The 3-D revolution that wasn’t

I had meetings with Cannon Films back in the 80s to adapt Colin Wilson’s popular science fiction novel, Space Vampires, into a feature. That film eventually became the cult movie Lifeforce, written and directed by Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaws Massacre fame.

Instead, I was hired to script another film Cannon was developing and very excited about called Space Bounty Hunter. This film was very important to them because it was using a new technology called “Wonder-Vision” that was going to relaunch a 3-D revolution in film. What a crazy idea, right? 3-D movies hadn’t been popular since the mid 1950s, when they were first introduced as a gimmick to pull viewers away from this new thing called television.

It turns out another space bounty hunter movie was already in development, so the entire concept of the picture changed to a mythological El Cid-style chariot race action adventure on another planet. The new title was called Escape From Beyond, and the film was promoted with posters and pre-sold for international distribution at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

But a funny thing happened on the way to building the sets in Mexico and training the chariot stunt crews … chariot races are really expensive. Go ask Cecil B. DeMille, the director of Ben Hur (oops, too late, he was dead). The preproduction and film were eventually abandoned when they realized the costs were far beyond what they collected up front to distribute the film internationally (which was Cannon’s business model).

So the world never got to see the amazing relaunch of 3-D technology with a science fiction epic. Sigh. Too bad, huh?

But they did see the poster art at Cannes and in the Hollywood Reporter. (Don’t ask me who those other two additional names under Screenplay By are; they didn’t write the script – I think they came up with that cheesy title and controlled the press releases)

 

I went through seven drafts of that script, including one where the President of the company calmly told me, “Ve haf Charles Bronson.” I didn’t know what to make of that other than the fact they had a big success with is vigilante film Death Wish and two sequels. Was I supposed to suddenly turn this into Death Wish in Space? And if the movie was expensive enough with chariot races, what was Charles Bronson’s fee going to add to the cost?

— A. Wayne Carter

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply