Dead, Gone, Buried

The straight-to-DVD-or-Netflix movie is one thing, but what do you call a film that’s apparently so dead it doesn’t even rate the video bin? How can a film be so bad that its producers don’t want to even earn at least some lunch and subway-pass money from this or that video platform? I understand write-offs but what’s the point of throwing a movie into a ten-foot-deep hole and covering it up with dirt?


Sienna Miller during filming of Beeban Kidron’s Hippie Hippie Shake

Case in point: Beeban Kidron‘s Hippie Hippie Shake, a piece-of-shit adaptation of Richard Neville‘s memoir about running Oz, the famed London counter-culture weekly, in the late ’60s. Shot in late ’07 and then gradually and sluggishly abandoned by distributors (including Universal), it’s not purchasable or rentable anywhere. I tried to watch it on Yidio.com and Lovefilm.com…nothing happened.

Don’t those nude scenes of Sienna Miller matter to anyone?

I think it’s because ’60s hippie movies always put out some kind of impossible-to-stomach, go-away-and-stay-away atmosphere. Four and a half years ago I wrote that “I’d love to see this Tim Bevan-Eric Fellner production do it right, but haven’t hippie films always been a problem? Isn’t there some kind of curse upon any film trying to reenact or reconstitute that old love beads-slash-Bhagavad Gita-slash-Moody Blues vibe? Isn’t there something immensely difficult if not impossible in trying to make that incense-and-peppermints chemistry seem palatable by the standards of 21st Century culture?”

Three years ago I wrote that “the rep of this poor misbegotten film has gone from intriguing to worrisome to there-must-be-something-wrong to massive fartbomb.”

Roughly 18 months ago Sydney Morning Herald reporters Gary Maddox and Steve Meacham wrote that “more than three years after the film was shot in England, rumours that Hippie Hippie Shake has turned out dismally have proved to be accurate. After a promised release failed to eventuate last year, the British production company, Working Title, has confirmed it will not reach cinemas. A distribution source said: ”There are cases where movies just come out really…badly.”

And yet in late ’08 two reviews were posted that said Hippie Hippie Shake was at least watchable — one from British blogger Matt Robinson and another from AICN’s “Harry Palmer.”

18 thoughts on “Dead, Gone, Buried

  1. Most of the stuff coming from Hollywood these days is either mediocre or shit so obviously the quality of the movie cannot be the issue. But to not release a movie that features a naked Sienna Miller is downright weird and financially incomprehensible. Just put a semi-nude Sienna on the cover and it’s a guaranteed sell.

  2. A lot of hip fashion shoots are very 60′s inspired and girls my age love that era in a cosmic-stylistic sense. But it almost NEVER translates well onto film. Something about the “groovy, man” seems really off when spoken by a modern actor. It’s the difference between Woodstock and Taking Woodstock.

  3. “Just put a semi-nude Sienna on the cover and it’s a guaranteed sell.”

    Fitz-hume: see comment #1.

    Unless you’re talking about men who have not heard of the Internet. In that case: sure, maybe you’re right. But most people can just watch said nude scenes online — FOR FREE — leaked before the DVD is even available.

    Throwaway movies are no longer relevant. Better for financiers to take the write-off and leave them unreleased.

  4. “Unless you’re talking about men who have not heard of the Internet.”

    What is this…”internet” thing that you speak of? Never mind, I’ll find out later. I’m off to the Tiki!

  5. Hippie Hippie Shake was abandoned by the director during post production – it was completed (even to the extent of finessing Ms Miller’s digitally enhanced and period accurate ‘merkin’ for the aforementioned skinny dipping scenes) in her absence.

    Then Working Title & Universal lost their shirts over The Green Zone and Hippie Hippie Shake was written off in an attempt to offset the financial loss of the Greengrass flick. A condition of the insurers being that the original negative of Hippie Hippie Shake be physically destroyed.

    Whether this actually happens or not in these situations I don’t know. But the upshot is that the film can never be released or screened in any form. That’s it. It’s gone. Dead. Buried.

    There may be a copy locked away in a vault somewhere but you stand a better chance of seeing ‘The Day The Clown Cried’.

  6. if what praire_oysters says is true, then holy shit-balls. is this a modern precedent? what other big budget movies with studio support and big-names have ever been buried like this one?

  7. Isn’t there something immensely difficult if not impossible in trying to make that incense-and-peppermints chemistry seem palatable by the standards of 21st Century culture?”

    Interesting. on the night following the Aurora shooting I went to a Carlos Santana concertand during the concert Santana had a few words about the violence and the state of the country. Among what he said was that patriotism is an outdated concept or words to that effect.I expected to hear some negative reaction especially since every concert that I have attended during the past severalyears had the performers pandering to the crowd with tributes to the armed forces and veterans etc. However in light of the days events there was enthusistic applause and cheers from the sold out crowd, It was the first time in over forty years that i flashed back to the spirrt of the woodstock era,
    Which goes to show that a sincere effort to capture the zeitgiest of those days can work., but it must come sincerely from the heart..

  8. “what other big budget movies with studio support and big-names have ever been buried like this one?”

    I would say that as this was a Working Title and Siena Miller movie… it doesn’t really count as a “studio” movie with “big names.” Though Cillian Murphy was in it as well.

    Less facetiously: it’s less common for live action pictures — especially recently, with insurance arrangements being what they are — but not uncommon for animated features, where sometimes scripts and dialogue are thrown away entirely after recording and started all over again with new stories and casts. FOOD FIGHT is one example, though not a studio film; NEWT from Pixar is probably a better example — several years of development, several drafts and art concepts thrown away and the movie canceled. Now, you can say it doesn’t “count” because it was never completed (or even entered production)… but I can guarantee you they spent more money on that project than the entire production budget of HIPPIE. (The Disney accountants would have buried the lost costs elsewhere.)

    And speaking of that: VERY common for projects in development hell to spend more lost money than low-budget movies. The old Tim Burton Superman project at WB was probably the most egregious example. That development money (at least $30 million), all lost, would have financed a decade’s worth of unreleased indie throwaways.

  9. I don’t know why they could write it off as a loss. With the huge surge in “ironic” films, they would find some audience somewhere. I mean, The Room, Black Dynamite, Birdemic, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunger, and Hobo With a Shotgun all have their own cult following and sales. It’s a small market that relies on word of mouth, but it could just be where Hippie Hippies Shake falls, and gets some money back.

    Although, it may not be so bad it’s good, and just so bad it’s bad.

    “There may be a copy locked away in a vault somewhere but you stand a better chance of seeing ‘The Day The Clown Cried’.”

    I would love to see that. And in today’s ironic culture, it could definitely find an audience

  10. There was a great TV adaptation of the OZ trials with Hugh Grant as Richard Neville a couple of decades ago – Simon Callow was also featured – and it was very entertaining. I’ve always found the rest of Richard Neville’s 60′s hippy commentary though to be pretty blah. Amazing though to hear that they had to destroy the neg because of GREEN ZONE taking a dump. Amazing if true, though if the director left it before completion perhaps everyone was tired of it at that point.

  11. I’m not sure if prairie oysters description of a draconian finish of destroying the negative and forever burying the movie is something that would actually happen; almost all studio movies get to emerge somehow, even if it’s at 4am on Serbian cable. But I do remember reading an article years ago about the glut of shelved movies Miramax was sitting on and how it was explained that as long as a movie was unreleased, it was considered a positive asset towards the company’s worth, but once it was released, the studio had to take the financial hit. So perhaps Working Title and Universal are waiting out for a better-performing film or quarter, and then they’ll quietly dump the movie to DVD with that profit cushion to absorb the blow.

  12. I always get Beeban Kidron confused with Jeremiah Chechick, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Ate de Jong and Marek Kanievsksa.

  13. This thread should be required reading for anyone under the misconception that the primary purpose of movie making is “art.” Which is not to say that films with artistic merit don’t exist. They do, of course. But knowing info like this, more often than not, it seems almost like it happens accidentally.

  14. I’m not sure if prairie oysters description of a draconian finish of destroying the negative and forever burying the movie is something that would actually happen

    it seems like an unenforceable condition, especially now at a time when even low-budget 35mm productions go through a digital intermediate (this presumes Hippie was even shot on film to begin with)

    What would the insurance company even be asking for in that case? A video of a guy dragging a bunch of files into the trash can? A smashed DCDM?

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  16. I’m not sure if prairie oysters description of a draconian finish of destroying the negative and forever burying the movie is something that would actually happen; almost all studio movies get to emerge somehow, even if it’s at 4am on Serbian cable. But I do remember reading an article years ago about the glut of shelved movies Miramax was sitting on and how it was explained that as long as a movie was unreleased, it was considered a positive asset towards the company’s worth, but once it was released, the studio had to take the financial hit. So perhaps Working Title and Universal are waiting out for a better-performing film or quarter, and then they’ll quietly dump the movie to DVD with that profit cushion to absorb the blow. the fleshlight | Anti Radiation Clothing

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