The book lovingly details 50 films which never got beyond the planning stages for various reasons. Many of them involved heavy Hollywood hitters, from Steven Spielberg (who helped to get the first Roger Rabbit off the ground), to Double Indemnity director Billy Wilder (who brainstormed the aborted Marx Brothers film as well as a Laurel & Hardy comedy), to Alfred Hitchcock (who proposed a movie about a blind pianist whose sight is restored).
While the book is a fast-paced, popcorn-ish read, the book’s not-so-subtle point is to make film purists gnash their teeth at the thought of these potential film classics never getting made. For me, the book’s only surprise was that they left out many of my favorites, including Buster Keaton’s proposed take-off of Grand Hotel, Charlie Chaplin’s The Freak (about a girl who sprouts wings), and a planned Western starring The Beatles (eventually made in 1969 as A Talent for Loving and starring Richard Widmark).
It’s easy to cry about potential film masterpieces that never got beyond the planning stage. The trouble is that, like many real lost films that come to light after being re-discovered, they often turn out to be classics only if they remain lost. And considering some of the awful ideas which do make it to the light of a movie theater — as witness 1999’s At First Sight, starring Val Kilmer as (shades of Hitchcock) a blind artist who regains his sight — maybe these movies have rotted in Development Limbo for some very good reasons.
That said, the book will be an eye-opener to novices who have never heard the term “turn-around,” and brain candy for those who have seen awful ideas that did get made into movies.