Wells Estate set to sue
Hollywood production company over latest
Ever since Johnston McCulley’s novel about the now legendary masked hero saw its first screen incarnation as “The Mark of Zorro” back in 1920, the Zorro character has been a consistently popular figure. Several other movies have been made since, as well as a well-known and beloved TV series starring Guy Williams.
The storyline of past productions has always adhered to the classical approach to Zorro – a heroic character who dedicates his life to protecting defenseless people from a corrupt and power hungry establishment in an old world context.
In light of this, Pentacon Productions’ proposed screenplay for this latest Zorro epic is, to say the least, a radical departure from tradition. Indeed, the new story sees Zorro embarking on a fantastic voyage through time and pitting him against strange mutants in an alien future world.
This has led some – including the Wells estate – to suggest that the producers may be guilty of plagiarizing the storyline of a classic novel: H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.
Mexican screenwriter Carlos Colomina insists that any resemblance is purely coincidental. He claims the story came to him in a dream and that he had never even heard of the Wells classic “The Time Machine” when he wrote his Zorro epic “La Maquina del Zorro” about how Zorro discovers the secrets of the fourth dimension and creates a Machine that travels in time.
If that is true, then the similarities are stunning. Among them, references to two species cohabiting the future world that Zorro visits with his “Maquina”: They are the gentle Morlocas and the ferocious Ehoy. One cannot help but be reminded of Wells’s Eloi and Morlocks !
Director of production Pedro Bolanos says he is convinced that the similarities are indeed coincidental and that in fact the two stories are otherwise very different. He points out that “Wells’s time traveler is a scientist, while Zorro is a heroic figure. Clearly, they are two different characters !”
“Zorro wants to do something to save the poor Morlocas”, he says, “while the Time Traveller in Wells’s story just lets the tragedy unfold without doing anything about it… I mean, where’s the action, the heroism ??? Our Zorro goes into the future, kicks ass and sets things straight ! Besides, in The Time Machine, the main character never uses a sword or rides a horse. I think that the Wells estate is just jealous of our winning formula !”
The McCulley estate however has distanced itself from the project. Last week, they stated in a press release, “We sold the rights for a new Zorro movie without the least knowledge that the producers planned to alter the storyline to such a radical extent. Unfortunately, now that the deal is signed, our hands are tied.”
On this point, representatives of the Wells estate are more lenient, as a similar situation occurred when DreamWorks decided to remake Wells’s classic story just a few years ago and altered it considerably – to its detriment.
Even if the Wells estate lawsuit were abandoned, Pentacon Productions is far from being in the clear over this debate. It would appear that MGM officials, on hearing of Mr. Bolanos’s comments, are now considering a lawsuit of their own.
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