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20th Century Fox

12 Movies That Were Shot, But Never Finished

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20th Century Fox

Sometimes movies stop production due to financial problems, script issues, or just plain bad luck. Here are 12 movies that were shot, but never completed, and remain unfinished and abandoned.

1. Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales

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In 1968, Richard Pryor and director Penelope Spheeris worked together on a subversive satire called Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals. While it's unclear what the film was about, it is believed that it followed a group of Black Panthers who kidnap a wealthy white man and put him on trial for all the racial crimes in American history. Spheeris had assembled a rough cut to screen for Pryor at his home, but Pryor's then-wife Shelley Bonis got into an argument with him about spending all of his time and money on the film. In a fit of rage, Pryor destroyed the negative.

According to the Richard Pryor biography Furious Cool, "Penelope spent days splicing the pieces of the film back together like a jigsaw puzzle. She reconstructed the forty-some minutes of film by arduously piecing together the mangled pieces, some only a few frames long. The result was so crumpled and patched together that the film danced all around as it ran through the projector gate."

Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales was thought to be lost until Spheeris found a brief clip in her archive and donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2005. It was screened during a tribute to the comedian, when it sparked Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee to sue Penelope Spheeris and Pryor's daughter Rain for allegedly stealing the original negative during the 1980s. The lawsuit is still pending.

2. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam's long-gestating The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was supposed to be a follow-up to his 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but the project never came together in production. After Gilliam secured $32 million for his version of Miguel Cervantes's The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, he experienced a long string of bad luck—choosing a filming location near a military base, a freak flash flood that destroyed a majority of its elaborate and expensive sets, and the lead Jean Rochefort's health problems all contributed to a production shut down after a few weeks of shooting in early 2000.

Lost in La Mancha documented Gilliam's process and frustrations while making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. The documentary was originally supposed to be a bonus feature for the film's home video release, but ended up becoming a full length feature itself, which was independently released in theaters in 2002.

Gilliam moved on to other projects such as Tideland, The Brothers Grimm, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus while also spending the last decade trying to re-launch The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (without success). He's currently still trying to finish the project and expects to start shooting in early 2015.

3. Kaleidoscope

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Towards the end of his career in 1968, Alfred Hitchcock was at a commercial and artistic low after the releases of Marnie and Torn Curtain. He wanted to re-invent himself as an experimental director, so he conceived Kaleidoscope, a very adult thriller that was full of murder, rape, necrophilia, bodybuilders, and serial killers. Not only was Kaleidoscope supposed to be a graphic murder mystery, it was also to incorporate many innovative and irreverent film techniques such as use of natural light, hand-held filming, and point-of-view camera work.

Unfortunately, Hitchcock couldn't find funding for his cinéma vérité art film, so he scrapped the project after an extensive pre-production process. About an hour of raw footage from Kaleidoscope exists, while Hitchcock recycled some of its elements for his penultimate film Frenzy in 1972.   

4. The Aryan Papers

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While Napoleon and A.I. Artificial Intelligence—which Steven Spielberg eventually made in 2001—are two of the most popular unfinished Stanley Kubrick films, The Aryan Papers was closest to getting off the ground. Kubrick wanted to make a movie about World War II and the Holocaust, but couldn't find the right story to tell until he read Louis Begley's "Wartime Lies" in 1991. The novel followed a Jewish boy and his aunt who survived the Nazi occupation of Europe when the pair acquired Aryan identity papers and pretended to be traveling as Polish Catholics.

Kubrick secured financing through Warner Bros, began to scout locations in the Czech Republic, and cast Jurassic Park's Joseph Mazzello to play the boy and Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege as his aunt. The project was ultimately scrapped when Warner Bros. realized that The Aryan Papers would come out one year after Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. So instead, Stanley Kubrick moved on to Eyes Wide Shut, which was his final film.

5. Nailed

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In 2008, before he was an Academy Award nominated writer and director for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, David O. Russell worked on a film project titled Nailed as his follow-up to 2004's I Heart Huckabees. Nailed followed a waitress, played by Jessica Biel, who survived a freak accident with a nail gun, but as a result spends the duration of the film shifting through multiple personalities. She then heads to Washington DC to campaign for victims of bizarre accidents, but gets romantically involved with a corrupt congressman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal).

Nailed was riddled with financial problems, which led to a number of production stoppages. Its financier David Bergstein and his production company Capitol Films were unable to pay actors and crew members after two weeks of shooting, and David O. Russell's reputation as a difficult director also contributed to Nailed's demise. James Caan reportedly walked off the film after the first day of shooting due to heated arguments with Russell over the proper way to choke on a cookie.

In 2010, Russell said of Nailed, "There was a lot that was going on that I liked, but it was kinda a stillbirth, you know? So when that happens, the whole thing gets kinda weird."

6. Who Killed Bambi?

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In 1978, Twentieth Century Fox wanted to make a movie starring The Sex Pistols after the British band's rise to fame. It was intended to be Hard Day's Night, but for punk music. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious wanted director Russ Meyer and screenwriter Roger Ebert—the masterminds behind their favorite movie, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—to make Who Killed Bambi? However, after one day of shooting in England, Fox shut down the production after studio executives read the script. Apparently, Princess Grace of Monaco (one of the Twentieth Century Fox board members) objected to yet another X-rated movie from Meyer, despite the commercial success of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Roger Ebert posted the entire screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? on his website.

7. The Works

New York Institute of Technology developed The Works in 1976 and it would've been the first 3D computer animated feature film ever—had it been completed. Graphics Researcher Lance Williams helmed The Works, whose production team consisted exclusively of programmers and computer engineers without the aid of a proper director or editor. The Works was ultimately scrapped in 1986 when the technology couldn't keep up with the film's high ambitions. Instead, Pixar's Toy Story ended up being the first 3D computer animated film when it was released in 1995.

8. Something’s Got to Give

In June 1962, George Cukor directed the screwball comedy Something's Got to Give for Twentieth Century Fox. Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, and Cyd Charisse starred in this remake of the 1940 comedy My Favorite Wife. After a few weeks into shooting, Fox halted production. The film was already behind schedule and over budget, both because of Marilyn Monroe's frequent illnesses, such as a severe sinus infection, fever, and bronchitis. She was subsequently fired from Something's Got to Give and the film was re-worked and re-cast as Move Over, Darling a year and a half later. Only 37 minutes of footage of Something's Got to Give exists.

Marilyn Monroe died in August, 1962, a few weeks after she was fired from Something's Got to Give.

9. My Best Friend's Birthday

Before Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, he co-wrote and directed a comedy called My Best Friend's Birthday. Tarantino worked on the project with his video store co-worker Craig Hamann on and off between 1984 and 1987. It followed Clarence, played by Tarantino, who tries to surprise his best friend on his birthday, only to have his attempts backfire. The black & white amateurish film was partially lost in a fire at the lab where the 16mm negative was developed. Only 36 minutes of My Best Friend's Birthday's 70 minute running time survived.

The screenplay of My Best Friend's Birthday is now available online.

10. The Other Side Of The Wind

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Orson Welles' final film The Other Side of the Wind started production in 1969 and ran infrequently through 1976. The film, which incorporated elements of found footage, was about an aged director, played by John Huston, at the end of his career and his heated rivalry with a younger director, played by Peter Bogdanovich.

The Other Side of the Wind's production experienced a plague of problems and obstacles, including Welles' problems with the IRS and the Ayatollah Khomeini's government seizing footage during the Iranian Revolution in 1979 (the Shah of Iran's brother-in-law partially funded the film).

Legal rights to the footage and the Welles estate contributed to The Other Side of the Wind's completion problems, but Peter Bogdanovich and producer Frank Marshall are committed to finishing it for Orson Welles. "The problem is that a lot of different people own parts of it or claim to own parts of it. And so the chain of title is difficult to establish," Bogdanovich told The Playlist. "But it keeps inching forward and we keep getting closer and closer and things fall apart again. It's just a very, very difficult situation. I think it will get done some time, but not in the near future.”

11. Dark Blood

With only 11 days of shooting to go, director George Sluizer halted production on Dark Blood in 1993 after the untimely death of River Phoenix from a drug overdose. Phoenix played a character named Boy, a widower who lived in the desert near a nuclear testing facility. Dark Blood's film rights reverted to its insurance company, and Sluizer set on a 14-year quest to obtain footage and re-assemble the film to the best of his ability. The unfinished Dark Blood eventually screened during the Netherlands Film Festival in 2012 and the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in 2013.

12. The Day the Clown Cried

Jerry Lewis' notorious and unfinished The Day the Clown Cried remains one of the most sought-after films in cinema history. The Day the Clown Cried was a European production about an ex-clown, played by Jerry Lewis, imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

The production suffered financial problems with producer Nathan Wachsberger unable to secure funds, so Lewis continued shooting with his own money. Once a rough cut was produced, Jerry Lewis was unable to work on the film due to a legal dispute with Wachsberger and its co-screenwriter Joan O'Brien over its rights. It is believed that there are only two copies of The Day the Clown Cried: one under lock and key in Jerry Lewis' personal archive and the other at Stockholm Studios, where it was made. Only brief behind-the-scenes footage exists.

During a Q&A in Los Angeles in 2013, Lewis said of the film, "I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all, and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad."

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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