I'm halfway through a Bad Film Diaries article on Van Helsing. The overwhelming cockiness with which Sommers and particularly Universal Pictures approached the project is unbelievable. They actually paid several million bucks to keep all the sets standing for months because they were so certain the film would be a hit that they'd need to start shooting the sequel and the TV spinoff immediately.
You know, I'm starting to think that something hollywood really needs are a bunch of "Sanity" cops.
Someone to stand next to Bruce Willis with a ruler, while he's making "hudson Hawk" and to WHACK him on the knuckles every time he tries to rewrite the script.
Someone to shout "No, this is PANTS!" at the rough cut of Van Helsing.
I mean, really, how do some of these monstrosities get so far along before the wheels fall off?
At least part of the problem is, once it reaches a certain point, they're committed enough that they'll throw good money after bad.
Another is that a director puts out a couple of blockbusters that make money, and the studios think he's a genius and will let him do whatever he wants on a film because of that. Which is still better than studio interference, but yes, Samity Cops are a good thing.
Actually, friends and colleges who are able to speak freely is all that's needed. Someone to say "No George, Annikin isn't likeable, make changes, get a different actor." or "No Watchowski Brothers, these two films need a serious edit." or "No Paul Anderson, you're fucking removing everything that made Death Race 2000 a brilliant film," before you run the fucker over.
Someone to say "No George, Annikin isn't likeable, make changes, get a different actor."
I have heard it said that Lucas actually had someone who was saying this for Ep IV and V, who he got rid of for VI.
Someone reasonably high ranked in the setup from memory too.
2008-06-23 09:23 am (UTC)
George Lucas' leash
I think you'll find the only person who ever said "No!" to George Lucas - and got away with it - was his first wife - who he divorced after "The Empire Strikes Back", if memory serves.
Anyone who makes movies or television, from Spielburg to Sommers to Roddenberry and Berman, Russell T Davies to the guys who make "Heroes", could use someone like that, an objective, unbiased opinion that won't get fired for it.
They can if they are your Producer.
Did some digging. It was Gary Kurtz, who quit after ESB.
From Wiki (And pretty much matches my remembrances of articles years gone)
Kurtz has claimed that he and George Lucas clashed over how to progress the Star Wars series. Kurtz recalled after Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, Lucas became convinced that audiences no longer cared about the story; they were simply there for thrills and entertainment, and he began to deviate from the original nine-episode bible starting with Return of the Jedi, at which point Kurtz quit the series.
2008-06-23 12:29 pm (UTC)
Re: George Lucas' leash
Don't be too hard on old George, this sort of thing happens in any workplace, no boss likes to be shown up as a dill and you get the same conflicts even on the lowest filmaking levels. Mr K hasn't spoken to me for 3 years over disputes arising from our kinematic collaberation and I can think of a few similar cases.
While I like the idea of 'sanity cops', don't forget that we have the benefit of hindsight. Having worked on film sets, I have some idea of the problems involved in tinkering with anything once shooting has started, and some grasp of how something that seemed fine on paper might not survive contact with actors, effects, etc.
I also know a few 'sanity cop' horror stories. Sanity cops are mostly assigned to prevent films going over budget, which often means stopping shooting before anyone can go into overtime rather than telling George Lucas how many tons of Jar-Jar Binks merchandising are going to end up as landfill.
Michael Cimino was assigned a 'sanity cop' once Heaven's Gate went over budget, but she drank the magic kool-aid once she arrived on location and started sleeping with the director.
'Sanity cops' tried tightening the screws Titanic when it went hideously over budget, but Cameron spent his own money and managed to finish the film. IIRC, he was left with little money for publicity for the film, so he used the publicity money for the soundtrack album instead. Granted, I wouldn't have minded at all if the film had sunk without trace, but it was ridiculously successful at the box office and the Oscars, which I'm sure impresses the studio more than any review I could offer.
Similarly, while any good sanity cop would have told Lucas in pre-production that his ideas for Episode 1 were an atrocity inside an abomination wrapped in a catastrophe, the film made a shipload of money because we went to see it, some of us more than once, and never asked for a refund! Some of us even bought the DVD and other merchandising! (I'm proud to say that I'm not one of them - paying for it once was more than enough).
There's an interesting piece by Harlan Ellison in An Edge in my Voice on how the auteur theory has given incompetent directors too much power and enabled them to ruin good scripts, and I agree this is unfortunate... but even Harlan admitted that there were some true auteurs, directors who had earned that sort of clout... and sadly, I suspect this can only be decided by hindsight, or the box office. So it goes.
Yay! I love Bad Film Diaries! And I love the potential that Van Helsing had! It's a great idea and should have been awesome. Monster Squad is a far better modern ensemble monster movie that VH. Come to think of it, I even liked House of Dracula more, and that's the one everyone think is utter crap.
But then, I'm going on memory with VH. It's been a while since I've seen it, and it's possible that on a second viewing I'll enjoy it a lot more, it's happened before.
I don't think I'd be physically capable of sitting through Van Helsing a second time.
I just read the full plot synopsis over at imdb.com to check if it was as bad as I remembered and it was. It really was.
By the way, if you're looking for links between Van Helsing and the old Universal horror films there's a few in the 'trivia' section on the imdb page.
Blimey, did they remake Death Race 2000? How dare they !! I'd like to watch the Hammer movies myself (and Amicus) but they have yet to release them in budget versions, why oh why do we have to pay through the nose for UK horror, SF & fantasy?
Have actually been watching a lot of Universal Horror movies in the last few months, partly for their own sake but also because I was raiding the soundtracks for sound effects for my Batman animated film, "Terror of the Monk", based on the 1939 comic book story.
I discovered the damndest thing while working on "The Wolfman", I happened to play one of the wolf howls backwards and heard a faint "lets get out of here" subliminal message. On the regular soundtrack it's just a soft murmer, it's the first howl you hear before Bela Lugosi attacks a victim, then Lon Chaney Jr does him in.
I haven't heard of this sort of thing being done till the 50's nor came across in it any reference work, it's just plain weird.