‘Cursed productions’ are not exclusive to horror pictures. But, it’s typically horror films that garner the most attention for tumultuous circumstances surrounding their filming. At one point, people seemed to like the idea of those involved with horror movies being condemned for their participation in the devil’s work. But, these days, many people would, attribute a cursed production to nothing more than bad luck, negligence, unfortunate circumstances, or a combination of the above factors. Films from The Wizard of Oz to Superman have spawned rumors of a curse associated with their production. But, a lot of people argue that there is a slightly less fantastical explanation for films that endured a particularly turbulent shoot.
Despite the fact that people try to tell us that there is no such thing as a ‘cursed production’, we thought it would be interesting to reminisce on some of the most notorious ‘cursed productions’. As a disclaimer, please note that many of the incidents that occurred during these ‘cursed productions’ do not necessarily seem to relate to the film. We aren’t suggesting a correlation or a lack of a correlation. We are just rehashing the facts that have been used to rationalize why the five films below qualified as ‘cursed productions. Beyond that, we are leaving it up to our readers to draw their own conclusions.
The Poltergeist trilogy may have actually had a higher off screen body toll than it did on screen. This series of films was rocked by tragedy every step of the way. The first Poltergeist film is rumored to have used actual human remains during its production. This is speculated to be the cause behind the so-called curse attached to the franchise. Four of the actors from the Poltergeist trilogy died within five years of the release of the original film. Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne, died tragically at a very young age. Heather’s mother said that Heather appeared to her in the hospital as an apparition and warned that she was not coming back. Heather O’Rourke passed away in 1988, the same year Poltergeist III was released.
Julian Beck, who played Kane in Part II, died of cancer in 1985. He was reportedly sick before and during the production of the second film and was subsequently replaced in the third installment. Will Sampson, who played Taylor in Poltergeist II, died a year after the film’s release in 1987. In 1982, Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling) was murdered by her boyfriend. Her death occurred shortly after the film’s release.
Not everyone affected by the strange happenings tied to the production of the Poltergeist films met with death. Oliver Robbins who played Robbie Freeling in Poltergeist had a dangerous, but not fatal, encounter while filming the scene where the puppet drags him under the bed. Robbins was choked by the puppet’s arms and couldn’t breathe. Everyone on set thought Robbins was acting and didn’t realize there was a problem for some time. Robbins recovered from the incident when he was reportedly rescued by producer Steven Spielberg.
As for slightly less malevolent goings on, Jo Beth Williams reported coming home every day after shooting to find that the pictures on her wall were crooked. She would straighten them and then come home to find that her photographs had again shifted. Silly spirits. The tomfoolery didn’t stop with Jo Beth Williams. It continued throughout the course of the series. In addition to the deaths of Julian Beck and Will Sampson in the second film, Poltergeist III, had one of its sets burn down. It seems that a fire effect caused the set to go up in flames and subsequently complicated the production process of an already troubled trilogy of films.
Rosemary’s Baby is one of the scariest films of all time. The idea of basically being raped by Satan is mortifying. Rosemary’s Baby’s utter simplicity and slow burn approach to storytelling continue to haunt viewers to this day.
In addition to haunting viewers, the film appears to have also haunted the cast and crew. In a tragic and shocking turn of events, The Manson family murdered Director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and three of her friends on August 9th 1969.
Also tragic was the death of Krzysztof Komeda, the film’s composer. Komeda died of a brain clot a year after the film’s release. Producer, William Castle’s life was really rocked by Rosemary’s Baby. As well as receiving hate mail and death threats, Castle suffered urinary tract blockage and reportedly yelled out “Rosemary, for God’s sake put down the knife” during treatment for his urinary condition. Castle was eventually quoted as saying, “The story of Rosemary’s Baby was happening in life. Witches, all of them, were casting their spell, and I was becoming one of the principal players.” Castle died in May of 1977.
The Omen is the classic tale of The Antichrist rising and leaving a wake of destruction in his path. The Omen left a brutal wake of destruction in its path, as well. There were a lot of near misses, as well as full-fledged tragedies that occurred during and shortly after the production of The Omen.
One of the first disasters to occur concerned a zookeeper who was brought on board to assist with the animals used throughout the film’s production. In a catastrophic turn of events, the zookeeper was eventually eaten alive by a lion. Continuing malady found the studio chartering a plane In Israel to capture aerial shots for the film. But, they ultimately changed planes at the last minute. The plane the studio originally chartered crashed and all on board were killed.
John Richardson who orchestrated the film’s deaths went on to work on the film A Bridge Too Far. While working on A Bridge Too Far he was involved with a fatal car crash. Richardson survived, but his female passenger-his girlfriend-was reportedly decapitated in a similar fashion to Jennings’ death in The Omen. It is rumored that after exiting the vehicle, Richardson saw a sign that said the city of Ommen was 66.6 KM away. However, we are unable to confirm any hard evidence in support of that.
Star Gregory Peck and executive producer Mace Neufeld were both reportedly aboard separate flights that were struck by lightning while they were traveling back and forth from the US to England. Moreover, producer Harvey Bernhard narrowly escaped a lightning bolt that struck down in Rome. It’s also worth mentioning that the IRA bombed the hotel that Richard Donner was staying at, in London, during the film’s production.
The Exorcist had more than its fair share of tragedy tied to the film. It was surrounded by deaths during the production process and after the release of the film. The body count varies, between four and nine depending on whom you speak with. We are reporting on some of the higher profile deaths that we were actually able to confirm.
Jack McGowran, who played Burke Dennings, died shortly before the film was released in 1973. It’s reported that McGowran died from complications related to the flu.
Valsiliki Maliaros, who played Father Karras’s mother, died of natural causes before the film’s release. Lee J. Cobb (Lieutenant Kinderman) died of a heart attack three years after the film was released, in 1976.
There are also multiple accounts of member of the cast and crew losing family members or loved ones throughout the course of the film’s production. Several of the cast and crew members experienced close calls and serious injury on set. For one, Ellen Burstyn was injured during one of the more physically demanding scenes in the film. Burstyn sustained permanent injury to her Coccyx.
Terrance Donnelly, the film’s AD, reports that part of the set spontaneously caught fire while no one was there. As a result, the set that was used for Regan’s family had to be completely reconstructed. This reportedly led to a real life exorcism being requested for the set. The pastor who was asked to conduct an exorcism is said to have declined the request, but did agree to bless the set, as well as the cast and crew of the film.
In a strange but true encounter, while Jason Miller (Father Karras) was reviewing his lines in a restaurant located in the Jesuit Quarters an elderly priest approached him and gave him a medallion. During the exchange, the man told Miller “If anyone does anything to reveal the devil for the trickster that he is, he will seek retribution against you or he will even try to stop what you are doing to unmask him.” The priest warned Miller to be careful and told him that the medallion would afford him protection.
The Crow is arguably the most haunting of all ‘cursed production’ tales. It’s the only film, which we are reporting on that lost its lead during production. The death of the film’s star comes up in conversation almost any time I bring up The Crow in conversation. There are conspiracy theories and rumors that have surfaced in response to Lee’s death. Some people say that Lee was the victim of an elaborate murder plot. Brandon Lee is said to have believed that there was a curse leveraged against his grandfather, years ago. People have speculated that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, of sorts, that led to his ultimate demise. There are even people who hold the belief that Brandon is still alive and his death was a grandiose prank of elaborate proportions.
The chain of events leading up to Lee’s death began when shooting a scene where a shot was fired at Lee’s character, Eric. It’s largely speculated that the shot that killed Lee is the shot that we see in the final cut of the film. These circumstances are made even more eerie by the fact that Brandon Lee’s father, Bruce Lee, acted out a scenario in his film Game of Death that foreshadowed his son’s death, years later.
Lee’s death wasn’t the only factor leading up to The Crow being deemed a ‘cursed production’. The entire production process was a turbulent time for those involved. The first day of production found a carpenter getting electrocuted and badly burned in an on set accident. Also, an outraged carpenter drove his vehicle in to the set’s plaster shop. And, moreover, a stuntman broke multiple ribs by falling through the roof of one of the sets.
So, what do you think? Were any of the five films we looked at cursed? Let us know in the comments section below.