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U switches ‘Clockers’ art after ‘Anatomy’ lesson

Universal Pictures has altered slightly its one-sheet campaign for Spike Lee’s “Clockers” after complaints that it bore a striking likeness to Saul Bass’ title design for Otto Preminger’s 1959 “Anatomy of a Murder.”

The one-sheet and poster advertisements, which feature a black silhouette of a corpse, were changed last week after a request from Otto Preminger Films, which owns Preminger’s post-1950 movies.

Val Robins, VP of Preminger Films, said lawyers for her company contacted Universal after seeing the advertisement. “We felt that it was a violation of our copyright and a blatant ripoff of Saul’s work,” she said.

“I’ve watched Spike Lee’s career with interest. He strives for originality and has a creative and moral point of view in all of his films,” Bass said Sept. 13. “To see him engage in this sort of downright plagiarism was disappointing.”

Lee could not be reached for comment. Sources said the “Clockers” poster was designed by Art Simms, who works with Lee regularly.

A Universal spokesman said the modifications were made at the request of the Preminger film company. The new onesheet features the silhouette in one piece rather than fragmented like Bass’ original “Anatomy” art and the initial “Clockers” poster.

“They asked for some changes and we complied,” the spokesman said. “We don’t feel as if we ever did anything wrong. We made the changes out of respect for Saul Bass and the Preminger estate.”

Robins said Preminger Films made several other requests and asked that an apology be made to Bass – none of which has yet occurred. Universal reps would not say whether it plans to comply.

Bass said although an apology was not issued, he believes that changing the campaign is proof “they know they’ve done something wrong.”

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