Hollywood And European Film-Making – Convergence of Elements: Part I

There is a tendency to think that “American pictures are geared towards entertainment” and “European films are more focussed on the psychology of characters” than on “genre formulas”. It is also assumed that “Europe doesn’t have the star system as America does” (Mark Le Fanu). If such a view were to be right, Hollywood films must have a higher production budget and the box office collections of European films have to be moderate.

But a close look at the statistics pertaining to the production budget and the gross box office collection of the films ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ seem to reveal something that is quite contrary to the popular notion if not totally astonishing. ‘Titanic’, supposedly the most expensive film ever made, had a budget of $200 million and the total US gross was estimated to be about $601 million (the-numbers.com).

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It amounts to a two-hundred percent margin. ‘Pulp Fiction’, an American crime film, had a very humble budget of $8 million. It collected almost $108 million, indicating a 1250 per cent profit (boxofficemojo.com). $12 million went into the making of ‘The Exorcist’ and the total US gross was over $204 million, that is, a gain of sixteen hundred per cent (the-numbers.com). The simple spaghetti western film ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ required just $1.2 million for production but it collected $25.1 million, making it the most profitable of all, with almost a two thousand per cent margin (the-numbers.com & imdb.com).

That an Italian film with ‘United Artists’ as its distributor, could do as good business, if not better, as the American films from big banners is quite a signal of the convergence between the two worlds. ‘Pulp Fiction’ was as low-budget a film as a spaghetti western. It is also notable that ‘The Exorcist’ had no big stars and when ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ was produced, Clint Eastwood was already a star. The latter, though Italian, adopted the Western genre, showing that the deemed distinctions between European and Hollywood films are not real.

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With the exception of ‘The Exorcist’, the other three films had their directors playing a key role in authoring the script. Screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni’s idea was developed into a script by Sergio Leone for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. ‘Pulp Fiction’ was written in parts by Roger Avary and Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, an American crime film, but it must be noted that it had drawn its inspiration from Italian filmmaker Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sabbath’ (tarantino.info).

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by Padma V L S Sattiraju