a) Questioning Dan O'Bannon's inspiration
David Cronenberg made the film Shivers in which there appeared a parasitic creature that lived in the bod, it would leap onto the victims face and enter through the mouth and be seen bulging through the skin. For Cronenberg that was enough to suggest something of the Facehugger's method of impregnation and how the chestburster gets out in Alien, Also what is seen at the beginning of the movie is a man is seen cutting open the body of a young woman to get at the parasite within and kill it with acid. And the setting of the film was the Starliner Towers hi-rise complex that perhaps was begging to be reimagined aboard a space ship. Of course he didn't actually know Dan O'Bannon or anything about his personal body horrors that Dan seemed to have been relating through the idea of the chestburster and indeed Dan had admitted to being inspired by Philip José Farmer's "Strange Relations" published in 1960 which contained in its closing lines the idea of what the facehugger does to its victim and by Tim Boxell's comic book story Defiled which came out in 1972 that had featured a man raped by an alien creature using sexual organs incompatible with the human form leading to a creature that grows inside and soon comes out of the chest. Whether Shivers remains another guiding vision for Dan O'Bannon's Alien remains a question.
|scene from Shivers|
b) Incident in Germany
At a film festival in German when they had shown several of his early films, someone from that country in the audience stood up and said "How dare you show this film! You have so obviously stolen from the movie Alien! There is parasite that comes out of the mouth and there is acid that burns a face, just like Alien!"
Cronenberg replied "You know, but this movie was made three years before Alien,"
The German man said "What?"
Cronenberg replied "Yes".
The German man responded "Ah, now we know who the thief is"
|scene from Shivers|
c) Cronenberg's Inquiries
Cronenberg realised that over time he was having a strange sort of a non-relationship with Dan O'Bannon because he never met him and he knew a lot of people who knew him and worked with him. For instance he knew John Landis and he told Cronenberg that Dan knew very well what he called the "Canadian films" by which he meant Shivers and Rabid, when he wrote Alien. And in Cronenberg's mind that meant that he must have stolen all the parasite stuff from Shivers and he would have been familiar with Rabid as well. He found himself talking to Ron Shusett because he had been given Dan and Ron's Total Recall script to take a look at and Ron Shusett told him, "He never saw those movies, knows nothing about them and I believe him."
And so Dan O'Bannon would later deny that he has even seen those movies while John Landis would swear that Dan talked about about them all the time and knew them very well.
|scene from Shivers|
d) Synchronicity / Idea Parallelism
Dan O'Bannon would use a term "Idea Parallelism", and this frustrated him as he would be working on his original ideas and several other writers all working on their original ideas independent of one another might well find that they're all working on the same idea. It was down to the one who could get the idea past the starting gate first and Dan O'Bannon had found that many of his projects had evaporated because others had had the power to realise the same idea first.
However David Cronenberg had seen enough similarities between films that he was making and suddenly the idea would come out in another form , maybe in a capsule summery of another movie or a review of the movie, no matter how obscure or personal you idea might be, it might suddenly share ideas with another movie that would take away it's impact. In a Jungian sense once can see this as synchronicity.
When Cronenberg made The Brood, he found out that the film Manitou shared something similar when he read about a birth of a weird creature coming out of a woman's back and then when he made Scanner, he found out about Altered States that shared some things that were similar. Also while he made the 1983 film Videodrome released in that featured a gun that fused to the hand with ribbed piping creating the biomechanic look associated with the work of HR Giger and it dealt with the merging of human consciousness and machinery such as the guns and video and one of the stars of that film was Debbie Harry who had been in a music video directed by H R Giger earlier that year, and she was the one who pointed out the coincidence there.
Cronenberg's film Shivers was released on October 10, 1975, and then just over a month later on
13th November 1975, Ballard's novel High-Rise was released strangely dealing with many of the same themes. Perhaps because Cronenberg would go on later to make the film Crash based on Ballard's novel by the same name, However, while Cronenberg knew of Ballard as a science fiction author, his attention had only been first drawn to him after he made Scanners, and a critic sent him a copy of the book Crash, which he never read, and later producer Jeremy Thomas started to talk to him about Crash about the time they started to make the movie Naked Lunch together
The madness in Ballard's High-Rise would remain unexplained, while for Cronenberg, the madness would exist because of these slug like creatures. What that should say about Alien though is another thing, should the madness be the alien or should it be Weyland-Yutani's who sent the ship along and a robot who would break rules to let it in?
Ben Wheatley the film maker could only marvel in disbelief at the synchronicity when he appeared before an audience at a Brighton showing of his movie High-Rise, almost quite sure that Cronenberg had been copying Ballard even though he knew that Ballard's book came out afterwards.
As far as he was concerned, there was some sort of crossover, or that one of them was aware of the other. people were saying that they came out at the same time, but Shivers was so very close to High Rise in so many ways,
The interviewer Graham Duff would tell him that the idea that Cronenberg would have found all he needed to read in Ballard's other writings before hand, while interviewer Jamie Sherry would inform him that they were produced in isolation of each other, seeing it as something like 'convergent evolution' with two species developing in similar ways despite being independent of each other. But with the amount of time it took for Cronenberg to develop and make the film, it suggested that the idea for the film hatched before 1975 and Ballard had been working on his novel for some time as well
f) Attempts to find the Cronenberg's Shivers/ J G Ballard's High-Rise link
However despite the emotions invested in the whole fiasco about Dan O'Bannon borrowing from Alien for the Shivers, Cronenberg talked about the time that he went to see Alien himself, he was disappointed in the film because he didn't see any metaphysics or philosophy in the way that he would want to in a film of his own. For him it was a creature that turns out to be a man dressed in a crocodile suit who chases people around a room. He thought that his own films touched a deeper seared nerve than the idea that you don't want a crocodile to eat you. To him, Alien was a $300,000 'B' movie on a $10,000,000 budget. He saw no metaphor behind the way Alien's parasite was used, it didn't evoke anything for him. He saw only that when John Hurt had the parasite within him, he was going abut his business as usual. But in Shivers, the parasite stays inside the people and changes their behaviour and their motives, which uses the thing for more than simple shock value.
Meanwhile JG Ballard historian David Pringle was able to say that there was a Ballard story called "The Man on the 99th Floor" (1962), about a guy who tries to reach the 100th floor of a high-rise building. But it was exceedingly minor, and the chances of Cronenberg having read it and been influenced by it are slim. The World Trade Center in New York City was opened in 1973. There were lots of other high-rise buildings going up around the world at that time -- so stories set in high-rises were kind of in the air. Two novel-length thrillers about such buildings were The Tower (1973) by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno (1974) by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. The rights to both books were bought by Irwin Allen, and they were combined to make the movie The Towering Inferno, first released at the end of 1974.
f) See also: Alien vs High-Rise: Did J G Ballard's High-Rise inspire parts of Alien?
- David Cronenberg: And I had a funny non-relationship with Dan O'Bannon, because I never met him but I know tons of people who know him and have worked with him. John Landis told me that he knew very well what he called 'the Canadian films' by which he meant Shivers and Rabid, when he wrote Alien. And so I know he stole all the parasite stuff from Shivers. And Ron Shusett said "He never saw those movies and knows nothing about it and I believe him" Dan O'Bannon later denied that he had ever seen those movies, but John Landis swears that he talked about them all the time and knew them very well. (David Cronenberg, Interviews with Serge Grunberg, p78-79)
- David Cronenberg: But what they did want was my screenplay for Shivers which was a kind of a unique horror film that that nobody had ever seen anything quite like that before. erm, you will , you'll probably notice that the film Alien took a lot of things from my film Shivers, and it is well known that Dan O'Bannon who co-wrote Alien knew my films very well and erm, ah, so of, you know, it's the way it works, I mean, if your film is influential, people copy elements of it, that's that's the way it goes, but erm they wanted my script, they didn't want me as director, I said if you, if you want my script, you have to take me as director, and eventually a company in Montreal called Cinepix, did end up producing my first couple of. It was really the, at that time in Canada, there was no film industry, there were documentary films, there was TV, but there was really no film industry, that the people were not making feature films at all, so I really had to invent myself as a Canadian feature film maker, and since my first film was definitely a horror film, there was no tradition whatsoever of horror film making in Canada, in fact, there was not a, there was not a tradition of genre film making, there were no thrillers, there were no detective movies, there were no action movies, it was all basically documentary stuff like. ( A masterclass with David Cronenberg - YouTube)
- David Cronenberg: You know, the interesting thing was that I went to a film festival years later in Germany and we showed Shivers, and a man stood up and said, "How can you show this? This is stolen from Alien! There is parasite that comes out of the mouth and there is acid that burns a face, just like Alien!" I said "Yes, but Shivers was made four years before," to which he said, " Ah! Now we know who the thief is!" As is turns out, one of the writers of Alien did know my films very well.
Fangoria: Dan O'Bannon.
Cronenberg: Yes, Dan O'Bannon. He confessed to John Landis that he particularly like the Canadian horror films, so anyway, who knows.( Fangoria Legends and tiff. present David Cronenberg, p10)
- David Cronenberg So I remember at the film festival in Hof in Germany I had a little retrospective there and we showed Shivers. This was many years ago, maybe Shivers and Rabid were all I had to show with Stereo and Crimes Of The Future. Anyway, afterwards, when I was talking to the audience, this man stood up and said "how dare you show this movie, when it is so obvious that you have stolen from Alien!". And I said, "Well, this movie was made three years before Alien," He said, "What?" I said "Yes". Then he said, "Now we know who the thief is". So that was my vindication, somebody knew then. I had a chance to say that. So it was odd for me to read a script from Dan O'Bannon. Not that I minded, I mean everybody steals from everybody else, but he was apparently a very aggressive sort of hostile character. I don't know, I've never met him. (David Cronenberg, Interviews with Serge Grunberg, p79)
- David Cronenberg: I was at a film festival in Germany called the Hof Film Festival. Someone stood up , they had showed several of my early films, and he said "how dare you show this film, you have so obviously stolen from the movie Alien!". And I said, "you know, but this movie was made five years before Alien," and he said, "Ah , now we know who the thief is". (Interview with Film Four, 2001)
- E.C.McMullen Jr: When Cronenberg pointed out that SHIVERS was made years before ALIEN (1975 vs. 1979) and that Dan O'Bannon admitted that he saw SHIVERS before he wrote ALIEN, the German said, "Ah. So now we know who the thief was." ( Feomante http://www.feoamante.com 2002)
- David Cronenberg: So for me to invent some phantasmagoria, to create metaphors for the body and the things that happen in the body and have part of the body outside the body so we can look at it and deal with it, brings me into the genre of body horror.. Which perhaps was not so directly recognised here, but in the context of what I did later I think it becomes pretty obvious. In fact I have to say that some of my images like this ended up in things like Alien, which was more popular than any of the films I've ever made. But the writer of Alien has definitely seen these movies, Dan O'Bannon. The idea of parasites that burst out of your body and uses a fluid and leaps on your face, that's all in Shivers. So it obviously touched a nerve in the public in general, the imagery, and for me it's natural to pursue it. (Interviews with Serge Grünberg, p39)
- David Cronenberg: I have to say that Dan O'Bannon definitely knew my movies and he wrote the script for Alien. The whole idea of a parasite bursting out of a chest and jumping onto the face was all in Shivers. The idea of parasites living in your body was of course the basic idea of Shivers (Interviews with Serge Grünberg, p43)
- David Cronenberg: It's a common thing that happens and I found that amongst directors and other artists, it's fairly universal. The instant that you do something, you start finding all of these capsule summaries and reviews of things that sound like your movie! No matter how bizarre, obscure, strange, arcane or personal, you can find something that even if it's not exactly your movie, sounds close enough to what you're doing to destroy its impact. With The Brood, I do remember, it was the Manitou, I read that it had the birth of a weird creature out of a woman's back. With Scanners, it was Altered States, which in fact did have some things that were similar. (Videodrome, Tim Lucas p31)
- Debbie Harrie: David's concept here is very biomechanical, like the work of H R Giger who I worked with earlier this year. It's very much like that in that the brain is taking over and your reality is switching into video, you're seeing and your vision is taking on that video look; and you've got a gun that's an extension of your hand and shooting something because it offends you.... This is all biomechanical.(Videodrome, Tim Lucas, p71)
- Debbie Harrie: I don't think my work with Giger made me want to do Videodrome any more or less, but I thought it was a very strong coincidence. I think that it's interesting how things often run in pairs or threes, and it seemed there that it was happening to me. (Videodrome, Tim Lucas, p71)
- I was going to do Total Recall. Like with a lot of Philip Dick stuff the concept of Total Recall was incredible. The beginning was great. It didn’t quite have an ending that was satisfying and that was always the thing; what’s the third act? How’s it going to end? But I felt a great connection with Philip Dick. He’s such an interesting guy. A brilliant guy. A lot of his writing is very shoddy and not good because he wrote so fast and so constantly and he would be taking speed and would write for 48 hours straight which of course is ultimately what killed him. So I was working on it. At the time it was for Dino De Laurentiis and Ron Shusett, the producer, who’d had a lot of success with Alien, which, I have to say, took a lot of stuff from Shivers. There’s a parasite that lives inside you? Burns its way out? Jumps on your face and goes down your throat? I did all that before Alien and Dan O’Bannon (who wrote Alien) certainly knew my work. But that’s another thing. So anyway, I wanted to cast William Hurt for the lead, and it ended up being Arnold Schwarzenegger so there’s the difference. Once again I thought it could be sci-fi and entertaining, but heavy duty, you know? This was heavy duty. And ultimately what happened was, after doing a year’s worth of work — writing ten to twelve drafts myself, I finally handed the last draft to Ron Shusett and I said, “here, I think we have it, this is it.” And he said, “well, you know what you’ve done?” And I said, ”what?” And he said, “you’ve done the Philip K. Dick version.” And I said, “well isn’t that what we wanted?“ And he said, “no, we wanted Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars.” And I said, “well it’s too bad we didn’t talk about that earlier because we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble!” - See more at: http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/post/16638057207/cronenberg#sthash.r0erCIV8.dpufDavid Cronemberg: I was going to do Total Recall. Like with a lot of Philip Dick stuff the concept of Total Recall was incredible. The beginning was great. It didn’t quite have an ending that was satisfying and that was always the thing; what’s the third act? How’s it going to end? But I felt a great connection with Philip Dick. He’s such an interesting guy. A brilliant guy. A lot of his writing is very shoddy and not good because he wrote so fast and so constantly and he would be taking speed and would write for 48 hours straight which of course is ultimately what killed him. So I was working on it. At the time it was for Dino De Laurentiis and Ron Shusett, the producer, who’d had a lot of success with Alien, which, I have to say, took a lot of stuff from Shivers. There’s a parasite that lives inside you? Burns its way out? Jumps on your face and goes down your throat? I did all that before Alien and Dan O’Bannon (who wrote Alien) certainly knew my work. But that’s another thing. So anyway, I wanted to cast William Hurt for the lead, and it ended up being Arnold Schwarzenegger so there’s the difference. Once again I thought it could be sci-fi and entertaining, but heavy duty, you know? This was heavy duty. And ultimately what happened was, after doing a year’s worth of work — writing ten to twelve drafts myself, I finally handed the last draft to Ron Shusett and I said, “here, I think we have it, this is it.” And he said, “well, you know what you’ve done?” And I said, ”what?” And he said, “you’ve done the Philip K. Dick version.” And I said, “well isn’t that what we wanted?“ And he said, “no, we wanted Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars.” And I said, “well it’s too bad we didn’t talk about that earlier because we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble!” (source: http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/28th Jan 201228th Jan, 2012)
- David Cronenberg: Even with Alien. My movie Shivers I have a parasite that lives in you and burns its way out of your body and jumps on your face and and jumps on your face and goes down your throat. I know Dan O'Bannon knew my movie. In a case like that you wouldn't mind a little credit for it. But beyond that, if you are influential -- and I've had many young filmmakers say that I was a big influence and sometimes their movies do remind me of my old movies -- you take it as a compliment. You obviously touched a nerve. It's nice to have people be aware of that. But beyond that it's inevitable; things become communal understandings, let's say. The whole parasite thing. I mean there are movies called Parasite. But I did it first but, you know, whatever. (thefilmexperience.net/blog/2011/12/1)
- David Cronenberg: It was then , dare I say, stolen for Alien. Here is a parasite that lives inside your body and burns its way out with corrosive fluid and jumps on your face and goes down your throat. The timeline is very suspicious. It's very similar in the later film. But obviously this was done with a much bigger budget. Yet this was an idea that was so horrifying and scary that it worked despite the limitations that I would say are obvious when you look at this effect. (Empire, November 2013, p108)
- The Face : On his own admission, Dan O'Bannon runs off at the mouth, - when he knows he should keep his own counsel. The frustration that he feels over what he calls "idea parallelism" is not uncommon with creative writers working on original ideas as it is possible for several people to have the same idea, simultaneously totally independent of each other. Call it synchronicity, what you will. It is down to the one who can get the idea past the starting gate first, and O'Bannon has seen many of his projects evaporate because others had had the power to realise the same idea before him. (The Face, April 1986, p52)
- David Cronenberg: A lot of people have pointed out a similarity between the parasite of Alien and the parasite of shivers. I was very disappointed with Alien, it as no metaphysics, no philosophy. The creature winds up as a man in a crocodile suit who chases a bunch of people around a room. I think that my own films do a lot more in touching a deep seated nerve, more than the simple reaction that you don't want a crocodile to eat you. (Fangoria #3, December 1979, p13)
- David Cronenberg: Alien was just a $300,00 'B' movie with a $ 10-million budget. The parasite device isn't used in a metaphorical way, it wasn't used to evoke anything. In Alien, John Hurt has the parasite in him, he goes about his business as usual. In Shivers, the parasite stays inside the people and changes their behaviour and their motives. It's used for something more than simple shock value.(Fangoria #3, December 1979,p13)
- SPLICED:...and it has some of the same kinds of themes, body themes, that you often work with...
Cronenberg: Yeah, because the original "Alien" took stuff from "Shivers." It was obvious that happened. I know how it happened, too, but we won't get into that. (http://www.splicedwire.com, April 14, 1999 at the Prescott Hotel in San Francisco )
- David Cronenberg: As far back as Alien, for example, which totally ripped off things from my movie Shivers – Shivers featured a parasite that lives in your body, bursts out of your chests, jumps onto your face, and jumps down your mouth, and suddenly you see this in a studio film, which was hugely successful, Alien. The writer of the script, Dan O’Bannon, had seen Shivers, we know that he had seen my movie and, shall we say, appropriated it. So this is not new stuff for me. (http://collider.com/david-cronenberg-fantastic-four-alien/ February 14th 2015)
- Graham Duff: Another thing I wanted to mention was Cronenberg's Shivers which came
out in '75. People think it's sort of influenced by Ballard, but it's
actually contemporaneous with with Ballard. I wondered how much that was
on your mind, had you looked at that before your started making the
Ben Wheatley: Yeah, totally, I watched it, and I've seen it obviously many times and I watched it before doing it and I was really surprised about how similar it is in plot and there's something that's never gotten, gotten to the bottom of, of whether or not which came first and it's obviously, if the book is published in '75. the film, the film's obviously shot in '74. There's something really weird going on, you know, that, that they could be so close to each other, so I don't know. I mean, I kind of feel, that there, that Shivers is influenced by High-Rise but, I know that I come from a position of a mad, I don't know, I've got a mental picture that Ballard is always before Cronenberg, but they are contemporaries so
Graham Duff: I suppose Ballard's concerns were in the books lead up to Hi-Rise anyway, so probably influenced. I was think probably said about Canadian sensibilities , that English sensibilities in that er, Shivers opens up with somebody sort of murdering a teenage schoolgirl, I don't quite know why but, whereas er, High-Rise opens up with a man eating a dog, and I think, perhaps where our English sensibilities, that's a bit more extreme, I don't know
Ben Wheatley: But more shocking. That's interesting, yeah. But I think the thing in Shivers, they they they had a, you know, they had a kind of B movie issue, which is like have you introduced the madness, the madness is the slugs isn't it,
Graham Duff: yeah
Ben Wheatley: which is kind of as silly as not introducing it at all, which we do in this, but it's kind of like, I think that, I can see how that, that kind of, that's their sci-fi solution to that moment, whereas Ballard doesn't give a fuck about it, and in the book, it just happens.
Graham Duff: yeah,
Ben Wheatley: There's no explanation, you know (High-Rise Q&A with Ben Wheatley)
- Mike H:"Having a Dog for Dinner" ... a pretty knowledgeable review of High-Rise by Michael Bonner for Uncut magazine: http://www.uncut.co.uk
Mike B: Thanks for pointing out this review Mike. It mentions that while Ballard was constructing the novel High-Rise, Cronenberg was hatching the film Shivers which deals with very similar themes. At the Brighton showing of High-Rise Ben Wheatley made the same link, marvelling that such synchronicity was possible -- he kept thinking Cronenberg must have been influenced by Ballard.Dominic Kulcsar: Does anyone know what month was the novel was released?David Pringle 13th November 1975 -- its 40th anniversary of publication was last month, the day of the Paris terrorist attacks!Dominic Kulcsar: hmm, Shivers was released October 10, 1975, so it sounds to me like idea parallelism (which happens quite a bit in Cronenberg's reality)David Pringle: Indeed, _Shivers_ preceded _High-Rise_ by about a month.
- David Cronenberg: Amongst the early film festivals that I went to as a beginning film maker, er, one was Hoff, in Germans, right near the border between East and West Germany, and it was a very interesting festival and it it it there was there were a lot of science fiction films there, not only science fiction films. It was a very good little festival, and I, I showed an in, they did a small retrospective, you know, you only have to do three movies and you have a retrospective immediately, you know.
So erm, they showed Shivers there, sometime after it had been made, I can't remember the era, maybe I had already made scanners possibly, erm, so they would have showed Shivers, Rabid and a couple of other films, and then I talked to the audience after we screened Shivers and a a member of the audience, a German, mm, I don't know, I don't know if he was a filmmaker or student or whatever. He stood up and he was very angry, and he said "How dare you show this movie, because it's so obviously stolen everything from the movie Alien". And I said 'What do you mean?". He said "Well you know" in this movie, you have the same thing in Alien, the parasites in the chest, they use a corrosive fluid that burns through the chest and then the parasites jump on the face and then the parasites go in the mouth. That's just like Alien"
"I said, you know, this movie was made before Alien" he said, oh, he said" now we know who the thief is" So that was, that's, now, my understanding is that Dan O'Bannon who wrote Alien was very familiar with the scripts that I wrote for Shivers and Rabid and was very familiar with Shivers the movie and the feeling is that he appropriated some of the imagery of of of Shivers because there are these very great similarities, not only that, um, the buildings, the building in er in Shivers, in which which all of this action takes place is called Starliner Towers which suggests a spaceship of course, so you could really see from seeing Shivers, it is not very big jump to go to a real Spaceship that has these parasites, er, infecting all of the inhabitants"
(2003 David Cronenberg interview about Shivers (1975) & Rabid (1977) https://www.facebook.com/CultClassicShit/videos/314060235679380/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED)
- Serge Grünberg: When we discussed it in the past, you told me how the book had been important for you
David Cronenberg: No, it hadn't, it was different with Crash. Here's the story. This is different from Naked Lunch, obviously. I had not read Ballard and the first time I had heard of Crash was once again ten years before I made [the film]. And I got a letter from a critic who I had done an interview with - I can't remember her name, I think I met her in Philadelphia or Chicago maybe, when I was on the road for some movie, it might even have been as far back as Scanners. And she said that I should really make a movie of Crash, this J. G. Ballard novel. And that was the first that I had heard of Ballard or Crash, I have to admit. I might have heard of Ballard as a science fiction writer. And I think she might have sent me a copy of it, and I didn't read it. And then Jeremy Thomas started to talk to me about Crash and he said he knew Ballard and that I should... He might even have talked to me about that before we did Naked Lunch together.
And then I started to read Crash. And I read about half of it, and I put it away because it was disturbing and I just, I don't know, I just couldn't finish the book. And I said to Jeremy, 'I can't read this, I can't make this,' and so we forgot about it. And then at a certain point I picked up the book again, I don't remember why, and 1 read the other half, and then I read it again. And at that time, I felt that it was obviously an extraordinary book, but not one that you like, which didn't bother me. (David Cronenberg: Interviews with Serge Grünberg)
- Dominic Kulcsar: It is a bit of an odd question floating around. Should Cronenberg have found enough in Ballard's pre-High-Rise writings to find a germ of a story to make his Shivers seem to have some commonality with High-Rise? (Of course I realise that Cronenberg , although he'd heard of Ballard as a scifi writer, he hadn't read anything until he read Crash around the time of the Naked Lunch film production) David Pringle: Well, Dominic, there was a Ballard story called "The Man on the 99th Floor" (1962), about a guy who tries to reach the 100th floor of a high-rise building. But it was exceedingly minor, and the chances of Cronenberg having read it and been influenced by it are slim. The World Trade Center in New York City was opened in 1973, I believe. There were lots of other high-rise buildings going up around the world at that time -- so stories set in high-rises were kind of in the air. Two novel-length thrillers about such buildings were The Tower (1973) by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno (1974) by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. The rights to both books were bought by Irwin Allen, and they were combined to make the movie The Towering Inferno, first released at the end of 1974...(JG Ballard Public group: https://www.facebook.com/10156425918085591/)
- (See more chat at J G Ballard on Facebook also: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2232690590/permalink/10156654766220591/)(24th March 2016 )
- Jamie Sherry: The first trailer for High-Rise played out like an advertisement for the building to prospective buyers, and also evoked the opening section of David Cronenberg’s Shivers.
Ben Wheatley: Maybe you can tell me about this, because I’ve never managed to get to the bottom of it. Shivers was released in 1975 and High-Rise was published in the same year, and there does appear to be a grey area regarding which came first and whether there was any influence either way. People say they came out at the same time, but Shivers is so very close to High-Rise in so many ways, it feels to me like there must have been some kind of crossover, or that one of them was aware of the other.
Jamie Sherry: My understanding is that they were produced in isolation to each other. This is a subject that interests me, where culture operates like ‘convergent evolution’ – two species developing in similar ways despite being independent of each other. It’s unlikely that Cronenberg heard about the novel – the amount of time it took to develop and make the film suggests it was hatched prior to 1975. But Ballard was also working on his novel for some time, as well.
Ben Wheatley:I rewatched Shivers recently, having seen it as a kid. The only difference I can really see between them is that Cronenberg uses a kind of B-movie conceit – the sex parasites are an excuse for the increasing breakdown of the characters. We had the same issue when adapting High-Rise early on – we realised there isn’t anything explicit in the book that explains the breakdown, so you have to take a leap of faith with the narrative. The lack of motivation really doesn’t seem to be much of a problem in the novel, but with the film you’re asking something more of the audience. (http://www.ballardian.com/working-for-the-building-an-interview-with-ben-wheatley)