Archive for December 24, 2007

The Greatest Movies Never Made II

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2007 by dcairns

Some of these might not be the greatest, but they’re all at least intriguing.

Carnival in Flanders

MOLL FLANDERS — Ken Russell. Produced by Bob Guccione. To be made in the wake of Guccione’s disastrous soft/hard porn CALIGULA, this soon fell apart as Guccione shot acres of nude screen tests without actually casting anybody. Russell backed out, and suddenly everybody was suing everybody else. Russell fought a successful defence against “the Gooch” with the aid of a lawyer who was an aspiring pop singer, paying his legal fees by shooting a video for the rapping attorney… Be that as it may, a version of Defoe’s raunchy picaresque by the creator of THE DEVILS is an appealing prospect. To me, anyhow.

THE CINCINNATI KID — Sam Peckinpah. Bloody Sam began this movie but was fired by the studio, who claimed he was attempting to use their facilities to shoot hard porn on weekends. No proof exists, but Susan George’s accounts of Peckinpah’s behaviour making STRAW DOGS does lend some credence to the allegation…

STALINGRAD — Sergio Leone. With, I seem to recall, a $500 million budget, half raised from the Americans, half from the Russians, this was to be Leone’s biggest film yet. Robert DeNiro may have starred as an American newsreel photographer romancing a Russian woman during the siege of Stalingrad. She would learn of his death buy seeing his footage: the camera falls to the ground while shooting battle scenes. Leone himself died before the film was underway. When Alex Cox asked to see the script this colossal budget was raised for, he was told it didn’t exist.


BONNIE AND CLYDE — Jean-Luc Godard. The writers were very keen to get Godard on board, and he seemed interested. Until a Warners executive told Godard that he’s have to shoot at a certain time of year. Godard asked why. “Because that’s when the weather will be right in the mid-west, and the film has to be shot in the mid-west.”

“I can shoot this film in Viet Nam if I want to,” attested JLG.

The writers were seriously impressed. Warner Bros were not. Given the amount of trouble Arthur Penn had with Warners with his, relatively conservative, vision, perhaps it’s best for all concerned that this collaboration went no further.


RONNIE ROCKET — David Lynch. The earliest of various unfilmed Lynch projects, written immediately after ERASERHEAD. The story of a three-foot-high man with red  hair and “physical problems”, and the mysterious force of electricity. Other tantalising Lynch scripts include THE DREAM OF THE BOVINE and ONE SALIVA BUBBLE…


DON QUIXOTE — Orson Welles. The king of the unmade film spent decades on this labour of love. Footage is scattered across the world, only some of it turning up in Jesus Franco’s 1992 assembly. Welles had been shooting additional scenes just before his death in 1985. He once said he’d call the film “When Are You Going to Finish Don Quixote?” After his death, his partner Oja Kodar tried to find somebody to cut together the reels of unlabelled material, driving it around Europe until former Welles collaborator and Eurotrash schlockmeister Jesus Franco made her an offer too low to refuse…


NOSTROMO — David Lean. Joseph Conrad’s novel was all set to go, as Lean’s next production after A PASSAGE TO INDIA. Hugh Hudson was in place as back-up director should Lean become indisposed during shooting. All bases were covered.

And then Lean dropped dead. At the funeral, his producer was furious.


The Last Temptation of Christmas

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2007 by dcairns

This is from REMEMBER THE NIGHT, written by Preston Sturges and directed by Mitchell Leisen. Though Sturges was often very critical of the way other directors handled his work during his screenwriter-for-hire period, and his script was considerably shortened by Leisen here, we know this is one of the Paramount films Sturges kept a print of, so he must have been somewhat pleased with the result.

The overused word “underrated” is easy to apply to Leisen, particularly after the decades-long campaign waged against his reputation by another writer, Billy Wilder. Interestingly, in Wilder’s last major interview, with Cameron Crowe, while Crowe procedes with the usual Wilder-approved Leisen-bashing (based in part on the director’s background as art director for DeMille, and his homosexuality), Wilder actually softens his view, with an only-slightly-grudging “He was a very good director.”

More on Leisen soon. And somebody needs to write the “definitive cinematic study” of Sterling Holloway, whose rendition of “The End of a Perfect Day” is calculated to release those pent-up emotions that tend to attach themselves to us at this time of year.

“As it turned out, the picture had quite a lot of schmaltz, a good dose of schmertz and just enough schmutz to make it box office.” — P. Sturges.

It's Chriiiiiiiiistmas!!!

My pal and Benshi film describer David has a fine overview of Leisen’s career and themes HERE: