Failed movies are not a strange phenomenon. Many movies are abandoned before or during production. While budget deficits and actor deaths or resignation are the leading cause of most abandoned movie projects, some movies go through production, but they never hit the screens. Some movies are just unable to go through post-production. Others, however, have disappointing reviews at initial screenings that the studios get scared of ever releasing them. For whatever cause, every time a trailer release is followed by silence, every fan is left in suspense. These are ten most anticipated blockbusters that never left the studios.
1. The Day the Clown Cried
This film by Jerry Lewis became famous for being the most anticipated lost film of all time. It featured Jerry Lewis as a Nazi prisoner of war entertaining children in the concentration camps and finally joining them in the gas chambers. Quite a story, right? Well, very few people have ever watched it. Jerry was both director and star. He did not have enough money to complete post-production, and he was also struggling with substance abuse at the time. However, after being offered money to complete the film, Jerry Lewis never released it after the initial screenings. He said he was too ashamed of the movie because he felt the quality was poor. Until his death in 2017, he kept the only copy of the film secretly denying the world a chance to watch the happiest children in the Holocaust. Well, maybe they were not happy, we will never know.
2. The Fantastic Four
The 2005 version of the Fantastic Four and its subsequent Sequels hit the screens with a bang. The famous Marvel heroes actually have a somber beginning. Bernd Eichinger, the Fantastic Four comic book rights holder, was about to lose his claim on the series if he didn’t start shooting a film by December 1992. He decided to pay Roger Corman (the famous king of B movies) $1 million to produce the film and retain his rights. The initial budget was $30 million, but Eichinger could not convince any Hollywood studio to fund the movie forcing him to cut the budget to the only amount he could afford. After the marvel directors bought the film for a few million dollars, they rated it as too bad to be watched by anyone. Avi Arad the Marvel chief allegedly burnt the movie although it appeared on YouTube a few years ago. Eichinger later claimed he really wanted to release the film. Either way, his subsequent productions have turned into the greatest movies of all time giving the Fantastic Four the rating it really deserved.
3. Dark Blood
This movie was expected to hit the screens with a bang in the early 90s, but the stunning blow came from the leading actor’s dark past. Rivers Phoenix, the lead in the film, was a survivor of the Children of God cult and turned victim after 80% of the film was finished. He was struggling with his past and used drugs until October 1993 when he died from an overdose a day before starting the indoor scenes of the film. His death rendered 700kgs of outdoor film scenes useless. A string of lawsuits ensued after his death as the family, the insurance company and the bank struggled for ownership of the footage.
The film featured Rivers Phoenix as a young man that lost his wife to nuclear radiation and moved to the radiation zone to wait for the end of the world. A couple on their second honeymoon, however, gets stranded in the desert and he comes up to save them. He decides to take the wife and start a new generation with her, but the end of the story never came because he died before “starting a new generation.” George Sluizer, the producer, decided to revive the film 20 years later after stealing the footage from a storage facility where it was to be destroyed. He fixed still images in the missing scenes and narrated the bits of missing footage. The screenings in Berlin and Holland received good reviews, but the subsequent airings were not as impressive. At last, the movie was aired in a video on demand only and never saw the theaters — such a sad ending for the promising youngster’s last film.
4. Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales
It was a highly anticipated film in the 60s as it was the first movie showing a white man tried for raping a black girl. Richard Pryor the producer who was also the lead died in 2005 as one of the greatest comedians of all time. This movie has however remained a mystery for years. It was marred with scandals and lawsuits right up to Pryor’s death that saw it stayed unreleased for over 50 years now. Just before post-production, Pryor’s wife got angry that her husband did not have enough time for her because of the production, so she allegedly destroyed the films in anger.
The story changed in 2005 when the director produced the footage at the Director’s Guild America in tribute to Pryor. Penelope Spheeris, the director, was just a student at the time and she allegedly hid the footage with the help of Pryor’s daughter. Richard who was stuck in a wheelchair at the time due to multiple sclerosis sued the duo in an attempt to recover the film, but he died a few years later. The sweet tales of Uncle Tom remain untold as the director never got a studio to release it.
5. Hippie Hippie Shake
It was the most anticipated adventure film based on the misadventures of OZ magazine editor Richard Neville (acted by Cillian Murphy) in London in the 60s. Sienna Miller played girlfriend in what turned out to be the most disappointing movie of their career. The shooting was completed in 2007 with the film expected to print the first 100 DVDs when things started falling apart. The initial cut screenings were promising, but legal issues arose forcing the film editors to stop. The screenwriter Lee Hall left the production after disagreeing with the production company on the working title. Lee’s wife Beeban Kiddon the director also walked away after disagreeing with the company in post-production. Since then, the film remains on the shelves with many fans waiting for the untold story.
6. All American Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still one of the best horror movies that ever hit the screens since its original release in the 70s. The subsequent sequels flopped in the theatre until William Hooper, the son of Tobe Hooper the producer of TCM announced the real sequel in 1998. It was starring Bill Mosley in the same role as Chop Top as he did in the original film. Chop Top now in state psychiatric hospital was talking to reports about his dark past in the family of the Sawyers before committing another massacre right there in the hospital. A great sequel there, right? Well, Hopper lacked $8000 to finish post-production leaving the film on the shelves for over two decades. A campaign to kickstart post-production in 2011 only raised $1000. As it stands now, no one will ever see what happened to Chop Top after all.
7. My Best Friend’s Birthday
Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest Hollywood film directors, but lots of misfortunes faced his first film. His breakthrough film True Love was actually based on this failed project even featuring some scenes. My Best Friend’s Birthday was a pure comedy featuring Tarantino as the co-writer, star, and director. They worked hard expanding a simple 40-page screen write to 80 pages and shooting it for over three years. The film was ready for production when a fire broke down in the Video Archives lab in Manhattan beach destroying more than half on the 70-minute movie. The remaining piece was only 36 minutes long. It was played at screenings around the world but never given an official release. Tarantino, however, moved on from the loss and became one of the best directors in the world. So interesting how a bad start created a legend.
8. Empires of the Deep
It was supposed to be China’s version of Avatar. The cast was multicultural in what was expected to be the first Hollywood blockbuster to sell in China after Jonathan Lawrence was hired as the director. Lawrence was the third director appointed on board the troubled mermaid island film, and as it turned out, he wasn’t the last. The production tore through 7 directors without being released. It was featuring American actors and Chinese crew which made communication a big problem. However, the directors were managing until the producer happened. The producer was Jon Jiang, a Chinese Real Estate Mogul, who also loved movies and wanted this movie produced per his specifications. The dictator-like character of the producer who was also providing the $130 million funding became a huge stumbling block. He stopped paying the actors and even confiscated their passports resulting in the resignation of most actors and directors.
9. Don’s Plum
Leonardo di Caprio did not start with Spiderman and the Revenant; he has a history and Don’s Plum is the part of his career he didn’t want to be revealed. He starred with Tobey Maguire alongside Scott Bloom with Di Caprio depicted as a bad-mouthed teen. The stars stopped R. D Robb the producer from ever releasing the movie because it allegedly threatens their reputations and career. The director screened the film in Berlin in 2001, but the stars went ahead to block that as well. Subsequent web releases including a website upload by the screenwriter were also met with lawsuits that saw the movie pulled down and taken back to the shelves. For some reason, Di Caprio and Maguire have successfully suppressed three years of production and a series of screenings from ever seeing the light of day. Maybe we will see it someday when the movie is released in another lifetime.
10. Unlawful Killing
What happens when you accuse the British government of being involved in killing a princess for rejecting a Prince? Well, you allegedly don’t get to release it. The Release of this film became as controversial as the storyline itself. It was a documentary by Keith Allen about the controversy surrounding the death of Princess Diana of whales. The UK government and press were hostile and ultimately blocked the release of the film. Us screenings were also met with similar hostility forcing the movie to fade with time. Keith Allen’s movie allegedly lacked reliable evidence to back the claims. He was also funded by Mohammed Al Fayed, the father of the princess’ partner who also died in the crash. The combination of the funding and controversial content was the primary cause of the suppression, but the documentary had been expected to hit the screens with a bang.