8 Movie Sequels Made Without Permission


Nothing pleases film studios and financiers more than a sequel. With their familiar characters and built-in audiences, it’s a way to help justify the tens of millions of dollars risked every time a movie gets a wide release. It’s why Universal reportedly pursued Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass for a fourth Jason Bourne film for nearly a decade, and why April’s The Fate of the Furious marks the eighth (and likely not the last) time that same studio has plotted a heist movie set on asphalt.

But not all sequels are treated with such reverence. Sometimes, rights issues or other factors can make the promise of a sequel more of a threat, with the original distributor or filmmakers left out of the equation. Take a look at eight follow-ups that were made in spite of legal prohibitions.

1. RAGING BULL II (2017)

Consistently regarded by critics as one of the finest American films ever made, 1980’s Raging Bull was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Robert De Niro as the tortured and tragic boxer Jake LaMotta. The two never had any intentions of making a follow-up, but the real-life pugilist who inspired the film had other plans. In 2012, LaMotta entered into an agreement to adapt his book, Raging Bull 2, into a film produced by RB II Productions. This was apparently in violation of an agreement LaMotta made with MGM for the original, which granted the studio first right of refusal to any follow-up.

In 2012, MGM filed a lawsuit to squash the film over claims its title was intended to confuse audiences. Producers for the sequel agreed to change the title to The Bronx Bull and make a public proclamation that had it nothing to do with the original. The film had a video release in 2017 and stars William Forsythe and Mojean Aria as an aging and younger LaMotta, respectively. Of the sequel, Scorsese told GQ that “I don’t know where they’re going to go.” Esquire offered that it “looks like the Lifetime Original Movie version” of LaMotta's story.


The unfortunate fates of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's biker characters in 1969’s Easy Rider would appear to stifle any talk of a follow-up. Despite the film’s substantial influence on American counter-culture and Hollywood filmmaking leading into the 1970s, it stood as a one-off without any franchise potential, despite talk over the years of resurrecting the characters. Fonda’s Wyatt Williams, a.k.a. Captain America, might have been in prison instead of dead. Nothing materialized.

That didn’t dissuade Ohio attorney Phil Pitzer. The first-time filmmaker and actor decided he wanted to shoot a low-budget sequel beginning in 2004, based on the premise that the rights were available after a highly convoluted transfer of ownership grew blurry due to an unpaid loan. Pitzer grabbed the rights in the ensuing legal wrangling, though he was dismayed to find out it didn’t allow for him to use clips from the original.

Observers doubted the mess could be sorted to allow for a proper release, but Pitzer had no reservations. “Dude, we have the rights,” he told the San Francisco Gate in 2005. Pitzer shot the film beginning in 2004 and took it to Cannes in 2009, eventually releasing it in 2012 despite a partner suing him over legal debts. The sequel, which examines Williams’s life before his fateful road trip depicted in the original, has been widely lambasted on bad movie podcasts.

3. ZOMBI 2 (1979)

Convoluted doesn’t begin to describe the path Zombi 2 took to get to Italian cinemas. An unsolicited descendent of George Romero’s 1978 zombie classic Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 2 followed Zombi, which was an Italian release of Dawn reedited by iconic filmmaker Dario Argento. After its success, another director, Lucio Fulci, embarked on a sequel that had no legal connection to either Dawn or its foreign-language iteration. Set on a Caribbean island inhabited by the undead, it incorporates voodoo and was followed by Zombi 3 and Zombi 4.

4. JAWS 5: CRUEL JAWS (1995)

Following the critical and financial disappointment of 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge, Universal has never again tried to capitalize on the killer shark franchise ignited by Steven Spielberg in 1975. Sensing opportunity, Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei decided to make an unsolicited contribution in 1995 with Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws, a film that uses effects sparingly but major plot points from the original liberally: A sheriff wants to close a Hampton Bay beach because of the danger, but financial interests force it to remain open. The audacious Mattei used footage from the original films and apparently sampled the Star Wars theme at one point.


Before primetime soaps full of drugs, lust, and lascivious behavior, there was Valley of the Dolls, author Jaqueline Susann’s 1966 pulp novel about pill-popping Manhattanites who will do anything—even enter a medically-induced coma—to stay thin. The book was turned into a hit 1967 film starring Patty Duke and Sharon Tate, and 20th Century Fox was eager to revisit the premise in a sequel directed by exploitation specialist Russ Meyer and written by Roger Ebert.

Susann, however, was not interested in continuing the story. And was surprised to find a musical camp sequel in production. The author sued Fox, claiming the film would harm her reputation and demanding it be pulled from release. Fox claimed the follow-up had nothing to do with the original, but blundered a bit when it subsequently placed both films on a double-feature billing. Following her death, Susann’s widower received a $2 million settlement from the studio in 1975.  

6. WAR, INC. (2008)

Following a stint in the 1980s as a put-upon teenager and the 1990s as a romantic lead, John Cusack transitioned into work behind the camera, including co-writing and producing the successful independent dark comedy Grosse Point Blank, about a hitman (Cusack) attending his high school reunion. In 2008, Cusack co-wrote and produced War, Inc., another black comedy about a hitman (Cusack) taking aim at an oil minister during a trade show. Cusack’s sister, Joan, who appeared in both, said that War was intended to be an unofficial, indirect sequel to Grosse Point Blank, an idea her brother later confirmed on Twitter. “Sequel for sure,” he wrote in response to one query.

7. ROAD TO HELL (2008)

What can you get away with if you’re a fan of director Walter Hill’s cult classic Streets of Fire but don’t own the rights to make a sequel? If you’re director Albert Pyun, quite a bit. Pyun, a fan of the 1984 rock opera original, hired star Michael Paré for a low-budget 2008 follow-up titled Road to Hell. In it, Tom Cody (Paré) embarks on another journey home when two killers get in his way. Made in just six days and receiving only a limited release, Pyun hasn’t appeared to suffer any legal repercussions for the effort.


Perhaps the most audacious and highest-profile sequel that upset rights holders, producer Kevin McClory used his claim to story elements developed during sessions with James Bond author Ian Fleming for Thunderball to make a rogue Bond film. Instead of being included in the proper Bond canon—then being led by Roger Moore—McClory decided to stir the pot by inviting former 007 Sean Connery back for one more go. Bond rights holder EON Productions scared off some studios during the ensuing litigation, but McClory eventually saw the movie made as 1983’s Never Say Never Again. It was one of two Bonds released that year, along with Moore’s Octopussy. The "knock-off" Bond failed to gross as much as EON's official production.

Sam Adams
Sam Adams's New $200 Beer Might Be Illegal in Your State
Sam Adams
Sam Adams

If you don’t have a high tolerance, Sam Adams’s latest beer could be more of a conversation piece than anything you want to imbibe. That is, if you can even get ahold of the $200 brew at all. The 2017 release of Utopias, the beer maker's biennial barrel-aged specialty, has a staggering 28 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) content—making it illegal in some places in the U.S.

According to Thrillist, Utopias’s unusually high ABV makes it unwelcome in 12 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, both North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington. While a typical beer is between 4 and 7 percent ABV, your average distilled spirit can be 40 percent ABV (also known as 80 proof) or more. So what's the big deal with a 28 percent ABV drink? It turns out, those states have laws limiting the strength of beer, many of them holdovers from the end of Prohibition. Sorry, Alabama beer obsessives.

Assuming you’re legally able to buy a bottle of Utopias, what can you expect? Sam Adams says it has flavors reminiscent of "dark fruit, subtle sweetness, and a deep rich malty smoothness," but the beer won’t be bubbly, according to Fortune, since at that level, the alcohol devours any CO2. You should think of it more as a fine liquor or cognac than a craft beer. And you should pour it accordingly, Sam Adams recommends, in 1-ounce servings.

The 2017 Utopias run will be limited to 13,000 bottles. The brew goes on sale for $200 in early December.

[h/t Thrillist]

New York City Will Now Allow You to Dance Without a License

In New York City, there’s a tricky law on the books that requires any business serving food or drinks to acquire what’s known as a Cabaret License in order to allow customers to dance. The mandate stems from a 1926 policy introduced by then-mayor Jimmy Walker to help curb what some residents believed to be “altogether too much running wild” in the Jazz Age clubs of the era. (It's also possible that the law was meant to prevent interracial coupling.) City officials have regularly enforced the law during the proceeding century, with some clubs even cutting off music—or switching to country—when inspectors arrived unannounced.

Now, it appears the outdated restriction has come to an end. According to The New York Times, Brooklyn councilman Rafael Espinal has introduced a bill expected to pass Tuesday that will forever end any and all comparisons to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footloose. The repeal comes on the heels of concerns that the prohibition pushes people into attending "underground" dance clubs that exceed (or ignore) fire department capacity limits.

While Espinal is convinced he has the necessary votes to move forward, several proprietors have attempted to challenge the law over the years. In 2014, bar owner and attorney Andrew Muchmore filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the restriction was outdated and obtaining the license was a laborious process. To approve an application, the city’s Department of Consumer affairs has to verify a venue has security cameras and owners have to attend regular board conferences. The cost of the license can range from $300 to $1000, depending on the area’s capacity and, for some unfathomable reason, whether it’s an even or odd year.

Espinal's efforts and anticipated success getting rid of the Cabaret Law will cap 91 years of illicit dancing within the city limits. Just don't get too cozy with your partner: thanks to another antiquated regulation, you can still be fined $25 for flirting.


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