The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See: Unseen Masterpieces by the World’s Greatest Directors by Simon Braund
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this book for Christmas 2013, along with I Am Malala and Doctor Sleep (neither of which I have yet read, I am embarrassed to admit). This title was one I had anticipated for some time, so it makes sense I would pick it up first.
It is basically a pocket history of movies that were planned, written and sometimes began filming, yet never ended up being completed or if made, released. Starting in the 1920s and ending as recently as 2012, the contributors describe projects from the who’s who of the film industry that never reached fruition.
Orson Welles features quite prominently, in fact he had a junked project in every decade until his death in 1985. Steven Speilberg’s name appears a few times, alongside notable directors such as Eisenstein, Coppola, Lean, Burton, Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Hitchcock, Kubrick – and many many others.
I found it fascinating to learn more about the machinations of the movie industry, in particular the ravages of securing funding and recalcitrant studio heads who could change their minds with a click of their fingers, consigning an erstwhile amazing film to the bin in an instant.
Some ideas metamorphosed into other projects. Steven Speilberg’s 1980 idea, Night Skies, contributed material to E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Terry Gilliam’s The Defective Detective had concepts that were incorporated into The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
If you have a favourite director from the last 50 years or film, the odds are they will make an appearance here. Each article features a “Will It Ever Happen?” tag at the end where a score out of ten is given. The highest score is 5/10, reserved for Speilberg’s The Trial of the Chicago Seven, David Fincher’s (Seven, Fight Club) Black Hole and Blomkamp’s (District 9) Halo: The Motion Picture.
The saddest part of reading this book, for me, was the amount of projects that sounded so fantastic on paper but just didn’t have legs for various reasons. I found myself constantly thinking as I read this book “I would see that – and that – and that!” At least it shows that with all their clout, even acclaimed directors have their also-rans. It gives me hope for the rest of us plebs!
Anyone with even a passing interest in movies would enjoy this book, I think, because of the quirky subject matter. There are plenty of great illustrations and photographs, including poster art for every “non-movie” featured.