Each issue, RSL offers up that perennial internet favourite: the themed list. For this issue, we take a quick look at a few well-known films you might not know were inspired by real life…
1. Rope (1948)
What’s it about? Actually based on a 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘real-time’ classic tells of two egoistical young men who commit the ‘perfect murder’, hide the body in a chest and then throw a party, serving their dinner guests from, that’s right, the top of the chest. It was adapted by Hume Cronyn and Arthur Laurents.
What’s the real story? The tale was inspired by the Leopold and Loeb murder in 1924.
2. Psycho (1960)
What’s it about? More Hitchcock goodness with maybe his best-known work. The story concerns a secretary who goes on the run after stealing $40,000 from her employer, only to wind up at a remote motel run by Norman Bates, a young man with an ‘unusual’ relationship with his mother. It was written by Joseph Stefano, based on Robert Bloch’s novel. Psycho was, for some reason, remade (shot-for-shot) in 1998.
What’s the real story? The story was based on the crimes of real-life serial killer, Ed Gein, whose gruesome acts also inspired classic horror film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
3. The Sound of Music (1965)
What’s it about? We move from murderers to singing kids and Nazis. Set in 1930s Austria, Julie Andrews stars as Maria, a young nun who becomes a governess to a widowed naval officer’s seven children. Romance blooms between the governess and Captain Von Trapp. But things take a more sinister turn when he is summoned by the Third Reich. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman from the stage musical by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
What’s the real story? This classic screen musical tells the story of the real Von Trapp family and is based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp.
4. The Exorcist (1973)
What’s it about? Often cited as one of the best horror films of all time, The Exorcist tells of attempts by two priests to rescue a young girl from demonic possession. It was adapted for the screen by William Peter Blatty, from his novel of the same name.
What’s the real story? The story is based on the exorcism of Roland Doe, which Blatty heard about during his time as a student at Georgetown University.
What’s it about? Notable for being the first time two acting legends appeared together on screen, Michael Mann’s cat-and-mouse crime thriller follows Al Pacino’s Lt Vincent Hanna as he attempts to take down Robert De Niro’s career criminal, Neil McCauley. Written by Mann, the film is actually a reboot of the filmmaker’s 1989 effort, LA Takedown, which featured the slightly less iconic pairing of Scott Plank as Hanna and Alex McArthur as his foe (renamed Patrick McLaren).
What’s the real story? Heat is loosely based on Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson’s pursuit of career criminal Neil McCauley in the 1960s.
Next issue, RSL takes a look at fact-based films that attempt to bring iconic figures from history to life on screen.
Issue 3 of RSL is out on 22 June.