Hollywood dreams are turned inside out in this tragic collection of some of the most disastrous film productions in cinematic history.
The casualty list of the dead and broken is horrifying, and some of the true-life tales are staggering in their sheer level of insanity. Included in Taylor’s rogues’ gallery of misbegotten movies are big-budget Hollywood entries like The Crow, Waterworld and The Abyss, but lesser-known forays into the dark side of film production—e.g., the mind-boggling North Korean monster flick Pulgasari and the unbelievable Werner Herzog–directed Fitzcarraldo—are no less astounding. The author doesn’t offer new revelations about how or why any of these failed projects were allowed to wander so far astray, but his cold, flat approach still packs a wallop. If nothing else, a few inchoate film students might be discouraged from yelling “action” before they’re ready. The sweeping allusions made at the head of each chapter to such disparate figures as disgraced journalist Stephen Glass and Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu are something of a stretch. However, they do provide at least some perspective on the collected calamities and lend an appropriate amount of gravitas to the epic nature of the cinematic failures that follow. Believe it or not, knowing something about the housing-market collapse really does make the decision to greenlight a seasick saga about a post-apocalyptic Planet Earth a little easier to grasp. Ultimately, picking through this much celluloid wreckage is a sorry business, especially for those who view movies as a refuge from the cruelties and injustices of the world.
Far from groundbreaking, but undeniably fascinating and sadly enjoyable.