This week Warner Bros announced that it was cancelling the release of their Batgirl movie. It's the latest is an inglorious list of movies that have never seen the light of day or cinema projector. Alan Corr looks at a movie hall of infamy
You’ve heard of the elevator pitch. Well, here’s the elevator ditch. The history of cinema is littered with movies that should never have been made in the first place but this week’s news that Warner Bros have decided to halt production on their Batgirl movie came as a shock to many.
The DC film, which was set to feature Michael Keaton, Brendan Fraser, JK Simmons and Leslie Grace in the title role, was being filmed entirely in Glasgow but now looks very unlikely to be seen by the viewing public following poor screen-testing results.
The studio clearly decided to cut its losses and perhaps avoid the reputational damage of releasing a turkey but according to reports, the film had already gone $10 million over budget, and had fallen out of favour with risk adverse studio executives.
The news may come as sweet relief for those of us fatigued by the infantilising stranglehold superhero franchise movies have on the box office. However, spare a thought for the film’s stars and producers who have been left reeling and "saddened and shocked" that their movie has had its wings clipped.
Of course, Batgirl is far from the first movie to be axed mid-production before it could even be trampled underfoot on the cutting room floor and many of the films that have been cut off in their prime enjoy an afterlife on YouTube.
That font of all things film and film-related Internet Movie Database lists over sixty cinema projects that may have wrapped and with posters released but which failed to make the final cut and be screened to the public in theatres, TV, streaming sites or DVD.
Now we know how Joey must have felt after his big break out in Hollywood came to nothing in Friends . . .
The Fantastic Four (1994)
A full decade before the so-so Fantastic Four flick was released, Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staab, and Michael Bailey Smith lined out to play the prefabricated four who gain superpowers after being zapped by cosmic rays (maaaan!) in this cheapo 1994 adaptation. However, and allegedly, the darn thing was only made so that German producer Bernd Eichinger could hang on to the rights and the film was never officially released. The story goes that the bold Bernd acquired the movie rights in 1986 for an estimated $250,000 and then . . . nothing happened. By the time the option to make the movie expired, Eichinger went ahead and produced a low-budget Fantastic Four flick with B-movie great Roger Corman on a $1 million budget. Looks like they all wanted to play the Invisible Woman on this one.
Bill Cosby: 77 (2014)
Woah! Wait. Whut? Gulp . . . According to IMDB, "This short film documents all that happened at comedian Bill Cosby's 77th birthday." It was a stand-up comedy special that was filmed in front of a live audience at the San Francisco Jazz Center in California. Thankfully, it was hastily shelved by those defenders of great art at Netflix due to the sex scandal that has engulfed the one-time beloved entertainer.
The Day the Clown Cried (1972)
The late Jerry Lewis revealed his considerable chops as a dramatic actor in King of Comedy but ten years before that Scorsese classic he starred in and directed this unfinished and never seen movie about a circus clown who is sent to a Nazi concentration camp. The Swedish-French film caused controversy due to its premise and content and Lewis repeatedly insisted that the film would never be released. However, he later donated an incomplete copy of the film to the US Library of Congress in 2015 under the stipulation that it was not to be screened before June 2024.
Hippie Hippie Shake (2010)
There was plenty of Irish interest in this never released UK comedy drama starring Cillian Murphy, Sienna Miller, Chris O'Dowd, and Max Minghella. Based on a memoir by Richard Neville (played by Murphy), editor of the Australian satirical magazine Oz, it’s set in the mad swirl of the 1960s London counterculture. Also starring Emma Booth as Germaine Greer, Hugh Bonneville as John Rumpole of The Bailey Mortimer QC and Chris O'Dowd as charismatic publisher Felix Dennis, it was sadly beset by pre-production issues, release delays and some very mixed screening reactions. Germaine Greer was as fragrant as ever with her reaction, writing, "You used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modelling a new version of you out of their own excreta." Well, you know what they say about the sixties - if you can remember them, you weren’t really there. A bit like Hippie Hippie Shake so.
The Brave (1997)
Thankfully, this Johnny Depp movie never saw the light of day (hello? It’s a Johnny Depp movie). the part time rock star who likes to raid the dress-up box for a living plays a down-on-his-luck American Indian recently released from jail who is offered the chance to "star" as the victim of a snuff film to help his poverty-stricken family. Yes, it was probably really that bad. Admirable campaigner for Native American Indian rights Marlon Brando also starred but after some stinker reviews (hello? It’s a Johnny Depp movie), Brando wannabe Depp forbade the film to have any kind of release in the US.
Interstellar Civil War: Shadows of the Empire (2017)
Could this be the movie that makes John Travolta’s eye-poppingly awful Battlefield Earth look like Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris? Well, we may never know because this intergalactic romp has been gathering dust somewhere for over five years and has yet to be given a full release. Here’s the gist, according to IMDB, "The Imperial Empire is attacked by an Alliance of rebels led by fanatical mystics. The ruler, Empress Nobu, the 8th generation of her family, wants to execute a bold plan to rescue a cyborg . . . " May the farce be with you.
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
Long before the Star Wars franchise became a bloated Frankenstein’s monster of movie and TV spin-offs, this wayward 1978 CBS special aired in the US November 1978. It was slammed at the time as a load of old spaceballs with bells on and has only ever been seen again as a bootleg or on content-sharing websites. Most of the original cast rocked up for this tale of Chewbacca and Han Solo’s attempt to get to the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day only to find they are impeded by an Imperial blockade. Sure, it belongs in the Great Pit of Carkoon, but this quintessence of space dust has attained cult status in the Star Wars multiverse. And oh, happy day, the stand-alone Boba Fett cartoon from the special can be viewed Disney+. Oh, hang on, the whole thing is on YouTube! See you in Carkoon!
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2