Which came first? "Repo Men" or "Repo! The Genetic Opera"?

by Eric Melin on March 18, 2010

in Blogs

Is “Repo Men” a rip off “Repo! The Genetic Opera” or the other way around? Which came first? How similar are they?

Repo Men–starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker–is hitting theaters on Friday. The premise: In the future, there’s a biotech company that hires repo men to hunt down and repossess people’s organs provided to them by said company after they default on their payments.

In 2008, Repo! The Genetic Opera had a limited release in theaters. It was a horror musical in which a futuristic biotech company hired a vicious repo man to hunt down and repossess people’s organs provided to them by said company after they default on their payments. Yikes!

First, the facts: Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith created “Repo! The Genetic Opera” from songs they had been performing in coffeehouses in L.A. for two years. By 2002, a full-length stage production took place in Hollywood with Darren Lynn Bousman as the director. In 2005, it played in New York. After making three “Saw” movies and a “Repo!” short, Bousman directed the 2008 film “Repo! The Genetic Opera.”

Here’s where it gets tricky: Author Eric Garcia‘s book “The Repossession Mambo” wasn’t published until 2009, but it had already been adapted into the screenplay for “Repo Men” before it was even published. Here’s a review of the “Repo Men” screenplay that dates back to 2007. This interview with Garcia from 2001 says he had already finished a draft of the book by then.

Well, it’s pretty obvious that “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” had its genesis way back in 1999. Outside of the premise, however, are the movies even that similar? A guy who calls himself Spooky Dan certainly thinks so. He’s written a detailed account of every single little similarity (right down to the first letter of two characters in the different stories being the same!) on his blog here.

repo men genetic operaThe filmmakers themselves have been a bit more measured in their response, although the similarities in the marketing campaigns (see right) are pretty telling. Bousman himself posted a long blog about the history of “Repo!” in its many incarnations and Zdunich has every right to be angry, posting a blog that refutes an AMCtv article that stated at one point that “Repo!” was based on–get this–Garcia’s book that wasn’t even published yet.

Outraged fans of “Repo!” made their voices heard and the article was corrected, but the message here is very clear. Do NOT get these movies confused.

The “Repo!” guys have all but proved their script had nothing to do with Garcia’s, and Garcia says his unpublished novel was based on a short story he wrote in 1997 called “The Telltale Pancreas” about a guy who is “engaging in organ repossession to keep up the payments on his own artificial pancreas.”

So this is what we have: Two different ideas revolving around organ repossession that date back to the late 90s. Big deal. Know the films have nothing to do with each other and everyone’s happy.

The ultimate irony? Neither film was really able to capitalize on the really great sci-fi setup that is “organ repossession.” Each film is audacious in its own right, so I can’t fault them for that. But both fall short of doing anything really interesting with the big picture. “Repo!” is a larger-than-life soap opera that puts a troubled father/daughter relationship and the infighting of an extremely fucked up family front and center. “Repo Men” pulls a “Minority Report” and has the enforcer become the chased. Yawn.

Does this mean a third movie about organ repossession needs to be made? In Hollywood, I wouldn’t count anything out.

Some of us had our appetite for repo men in the movies sated back in 1984 with Alex Cox‘s (“Sid and Nancy“) bizarre, truly original, low-budget Repo Man.” It starred Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton as a repo protegee and his jaded mentor and threw in everything from aliens to embryonic mosh pits to West Coast punk rock hooligans carrying out burglaries at low-rent convenience stores, not to mention the classic movie line: “John Wayne was a fag.”

That director, himself coming out of what seems like years of hiding, has a film coming out this year that looks to top them all in complete weirdness: “Repo Chick.”

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dbmurray March 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Where does _Gentlemen Broncos_ figure into all of this?

If you haven’t seen it, it’s about young writer going to writer’s camp and having his manuscript stolen and re-written by a famous writer. Meanwhile, the young writer allows a local film company to make a movie based on his story. It’s one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen in a long time.

In the story that’s being ripped off, “Yeast Lords,” (I said it was weird) a guy wakes up to find one of his, um, organs…has been removed…and he really wants it back.

Reply

2 dbmurray March 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Where does _Gentlemen Broncos_ figure into all of this?

If you haven’t seen it, it’s about young writer going to writer’s camp and having his manuscript stolen and re-written by a famous writer. Meanwhile, the young writer allows a local film company to make a movie based on his story. It’s one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen in a long time.

In the story that’s being ripped off, “Yeast Lords,” (I said it was weird) a guy wakes up to find one of his, um, organs…has been removed…and he really wants it back.

Reply

3 Matt Brown March 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm

The theater in the Plaza in KC has the movie listed as ‘Repo Man’. Just thought that was kinda funny.

Reply

4 Matt Brown March 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm

The theater in the Plaza in KC has the movie listed as ‘Repo Man’. Just thought that was kinda funny.

Reply

5 Eric Melin March 21, 2010 at 11:02 pm

dbmurray- Haven’t seen it. Is it out on DVD yet? Worth checking out at all? I didn’t like Napolean Dynamite or Nacho Libre, so I’m cautious.

Matt- That is VERY funny. Theaters get generic titles wrong all the time. When I worked at a theater in high school, I was told to go put “Men of Fire” out on the marquee and only later did I found out the movie was called “Man on Fire,” not to be confused with the Tony Scott-Denzel movie of the exact same name in 2004.

Reply

6 Eric Melin March 21, 2010 at 11:02 pm

dbmurray- Haven’t seen it. Is it out on DVD yet? Worth checking out at all? I didn’t like Napolean Dynamite or Nacho Libre, so I’m cautious.

Matt- That is VERY funny. Theaters get generic titles wrong all the time. When I worked at a theater in high school, I was told to go put “Men of Fire” out on the marquee and only later did I found out the movie was called “Man on Fire,” not to be confused with the Tony Scott-Denzel movie of the exact same name in 2004.

Reply

7 Jonathan Reed March 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

um repo the genetic opera came first they took it from an opera that started in the 1990′s

Reply

8 Jonathan Reed March 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

um repo the genetic opera came first they took it from an opera that started in the 1990′s

Reply

9 dbmurray March 23, 2010 at 9:07 am

A collection of stories called _Flatlander_ by Larry Niven was also a likely inspiration for some of these movies. The collection was published in 1995, but the stories were out there in sci-fi magazines before then.

In the book, Gil “the arm” Hamilton is like a sci-fi version of Sherlock Holmes. His job is to track down organleggers and bring them to justice.

Reply

10 dbmurray March 23, 2010 at 9:07 am

A collection of stories called _Flatlander_ by Larry Niven was also a likely inspiration for some of these movies. The collection was published in 1995, but the stories were out there in sci-fi magazines before then.

In the book, Gil “the arm” Hamilton is like a sci-fi version of Sherlock Holmes. His job is to track down organleggers and bring them to justice.

Reply

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