Even a finished movie can encounter a million things that ensure it remains unreleased. Whether it be legal rights, studio politics, filmmakers’ regret, etc. not every completed movie gets to be seen by the public.
And because Warner Bros recently said Batgirl won’t see the light of day despite being almost finished let’s have a look at some famous unreleased movies and the stories behind their shelving. For this list, we are highlighting finished movies that were never released to general audiences. Either theatrically or on home media.
The Day The Clown Cried
The holy grail of unreleased movies. The Day The Clown Cried is about Helmut Doork, a clown sent to a Nazi concentration camp who uses his talents to entertain the children in the camp. Before ultimately leading them to their deaths. Making a film like this was incredibly bold, but with such sensitive subject matter, you would have to approach the story incredibly carefully. Ultimately through the action of both co-writer Joan O’Brien and director/star Jerry Lewis’ disgust at the project, the film was buried. Lewis apparently did donate the film’s print to the Library of Congress before his death. Under the condition that it couldn’t be shown until 2024. Whether good or bad it’s hard to not want to see the film for historical purposes. At its worst, it can serve as a valuable monument to how careful artists need to be when discussing the Holocaust.
There are many great musical tour documentaries. However, the Rolling Stones took director Robert Frank to court to ensure this behind-the-scenes look at their American 1972 tour was kept from cinemas. This was done because the film, shot cinema verite style to capture life on the road, showed images that the band objected to and which were potentially incriminating (a lot of drug use). The film is available online but could only have a limited number of public screenings a year with Frank present. And since his death, the film’s status has been very unclear.
Marvel’s first family didn’t debut on film in 2005. A Fantastic Four film had already been made in 1994. This project served as a group origin story and showcased their struggles against The Jeweler and Doctor Doom. There are conflicting reasons for the movie being unreleased. Some say Constantin Film wanted to hold onto the Fantastic Four rights, so Roger Corman was hired to make a Fantastic Four movie quickly and cheaply before they expired with the film never intended for release. Others say Marvel executives wanted the film suppressed so it wouldn’t embarrass their brand. Whatever the reason, the film has unofficial uploads available online. Check it out so the cast and crew’s hard work was not in vain.
A Woman of the Sea
The oldest unreleased film on this list, A Woman of the Sea was a 1926 Josef Von Sternberg silent film produced by Charlie Chaplin. The story centred on a fisherman’s daughter who competes with her sister for love. Apparently, after Von Sternberg held a screening without Chaplin’s permission and initial impressions were negative Chaplin shelved the film, until 1933. When he burned the film’s negative for tax purposes. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely another copy of the film existed. Meaning the finished film is lost.
Hippie Hippie Shake
Finally, our list’s most recent movie. Hippie Hippie Shake depicts the life of Richard Neville (Cillian Murphy) and his partner Louise Ferrier (Sienna Miller) as they set up Oz magazine’s UK division in the 1960s. As well as the problems they encountered when the magazine was taken to court on obscenity charges. The film’s production originally began in 1998. Filming eventually took place in 2007. And despite a rough post-production test screenings of the film were positive. However, the production company, Working Title, stopped its release for financial reasons. It seems a shame for the film to not be seen after all that effort. That said, with over a decade of silence the release of Hippie Hippie Shake seems unlikely.
Would you like to see any of these movies come out in the future or are there any other movies languishing in a studio vault we should have highlighted?
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