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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what “missing” film would you most like to see, and why?

Have you heard of Jerry Lewis’s notorious early 70s film The Day the Clown Cried? It was completed but never released, because apparently Lewis — who both starred and directed — utterly failed to pull off the tale of a circus clown in Nazi Germany who is thrown into a concentration camp and, oh yes, befriends doomed children. Actor Harry Shearer saw a rough cut of the film a few years later and likened it to “a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz.” In spite of its reputed awfulness — or, more likely, because of it — film geeks have been desperate for a peek at this movie. And this weekend, via Justin Bozung of Mondo Film + Podcast, a bit of video of the production surfaced:

Bozung also has a fantastic post detailing the production of what he deems “the holy grail of unreleased films.”

By pure coincidence, this weekend reader Hank wrote me to suggest this question:

What “missing” film would you most like to see, and why?

The incident that sparked this was a discussion with a friend, who would really like to see the lost, Tod Browning, “London After Midnight.” Trying to think of a lost film I felt similarly about, I had the realization that the film I most wanted to see was one that didn’t actually happen. I wish the producers had let Boris Karloff appear as Jonathan Brewster in the film version of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

What “missing” film would you most like to see, and why?

The strictest sense of this question might be too obscure for even many people who consider themselves serious film fans. I certainly have next to no knowledge about movies that might have been made but never were. So we’ll interpret the question very loosely, to encompass “movies that were planned or discussed but never made” and “movies that were made but that we can no longer see” (either because they were lost or never released at all) and “completely imaginary movies from whatever source” such as movies within movies or the one that will be my choice: Blue Harvest, which was never a movie at all but simply a diversionary tactic when George Lucas was filming Return of the Jedi. I remember the fake tagline as being “the ultimate in horror,” but Wikipedia tells me it was “horror beyond imagination.” I dunno: I can imagine quite a bit. I’d still like to see where that mysterious and evocative title would take us.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Lost film: FW Murnau’s Der Januskopf, a take on the Jekyll and Hyde story made a few years before his more famous Nosferatu.

    Unmade film: The Tourist, by Clair Noto. (No connection to the dreary Depp/Jolie film of a few years ago, or the last track on OK Computer. Here’s the story: http://io9.com/5367004/is-the-tourist-the-greatest-scifi-movie-never-made)

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Dammit. Delete that bracket at the end of the URL, it’s not meant to be part of the link.

  • Dokeo

    I’ve always wanted to see the Hamlet that is the backdrop to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.

  • Dokeo

    Ditto the Hamlet, Macbeth and Lear from Slings & Arrows.

  • David_Conner

    When it comes to truly “lost” films, I think I’m most fascinated by *King Kong Appears in Edo*, a 1938 film that apparently was the very first Japanese kaiju movie. The only things remaining to prove that the move even existed are some movie posters (incorporating stills from the movie). Everything else appears to have been destroyed either in the war or the occupation years.

  • RogerBW

    Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, of course. And Bubba Nosferatu, but only with Bruce Campbell.

  • Danielm80

    For a while, I was excited about the movie version of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but I finally decided that no movie could ever live up to the version in my head.

    Most of my choices have to do with Terry Gilliam or Neil Gaiman:

    * Gilliam’s adaptation of Good Omens (Gaiman and Terry Pratchett sold him the movie rights for one groat, so that no one else would get to direct it. Didn’t work.)

    * The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

    * Death and Me, Gaiman’s film version of Death: The High Cost of Living

    * Robert Zemeckis asked Gaiman to script an adaptation of The Fermata by Nicholson Baker. It was never filmed, but I can’t imagine it being anything other than gloriously insane.

    And finally, of course:

    * Serenity II

  • Jim Mann

    The Bogart/Gable version of The Man Who Would Be King.

    Though Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League is also a good choice.

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    god help me, i wanna see what Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage would have done to Superman.

  • Ian Mantgani

    Apart from the obvious answers – THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, the missing footage from THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, the thousands of lost silents – I’d like to see the longer cuts of several average-length contemporary films that originally ran approx 3 hours. Films like PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, ANNIE HALL and FLASHDANCE.

  • Bluejay

    I’m a fan of Jeff Wayne’s prog-rock musical version of The War of the Worlds (the original 1978 album with Richard Burton, Julie Covington, and Justin Hayward, not the “New Generation” being performed onstage in the UK now). I believe at one point there were discussions to turn it into a film (animated?), but that never seems to have happened. I would have liked to see that. I’m imagining something appropriately psychedelic and Bakshi-esque.

    I also read somewhere that attempts were made to turn the Les Miserables musical into a film around 25 years ago, back when the show was relatively new and buzzworthy. I think Colm Wilkinson, the original stage Valjean, would have stood a good chance of being cast in that role onscreen. I’d pay to travel to an alternate reality to see that performance.

    I’d like to see the sequels to The Golden Compass and John Carter, which probably won’t be made.

  • Ian Mantgani

    Not to mention the 5.5 hour workprint of HEAVEN’S GATE, or a decent-looking copy of the 6-hour APOCALYPSE NOW workprint.

  • bronxbee

    the movie that for years was promised to be made and never was Time and Again, based on Jack Finney’s fabulous time travel novel. with computer imaging so advanced today, it should be a breeze to make now. but i don’t see it happening.

  • Kathy_A

    I originally thought that this post was in response to the recent discovery of Orson Welles’ first film, a 40-minute film to accompany a Mercury Theatre stage production in 1938.
    I would love to see some of Theda Bara’s films rediscovered (many of them were destroyed in a studio fire in the 1930s), especially her Cleopatra. Also, the Marx Brothers first film, a short titled Humor Risk from 1921.
    The only silent film I own on dvd is The Passion of Joan of Arc, a film with probably the most famous rediscovery tale of recent decades–after only being available in its original cut for the premiere and a few weeks afterward, and then reedited for wide release, the original negative was burned in a fire, and then the reconstructed version’s negative was also lost in another fire. In 1981, an employee at an Oslo mental hospital found the canisters for the complete original film in a janitor’s closet, with a mailing label for one of the hospital’s doctors in the 1920s. No one knows why he had received this film in its initial release, especially since that version was never distributed officially in Norway (only the reedited version was shown in that country).

  • MisterAntrobus

    Speaking of Return of the Jedi, I would really have loved to see RotJ as it was originally conceived according to Gary Kurtz from this article (which, by sheer coincidence, appeared exactly three years ago today in the LA Times).

    The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

    Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that
    essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.

    It’s hard to disagree with that.

  • MisterAntrobus

    I realize that I’m not really talking about a missing film there, but one that was never actually filmed. So while I’m on the subject, I’ll throw in another one from that category: Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon. He worked on developing a Napoleon film off and on for decades, working especially hard in the early ’70s, but never was able to film it. (You can see some of the fruits of his research in Barry Lyndon, though.)

  • mondo film and video

    Here’s a great 11 hour audio documentary on the films of Jerry Lewis that everyone should listen to as Lewis fans. Features the first ever reunion of the cast of The Ladies Man. http://mondofilmpodcast.blogspot.com/p/podcast-show-archive.html

  • Michael Ewins

    F.W. Murnau’s ‘4 Devils’, which he made between two masterpieces in the latter stages of his career (‘Sunrise’ and ‘City Girl’). It was adapted from the short story by Herman Bang, and was released by Fox in 1928. There are details of its lost status on both the US ‘Sunrise’ disc and the UK ‘Der letzte Mann’ disc – the IMDB notes,”This film is presumed lost. Please check your attic.” Why do I want to see it? Because it’s Murnau’s circus horror, and the production stills which do exist suggest it to be one of his most beautiful and expressionistic works. I doubt we’ll ever get to though.

  • teenygozer

    Oh, this one’s easy. In the 80s, I worked with a film editor who had apprentice-edited years earlier on a filmed version of the play Fiddler on the Roof, with Zero Mostel playing Tevye. I would kill to see this. I would kill YOU to see this!!! ;)

  • ProperDave

    The Laurel and Hardy silent short, Hats Off.

  • teenygozer

    Also, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” before they edited it down into not making much sense. The film’s editor showed his original workprint at MediaWest con many years ago, but I only got to see the last half-hour.

  • Jonathan Roth

    The Thief and the Cobbler.

    Richard Williams (animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit) created this over 20 years, and in the end had it taken away by the investors, who decided that it was never going to make them a profit. So they spliced together the existing animation with new footage done on the cheap, had Jonathan Winters ad-lib a running monolog over the silent Thief, added talking scenes to the silent Cobbler, and cut out scenes of stunning animation that were considered extraneous to the plot.

    It was given away free in cereal boxes.

    There is a “recobbled” cut floating around the internet which attempts to restore the film to the infamous work print which convinced the investors to bail out, but as an animator, I would love to see the completed vision as intended.

    Seconding Terry Gilliam’s “The Man who Killed Don Quixote” as well. :)

  • Danielm80

    I own the extended cut of Almost Famous, which is a tremendous improvement, but I’d still like to see a version with the “Stairway to Heaven” scene edited in.

  • althea

    Of course! Had I been here 8 hours ago, I would have offered the same!

  • althea

    Holy Moses – I had no idea. Let us pray that it gets shown (or DVD’d) sometime in our lifetimes.

  • Karl Morton IV

    No Orson Welles love here, hmm? I would love to see “The Other Side of the Wind”, assuming someone with both sufficient skill and controlled ego could be found to put it together. The half-hour to forty minutes of excerpts I’ve seen here and there over the years convince me that for those who can get round the fact that it doesn’t look, sound, or smell like “Citizen Kane” it could be a damn’ good flick. I imagine we’ll have to kill all the lawyers for it to happen, though.

  • GeeksAreMyPeeps

    I need to see Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’d like to see the sequel to Superman Returns. The Superman 4: The Quest for Peace that Chris Reeve wanted to make would be nice, as well.

  • JoshDM

    The science fiction epic, Lord of Light, aka Argo. Considering the success of the Argo film, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done yet.

    The real “Argo”: http://io9.com/5986800/the-real+life-argo-and-other-fake-science-fiction-movies

  • PJK

    It’s weird to hear the Belgian commentator (at least that’s what he sounds like) speak Dutch while there are Dutch subtitles running beneath this footage.

    As for lost films I have to agree with Danielm80 about “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”. I saw the documentary about the failed attempt to make it with Johnny Depp called “Lost in La Mancha” which was a fascinating look into the production process of Terry Gilliam on that movie, before it basically fell apart through many causes.

    I’d love to have seen the finished product.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Oh, thought of another one. If you watch Monsters Inc. on DVD or Blu-ray, one of the special features is the original boards of Monsters Inc.

    No Mike; Sully is a wanna-be Scarer, and Boo is an older girl who teaches him how to be scary.

    I would not say it’s a _better_ film than the actual Monsters Inc. committed to screen, but it could easily have been another film about another monster in the same fictional universe.

  • Stephanie C.

    just after world war II, Orson Welles worked with Walt Disney on an attempt to bring The Little Prince to animated film. I suspect I would have loved this.

  • MisterAntrobus

    Has anybody ever found the entirety of Abel Gance’s Napoleon? Just curious.

  • Karl Morton IV

    However long it lasted, that collaboration must’ve made for a stormy meeting or two. :-)

  • Hank Graham

    Serenity II. Ooooooooo…..

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