In a just-posted Cowboys & Indians piece called “Quentin Tarantino: Rebel Filmmaker?”, Variety critic Joe Leydon has noted several similarities between the basic plot bones of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co., 12.25) and an episode from the Nick Adams western series The Rebel (’59 to ’61) called “Fair Game.” The episode, written by Richard Newman, premiered on 3.27.60 as one of 33 Rebel episodes directed by Irvin (The Empire Strikes Back) Kershner.
I’ve read a draft of the Hateful Eight script and to go by Leydon’s synopsis of “Fair Game”, there are quite a few plot points shared by the two. If you’re willing to supply your credit card information (which I’m not — fuck these guys) “Fair Game” is watchable right here.
Leydon is quick to say that he’s “not accusing Quentin Tarantino of plagiarism.” He notes that everybody stole from everybody else back in the old TV days, and that Tarantino has already admitted to Deadline‘s Michael Fleming that he drew inspiration for The Hateful Eight “from such fondly remembered series as Bonanza and The Virginian.” QT to Fleming: “What if I did a movie starring no heroes, no Michael Landons? Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens.”
Again, I haven’t watched “Fair Game” but Leydon claims that this 55 year-old episode and Tarantino’s forthcoming feature share the following synopsis:
“At a Wild West stagecoach station, passengers disembark and settle in for the evening. The usual proprietor is not on the premises, but a substitute offers hospitality and hot coffee to the disparate travelers. One of the passengers is a bounty hunter accompanying a handcuffed prisoner — an impudent shady lady who’s said to be much deadlier than she looks. Indeed, the bounty hunter intends to escort her to another town, where he expects to collect a large reward, and she expects to be hanged for murder.
“Conversations among the strangers — assuming they really are unknown to each other — are something short of amiable, and in some cases downright hostile. And a tense situation only get worse when someone takes a sip of a poisoned beverage — and drops dead on the spot. In the aftermath of this individual’s demise, a debate ensues: Should the remaining travelers agree to let the accused killer go free? Or will someone else accept the task of guarding her — and, while doing so, risk a close encounter with her likely accomplice(s)?”
Strong similarities between a Tarantino film and and a previously produced work were noted 23 years ago when it became apparent that Reservoir Dogs was more or less a remake of Ringo Lam‘s City on Fire (’87).
Leydon graciously allows that “it’s entirely possible, even probable, that at some point during his childhood, [Tarantino] simply viewed, and then forgot he viewed, this Rebel episode in a syndicated rerun. (He was not yet born when the episode first aired on ABC.)
“On the other hand, it’s more than a little jarring to view ‘Fair Game’ — now readily available as part of “The Rebel: The Complete Series“, the 11-DVD boxed set recently released by Timeless Media Group — and note the…well, similarities between the routine 1960 TV drama and the storyline for the movie coming soon to a theater or drive-in near you.”