Mining for Gold in Stanley Kubrick’s Archives

It’s been proven many times over that director Stanley Kubrick was an obsessive magpie who kept (but didn’t necessarily catalog) every stray idea he ever had. That no one has yet successfully culled a script from his voluminous archive—Spielberg’s in my opinion lamentable A.I. notwithstanding—is rather astonishing. I’ve read the script for his great, lost passion project, Napoleon, but the epic scope of the thing will likely preclude its ever being realized. More feasible, apparently, is Lunatic At Large, a mystery picture based on a treatment St. Stanley commissioned from pulp novelist Jim Thompson. Re-discovered by Kubrick’s son-in-law, Philip Hobbs, back in 1999, the treatment has since been turned into a script by Stephen R. Clarke, and after a couple of false starts has now got some big names attached.

Jeff Sneider at The Wrap has it that Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are committed to the picture, with a director still tbd. The narrative, as described in a 2006 New York Times article, is as follows:

“Set in New York in 1956, it tells the story of Johnnie Sheppard, an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues, and Joyce, a nervous, attractive barfly he picks up in a Hopperesque tavern scene. There’s a newsboy who flashes a portentous headline, a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down, and a romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge.

The great set piece is a nighttime carnival sequence in which Joyce, lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow’s worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, the Human Blockhead, with the inevitable noggin full of nails.”

An echt noir that’s lousy with carny freaks? It’s hard not to think of Edmund Goulding’s terrific, under-appreciated Nightmare Alley with Tyrone Power. I’m skeptical that Lunatic could even be half as good, but I’ll hold out hope nevertheless.

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