I can think of a couple of examples: Robert Altman’s POPEYE. Perfect cast (Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl!!). Great director. Gifted screenwriter (Jules Feiffer). Great cameraman (Rotunno). Talented composer (Harry Nilsson). And yet, it does not really work. It sits there on the screen without much narrative impetus and the wit is too low-key and, in the Altman style, the overlapping dialogue doesn’t always allow you to hear the punchlines. The cartoon Popeye used to mutter asides all the time but he was a very physical character. His competitive and combative relationship with Bluto and his romantic and combative relationship with Olive were very charged and familiar in a satisfying way, and the cartoons were short. Stretching the story out to feature length may have been a problem. Adding songs might have been another.
A different kind of failed opportunity is George Cukor’s JUSTINE. Again, an extraordinary cast (Anouk Aimee could not be more physically perfect, Dirk Bogarde, Anna Karina, Philippe Noiret). Lawrence Durrell adapted his own novels (although that doesn’t guarantee anything. Great novelists don’t always make great screenwriters, e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald). Fascinating story filled with sex and intrigue and photogenic locations (Alexandria, Egypt), beautifully photographed by Leon Shamroy. And yet, it’s a bore. I know that Cukor inherited the film from Joseph Strick but I think it happened pretty early in the filmmaking process. I know people say that you can’t squeeze these novels into a two hour film but three of THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET books tell the same story from a different point of view, if I remember correctly. This might have provided a great structure to build on. Anouk Aimee was purported to be uncooperative, which is a shame since she was born to play the role. Oh well.
Popeye probably didn’t work because it was Popeye
Hahahahaha, very true adam
Babel. Great thematic ideas very sloppily executed.
Burton’s “Planet of the Apes”. I had actually looked forward to seeing this. What a disappointment.
do you know where it’s possible to ever watch George Cukor’s “Justine”? I have been to every independent film shop, looked online, looked on ebay, asked the film guys at the film shop to look for the film for me, and still no luck…
Sunshine (Danny Boyle)
And I don’t really know why it didn’t work, I just know it didn’t.
The Abyss. I loved a lot of the first half, a lot of stuff seemed very promising. At that point you start to see the begging of the trainwreck that turns into the worst ending in movie history.
Atonement. The first third of the film was so enjoyable, I wonder if something better could have been done with the other two segments.
Sunshine DID work for the first half of the film. Then Danny Boyle just decided to randomly turn it into a generic horror slasher flick in space.
John Goodman was a perfect Fred. The special effects were up to par to make it live action but the plot didn’t make sense and other casting choices were unfortunate
My favorite kind of movie (crime), about a legendary icon (I love nothing more than a good character study), starring Johnny Depp with support from Christian Bale, Marion Cottillard, and Billy Crudup, with 1920s gangsterism. Directed by Michael Mann. Everything about this screamed perfection and it did not live up to the pedigree at all.
I’m sure there are several films like this, but the only one that comes to mind right now is Wenders’ Paris, Texas. I think the actors are solid and the premise was interesting. I don’t think I really connected with Harry Dean Stanton, who wasn’t terrible in the film, but I wasn’t rooting for him as I should have been. Nastassja Kinski’s performance was a mixed bag. At times, she seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, and then at other times, she lost me. I just couldn’t wrap myself around the story and characters, and I left the film feeling flat. But again, I’m not sure why I didn’t like this more.
I actually consider Sunshine a movie that shouldn’t have worked, but weirdly did.
Jodorowsky’s movies. It’s clear what he’s doing every time he’s doing it. Doesn’t change the fact that it just doesn’t work. Mostly because the symbolism is empty.
Stranger Than Fiction. Great premise. One of those ideas where you can’t believe someone hasn’t done it already. Could have been a great little film of the Kaufman-esque sort – it wasn’t. It was poo.
>>Anouk Aimee was purported to be uncooperative<<
And on damn near every film she made, from what I’ve read.
Cronenberg’s Crash. It’s possible that I was just in a bad state of mind when I watched this movie and that I need to give it another go, but even though all the Cronenberg elements are there, this one just didn’t work.
WATER WORLD -— I loveeeed that movie, but no one else did :(
My last such experience was Orphans of the Storm (1921). Almost every sequence has some very clever and meaningful cinematic trick. With such a cast and crew it should have worked! And it did work well as a gradual descent into a surreal subjective space, with each new sequence more and more weird and symbolic. HOWEVER, you would logically expect this descent to bring you closer to the characters, to let you see their world from inside. No, this does not happen at all — you just get more symbolism, melodrama, comedy…
I think bad writing is to blame.
3 that strike me as falling into this bucket…
KAFKA (Soderbergh’s sophmore slump?)
W (should have been much funnier!)
READY TO WEAR
>>Cronenberg’s Crash. It’s possible that I was just in a bad state of mind when I watched this movie and that I need to give it another go, but even though all the Cronenberg elements are there, this one just didn’t work.<<
I was surprised, considering how much I like Cronenberg’s other films that this one didn’t have me peeing down my leg as much as, apparently, it was supposed to. Maybe by the time I caught up with it I was anticipating too much? Or maybe it’s supposed to be off-putting & I need to give it another shot?
>>KAFKA (Soderbergh’s sophmore slump?)<<
Oddly, KAFKA is the one Soderbergh film I unreservedly like …
Oh, the last Herzog one: Bad Lieutenant… is waay over the top… which is kind of sad, being Herzog the accomplished director that he is…
Michael Cimino’s remake of Desperate Hours.
Dune. It didn’t work with David Lynch……
In the beginning, it was supposed to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, who made the effort of recruiting an amazing group of artists to develop the project but the producers kicked him out.
I’m pretty sure his version would’ve been way better.
Three adaptations of novels that I admire (all for different reasons) come immediately to mind:
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. Almost everything was wrong: screenplay, director, casting, set design, lighting, editing, etc.
BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Almost everything was wrong: screenplay, director, casting, set design, lighting, editing, etc. This dreadful production was documented in the “making-of” book The Devil’s Candy, written by Julie Salamon. It should be required reading for all potential filmmakers and all students of Murphy’s Law.
THE SCARLET LETTER (1995 version). Almost everything was wrong: screenplay, director, casting, set design, lighting, editing, etc.
In addition, there were MANY other dreadful films but most never had a chance (like POPEYE ). The three above COULD HAVE worked and SHOULD HAVE been much better.
I have never watched Dune, mainly because of the bad press it has received. However, Jodorowsky’s influence on Lynch is plain to see imo, so the idea of the film being directed some one whose influence on the actual director is palpable is an interesting idea.
Is Dune worth a watch just for the experience of disapointment or should I just accept its not worth wasting three hours of my life on it?
frank agree about bonfire.
I thought the book devils candy was a wonderful read
The casting of Morgon Freeman (over Alan Arkin) completely negated a lot of points the book was making.
However, much as I disliked the movie I thought Griffith was well cast
Giallo immediately springs to mind.
“Jodorowsky’s influence on Lynch is plain to see imo”
Lynch’s influence is Maya Deren, in other words, Lynch is a Deren copy-cat but i like him anyhow ;)
@Den: Yes, Melanie Griffith looked the part and even played the dumb blond pretty well in Bonfire. However, she couldn’t maintain her “Southern” accent very consistently and that made her sound ludicrous.