The Ten Greatest Failures in Adapting Movies into Video Games

NOTE: This article first appeared in issue 3 of LUC’s randomly periodical journal of film, Underclass.

The relationship between video games and movies has never been a particularly happy one. For every successful adaptation of a beloved film into pixel form, there are dozens of absolutely wretched examples. Some fail so profoundly, that even the most ardent gamers are probably not aware that they ever existed. Here are the ten most appalling efforts that our crack team of researchers could find…

One – Watership Down (1979)
watership downCreated by a little known arcade machine company, Happy Player Inc., this simple vector game seemed only tangentially connected to the novel and movie of the same name. The player was tasked with using a rollerball controller to aim and shoot at crowds of rabbits that moved across the screen at increasing speed.

As no legal rights rights had been sought or secured to licence the Watership Down name, the developers quickly found themselves on the wrong end of all manner of legal action. The game was hastily re-badged and the few units that found their way to the US were adorned with the title ‘Heroic Pest Saga’.

Two – Gandhi (1982)
atari gandhi 800pxMany know about the infamous failure of the ET Atari game that ended up with thousands of copies buried in the desert. Less well known is the other Atari project based on a 1982 blockbuster film. After a catastrophic press preview ‘Gandhi’ was never released and never mentioned again.

The few scraps of information that leaked out detailed two different levels, firstly a scene set on a beach where the player has to collect piles of salt while avoiding British soldiers. Then secondly, a level which involved running along the top of a train, jumping over bridges. One of the journalists that actually experienced the game remarked many years later that it was ‘Thematically troubling, even by 1982 standards’.

Three – Kramer vs Kramer (1984)
kramer vs kramer box art.pngAs Atari went through all manner of commercial troubles, one division hit upon the idea of creating interactive entertainment for a more mature and sophisticated audience. To this end, they licensed a whole bunch of classic novels and serious, oscar-winning movies to somehow be developed into games, including a console version of Robert Benton’s 1979 weepy divorce drama.

Perhaps inevitably, what seemed like a clever marketing gambit floundered when the development arm of Atari struggled to come up with a game that would stay true to the source material and appeal to grown up gamers. The project was quickly cancelled and resources channelled towards the more commercially secure Pitfall 2.

All that remains in the public domain is the incredibly incongruous draft box art.

Four – F For Fake (1985)
The uk home computer explosion of the 80’s provided fertile ground for developers to experiment with new types of games and interactive experiences. None more so than Stafford based Singular Systems whose output for the ZX Spectrum consistently tested the boundaries of what could be considered a ‘game’. Following the surprise success of their highly politicised platform game satire ‘Manically Depressed Miner’, SS ploughed the profits into a highly ambitious multi-media project based on Orson Welles’ 1974 tricksy documentary.

f for fake loading screen.jpg

Due to packaging and pricing issues, retailers refused to stock the game, which came on three individual cassettes and also included a VCR tape which included specially shot footage and voice recordings of Welles designed to be played on a separate screen as part of the overall experience.

Costing an unprecedented £25 and requiring two TV’s and an addition VCR player – the game sold in miniscule numbers. Reviews reported that it took the form of a number of individual games themed around art forgery and a number of Welles unmade film projects. Each level had to be loaded individually and played through according to exacting timings to fit in with the VCR elements. Your Sinclair described it as ‘unplayable and confusing’, while Crash magazine refused to review it on the basis that they didn’t ‘consider it to be a game in any way at all’.

Five – Wings Of The Apache (1990)
cage wings of the apache.jpgA vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up arcade machine to tie in with the release of the Nicolas Cage helicopter movie. Legendary for the huge ‘sit-in’ cabinet with working plastic rotor blades on top and heavy use of Cage’s digitised image and voice, most notably yelling “I AM THE GREATEST”, at the completion of each level. Unfortunately, the failure of the film to perform at the box office led to few orders. Coupled with the high cost of manufacture, only a few units ever reached the arcades and none are currently known to be in working order.

Six – Boxing Helena (1993)
FlyFire studios of California had spent 6 months building a state of the art (by early 1990s standards) digital model of Kim Basinger as the basis of their innovative adaptation of Jennifer Lynch’s debut feature.

The game was based around a complex conversation based mechanic in which the player (as Helena) tried to explore the tortured psyche of the surgeon Nick Cavanaugh in order to stop him cutting more bits off you.

Groundbreaking for both its approach and the use of a female protagonist, the game suffered a similar fate to the movie when Basinger controversially left the project. While the producers of the film eventually recouped millions from Basinger in court, the game developers couldn’t afford any type of litigation. Desperate to recoup their extensive development costs without too much further expense FlyFire quickly knocked up a bog-standard platform game in which Helena has to collect golden coins while dodging flying surgical equipment. Somehow it managed to get worse reviews than the film. It sold 84 copies.

Seven – Falling Down (1994)
Falling DownAlthough you can question of taste of turning the ‘Michael Douglas going postal’ movie into a light-gun shooting game – this title was actually well received by the gaming press at the time. Reviewers praised the intensity of the experience and noted that the game left the player questioning their morals and actions.

The game was developed exclusively for the 3DO console, to help show off its (at the time) ground-breaking full motion video capabilities and featured extra footage shot by Joel Schumacher. The hugely expensive console tanked in the hugely competitive mid-90s game market and was discontinued in 1995. Very few people ever got to play the game and the costs of porting it to the forthcoming Sony Playstation were deemed prohibitive. Rumour has it that Michael Douglas maintains a working 3DO and wheels the game out to entertain guests at at parties.

Eight – Pearl Harbor (2001)
California’s PinPoint Games were confident of a delivering a major hit with their adaptation of the infamous film about the day of infamy. They’d tied up a deal for the game rights and secured use of the prototype Unreal Engine v2 to help them build a spectacular 3D blockbuster war game.
During early design discussions, it transpired that although they had a licence for the film, they didn’t have the rights to use the likenesses, character names, voices or performances of any of the main cast characters – with the exception of Kate Beckinsale’s Nurse Johnson.

A number of proposals and prototypes were put together before the project was eventually cancelled and the costs written off. The most intriguing of which was what can only be described a first person ‘inject ‘em up’ in which you, as Nurse Johnson have to run around a hospital ward injecting wounded soldiers with the right medicine.

Which, to be honest, would probably have been better than the film.

Nine – Battle Royale 2 (2003)
Small time Tokyo based developers Joy Simulation couldn’t believe their luck when Nintendo snagged their prototype flower-themed strategy title Petal Rivals, to be developed as a high profile Gameboy Advance title.

Their excitement was short-lived when after the contracts were signed they were told that their game had to be re-skinned into an adaptation of the violently militaristic sequel to Battle Royale.

The graphics department who had spent months working on making cute anthropomorphic flowers that swayed gently in the breeze, had to suddenly switch them out for school age terrorists with explosive death animations. The whole thing was a rush job and completely failed in the market due to the underperformance of the film and the subject matter being a terrible fit with Nintendo’s Mario loving fanbase.

Ten – The Raid (2011)
The Uk distributors commissioned Hoxton ‘boutique development house’ BooomK@ M3dia to create a web based game to promote the theatrical release of this martial arts adventure. They were less than impressed when with less than 2 weeks to go, BooomK@ presented them with an old school, text adventure game.

A source revealed:

“They just sat there in the presentation looking smug and pleased with themselves. They said it was ironic and that we didn’t understand new media strategy. They stopped smiling pretty fucking quickly when I said we weren’t paying them”

Although the game was swiftly canned and not used, it was later leaked onto an interactive fiction web site, where it was derided on the community forum as ‘repetitive’ and ‘not as clever as it thinks’.

THE RAID Adventure Game.jpg

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Top 10 Most Insane Abandoned Movie Sequels Ever

To help you through the inexorable wait for UNDERCLASS Issue 3, here is one of the articles from issue 2 with a bonus stupid buzzfeed type title added. If any agents/mad film stars out there want to develop one of these, please get in touch with our legal dept.

Behold: The best sequels that we will never see (one of which is actually real*).

#1: Withnail & Us

It is 1980. Recently divorced West End star Marwood gets an offer to star in a big hollywood film, but is also awarded custody of his 4 unruly and wild children. Unable to find a nanny willing to take on the task of dealing with the kids while he is away, fate intervenes when his old friend and washed up actor Withnail turns up at one of his shows begging for work…

#2: The Next Schindler’s List

Tortured by dreams of those he was unable to save, an aged Oskar Schindler, makes a new list – of Nazis. Using all of his old black market contacts and shady connections, Schindler tracks down surviving members of the Third Reich and takes them out one by one. The project eventually fell apart due to funding issues but Spielberg went on to make the thematically similar Munich, while Neeson had the script re-tuned by Luc Besson, leading to the Taken trilogy.

#3: Gladiator 2: Christ Killer

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott commissioned a script from Nick Cave which saw Maximus raised from the dead to become a kind of eternal warrior figure. First leading the Christians against the Roman before cropping up in Medieval times, the Vietnam war and eventually the Pentagon war room. Considered too mad for the mainstream, the script became an italicised internet cause celebre.

#4: Requiem: Deliverance 2

Some years later back in Atlanta, a serial killer is stalking visitors to the Chattahoochee River Park. Lewis phones Ed with evidence that the killer is in fact Bobby, suffering at the hands of a split personality disorder and having taken on the characteristics of the Mountain Men who brutalised him. They engage in a cat and mouse pursuit of their former friend, an experience from which none of them will escape unharmed.

#5: Big Mac & Me

The corporate producers of the extended Macdonalds advert ‘Mac & Me’ were so sure that they had a hit on their hands that they paid Lawrence Kasdan a small fortune to write an outline for a whole series of Mac movies. The first sequel ‘Big Mac & Me’, would see Eric and Mac going to college together and thwarting a dastardly plot to by the evil ‘FKC corporation’ to close down a children’s hospital in order to use the land for a giant factory farm.

#6: Cobra & Son

In this early 90’s script, brutal cop Cobretti, finds out that he has a 12 year old son as the result of a one night stand with a stripper in his early days on the force. After the stripper is killed in bizarre ritual by a gang of neo-illuminati biker punks, Cobra is reluctantly awarded custody of the kid. After a difficult start, father and son develop a grudging bond, cemented by taking violent revenge against the gang leader. The project was abandoned when it transpired that Chuck Norris’ Sidekicks and Burt Reynolds’ Cop and a Half were also in production.

#7: Top Gun 2

Now an instructor at the famed Top Gun academy, ‘Maverick’ Pete Mitchell is a bitter alcoholic, driven to the drink by post-traumatic stress and the tension of living in denial of his true sexuality. Driven to distraction by brilliant, yet beguiling young pilot Jed ‘Turbo’ Longhorn, Maverick’s world is thrown into disarray when war breaks out with North Korea and he must team up with Longhorn to lead a crucial mission into unknown territory.

#8: 8ight

Worshipped as a living god by the followers of John Doe, the disturbed and twisted former detective David Mills publishes a new set of eight coded commandments intended to bring about the end of of society. Crippled by old age and confined to a wheelchair, Detective Somerset must help a rookie cop decipher Mill’s plan as chaotic and horrific acts of terrorism rip the city apart.

#9: Jeffrey Lebowski

Despite Maude Lebowski’s wishes, the Dude decided that he didn’t just want to be the anonymous sperm donor for their son. Following the events of the first film, the Dude gave up bowling, started running and used the money from the sale of his rug to fund a new brand of ready-mixed ‘Jeff’s White Russians’. On the eve of a crucial IPO for his company and a watershed moment in the court battle for access to his son, he is visited by the ghost of Donny. The apparition tells him that he must travel to Japan to save Walter from the clutches of a doomsday cult, The Starshine Collective, who have based their religion on a series of pulp novels written by the now re-incarcerated Jesus Quintana.

#10: Mr Pink’s Wild Ride

Uptight career criminal, Mr Pink, the only survivor of the diamond heist in Reservoir Dogs is the protagonist of this Tarantino script which runs a bloody thread through his alternate cinematic universe. After fencing a suitcase full of diamonds to associates of Marcellus Wallace, he heads south of the border. Rescued from certain death at The Titty Twister by Clarence and Alabama Worley, he joins their family on a chaotic search for the fabled resting place of Aldo ‘The Apache’ Raine and his priceless bowie knife.

 

*Yep Gladiator 2 Christ Killer is the real one, you can read the script here.

UNDERCLASS Issue Two Arrives

UNDERCLASS ISSUE 2 Cover smallThanks to either:

1) A rip in the space time continuum found in the depths of the R&D wing.

Or

2) Poor time management and technical deficiencies in the editorial department.

We are delighted to announce the emergence of the June issue of UNDERCLASS (the periodical journal of LUC) now at the end of July.

This marvellous second issue includes another eight articles on brilliant, but less well known films alongside more exclusive original art from Christine Cuddihy. Also on board are a load of other bits and pieces, including a board game, a made up film trivia top ten of abandoned sequels and the chance to colour in Warren Beatty.

The films to check out (and then view and analyse in your personal screening log book) in this issue are:

The Brothers Bloom

The Way of the Gun

The Magic Christian

Bulworth

Southland Tales

The Yellow Sea

Whoops Apocalypse

Sleepless Night

You can pick up your copy of this historical issue on the internet via Etsy for just £3 – or grab one at any forthcoming LUC event or during POP QUIZ HOT SHOT at the drawing board every other Sunday.

UNDERCLASS Issue 1 Out Now!

IMG_0003The debut issue of Leamington Underground Cinema’s new quarterly periodical has arrived. UNDERCLASS Issue 1 is available right now from this very web site in both printed and digital versions.

This first edition features articles on eight films (including Dust Devil, The Brave, Putney Swope and Zero Effect) plus exclusive, original Christine Cuddihy artwork and a variety of interactive distractions for your entertainment. We are already hard at work on issue 2 which will be available in June 2015.

IMG_0002All those who backed our Kickstarter campaign will be receiving their copy in the post in the next few days, or if you are really lucky, will get a personal delivery from one of our elite courier staff.

You can be one of the very first to pick up your copy at our Film Bingo event tonight at the Cask & Bottle tonight, for the special price of just 3 quid.

IMG_0006Alternatively you can purchase UNDERCLASS Issue 1 using the links below, currently we are only doing postage to the UK, but international LUC fans can still get the digital version pinged to them via the internet in wipe-clean PDF format.

Buy an A5 printed copy for £4 (inc. postage to the UK)

Buy the digital pdf version for just £1.25

 

UNDERCLASS update: Final week and stretch goal

VISIT THE UNDERCLASS KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN to get your copy now!

UNDERCLASS 1 COVER 1000pxHere in the hermetically sealed underground network of LUC’s headquarters we are hard at work getting everything ready for the first edition of our new quarterly periodical, UNDERCLASS. The marketing dept. have pointed out that it is high time that we revealed a bit of a tease as to what this launch issue will contain. We don’t want to give too many spoilers away, so here are just three agreed highlights for the purpose of raising anticipation…

1. The films featured in issue one will include Putney Swope, Intacto and Zero Effect plus five more.

2. It has been agreed, after violent negotiation, that the art department can have their own highly specific ‘Disaster Film Corner’.

3. There will be an interactive ‘Logbook of objective viewing’ for readers to use and enjoy.

If you’d like to make sure of receiving the first issue for just £1 for the digital version, or £3 for a physical copy posted to you – then head over to our kickstarter campaign. You can even subscribe for the first four issues and become an ‘Associate Publisher’ as well.

STRETCH GOAL APPROVED

As we are fortunate enough to have reached our funding target, the glorious central committee have permitted us to add a stretch goal for the final week of the Kickstarter campaign.

If we reach the lofty heights of £350, then each issue will include cut out and keep ‘top trumps’ cards for the films featured, gradually building each quarter into an exciting game – ideal for helping pass the time with dull family members or impressing potential romantic partners.

Once again, many thanks to all of you who have backed UNDERCLASS so far and helped spread the word. We will be in touch with more information once the kickstarter has concluded. Currently we are hoping to be sending out the first issue in the second week of March, dependent on printing etc.

More news soon.

‘UNDERCLASS’ – LUC’s new publication is on Kickstarter

UNDERCLASS 1 COVER 1000pxAfter all manner of enigmatic whisperings and outrageous rumours the R&D section have confirmed the forthcoming appearance of a brand new quarterly publication from Leamington Underground Cinema…

UNDERCLASS will be a small but perfectly formed journal featuring articles on some of our favourite, little-known movies alongside exclusive artwork and a variety of exciting content and features.

The aesthetic side of things is being handled by the enormously talented Christine Cuddihy – you can check out her work at www.christinecuddihy.co.uk – and the cover of the first issue is reproduced below. The glorious central committee has instructed the editorial staff to make sure that all content is informative, entertaining & irreverent in tone. There are alarmingly harsh penalties in place to make sure that these instructions are followed.

Each issue of UNDERCLASS will be available as a digital pdf file, or as a tangible, tactile A5 booklet, ready to be scribbled on, or used as an emergency drink coaster. Our current plan is that each issue will feature a minimum of eight films. Additional content will include exclusive artwork, puzzles & games, film-related recipes, colouring-in segments and much more.

The first issue costs £1 for a digital copy, or £3 for a physical copy (including postage to the UK) and will be available on the 1st of March.

Our initial funding target to help pay for the production printing and posting of the first issue is £110 – but if we are able to exceed that then we will add some interesting and exciting stretch goals.

You can order the first issue, or a subscription to the four issues that will emerge in 2015 over at the UNDERCLASS Kickstarter page.