Friday, January 13, 2006

The Other Munich Movie

In today's The Wall Street Journal's "Weekend Journal" section there is an article by Jon Weinbach, entitled "The Other Munich movie" (p.W4). As the article begins, "Nearly everyone who's seen Steven Spielberg's 'Munich' seems to have a strong opinion about the movie." My own view is strongly negative, and of his screenwriter, unprintable. But as Mr. Weinbach points out, "Now there's something else to add to the discussion: It turns out there was a cable-TV movie made 20 years ago about the same historical events, and some people involved in that production say the Spielberg movie is getting too much credit for originality."

The earlier film is called "The Sword of Gideon" (with Steven Bauer, Michael York, Rod Steiger, and Colleen Dewhurst). It too "focuses on an Israeli agent named Avner who faces a crisis of conscience after helping assassinate Palestinians believed to be behind the Munich slayings." The article points out other similarities, but importantly notes that similarities should be expected because both films are based on the same 1984 book, "Vengeance," by George Jonas, as well as, to some extent, the actual events.

But beyond this, there are some less explainable similarities, including details not found in the book and certain camera angles. Robert Lantos, producer of "Sword of Gideon," is quoted as saying "some parts of the current film are 'almost re-enactments' of his 1986 work. 'It's a testament to the cunning and foresight of Spielberg's publicity machine that 'Sword of Gideon' has not made it onto anyone's radar, he says."

Whether any of this would amount to infringement is highly doubtful, and the kvetching may just be jealousy. But if one truly wants foresight, consider that Universal, which has distribution rights to Munich, owns the film rights to "Vengeance" and the remake rights to Sword of Gideon.


Anonymous said...

My own view is strongly negative, and of his screenwriter, unprintable.

Yes, the French and Americans were treated very unfairly I thought!

Was the purchase of the TV movie after or at the same time as the purchase of rights in the underlying book? There are two good reasons to buy it. First, there would be a claim of infringement otherwise - - almost a certainty - - and second, the TV movie or its remake would have promoted itself on the fumes of the marketing for the Speilberg version. It's a terrible thing to watch your marketing dollars go to waste but it's even more painful to watch them work to the benefit an unrellated party. Or did Universal control the TV movie anyway before Speilberg expressed interest? Every studio uses such holdings to attract projects from the few bankable artist that are out there. And why shouldn't Universal put that TV movie on the shelf? Seems like a smart thing to do.

I somehow doubt that the earlier dramatization of the book was premised, as is "Munich," on an operatic exposition of fear.

William Patry said...

I think Universal acted very responsibly. My reaction to the movie is based on other factors, principally its childish look at "violence begets violence" so why can't we just peace a chance?, and its equation of the murder of innocent athletes with the tracking down of their murderers.

thevitaminkid said...

I wish people would see the documentary One Day In September, and forget about the "dramatized" movie versions. I have little desire to see Spielberg's spin on terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Another scine "too similar" to what I have seen in another movie.

Taking revenge for the friend and killing professional assasin (femile) with a bike pump looks same as in the "Agents secrets" staring Monica Bellucci and André Dussollier.

Anonymous said...

Steven Spielberg's movie is identical to "The sword of Gideon" The scenes couldn't be any closer. I've lost so much respect for Spielberg. He did not give any credit to the other movie while commenting on Munich on the DVD. Anyone else would have been fined or thrown in jail for what he did.