March 5, 2016

What the Hell Happened to LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992)?

Jeff Perry, Andrew Prine, Martine Beswick, Denny Dillon, Thalmus Rasulala, Greta Blackburn, Jennifer Holmes, Jennifer Edwards in LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992)
What the hell happened to LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992)
I've been morbidly curious about a little lost film called Life on the Edge (1992) for a while now. Supposedly, it was this low-budget, sophomoric, USA Up All Night-type satirical yuck-fest about flakey New Age Angelenos at a party who get trapped in a hillside canyon house after a major earthquake, and hilariously raunchy shenanigans ensue. Fairly typical, right? Nothing spooky here. But get this: it's a lost film because, after its brief theatrical run, it was most likely buried in someone's basement because nobody saw, or heard, from it again!

Now, this isn't your standard lost experimental underground short from the 60's—nor is it some cool, high-profile misfire, hidden or destroyed by its eccentric auteur. It gets weirder than that; it's just a plain ol' ordinary 90's booby comedy with fairly recognizable stars that just doesn't exist anymore. Bizarrely, all that survives is an IMDB page, and some humorously disparaging reviews in Variety, The New York Times, and the Austin Chronicle. Otherwise, it's like it never happened. There's no domestic home video in any format. No VOD. There are no downloads, no six-generation dubs off a Greek VHS, no YouTube clips. Nobody taped it off TV, nor is there a Super 8 400 foot digest. There are no production stills. There is NO trailer. There isn't even a poster! Adding insult to injury, at some point, the online credits for Life on the Edge became erroneously, irrevocably entangled with an obscure BBC wildlife docu-series called Secret Nature of the Channel Shore (!?!). So the "poster artwork" that IMDB features is a VHS box with some random parrot! The only authentic advertising I can dig up are these prototype title sketches, credited to a company called Burman Studios. The only Burman Studios I know of does FX makeup. But, maybe they dabbled in film marketing and promotional materials at some point? ** UPDATE 07/02/2017 ** I was told by one Lisa Morton that, "The materials from the Burman Studio have nothing to do with this film. They were created for another movie that was shot under the title LIFE ON THE EDGE (1988) but eventually released as MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS." Damn. That means there really is absolutely not advertising material out there relating to Life on the Edge. What a sad, lonely little movie.

Prototype promotional artwork sketches for the mysteriously lost "cult comedy" LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992)
LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992) — Prototype Artwork Sketches
Compounding this officially lost and utterly forgotten movie's chilling mystique is that it, allegedly, boasts a professionally known, intriguingly diverse ensemble cast of ex-Bond girls, veteran character actors, happenin' TV stars of the day, and daughters of Blake Edwards. Now, arguably, the most recognizable—if not household—names are Martine Beswick, Jeff Perry, Thalmus Rasulala, Denny Dillon, Andrew Prine, Greta Blackburn, Jennifer Holmes, and the aforementioned Jennifer Edwards. But on the off-chance you're not complete autistic and these names don't ring a bell, check out their credits. Seemingly everyone was high-functioning, career-wise—at least in the era, if not to this day. This wasn't some ragtag group of nobodies puttin' on a show in the backyard; these were professional working actors with agents, most of whom have resumés longer than my—er, arm.

So why all the mystery?

Well, it was officially completed, and distributed by an equally mysterious outfit calling itself Festival Entertainment. Evidently the reviews were not great. "Inept and unfunny to the point of being terrible," cheered The New York Times. "Vanity production has very few laughs, and its theatrical release isn't going to draw flies," hailed Variety. The best-worst review came from Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle who clucked, "Simply put, this is one of the worst movies I have ever in my life seen," and "the Richter scale has not been made that's capable of measuring the totality of this film disaster." It didn't even get love from the US Copyright Office who pointedly inserted "unable to view tape" into its registration notes. Is this movie cursed, or what?!

Apparently, the US Copyright Office was "unable to view tape" when it came to the lost "cult comedy" LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992)
LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992) aka "The Big One" — "Unable to view tape."
Conceived under the working title "The Big One," the screenplay was penned by one Mark Edward Edens, who also scripted episodes of the Beetlejuice TV series, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, X-Men: The Animated Series, and that weird-ass The Real Ghostbusters cartoon where Garfield the Cat voiced Peter Venkman, and Egon had a blond pompadour-mullet. Going on the reviews—and the screenwriter's other known work—Life on the Edge should be the most deliriously flawed, unholy amalgamation of Serial (1980), The Anniversary Party (2001), and This is the End (2013) ever—and I'm dying to see it.

Where the hell is it, and where did it come from?

Behind-the-scenes info is almost non-existent. What little I can glean is, it was shot in 1989 at New World Pictures' TV studio. The director was this dude named Andrew Yates who apparently hailed from a family of construction tycoons. According to the W.G. Yates & Sons' company history, brother Andrew "ultimately decided not to devote himself to the construction business." He probably just wanted to make movies, because in June 1988, he founded Movers & Shakers, Inc—the company responsible for producing Life on the Edge. He could very well have been a cool guy, considering he somehow convinced that disparate group of busy thespians to take part in what, basically, amounted to a filmmaking experiment. Then, sometime after the film's release, he quit the directing racket, and retired in Ojai, California, or Philadelphia, Mississippi, or some other incidental place, where he resides to this very day. I wonder, does he drag a 35mm projector out once a year, and force his loyal, long-suffering friends to re-watch Life on the Edge for the hundredth time? I would.

Utilitarian, but somewhat validating, credits information on the lost "cult comedy" LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992), published in the 1993 edition of Screen World, edited by John A. Willis
LIFE ON THE EDGE (1992)
Screen World, 1993; John A. Willis, editor
I've got a soft-spot for films of this ilk because I, myself, once (cheaply) produced an "all-star cult comedy" that featured, pretty much, every working actor friend I had in Hollywood. It had (what we considered) a killer script, co-written by yours truly. We thought it would set the world on fire—and then, yeah, not so much. Despite our eternally springing hope, the thing burst through the gate, tripped, and crashed face-first—marking my grand debut/swan song as a producer, co-director, co-screenwriter, and editor. One of my producers even committed suicide the year it came out. I hope the movie was only partly responsible.

But I digress. What I mean is, sometimes I stumble across a lost and forgotten flick that reads on paper as though it could—in conception, casting, execution, or distribution—be a distant cousin to my own disowned, mongoloid baby of a feature. Life on the Edge feels like one of those films.

If you've got something you wanna say about this compelling little number, or perhaps you need help tracking down a lost film of your own—leave us a comment! We'd love to hear from you! :)

2 comments:

  1. The materials from the Burman Studio have nothing to do with this film. They were created for another movie that was shot under the title LIFE ON THE EDGE (1988) but eventually released as MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS.

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    1. Ah HA! That makes sense. They're definitely more MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS-ish in conception. Wow. Then that means there absolutely is NO advertising material for this film out there.

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