As an artist, I learned the hard way to keep my coffee cup far away from the cup I used to clean my watercolor brushes. As a yo-yoer, I earned quite a few little bruises before I finally landed the Spirit Bomb. Making mistakes can be the most painful part of the artistic process, but from far away, it just may be the most fun to watch. That’s why I love watching documentaries about failed movies (big-budget films that fell apart in the production process).
As far as documentary genres go, “filmplosions” might be my new favorite. So I put together this short list of documentaries about movies gone wrong:
1. Lost In La Mancha– (amazon, Netflix)
A classic in the films-gone-wrong genre, Lost In La Mancha tells the story of Terry Gilliam’s quest to make a Don Quixote film… and everything possible goes wrong.
2. The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?– (www.tdoslwh.com)
A gritty take on Superman, written by Kevin Smith and directed by Tim Burton? I would have loved to have seen this. This documentary suffers from poor audio at moments, but any chance to hear Smith rant about comic books is always entertaining.
3. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau– (netflix, amazon)
Like “Lost In La Mancha”, Lost Soul is a tale of what happens when everything goes wrong. Unlike La Mancha, the Island of Dr. Moreau did see a theatrical release.
4. American Movie– (netflix)
A great documentary on it’s own right, American Movie follows a Midwestern director who makes low-budget horror films. It’s full of fascinating characters and has a great story arch to it. My only complaint about American Movie is that I thought it was a just a semi-funny mockumentary the first time I watched it. After arguing with a stranger about it, I realized I was wrong, and what I thought was just bad acting was a real documentary about some truly unique artists.
5. comicbookgirl19’s “Fantastic Four’s 8 Factors to Disaster”– (youtube)
Okay, this isn’t really a documentary, but this 20 minute vlog about the famously unsuccessful 2015 reboot of Fantastic Four is well worth watching. I haven’t seen the new F4 movie, but CBG19’s take on it is really insightful, and the background she provides on the politics behind it are great.
6. Doomed! The Movie– (doomedthemovie.com)
What makes the failure of the this new Fantastic Four movie so interesting is knowing the background about Roger Corman’s unreleased F4 movie from 1994. The legend goes that the movie was only made so the studio could retain the license and was never intended to be released. I remember seeing behind-the-scenes shots of this flick in Wizard magazine and always wondering whatever happened to the final release.
7. Jodorowsky’s Dune– (amazon, netflix)
Yeah, Jodorowsky could have made an amazing Dune, but he didn’t. It’s fun to think about all the things that could have happened, but what really fascinated me was what happened to so many of the ideas after the movie collapsed. Considering it’s ultimate influence on films like Blade Runner and Alien, it might be best Jodorowsky’s Dune never got finished.
8. The Sweatbox– (nope)
This “banned” documentary was intended to be a behind-the-scenes piece for Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove”. Ultimately, it showed just a little bit more rawness than Disney was willing to share. Unlike the other flicks in this set, I’d say New Groove was never considered a commercial or critical failure, but this documentary shows the “messy” process behind the making of this film… which originally started off as Kingdom of the Sun before getting scrapped and rewritten. I love the part where Sting almost walks away from the film over a moral issue.