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Old June 21 2012, 07:51 PM   #1
jefferiestubes8
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the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

After making a thread on the sources Ridley Scott borrowed from for Alien (1979) I was thinking about The Terminator. Let's discuss James Cameron's first film and it's story inspiration origins.

Wikipedia on The Terminator states
Cameron later stated that his influences while writing the script were 1950s science fiction films and episodes of The Outer Limits as well as contemporary films including The Driver and The Road Warrior.
I came across a little more detail:
The two "Outer Limits" episodes in question were:
Soldier, involving a battle between two soldiers from a war occurring in Earth's future, and;

Demon With A Glass Hand, which concerned the efforts of aliens from the future to kidnap a man whose computerized hand contained the secret of human survivial following a future war.

The short story was the classic, "I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream," the story of the terrorization of the last five humans alive trapped inside a giant, insane, self-aware supercomputer called AM.

So what are the similarities? Well, “Soldier” is about a man from the future who time-travels to the past, grows close to a family, and eventually sacrifices his life for the family when an enemy time-travels to the past as well. “Demon with a Glass Hand” doesn’t bear a similar narrative — it’s about a guy in an office building fighting off aliens — but it does have a similar Future War story, although in this one humans fight off aliens, not machines, by digitally encode their souls onto robots and then unleashing a radioactive plague.
source

Eventually all was decided in court and Cameron added Ellison's name to the credits of the movie
"Acknowledgment is made of the works of Harlan Ellison"
Please keep your Harlan Ellison opinions out of this thread.
Okay so let's discuss the TV & literature that Cameron was inspired by/borrowed from.

I haven't seen either episode from The Outer Limits but yes it's pretty obvious Cameron borrowed some ideas. What do you guys think?
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Old June 21 2012, 08:01 PM   #2
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Cameron explicitly stated that he "ripped off a couple of Harlan Ellison stories," so I don't know that there is really much up for debate on that point.
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Old June 21 2012, 09:22 PM   #3
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.
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Old June 21 2012, 10:02 PM   #4
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Westworld.
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Old June 21 2012, 10:09 PM   #5
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Gojira wrote: View Post
As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.
Which is why at La Tene, in France, there are cave paintings of robotic supersoldiers sent back in time to kill people.

...or you know maybe stories do change and some people do have copyright over their ideas.
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Old June 21 2012, 10:34 PM   #6
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Found this on Wikipedia:

Many mainstream media outlets report that Demon with a Glass Hand was the basis of a settlement that Ellison received after it was allegedly plagiarized for The Terminator. These claims were disputed by the argument that the claim and subsequent settlement were exclusively premised upon the argument that the opening moments of The Terminator had plagiarized the other Ellison script produced by The Outer Limits, "Soldier". Harlan Ellison himself clarified this in a 2001 exchange with a fan at his website: "'Terminator' was not stolen from 'Demon with a Glass Hand,' it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, 'Soldier.'")[3] According to The Los Angeles Times, the parties settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, and an acknowledgement of Ellison's work in the credits of Terminator.[4]
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Old June 22 2012, 12:07 AM   #7
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Impossible for this thread to exist without debate of Harlan Ellison. I have a fairly low opinion of both Ellison and Cameron, but the only "proof" that Cameron was stupid enough to say "I basically ripped off a couple of Outer Limits episodes" is the testimony of Ellison's friends.
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Old June 22 2012, 04:06 AM   #8
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

No.

And that is why Cameron paid, and credited, Harlan Ellison.

Kegg wrote: View Post
Gojira wrote: View Post
As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.
Which is why at La Tene, in France, there are cave paintings of robotic supersoldiers sent back in time to kill people.

...or you know maybe stories do change and some people do have copyright over their ideas.
Bingo.

This stupid argument is kept alive only by people who for some reason refuse to acknowledge what was so blindingly obvious from a legal POV that a substantial settlement was agreed to on the condition - imposed by the defendants - that no one discuss its terms.

An agreement that Ellison held to, BTW, until Cameron did not - though Cameron was somewhat misled (perhaps inadvertently) by a reporter who contacted him and suggested that he was also talking to Ellison.
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Old June 22 2012, 07:50 AM   #9
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

JRoss wrote: View Post
Impossible for this thread to exist without debate of Harlan Ellison. I have a fairly low opinion of both Ellison and Cameron, but the only "proof" that Cameron was stupid enough to say "I basically ripped off a couple of Outer Limits episodes" is the testimony of Ellison's friends.
Also an interview Cameron gave to Starlog magazine which either he or Gale Anne Hurd (or both) had edited to remove an incriminating remark similar to the above.

“About a week after my attorney contacted Hemdale, I got a call from the editor of Starlog magazine. ....It turned out Cameron had given an interview to Starlog and, after I began inquiring at Hemdale, [The Terminator producer Gale Anne] Hurd sent Starlog a legal demand to see the interview.” According to Ellison, Gale Anne Hurd then modified Starlog's article on The Terminator. She omitted a quote from Cameron in the article that read, “'Oh, I took a couple of Outer Limits segments.'” The reason that the Starlog editor had contacted Ellison was to provide him with the original version of the article, the one without Gale Anne Hurd's editing. Said Ellison, “At this point we went to Hemdale and to Orion and we said, 'I'm afraid we got him with the smoking gun. Now do you want to do something about this or do you want us to whip your ass in open court? We'd be perfectly happy to do it either way.'” Between the account of Tracy Torme and the Starlog interview, the attorneys for Hemdale and Orion quickly realized that they wanted no part of a lawsuit, by Ellison's accounts. “They took one look at this shit and their attorneys said, 'Settle.'”

http://www.jamescamerononline.com/Ellison.htm
Of course, while The Terminator has a good deal in common with "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand," arguably there is enough differences between them that it could have been possible that writer and director James Cameron did not intentionally plagiarise Harlan Ellison. After all, it is possible for someone to have an idea similar to one previously used in a work without ever having been exposed to that work; however, that does not appear to have been the case with James Cameron. While initially claiming that the inspiration for The Terminator came to him after being ill in Rome, he later told the magazine Starlog that he had drawn the idea from two episodes of The Outer Limits. And while The Terminator resembles "Soldier" but little, anyone who has seen "Demon with a Glass Hand" would have to wonder about Cameron's true inspiration for the movie.

At the outset Harlan Ellison was not inclined to sue James Cameron. Unfortunately for Cameron, his actions would lead Ellison to believe that he had wilfully plagiarised his work. Cameron had managed to have the Starlog article edited so that his quote regarding the origins of The Terminator resting with two Harlan Ellison Outer Limits episodes were removed. Unfortunately for Cameron, Starlog still had the original article. Ellison presented this evidence to Orion Pictures as proof that Cameron had plagiarised his work. As a result, the studio settled with Ellison out of court for $400,000 and story credit on all prints of the film. The bitter irony of the whole affair is that if Cameron had only approached Ellison prior to making the film and let him know that it was inspired by his work, he would have only settled for a Special Thanks credit on the film.

http://www.terminatorfiles.com/media...sfacts_013.htm
Cameron was his own worst enemy, by talking about the inspiration for the story in public, by not crediting Ellison since he acknowledged that inspiration (which is all Ellison initially would have wanted), and by either Cameron or Hurd or both trying to cover up the quote in Starlog after the fact because they knew it could result in a lawsuit.
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Old June 22 2012, 04:50 PM   #10
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

^Thus the testimony of Ellison's friends. I really don't buy the whole "I had no suspicions until I got a phone call," story because he also said that he was suspicious because he wasn't invited to the premiere.
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Old June 22 2012, 05:34 PM   #11
Locutus of Bored
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

JRoss wrote: View Post
^Thus the testimony of Ellison's friends. I really don't buy the whole "I had no suspicions until I got a phone call," story because he also said that he was suspicious because he wasn't invited to the premiere.
What? You said there was no evidence in favor of Ellison except for the testimony of Ellison's friends, by which I assume you mean Tracy Torme being allegedly told by Cameron that he borrowed from two of Ellison's Outer Limits stories. I then showed you two descriptions from James Cameron-friendly websites of a completely different piece of actual hard evidence, not from one of Ellison's friends, but from an original unedited article in Starlog that Cameron and Hurd asked to be edited after the fact, and you act like that's no different from a friend of his relaying something he overheard. It was apparently a damning enough piece of evidence for the production company to settle.

I like both Ellison's and Cameron's work, so I don't have a dog in this fight, but if Cameron openly admitted to people and a magazine that he borrowed elements of Ellison's stories to make Terminator, then the bottom line is that he owed the guy a story credit. And after failing to give credit (which is all Ellison initially says he wanted) and trying to cover it up, thus escalating things, he owed him compensation. If Cameron had said nothing about borrowing from Ellison, he probably could have won any legal challenge since the similarities are relatively few and fairly broad in scope and one could reasonably conclude that two writers could arrive at the same rough idea independently. But he shot himself in the foot.
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Last edited by Locutus of Bored; June 22 2012 at 05:46 PM.
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Old June 22 2012, 05:43 PM   #12
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

And the whole "robot infiltrator in war with post-holocaust humans, in human vs machines war" thing owes far more to PKD's story "Second Variety". But Dick was dead before Terminator went into production...
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Old June 23 2012, 09:55 AM   #13
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Lonemagpie wrote: View Post
And the whole "robot infiltrator in war with post-holocaust humans, in human vs machines war" thing owes far more to PKD's story "Second Variety". But Dick was dead before Terminator went into production...
This was my first thought on seeing the thread title. Terminator could only have been made better by Arnie running about with a teady bear.
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Old June 23 2012, 11:21 AM   #14
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Second Variety was itself filmed as Screamers, with Peter Weller. But my favourite reference to it is in The Living Daylights...
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Old June 23 2012, 11:35 AM   #15
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Re: the sources "The Terminator" 1984 borrowed from

Lonemagpie wrote: View Post
Second Variety was itself filmed as Screamers, with Peter Weller. But my favourite reference to it is in The Living Daylights...
IIRC (I've only seen it the once on late night ITV) Screamers suffers from being so desperate not to seem a Terminator knock off despite the source material pre-dating it the film jumps through all sorts of slightly odd hoops that lose a lot of what makes the story fun (lets set it on another planet!). Despite not being robots I think the ending of the first Robert Patrick New Outer Limits episode owes a tad to the end of the short story as well.

Was The Living Daylights reference intentional? It's always made me think of the story (I read it at a very young age so even though a lot of the ideas in it had been done to death even by that point elsewhere it got me at just the right time to be genuinely surprising and has always been a favourite) I just assumed it was a coincidence.
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