Sony Screen Gems Owes Hal Masonberg an Apology.


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It is providence that two pieces of media would find their way to me in relative proximity to one another.  The first was the Writer’s/Director’s cut of THE PLAGUE (review of the studio cut).  The second was David Mamet’s sapient book on the Hollywood system, BAMBI VS. GODZILLA.

The first is the still unreleased product of an uphill-on-ice-skates battle between a director, Hal Masonberg, and a bullheaded studio cog, Sony’s Screen Gems.  The other is, well, from the brilliant title one should be able to discern how it applies to the long gestating plight of Masonberg.

A quick refresher.  THE PLAGUE was released in 2006 as “CLIVE BARKER’S THE PLAGUE”, starring James Van Der Beek and Ivana Milicevic.  It was a not-quite-there blend of science fiction and horror concerning an alternate world in which adolescents every where suddenly went into a coma that lasted a decade.  Upon awakening, the brood/hive/collective/almost-undead rise against their caretakers, all on the eve of Van Der Beek’s return to free society.  What started off promising never rose above Movie of the Week status.

Almost immediately upon writing a review of the film I learned that what ended up on store shelves was far removed from the intentions of director Masonberg.  In fact, Screen Gems literally removed Masonberg from the project, re-edited it from its first to final and released it with the eye catching CLIVE BARKER moniker.  You can read all about that at SpreadingThePlague.com.  I hadn’t suspected that such shenanigans had gone on behind the scenes, yet was hardly surprised by the knowledge.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago when the director’s cut fell in my lap.  I figured I’d better watch the studio’s cut again so I Netflixed it a few nights prior.  Then I watched Masonberg’s cut.  I was hesitant to do a write up on the matter as I couldn’t quite correlate all of my impressions.  Then on a fourteen hour flight I read BAMBI VS. GODZILLA.  Ever since I’ve been unable to shake a paragraph from the playwright/screenwritter/philosopher/genius’s chapter on “The Development Process”, a paragraph that may as well have been written about THE PLAGUE.  Much to my disillusionment, however, it is a paragraph that applies to an unquantifiable number of films.

In a scant few sentences, Mamet has summed the warring sides of artists and producers; the ones who spend years refining the precise methodology of their craft and the dreaded ones with the check books who think any problem can be solved by, “going in a room”:




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