EVERY WORK OF ART is inspired by earlier ones. But there’s inspiration... and then there’s Xeroxing. Let’s play Haven’t I Seen This Before? with some recent hits:

Ocean liner. Gal flees insanely jealous rich hubby for sensitive working class guy. Iceberg. Nope,
History Is Made at Night (1937), with the incomparably romantic duo of Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer, and lots of subtext about melting frigid objects.

Sergeant with a secret leads his boys (including a journalist) around after D-Day. But no Private Ryans saved here; it’s
The Big Red One (1980), with tough old Lee Marvin in command.

Small-town lawyer takes on a big murder case, with only his alcoholic mentor to help. Grisham’s A Time to Kill? Objection, it’s 1959’s juicily entertaining
Anatomy of a Murder, with Jimmy Stewart and all the shades of gray that the color movie leaves out.

Rich guy lives up in penthouse; poor guy in slum below plots kidnapping. Not Opie’s Ransom but Akira Kurosawa’s
High and Low (1963), which does more with its theme and poses more provocative moral questions.

Roman general makes an enemy of the emperor Commodus. 1964’s
The Fall of the Roman Empire can’t match Gladiator for rah-rah action. But it’s still worth seeing for Christopher Plummer’s wryly perverse emperor and the lavish sets from the days when Rome wasn’t built by computer.


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