CATEGORIES Classics, Thrillers, Mystery & Suspense, Universal, Celebrities and Controversy, Dreamworks, Steven Spielberg, Remakes and Sequels, CinematicalThe basic plot of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window -- man believes he witnessed a murder, has to prove it really happened -- has been reused for so many films and TV shows that it's not that surprising when another homage or ripoff comes around. Yet last year's Disturbia, starring Shia LaBeouf as a guy under house arrest who thinks his neighbor is a serial killer, bore close enough resemblance to be labeled an update on Hitchcock's film. And now, not surprisingly, Dreamworks, its parent company Viacom and Universal Pictures, are being sued for creating an unauthorized remake.*
The defendant in the case is not exactly related to Hitchcock's film, though; the lawsuit was filed by Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust, which owns the rights to Cornell Woolrich's original short story "It Had to Be Murder" (called "Murder from a Fixed Viewpoint" in the article), upon which Rear Window is based. Film business followers may remember the name Sheldon Abend from the important Supreme Court copyright case of 1990, Stewart v. Abend, in which Abend sued James Stewart and the production company Patron Inc. after Rear Window was aired on television.
If you've seen both Disturbia and Rear Window do you think the case is valid? Is Disturbia really that much more of a ripoff than Manhattan Murder Mystery, Head Over Heels and most of Brian DePalma's early career? Even Antonioni's Blow Up and Coppola's The Conversation are fairly similar in concept. Obviously some works, such as the Simpsons episode in which Bart thinks Flanders murdered his wife, are okay because they fall under the permissions of parody.
*Note: We accidentally listed Steven Spielberg as an executive producer on Disturbia, though he was not. That information has been removed from the post. [ed]
And, more importantly, how will this suit affect Spielberg, Dreamworks and LaBeouf's upcoming Eagle Eye, which like Disturbia is also directed by D.J. Caruso, and which has similarly been compared to a Hitchcock film, specifically North by Northwest or broadly the whole of Hitch's wrong man films? I wonder who claims credit for that widely used plot.