Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good Reads :: An Ode to What Might Have Been...

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"These are just some of the legendary unmade films covered in this groundbreaking book, proving that even if you are one of the most powerful names in Hollywood, development can still be hell ... Drawing on many exclusive interviews with the writers, designers and directors involved [the book] is both a celebration of unrealized dreams and a compelling expose of the Hollywood machine's inner workings."
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Speaking honestly, as much as I love movies, it is finding the nuggets of carnal knowledge behind the productions, the nuts and bolts of how certain films got made, or in this case why they didn't, that pushes my cinematic obsessions into the realm of full blown psychosis. And if you are also so inclined to this notion of fandom, then David Hughes' The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made is an absolute must read. Just imagine if you will:
  • Night Skies: Basically a feature length version of the raid and abduction sequence at the Guiler farmhouse in Close Encounters; directed by Spielberg (before he lost his nerve), scripted by John Sayles (fresh of The Howling) with alien and butchered cow F/X by Rick Baker (who just landed an Oscar for An American Werewolf in London.)
  • Monty Python alum Terry Jones' version of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Or how about an Ivan 'Ghostbusters' Reitman version?
  • An adaption of Watchmen directed with the artisic eye and escalating budgets of Terry Gilliam and Ron Silver.
  • A behind the scenes look at what the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau was intended to be and the complete and total cluster-fuck that it turned into thanks to one of it's tempermental stars -- while another acting legend became so enamored with a casted midget that the script was changed to accomadate this infatuation.
  • The rise and fall and resurrection of Superman Returns from the ashes of a Batman vs. Superman movie.
  • A full-length animated feature adaption of John Carter of Mars -- not the one due out in 2012 from Pixar, but an aborted project under the direction of Looney Tunes legend Bob Clampett that would have beaten Snow White's release by almost five years.
All of that and a whole lot more is detailed in the book. Aborted Star Trek, Alien and Dune scripts, and big name directors who spent a lot of time and studio money on projects that eventually went down in flames (Jim Cameron's Spider-Man, Ridley Scott's I Am Legend). Impeccably researched and written with much wit and a delightful sense of gob-smacked wonder as to what could have been, Hughes' after-action reports are full of first-hand accounts and recollections from the production's front lines -- the countless rewrites, the rotating directors, revolving producers, disappearing finances, and the dreaded rear-admiral known as the 'turnaround,' making it a lively read and a breeze to digest. This was one of the quickest 350+ page reads that I can ever recall, and I didn't want it to end. (Which is why Hughes' similarly themed Tales from Development Hell just went in my Amazon shopping cart.)

However, once all the evidence is digested, it's about a 70/30 split-reaction on all these aborted productions, in that in most instances there's a sense of relief that things fell apart (-- egad, Tim Burton and J.J. Abrams version of Superman would have been awful), while others will make you wail and gnash your teeth as to what might have been -- because, E.T. and Poltergeist be damned, Night Skies would've been awesome!

The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies NEVER Made :: Medium: Pulp / Reference :: Author: David Hughes :: Release Date: 2001 :: Revised Edition: 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Another book to hunt down.

Thanks for the heads-up, 3B; you're just fulla knowledge, man!


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