Let’s take a look at an issue of the UK magazine, Starburst, from June 1983. On page 6 the column “Things to Come” begins, with four pages of news and rumors for all the sci-fi action coming soon.
This is when I realize my copy is missing page 7/8. So I only have half the rumors. Which is actually a relief, because when I was reading this column I unknowingly went from page 6 to 9 reading the text as one paragraph. I was very confused how and why Bob Denver was being offered $4 million a picture. That kind of money can buy a lot of three hour tours.
“Columbia Pictures .. the studio which turned down E.T.”
This sentence is repeated within the column. E.T. at this point in 1983 had made $359 million in North America and $619 million worldwide. In 1983. Those are not adjusted numbers for inflation, and they are still good numbers today over 35 years later. Later there would be re-releases, home video sales, and let’s not forget that Hershey’s saw profits grow 65% and solely credits the appearance of Reese’s Pieces for that money.
And Columbia Pictures passed on it because “the world’s not ready for a non-human hero”. I’m having trouble thinking of a non-humanoid character from that time or before. Star Wars, Star Trek, etc are all humanoid heroes. The villains are all over the place, but not the good guys. While E.T. is bipedal I wouldn’t classify him as human.
Columbia Pictures would classify him as the millions of dollars that got away and they are looking for the next big franchise. First, an announced deal to turn The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy into a movie, produced by Ivan Reitman. In 2005 a Hitchhiker‘s movie was finally released, but over 30 years later was long removed from whatever this version was to be and Reitman was no longer attached. The deal was for the entire book series, and that is a thing audiences still haven’t seen. There was debate back in 1983 if this would be live action or an adult leaning animated movie like the Reitman produced Heavy Metal. While this version never materialized, Ivan did alright debuting Ghostbusters in the next year.
But Columbia Pictures wasn’t done making mistakes. They also turned down Poltergeist because the movie was “not our thing”. They’re hereeeeeee….. for $72 million in 1982, 8th biggest movie of the year, and launching a franchise of movies and TV shows.
Have no fear, this movie studio will learn from the sci-fi and horror movies they passed on and spend money on the successful sub genre of … barbarians! Yes, coming from Columbia Pictures is Yor, the Hunter from the Future. Yor is a Turkish-Italian movie already filmed that Columbia bought up the rights to distribute in the United States and made a whopping $2 million at the theaters. Also, Yor involves a barbarian, a tribe of cavemen, and to set up the second act an attack by flying saucers. So, expect this movie to show up at some point this year.
In other news, debate looms on who will direct 2010 (the book was subtitled Odyssey Two, while the film’s subtitle was The Year We Make Contact) after Stanley Kubrick said he doesn’t like repeating himself. Instead Kubrick was having meetings with writer Brian Aldiss about taking adapting three of his short stories: Super Toys Last All Summer Long, All the World’s Fears, and Who Can Replace a Man. Tony Crawley of Starburst magazine asks: “I’ll be fascinated to see what title they come up with from those three, let alone what film story.”
That story wouldn’t come out until after Kubrick’s death. In 2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence finally came out, after Kubrick had handed the project over to Stephen Spielberg in 1995. Spielberg is mentioned again with rumors that his TV movie Duel would finally be re-released in theaters to capitalize on the success of Jaws and E.T. Aside from scattered one off screenings this has still yet to happen.
Duel was written by Richard Matheson who also announced an ABC TV mini series based on his book What Dreams May Come. The mini series never came but a film starring Robin Williams was released 15 years later in 1998.
Back to E.T. yet again and credit is given to the film’s young star. “Drew Barrymore is becoming quite a spokesperson fro Atari video games.” This is a hell of a sentence in retrospect. Both Drew and Atari – actually the entire video game industry – took a hell of a fall in life and society shortly after. Both were written off and expected to never have any fame or popularity again. Both rose back up and are still around today.
Finally, I have heard of “spaghetti westerns” for years. Westerns produced or directed by Italians following the success of Sergio Leone movies. But never before this article had I heard of “spaghetti science fiction”. This has opened up a door of ridiculous for me. I’m embracing the spaghetti sci-fi, because when I’m here, I’m family. Movies like Exterminators of the Year 3000, 2019 After the Fall of New York, and the aforementioned Yor!
We may never have seen some of the works announced back in 1983 but at least we get enjoyable post apocalypse space barbarians movies from Rome. Title pending.