10 Shelved Films: finished movies you’ll never see

Last week Warner Bros. announced that it was shelving the upcoming HBOMax release Batgirl along with an almost finished sequel to their animated film Scoob. All of this, while announcing massive layoffs in various departments across the board and the cancelation of various projects in early development. Kevin Smith even mentioned that a DC Project he had been working on was shut down on the latest episode of Hollywood Babble-On alongside co-host Ralph Garman.

The surprising part of this is the shelving of almost finished projects. The Batgirl film has already cost them $90 Million and was done enough to do some test screenings. Weirdly this is not the first time completed movies have been put up on the shelf, never to see the light of day. We’ve rounded up ten shelved movies from well-known creators or star well know actors.

Shelved Movies

Conversations With Vincent – dir. Tim Burton

I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Tim Burton is a big Vincent Price fan. He got to work with the legendary genre actor three times in his career. The first was a made-for-tv film, Hansel and Gretel. Burton would next make a short film titled Vincent, about a young boy who would pretend to be like Vincent Price. Price himself was the narrator in the film. Then the last time they worked together was in Burton’s film Edward Scissorhands.

Burton decided to make a documentary about the life of Vincent Price called Conversations With Vincent. They shot in black and white over three days at the Vincent Price Gallery in Los Angeles. Vincent talked about his life and career while his peers like Samuel Z. Arkoff and Roger Corman. When Burton had to leave to make Batman Returns, he set the project aside, hoping to get back to it.

Price would sadly pass away in 1993 before the project could get underway again. Burton has stated he tried to work on the film again but found it emotionally distressing to go over the footage again. Also, rumors are that licensing film clips for the documentary proved expensive. It has yet to be released, and Burton hasn’t spoken about it since 1994.

Shelved Movies

G​ore – dir. Michael Hoffman

Just a few weeks before allegations of sexual misconduct, rape, and sexual assault hit the news, Kevin Spacey had wrapped on a movie about Gore Vidal. The Netflix film cost around $40 million, but they took no time in shelving it when the news about Spacey was revealed. Allegations against Spacey were bad enough, but if the film had been released, audiences would have been aghast at the content of the film.

According to BuzzFeed, the script depicted a young man getting the chance to meet his idol Gore Vidal in Italy. He starts to work with him only to find himself in various situations where Vidal seems to be grooming him for a sexual relationship. Some scenes included Kevin Spacey as Vidal having sex with transsexual prostitutes in front of the young man and explaining how sexual politics worked in ancient Rome. The film would have caused a massive public relations problem for Netflix at the time, so it’s not a surprise it is a shelved film, never to see the light of day.

Shelved Movies

A Woman Of The Sea – dir. Josef von Sternberg

Charlie Chaplin had seen director Josef von Sternberg’s previous experimental film, The Salvation Hunters. He offered Sternberg a chance to make a film for Chaplin’s production company and even produced it. It was the only time he had produced a film he didn’t star in or direct himself. It starred Edna Purviance, Raymond Bloomer, Eve Southern, and Charles French.

I​n it, two sisters fall in love with a new writer in town. He takes one of them away to the big city, but years later, she returns to try and break up her sister’s new marriage. This silent film was seven reels long, had 160 intertitles, and cost a whopping $90,000 to make. This is in 1926 dollars. Sternberg held a preview screening in Beverly Hills against Chaplin’s wishes, and it got a tepid response from the crowd. Most said it was beautiful looking but lacked any emotional story. Purviance’s performance was said to be the worst part of the film.

Chaplin decided because of these issues, he would not release it. It sat in the studio vault until 1933 when the IRS decided to look into Chaplin’s finances. He burned all the negatives for the film in front of multiple witnesses to make it a total loss for tax purposes. A cut of the film has never been seen since, but in 2005, 50 production stills from the film were discovered.

Shelved Movies

B​ig Bug Man – dir. Bob Bendetson

T​his animated superhero film has a great cast but has yet ever to be released. Brendan Fraser plays Howard Kind. He works for a candy factory, and when he gets bitten by some bugs, he becomes Big Bug Man! The film also has Michael Madsen in its cast, but no info on who he was playing. What is surprising about this film is that it is the last performance by Marlon Brando before he died a month after recording his dialogue.

The filmmakers offered him the role of the evil businessman, but Brando had always wanted to play a woman. He instead said he wanted to play the elderly founder of the candy company Mrs. Sour. They agreed, and when they showed up at his home to record his lines, they were shocked to see him dressed up in a wig, dress, and make-up to get into character. They said he looked frail at that point and had to take breaks to use his oxygen tank. He told them it was the most fun he had since working on Julius Caesar.

The film was supposed to release in 2006 but got pushed to 2007. When that release date came and went, it was then said that 2008 would see the film released. Nothing has been said about it since, and it looks to have been shelved indefinitely.

Shelved Movies

ILove You Daddy – Louis C.K.

T​his film was scheduled to come out in 2017, but it ended up being shelved after sexual misconduct allegations were made against Louis C.K. by multiple women. The film has an amazing cast, and some early reviews were good. It did play at Toronto International Film Festival. Louis C.K. was channeling his inner Woody Allen for the film, which may have been part of the problem.

Louis C.K. plays the father to a 17-year-old daughter named China, played by Chloe Grace Moretz. She falls into a relationship with an older film director played by John Malkovich. This director has been accused of being a pedophile in the past, and this worries C.K.’s character. It all blows up as the director invites China to go with him to Paris. She defies her father and leaves.

The troubling idea of an older director having a relationship with an underage girl had already led to questions about the film, but those that had seen Louis C.K.’s FX series Louie knew he could navigate such topics deftly. The baffling part is that he offered the role of the director to Woody Allen, who turned it down. He was afraid that the comparison of the character in the film would reflect too closely to allegations made against him by his ex-wife and daughter.

After the allegations against him came out, the film was dropped by its distributor, and several of its stars said it shouldn’t be released in light of the news. Louis C.K. bought back the worldwide distribution rights for the film, but it hasn’t been seen since.

Shelved Movies

1​00 Years – dir. Robert Rodriguez

T​he interesting thing about this short film is that it will one day be released. None of us will be alive to see it. It was filmed in 2015 and was written by John Malkovich for a Remy Martin Cognac commercial. The 100 Years title is in reference to the fact that it takes 100 years to make a bottle of their Louis XIII Cognac. It is slated to be released in 2115. The film itself is sealed in a bulletproof, time-locked vault that won’t open until the night of the premiere.

The plot has been kept under wraps but is supposed to be an experimental science fiction film. The only thing that has been released about it is three of the film’s stars. John Malkovich, Shuya Chang, and Marko Zaror will star in the film. The company has given out 1000 metal tickets to the premiere that can be handed down to the owner’s descendants to attend. It’s an odd case of a shelved film but at least it will get released someday.

Shelved Movies

Hippie Hippie Shake – dir. Beeban Kidron

In late 1999 the film was slated to start production before the production company Working Title Films put it on hold. Film studio PolyGram Filmed Entertainment had been sold to Seagram Company Ltd. and was shut down in 2000. After some shuffling, they again moved ahead with the project in 2007.

The film was an adaptation of the memoir of publisher Richard Neville and the beginning of the Australian satirical magazine Oz. Cillian Murphy was cast as Richard Neville, and Sienna Miller would be playing his girlfriend, Louise Ferrier. Director Beeban Kidron left the project in post-production due to ‘creative differences’. She stated,

I worked on the film for as long as I could and as hard as I could, and then I had to walk away. It was very wounding.

Beeban Kidron

The film had several test screenings and was reviewed positively by critics that saw it. Sienna Miller was especially called out for her performance in the film. It was supposed to be distributed by Universal Pictures after post-production was complete. There haven’t been any announcements about the movie since Beeban Kidron left the project. Why this is a shelved film? It seems like it could easily be released.

Shelved Movies

D​on’s Plum – dir. R.D. Robb

An interesting note about this film is that it has only been shelved in North America. This black and white indie film was shot back in 1995, and this film has an interesting history. The cast is loaded with talent and should make anyone want to see it. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Kevin Connolly, Amber Benson, Marissa Ribisi, Jeremy Sisto, and Scott Bloom. It takes place over one night as a group of friends sit and talk at an all-night diner.

According to people on the set, most of the dialogue was improvised by the actors, and there was very little concrete plot. It’s described as a hang-out movie. When the director presented the finished film to the cast, DiCaprio and Maguire became angry and sued him to keep it from being released. DiCaprio claims that the film was supposed to be a short film. They filmed for two days and improved most of it with the understanding it would be edited down to a short film. He didn’t want it released as he felt he was misled about what the project was.

Producer David Stutman thinks it’s a different reason. He believes that DiCaprio and Maguire were shocked to find that since they had improvised their characters, they revealed unsettling things about themselves about how they treated women. Many of their scenes came off as misogynistic and sociopathic. He believes they have tried to stop the film’s release to protect their public image.

The Producers counter sued DiCaprio and Maguire in 1998 and it was settled by allowing the film to be released outside of North America with a few scenes cut out of the film. It finally came out in 2001 in Berlin. Since then, Producer Dale Wheatley has uploaded the film on sites like YouTube. They keep getting taken down by DiCaprio’s legal team. If you look for the film on Archive.Org, there is a message from Dale Wheatley that reads:

Leonardo DiCaprio and his representatives have successfully blocked Don’s Plum, a film made in America by Americans, from being seen in America. If you think about that long enough it should make you angry.

I’m emailing links, if you’d like to see the film email me at [email protected] and I will get one out to you. I’m not throwing it up on Youtube or a torrent because ultimately I hope that one day Leo will grow up and realize that suppressing the work of dozens of artists is unethical, un-American, and unconscionable, and Don’s Plum will get a legitimate worldwide release. In the meantime the more people that see Don’s Plum the better so if you’re curious hit me up for a link – I won’t share your email with anyone.

Dale Wheatley
Shelved Movies

The Day The Clown Cried – dir. Jerry Lewis

This film is controversial for numerous reasons. Jerry Lewis was offered the lead role in this film and a chance to direct it. He felt he was wrong for the part but ended up taking it in the hope that he would make a memorable film about the Holocaust. In it, he plays Helmut Doork, who runs afoul of the Nazis. He is put in a concentration camp to await his trial. While there, he starts to perform for the Jewish children even though the soldiers tell him to stop.

Eventually, a commander decides a good use for him is to dress up as a clown and help load the children into train cars for transfer to other camps. By doing this, they will move his case up so he can finally plead his case. He ends up stowing away on one and finds himself in Auschwitz. There he is told to help lead children to the gas chambers, but instead, he enters it with them to finally end his misery.

As you can tell, this is a highly controversial film even by 1972 standards. While filming, Lewis kept getting irritated that the money for the production by Nat Wachsberger never appeared. Lewis paid $2 Million of his own money to finish the film. What he didn’t know is that Wachsberger’s option on the film expired before they even started shooting. This led to a lot of copyright issues after filming was done.

Lewis eventually took a workprint copy of the film home with him. The studio retained the original negatives. After that, various Breach of Contract lawsuits went back and forth, and there still has to this day not been a decision on who owns the film. Jerry Lewis has shown the film to numerous people and has stated that the film was probably too dark ever to release. Before his death, he donated his workprint copy to the Library Of Congress under the stipulation that it not be screened before 2024. The copyright issues may prevent it from ever getting a full release. it’s destined to be a shelved film forever it seems.

Shelved Movies

Fantastic Four – dir. Oley Sassone

Maybe one of the most famous cases of a shelved film is also a superhero film. In 1992 Constantin Film had the rights to make a Fantastic Four movie. The problem was that the rights were about to expire unless they put a movie into production immediately. They hire famed low-budget film mogul Roger Corman to shoot a film to keep the rights at the studio. What they didn’t tell anyone is that they had no intention of ever releasing it. Or so Stan Lee says. He claims no one was ever supposed to see the film.

The film was made with a $1 Million budget, and announcements were made via trailers and premiere reservations. It screeched to a halt all of a sudden, with the production company telling the cast to stop any interviews about the film or even just talking about it in general. Producer Bernd Eichinger claims that Marvel wasn’t happy that a low-budget version of the film would be released. They wanted to buy the film from the producer to keep it from getting out and hurting the Fantastic Four brand. Eichinger agreed and said that Marvel had all the prints destroyed so that no one would ever see it.

The film had been screened somewhere, and from that, bootleg versions had been produced. It might be the widest available unreleased movie in history. Any comic book convention following the making of the film would have the film available to buy somewhere. It’s easily found on sites like YouTube. A documentary about the unreleased film was made called Doomed!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four. It would even become a plot thread on a season of Arrested Development.

Are there other shelved films you know about? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: JoBlo

About the Author

Bryan Wolford is a feature writer for JoBlo, and also writes scripts for both JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals, including a multi-part retrospective on the Highlander franchise. When not writing for the site, he’s an avid podcaster.