I’m something of a cinema geek, so reading this guide to the behind the scenes rumblings and the roadblocks of trying to get a big budget film made (or not getting a big budget film made, as is mostly the case here) fell clearly in the area marked ‘my kind of thing’. But even primed as I was to like it, this did still feel like a series of magazine articles on the same topic just strung together. And whereas I’d certainly have enjoyed reading one of these in a Sunday Supplement, fourteen of them in a row just seemed – well – too much. You can like coffee, without necessarily wanting a dozen-plus espresso shots dropped into the same cup.
Years ago I remember talking to an old flatmate about Simon Louvish’s generally excellent biographies of silent film/early talkies film stars. Her view was that the books got bogged down relating synopses for films which no longer existed or – at best – were hard to find. Reading TALES FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL, I could see where she was coming from. Page after page is crammed with plots for films that have never been made (and which, we’re told afterwards, were changed at a later date anyway). Although, perhaps, given that David Hughes is the author of twelve unmade screenplays himself, maybe he’s heading down those cul-de-sacs to try and create an artificial sense of frustration, so we the readers can properly understand the endless annoyance of the whole process.
Despite that grumble, it is a fun read, a geeky read and a read which confirmed my worst suspicions that even the people who made Tim Burton’s version of THE PLANET OF THE APES (including Tim Burton) himself) had no flipping idea what was going on in the ending.