10 Edgy Properties No Film Producer Dared To Touch


In a world where few cinematic taboos remain, previously €˜unfilmable€™ projects like J.G. Ballard€™s HIGH RISE (2015, adapted by cult director Ben Wheatley) are belatedly brought to the screen €“ long anticipated by Ballard€™s controversial CRASH (1996, believed too obscene to film for two decades but successfully transplanted by David Cronenberg) and THE ATROCITY EXHIBTION (2000, a literary nightmare of clinical surrealism turned into a languid exploitation movie). So what makes a literary property untouchable in an age where people can obtain almost any feature uncut on DVD? It€™s not what you might think: explicit sex and extreme violence are not the no-nos they once were (though combining the two is still problematic). But the deranged viewpoint of a mad or antisocial narrator can still be regarded as dangerous territory €“ especially if their version of reality demands a big budget... Paul Woods Ballard€™s novel of urban dystopia (abandoned by cult director Nicolas Roeg in the 1970s) finally reaches the screen in HIGH-RISE (2015)... Ballard High Rise €˜They said it could never be made!€™ €˜The film they didn€™t want you to see!€™ Old-time movie-poster hyperbole played up the outrage to the point where, to quote exploitation moviemaker Russ Meyer, you were getting €˜more sizzle than steak€™. But then there were the books that were supposedly unfilmable: unreliable stories told by amoral narrators; surreal or bizarrely structured narratives that wouldn€™t translate to a linear script; transgressive acts which, while just about tolerable on the page, didn€™t bear thinking about onscreen. The way that films €“ mainstream, art-house or B-movies €“ got around it was to offer an approximation of the text that watered down its wildest excesses. Both Bret Easton Ellis€™s 1990 novel AMERICAN PSYCHO and Mary Harron€™s 2000 screen version are red-clawed satires of vicious capitalist misanthropy, but the child murder, cannibalism and evisceration of a hooker understandably didn€™t make it into the movie. William S. Burroughs€™ 1959 THE NAKED LUNCH was long considered unfilmable because of its nauseatingly surreal imagery and fractured, non-linear narrative; Cronenberg solved it in his 1991 film by marrying the book€™s science fiction-like elements to biographical details of author Burroughs€™ own seedy early life. Even the Marquis de Sade got housetrained: whereas his most extreme books are so chock-full of sexual violence that they€™ve been widely available in English for less than 30 years, most film adaptations are fairly tame Euro-gothic (though Pasolini€™s SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM was banned in many countries for its art-house atrocities). We live in a culture where almost anything (except for, say, the overt racism of early film epic THE BIRTH OF A NATION) is considered viable for viewing consumption. All the more remarkable, then, that a handful of hard-edged stragglers still resist transfer to the screen...

Writer/editor/ghost-writer transfixed by crime, cinema and the serrated edges of popular culture. Those similarly afflicted are invited to make contact.