ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT MOVIES Movies Now

River Phoenix's final film to get U.S. release after 21-year limbo

River Phoenix's final film, 'Dark Blood,' will see the light of day after two decades in limbo

After 21 years, "Dark Blood" will finally see the light of day. River Phoenix's final film, which suspended production in 1993 when the actor died of an overdose but was improbably salvaged by its director years later, has been acquired for U.S. distribution by Lionsgate, the sales company Cinemavault announced Friday in Cannes.

Lionsgate is planning a VOD release.

Cinemavault said in a statement, "The story behind the making of a film can be as intriguing as the film itself." In this case, it may be more so.

As detailed in The Times last year, "Dark Blood" survived not only the loss of its leading man but also the near-destruction of the original footage and a life-threatening ailment that struck Dutch director George Sluizer.

The film is set in the Utah desert and costars Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis as a Hollywood couple whose second honeymoon goes awry when their car breaks down and they have to seek help from a disaffected young widower, played by Phoenix.

At the time of filming, Sluizer ("The Vanishing") was making a foray into Hollywood, and Phoenix was a rising star. When Phoenix overdosed outside a West Hollywood nightclub on Halloween, about 75% of "Dark Blood" had been shot, and salvaging the movie was deemed unfeasible. Production shut down, and an insurance company took possession of the film.

Sluizer was devastated. "I was so sad about River's death that I nearly wanted to quit my profession," the octogenarian director told The Times last October. "On the other hand, I was also angry that we could not finish the movie."

The story might have ended there, but in 1999 Sluizer learned that the original footage was to be destroyed, even though he had previously tried to acquire it. At the last minute and on questionable legal ground, Sluizer procured the footage from the storage facility. ("I call it saving, not stealing," Sluizer has said.)

Sluizer didn't touch the film for almost a decade, but a potentially fatal affliction prompted him to finally revisit the material. Sluizer rewrote and edited the movie in 2012, filling in missing scenes with his own narration and photographs.

"Dark Blood," in its imperfect but freestanding form, premiered at the Netherlands Film Festival and has since played around the world, including at the Berlin and Miami film fests.

Distribution has been a long-term goal of Sluizer's, but one complicated by legal negotiations with the insurance company that presumably owned the rights to the original footage.

"I hope it's coming to an end soon," Sluizer said of the arduous process in October. And now it has.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Artists and filmmakers make surprising leaps in 2014
    Artists and filmmakers make surprising leaps in 2014

    Exhibiting raw promise is one thing, but to exceed those initial flashes is something really special. Throughout this year, many filmmakers and performers were pressing on in remarkable ways, showing that even artists who have already exhibited notable skill, talent and accomplishment still...

  • Mark Olsen's best indie films of 2014
    Mark Olsen's best indie films of 2014

    Throughout the year people you thought you knew showed they were still full of surprises. In 2014, when some would see cinema as a storytelling mode and cultural force as an endangered species, these are vital signs of life. Here is Mark Olsen's top ten list of independent films:

  • Kenneth Turan's best films of 2014
    Kenneth Turan's best films of 2014

    What's the point of doing a 10 best list if you put only 10 films on it?

  • Daring films lifted the artform in 2014
    Daring films lifted the artform in 2014

    Like voices crying in the wilderness — rising above that vast wasteland of movie mediocrity — came the roar of the auteurs in 2014. A rangy group with varying aesthetics, they've left an indelible imprint on cinema despite the 400 or so of the marginal that clogged our theaters...

  • Everyone loses in a December deluge of films
    Everyone loses in a December deluge of films

    I try not to publicly argue with film legends, even those who are no longer alive. But when Mae West famously said that "too much of a good thing can be wonderful," she clearly was not considering a film critic's lot in December.

  • Goodbyes abound in 'Night at the Museum' as trilogy comes to an end
    Goodbyes abound in 'Night at the Museum' as trilogy comes to an end

    "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," otherwise known as "Night at the Museum 3," rates as more determinedly heartfelt than the first and not as witty as the second (and best). Also, no Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in jodhpurs this time around.

Comments
Loading