Monday, February 6, 2012

Science fiction, horror and fantasy stories in the public domain

Stories in the public domain are kept alive with remakes, reimaginings, sequels, prequels, parodies and other tools of the creative trade. They ensure an author’s place in history and popular culture and spark interest in the original works.
The same can’t be said of many works locked down by media companies under today’s extended copyright laws.
What follows is a list of science fiction, fantasy and horror movies and TV shows based on works in the public domain.

Wizard of Oz

First published in 1900, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” lives on in numerous adaptations for stage and screen.
“Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” is set for limited theatrical release starting Feb. 17. The cast includes Christopher Lloyd, Mia Sara, Sean Astin and Lance Henriksen. The movie follows Dorothy Gale, now a successful children’s book author, as she moves from Kansas to New York City. Dorothy soon realizes that the dreams on which she based her books were actually childhood memories.
Next up, a computer-animated film called “Dorothy of Oz” is set for release in August. It features the voice talents of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, Jim Belushi, Oliver Platt and Patrick Stewart.
Walt Disney is making “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” starring James Franco as the title character. The movie, directed by Sam Raimi, explores the origins of the Wizard and how he arrived in Oz. It costars Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams as three witches. It’s set for release in March 2013.
A movie version of the hit Broadway musical “Wicked” is in the works as well, according to Deadline. “Wicked” is a “Wizard of Oz” prequel, based on the Gregory Maguire novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” So, Maguire made a proprietary work based on public domain literature.
Meanwhile, ABC and Salma Hayek are developing a miniseries based on the novel “Wicked,” not the musical, Variety says.
Yet another “Wizard of Oz” adaptation in the works is “Oz Wars.” It’s described as a hybrid stop-motion and computer-animated feature that “transforms the Oz narrative into a contemporary, freaky action-packed PG-13 audience pleaser, with Dorothy caught up in a whirlwind of warrior witches, black magic, martial arts and monsters,” according to ComingSoon.


The 1897 novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker gets frequent adaptations because it’s in the public domain.
TechDirt recently posted an interesting article about how early copyright infringement of Stoker’s novel turned vampires into a big business.
Italian horror director Dario Argento is making a 3-D movie of the novel called “Dracula 3D.” It stars Rutger Hauer and Asia Argento and is expected to be released this year.
Then there’s “Saint Dracula 3D” from director Rupesh Paul, which is also due out in May.
Warner Bros. is developing a reimagined film version of Stoker’s novel called “Harker,” which is being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. The studio has approached Russell Crowe to star in the movie, which is told from the perspective of a police detective, Vulture reports.
Universal is making “Dracula Year Zero,” according to Deadline.
NBC is looking to make a dramatic series based on “Dracula,” according to Deadline.
Sony Pictures Animation is making a computer-animated movie called “Hotel Transylvania,” starring Adam Sandler as Dracula. The mashup story includes other famous public domain monsters, including Frankenstein, Quasimodo and the Mummy, EW reports.


Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein” is another public domain work that continues to get resurrected time and again.
Two movies are in the works based on prequel books that tell the story of young Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist who created Frankenstein’s monster. The novels are “The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein” by Peter Ackroyd and “This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein” by Kenneth Oppel.
Director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) is helming “This Dark Endeavor,” according to Deadline.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn (“Proof”) is writing the script for “The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein,” Deadline says. Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”) is in line to direct it.
But, wait, there’s more.
Universal is working with director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) on a Frankenstein movie.
Sony’s Columbia Pictures has a contemporary re-telling of the tale in development, Deadline reports.
Fox has hired Shawn Levy (“Real Steel”) to direct a revisionist sci-fi Frankenstein movie, GeekTyrant and Collider report.
And former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and his Slasher Films has teamed with Scout Productions on a movie version of “Wake the Dead,” a Frankenstein tale based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles (“30 Days of Night”), Variety reports. Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”) is set to star in the movie.
Stuart Beattie is writing and directing “I, Frankenstein,” based on the Kevin Grevioux graphic novel, Deadline says. It stars Aaron Eckhart and Yvonne Strahovski (“Chuck”).
Dutch director Richard Raaphorst has a movie in the works called “Frankenstein’s Army,” which takes place in World War II and involves the Germans using the writings of Victor Von Frankenstein, GeekTyrant says.
NBC is working on a TV series based on the legend of Frankenstein, as well, GeekTyrant reports.

To be continued …

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