I don't think so.


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