There are lots of films in cinema’s past that were completed, but never saw the light of day. It happens an awful lot with low budget cinema of course too. But every now and then, a relatively high profile project also gets caught up in non-release hell.
The films we’re going to look at here are relatively recent, and have some reason to expect them to be getting at the very least a decent DVD outing. But for the time being, here are some completed films, that sit in the vaults whilst people – or lawyers (not always the same thing) – decide what to do with them…
Director Oren Peli shot this in the aftemath of his success with Paranormal Activity. As with his breakthrough hit, the budget was pretty miniscule, but there was a degree of enthusiasm for the feature once Paranormal Activity hit. Set in 1994, the film apparently tells the story of three friends who travel to Area 51, and don’t necessarily like what they found.
Still, something’s not quite right. Area 51 was shot back in 2009, and for the last five years has seemingly officially been in post-production. More footage was shot for the film as late as summer 2013, but still there’s little sign of a release date. That said, Peli tinkered with Paranormal Activity for a long, long time before arriving at a final cut. And that worked out quite well.
Area 51 is with Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Pictures – names we will meet again in this feature – with no known plans for release at the moment.
Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for this one, taking on one of the leading roles too of Lady Eastlake. With Dakota Fanning as Effie Grey, and a supporting cast that includes Robbie Coltrane, Derek Jacobi, Julie Walters and David Suchet, director Richard Laxton wrapped the movie – the story of John Ruskin’s love life – back in 2011.
However, its release has constantly been delayed by legal issues. Specifically, the film has had to overcome two lawsuits. One was brought by American writer Eve Pomerance, who alleged that Greg Wise – Thompson’s husband – had read a screenplay of her take on Ruskin’s story back in the 1990s. Pomerance subsequently argued that Emma Thompson’s script had elements that were in hers. A judge eventually threw out the case.
The other challenge came from playwright Gregory Murphy. He argued that Thompson took elements from his play, The Countess. He had previously invited Thompson and Wise to star in a film version of Ruskin’s life.
Thompson prevailed in that legal battle back in March 2013, again with the judge finding no wrongdoing. Murphy has since lodged an appeal, which seems to have ended hopes of meeting the latest release date, May 2014. IMDB lists its release as now in September 2014, but it’s unclear what its source is. Furthermore, it may be that all concerned are waiting for the appeal to be heard and dealt with before pressing ahead with Effie‘s release.
Joe Carnahan’s low budget latest, starring Patrick Wilson, is another Blumhouse production, and arguably its highest profile original movie. The film had been scheduled for release in the US on March 21st of this year, but its fate was clouded when Universal Pictures pulled the cinema release for the movie it had planned. That was back in January, and little has been heard since. We’re guessing that no other studio has picked the project up.
The film’s a comedy thriller, with a cast that also includes Jessica Alba and Chris Pine, about a chaffeur who takes on a job for a billionaire, with said billionaire subsequently making his life hell. And as things stand, it may yet make its debut on streaming services, if it can’t secure a theatrical run. It’s listed for cinema release in Belgium and France still, although not until June. As for elsewhere, Stretch remains in limbo.
Hippie Hippie Shake
A film that was shot back in 2009, with a cast featuring Cillian Murphy and Sienna Miller, Hippie Hippie Shake is the movie dramatisation of the infamous Oz trial. Oz was the satirical magazine that drew the ire of the British authorities, leading to those behind it – including one Felix Dennis, who clearly has nothing to do with this particular website – being charged with ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’.
The film version was directed by Beeban Kidron (she’d previously directed To Wong Foo, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason), but she quit the film in post-production. Still, there were reports of some decent test screenings, but Universal has since apparently all but abandoned the film. No release is planned, in spite of a completed version of the film being screened previously.
For a long time, George Sluizer’s movie, Dark Blood, was assumed to never be getting a release. It’s a film most infamous for being the project River Phoenix was being worked on at the time of his death. The film was abandoned shortly afterwards.
However, Sluizer kept hold of the footage, something that only came to light back in 2011. Four fifths of the movie was done at the point of Phoenix’s death, and Sluizer decided to compile what he had into a finished cut. He bridged the gap of missing material with narration, seemingly against the wishes of the Phoenix family who made clear they would have no part in it.
The film subsequently had a premiere in September 2012, and it’s done the rounds of a few film festivals so far. But there’s no sign of a finished, wide release for the movie, and there’s a sporting chance that it won’t get one. As such, at the moment, whilst Dark Blood is earmarked for Japanese cinemas later this month, that’s all that appears to be planned.
Spring Break ’83
Starring John Goodman and Jamie Kennedy, Spring Break ’83 was shot and completed in 2009. Co-directed by Mars Callahan (Poolhall Junkies) and Scott Spiegel (From Dusk Till Dawn 2, Hostel: Part III), the film cost $18m to make, which suggests ambition far beyond a straight to DVD effort.
As it stands though, Spring Break ’83 has neither seen a DVD or a cinema release. It’s a comedy following four friends who were bullied at high school and decide to seek revenge. And whilst footage was shown at 2009’s Sundance Film Festival, the finished film seems to have all but disappeared.
The official website leads to a 404 error, and it’s not even clear who owns the negative now. As such, there’s no known release planned that we’re aware of, four years on. You might expect that of a $1m movie. It’s very rare for an $18m production.
There are, to be fair, some fairly tangible reasons why Roger Avary’s 2004 film Glitterati has never seen the light of day. Shot in Europe during the production of his 2002 film The Rules Of Attraction, Avary subsequently assembled Glitterati from the 70 hours of video material he shot for the European portion of his earlier film. As such, the character of Victor Ward is central to it, as he travels across more than 15 cities.
So why has it never been released? A few reasons. Avary told Premiere magazine that it was an “ethically questionable” film, and one he wasn’t planning to release. Meanwhile, The Rules Of Attraction author Bret Easton Ellis told The A.V. Club back in 2009 that “for many legal reasons, it will never see the light of day. You can’t really show Glitterati in public, it’s not possible. There are a lot of people who would be very upset. I don’t even know if they got permission from a lot of the people in it, which might be a big problem, why it’s only shown privately”.
Bottom line? Unless you’re a good friend of Roger Avary, you won’t be seeing Glitterati. More than likely ever.
(Incidentally, if you’ve never seen The Rules Of Attraction, these fine people are putting on a very special screening of it in London in May).
Not Safe For Work
Another film locked in the vaults of Blumhouse Pictures, all the more surprising given that it comes from director Joe Johnston. It’s the film that Johnston made off the back of his success with Captain America: The First Avenger, a low budget thriller headlined by Tim Griffin.
The film focuses on an office worker who’s trapped in a building whilst a killer runs rampant. Whilst originally planned for a theatrical outing – and the film has long since been signed off – Universal Pictures has now opted not to release the movie in cinemas. Instead, as with Stretch, the preferred option appears to be a video on demand release. At the time of writing, however, there’s no sign of that happening either.
We’ll keep you posted on the fate of all the films we’ve mentioned…
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