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Greatest Movies Never Made & Silent Running

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Mark Kermode | 12:03 UK time, Friday, 11 November 2011

I've blogged recently about great unmade films and my love of the 70s sci fi movie, Silent Running.

Both topics provoked loads of responses from you and here I pick out some of your sharpest comments.

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Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
The Greatest Movie Never Made
Silent Running

Mark's reviews on 5 live
Take your pick from Mark's A-Z

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



  • Comment number 1.

    First Comment!! i like silent running but i'm afraid i have to agree with some of the criticisms - i'm sorry Dr K but that sound really is awful.

  • Comment number 2.

    You're a soppy old hippy (but that's not such a bad thing).

  • Comment number 3.

    whats all this i read about THE DEVILS!
    spill the beans mark.

    "After much arm-twisting the BFI has indeed persuaded Warner Bros to let them handle The Devils, and a packed two-disc lovingly-curated special edition will be out next March.
    Finally available on DVD for the first time, The Devils is presented in the original UK ‘X’ certificate version with a host of new and exciting extra features"

    Special features*
    • DVD premiere presentation of the original UK ‘X’ certificate version
    • Newly filmed introduction with director Ken Russell
    • Audio commentary with Ken Russell, Mark Kermode, Mike Bradsell and Paul Joyce
    • Hell on Earth (Paul Joyce, 2002, 48 mins): documentary exploring the film's production and the controversy surrounding its original release
    • Director of the Devils (1971, 21 min): documentary featuring candid Ken Russell interviews and unique footage of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies recording his celebrated film score
    • Original on-set footage with commentary by editor Mike Bradsell
    • Amelia and the Angel (Ken Russell, 1958, 30 mins): Ken Russell's short film, a delightful mix of religious allegory and magical fantasy
    • Original UK trailer
    • Original US trailer
    • Fully illustrated booklet featuring new essays and notes from Mark Kermode, Craig Lapper (BBFC), Sam Ashby and others

  • Comment number 4.

    Films that were planned, but never completed production, that I'd liked to have seen: did anyone mention Kubrick's Napoleon?

    A few randon thoughts on Mark's video:

    David Lean's Nostromo. After Lean's Passage to India I'm quite glad it never got made (also - have you actually read the book, it's pretty turgid?).

    Watchman - greatest graphic novel ever? Most-over rated certainly.
    I doubt anyone ever planned on filming them but I'd like to see movies of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Dr K, glad you responded to the "greatest movies never made" blog, in terms of responses this was one of the best blogs in ages and i really enjoyed reading them.

    More importantly the above post about 'The Devils' doesn't say that this is the directors cut can you clarify the situation.

  • Comment number 6.

    Regarding Sergio Leone, it is Leningrad and not Stalingrad as you incorrectly corrected. The planned 'Leningrad: The 900 Days' could have been amazing.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks for reading out my post Mark!

    And in regards to the above post, is it going to be the uncut version of The Devils?

  • Comment number 8.

    On a slightly (completely) different note, the first time I saw Silent Running I liked it very much, however I thought Bruce Dern's ridiculously unrealistic performance spoit it a bit.

    My totally incorrect opinion on Dern was over turned when, by a happy accident I watched Grizzly Man and Silent Running back to back.

    Tredwell is Dern. The similarities between the two are a little disquieting, and completely changed the way I watch Silent Running in particular.

    I was wondering how characters in one film have influenced your view of characters in another?

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't think you're a "soddy old hippie", Dr. K, but I do think you let your feelings of nostalgia sometimes color (it's 'colour' over there, isn't it?) your objectivity.

  • Comment number 10.

    1st time poster here - I was inspired by Mark giving the fantastic Reanimator a name check ! It seems to be an oft forgotten horror classic.

  • Comment number 11.


    I like Silent Running very much and was recently lucky enough to see it again on the big screen. However, you say Silent Running is one of your favorite films, yet, you also often say there is only so much tree hugging you can take seriously. This was your main problem with The New World, but what is Silent Running if not tree hugging in space.

    The protaganist kills people to save the trees for gods sake!

  • Comment number 12.

    Along with Vincent Ward's "Alien 3" the unmade film that really interests me is the proposed adaptation of "Dracula" starring Lon Chaney (senior).

    Sadly Lon died and the economy melted, leaving us with Bela Lugosi's iconic but stagey version as the instantly recallable vision of the character.

    All these years later and despite Coppola's claims to the contrary, there has yet to be an adaptation of Bram Stoker's book that even resembles the real deal.
    Which is a shame because the book is very cinematic.

    One could argue that "Alien" gives us a good impression of the passages of the novel set on The Demeter and "The Exorcist" is pretty much like Lucy Westenra passages.
    "Silence Of The Lambs" gives us Dracula and Renfield in one character.

    What a trilogy of films the novel could give the right director.

    It even has a Texan cowboy vampire hunter who (spoiler alert) saves the day!

  • Comment number 13.

    Like stevie7771 says, can we have some info on the forthcoming Devils DVDs please Mark?

    Why isn't it the 2004 Extended Cut and only on DVD? What's up with the lack of a Blu-ray release?

  • Comment number 14.

    It's a special treat to have one's post read aloud. Thanks, good Dr.

  • Comment number 15.

    I like Silent Running and the soundtrack is excellent. I wouldn't say it's better than 2001, though, but then 2001 is one of my all time favourite films.

    Regarding Lovecraft - there's a Spanish version of Escape from Innsmouth but IMO The Dunwich Horror is crying out for good film adaptation; it's got everything you need for impact, including a huge nasty monster rampaging through stunning scenery.

    The next time you chat with a director, Mark, perhaps you could mention it?

  • Comment number 16.

    I think this is the best reading aloud acting I've ever seen- as Mark has claimed an inability to do so. :-)

  • Comment number 17.

    Greatest movies never made. Godzilla by Yasujiro Ozu. Definitely I would have loved to have seen Kurosawa's Japanese perspective of Tora! Tora! Tora! How about a Star Wars movie directed by Steven Spielberg who had expressed interest in making one.

  • Comment number 18.

    Since he has the poster and models I'm sure Dr. Kermode has this as well. Silent Running score LP in green vinyl. Behold.

  • Comment number 19.

    That a shiny new laptop, fella?

  • Comment number 20.

    Glad to see HP Lovecraft films getting a mention, fun as Reanimator is it's true there hasn't been a great one yet. Now the controversial part, which Dr K may object too, or actually might not we'll see ...
    You know what a Lovecraft movie needs? 3D
    BUT not the way you think!
    Only the monsters and strange geometries will be in 3D everything else will be in 2D. It's one of the few times 3D as a gimmick would be appropriate to show that difference of otherness that runs through Lovecraft's work.
    (and in the style of cosmic horror his characters are deliberately somewhat two dimensional but that's just an in joke. )

  • Comment number 21.

    Hey Mark,

    I am actually promoting the 65 Days of Static performance of Silent Running (25.11.11) @ The Duke Of Yorks, Brighton.

    As far as I know this is the only scheduled performance of this concert, so if you'd like to come, please feel free to email me (

    However this show is sold out, but you can be my guest!

  • Comment number 22.

    Interesting that so many people didn't like Silent running and yet liked 2001 ... I can't watch 2001 I find it extremely tedious lacking any real deeper meaning.

    Silent running on the otherhand for all it's hippyness rings just as true today. Humanity is short sighted, and that short sightedness will lead to its own downfall.

    Perhaps not as exciting as a monolith on the moon and a malfunctioning computer, but sadly so much more real.

    I'd guess that those that like 2001 are considerably more likely to (a) believe in God or a higher power and/or (b) believe in the existence of aliens.

  • Comment number 23.

    Reanimator, yes! From Beyond, the follow up from pretty much the same team isn't quite as successful, and is so loosely based on HPL that you can barely credit it as such, but I did enjoy it at the time (need to rewatch at some point). Brian Yuzna had a hand in the script. I had some friends at uni who had a dream project, literally, in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath, but 25 years later, it hasn't come to pass.

    @Max, great idea, isn't one of Cthulu's names "the Eldritch Many Pointed One" (maybe not)? On the other hand I can guarantee that there's probably at least one person who if forced to view Cthulu through 3D glasses, might truly go insane.

    The Nostromo note jogged my memory that David Lean had planned a two picture version of Mutiny on the Bounty and that the script development with Robert Bolt was sited by some as the source of much of Bolt's ill health at the time. Bolt rewrote that as the Hopkins/Gibson/Donaldson version, The Bounty (which, luckily outside the UK did not refer to a chocolate bar).

    There's the Powell / Pressburger musical version of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which was reworked without songs into The Elusive Pimpernel, a fun but lesser work in the P&P canon.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'd like to see if anyone can come up with a film (other than Moon), that is anything like Silent Running?

  • Comment number 25.

    @Cornish Darren Fewings --
    Android (1982) directed by Aaron Lipstadt, starring Klaus Kinski, costarring and cowritten by Don Keith Opper, sprung to mind, isolated space setting and questions about nature of humanity. I haven't seen it since it was in theatres so my straw clutching could be misguided. It was pretty good at the time and I remember it as somewhat thoughtful science fiction.

    To a far lesser degree you could consider that both Alien and Outland begin with a focus on space as an ordinary working environment for ordinary working folk, although they go off in more cross genre based directions, horror and western respectively.

  • Comment number 26.

    2001 Is a film about the fear in use meeting and acknowledging we are not alone(in the universe) , But silent running is a film about being alone and managing with that and getting on with living

  • Comment number 27.

    Brian - New Forest , thanks.

    Seen all three and Yes, there are some similarities but I think the problem with comparing Silent Running for most people, (including me), is everybody thinks of Space films.

    Being set in space SR allows certain ideas to be explored which would have been 'restricted' anywhere else.
    And, it is a true Sci-Fi movie because of that.

    However, I think comparing SR to a non-SciFi film would yield better results.

  • Comment number 28.

    WATCHMEN is very good indeed. Brilliant, even.

    But the greatest graphic novel series of all time is Garth Ennis's PREACHER.

    Don't bother arguing. It just IS.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm still waiting for a version of "Conan the Barbarian" that steers more towards Robert E. Howard's bleak and pessimistic original stories, rather than the comicbook version. I had high hopes for this year's remake, but was sadly very disappointed: it just looks like a big-budget version of the cheesy Hercules or Xena TV series. What it really needed was a European sensibility: I'd love to see Nicolas (Valhalla Rising) Refn's take on it...

  • Comment number 30.

    I was curious about the 65daysofstatic soundtrack and a quick visit to their web site:

    you can stream their soundtrack to 'Silent Running', TODAY ONLY (Mon 14th Nov), I'm doing that just now. I quite like it, BUT it's just the music, you couldn't play this an alternate soundtrack, I presume legal issues around using the original performance abound, so you'll need to catch a live show for the full effect. Unless some agreement can be come to,... which might see a revival for the old classic.

  • Comment number 31.

    @Cornish Darren Fewings -- not one to back down from a challenge, I did think that we could go in the direction of ecological themes, a bit wary that Ferngully that way lies. However, the few working brain cells I've left kicked into action and I offer you --
    Never Cry Wolf -- the Carroll Ballard/Farley Mowat/Charles Martin Smith film, it has both the ecological bent and the themes of isolation of SR, but it is based on science fact and Mowat's autobiographical tale.

  • Comment number 32.

    with you on silent running, mr kermode

  • Comment number 33.

    Greatest science fiction movies never made - me, making the star wars prequels and not cocking it up completely like Lucas did!

  • Comment number 34.

    Completely off topic: As much as I'd prefer not to engage in encouraging the whole catch phrase thing, here's news of a proposed Dr. Who movie which may be another excuse to say Hello to Jason Isaacs:

  • Comment number 35.

    I can only concur with the good doctor’s comments about Re-animator being a fine Lovecraft adaptation, but it is not the only one. If I may, I would like to direct his attention the fantastic ‘Call of Cthulu’; a silent film made in 2005 by the Lovecraft society. It manages to capture the essence of Lovecraft and does so using old school movie imagery, 6 years before the brilliant ‘The Artist’ did so. Well worth a look.

  • Comment number 36.

    The Stars My Destination / Tiger Tiger would make a great biology (no that cant be right) anyway as the book is split, I think it would make a couple of great films. Alex Proyas was on the cards for making it but all seems to have gone quiet and he's working on Paradise Lost now (interesting).

  • Comment number 37.

    Over the years, I've often lamented the fact that 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' wasn't made with Mr Connery as 007, instead of that Australian chocolate advertiser. It's ironic that one of the reasons Sir Sean gave for leaving the series was because Bond was being increasingly eclipsed by the gadgetry and set pieces, given how Peter Hunt took the film in entirely the opposite direction.

    Imagine an OHMSS where Connery's gritty, sardonic womaniser finally has his heart melted by the incomparable Diana Rigg ... only to lose her in a hail of Blofeld's bullets (I know, I know - Irma Bunt actually fired the machine gun, but I wanted the alliteration). And then 'Diamonds Are Forever' could have been a tense tale of an emotionally crippled Bond seeking revenge against his bald-headed nemesis. It would have comprehensively eclipsed a certain flaxen-haired version of the same set-up, not to mention settle the 'Which is the best Bond film?' argument for all time.

  • Comment number 38.

    I thought Dr Mark was putting "Re-Animator" out as a bad example of a Lovecraft adaptation.

    It's fun in places but it has very little tonally in common with the original story (it's rather cheesy and has the sexual maturity of "Confessions Of A Window Cleaner") and the original story itself isn't very representative of Lovecraft's oeuvre.

    It's more like a pastiche of Frankenstein.

    Lovecraft is more associated with "Cosmic Horror", humanity vainly opposing ancient undying totally alien imponderable god-like intelligences.

    "King Kong", "Alien", "The Thing" and "The Mist" come close, as does much of Kubrick's output.

    Even "Eyes Wide Shut" with it's bizarre cult hiding under the surface, if that was cut with Yuzna's better film, "Society" you'd have a very Lovecraftian film.

  • Comment number 39.

    I've never had the stomache to watch horror, but I have to support Neurobeard's comment re. the silent and black & white adaptation of Call of Cthulhu. A remarkable film of an almost unfilmable short story. Especially considering the shoe-string budget it was made on.

    The same group are about to release another Lovecraft adaptation - The Whisperer in Darkness. This one also filmed in black & white, but with sound as the original story was written when sound was available in films.

    Its also worth watching the 'Making of...' section of the Call of Cthulhu DVD to see the how they achieved so much with so little.

  • Comment number 40.

    I have just realised that I've been getting Silent Running and Cool Runnings mixed up in my head for years...

  • Comment number 41.

    An interesting note on the subject of 65 Days of Static and the musical scores of 1970s films: they actually produced a rather good remix of John Carpenter's classic score for Assault on Precinct 13. It is well worth checking out.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm a bit late but has anyone mentioned "To The White Sea" a film the Coens were hoping to make with Brad Pitt at one point and which would feature very little dialogue. I believe they have a script but studios fear it wouldn't be commercial and would be too costly.

  • Comment number 43.

    Mark Kermode, you may have already had your ears bashed by Sci-Fi novels not yet brought to the screen. Yet I bring you one more:

    "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress", by Robert A. Heinlein.

    In my mind the best story ever written by this author. Also, the only novel by Heinlein that is 'complete' in every artistic sense. Yes, Heinlein is known to have have had some wacky ideas. And yes, Heinlein has written novels that seem to crash headlong into the bizarre extreme in final chapters. But I hold that this novel is his best (and possibly only) piece of coherent narrative that can stand on its own as a complete and amazing drama.

    And further, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" has as little to do with wild space antics as "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" has to do with international spying, in the end.


    If only Kubrick was around to make this story into celluloid. But others still can.

  • Comment number 44.

    I just stumbled across this last week, but it instantly rockets to the top of great unmade films for me. In the 70s, after The Devils, Ken Russell had made plans to film Rabelais' epic, bawdy scatological classic Gargantua, which he'd drafted in Derek Jarman to design. Alas, it was never to be, due to budgeting cold feet on the part of the studio, PEA.
    If your looking for a text that encapsulates everything Ken was so great at putting on screen, this would have been his Lord of the Rings or Don Quixote. Having managed to read his script for Dracula a few months ago, I feel that this would've been a magnum opus. Unlike the vampire count, Gargantua hasn't been done to death in every medium, and might've yielded a lot more unique images.


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