Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
It seemed like Dario Argento was dead set on completing his “Three Mothers” trilogy in the early 1980s. The first in the trilogy, Suspiria, was released in 1977 and is still Argento’s most well known and highly praised film. He went on to make Inferno, the second feature, immediately after Suspiria. It’s a terrific, underrated follow-up that’s built up a strong following over time. It’s still nowhere near as celebrated as Suspiria. Yet after making the first two in the trilogy in rapid succession, we did not see the third entry, Mother of Tears, until 2007.
By that point, Argento’s films had stopped being the international hits he had made during the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was working with much smaller budgets and much less time. As a result, Mother of Tears suffered somewhat and has become known as the least effective of the three movies.
But its history dates all the way back to Inferno. After completing the second, Argento planned alongside then-wife Daria Nicolodi to make the third as quickly as possible. They completed a script together in 1984. In an interview with Fangoria at that time, they mentioned that they had already landed on the title of Mother of Tears, and Nicolodi said “We’ve finished the script for the third but there are a few things we are still working on to perfect the project, a couple of special effects and locations, that sort of thing.” She also added, “It’s very difficult to prepare a movie like that.”
It’s still unclear exactly what Nicolodi’s script was about, but she did write Da Profundis—which was written alongside fellow Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi—that followed a film crew making a movie about the Third Mother , who wind up unleashing the real witch herself. Released as The Black Cat and Demons 6: Da Profundis, this idea clearly seems to stem form the original unmade vision for Mother of Tears.
If this premise was completed in the early ‘80s it could even have served as some small influence for Argento’s script for Lamberto Bava’s Demons, as that also dealt with demonic forces springing from the screen and into real life.
When they failed to make Mother of Tears around that time, Argento went on to shoot Phenomena (AKA Creepers) in 1985. Though heavily different from the “Three Mothers” trilogy, it returned to the secluded, girls’ school setting of Suspiria.
Argento would not make another go at Mother of Tears until 2003. At that time, he announced that he planned to shoot the film in 2004 and that he was currently finishing up the script. He had plans for it to be a big budget Hollywood release, which was a huge announcement at the time, as Argento’s last couple of works had been small-scale television films.
In 2005, he brought on Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch—who had just come off of writing Toolbox Murders and Mortuary for Tobe Hooper—to help finish the script. They flew to Italy to complete work on the script with the plan of rolling into production very soon thereafter. The plan was for a larger feature, co-financed with Myriad Pictures that would include talent like Max Von Sydow and Sienna Miller in the cast.
Eventually, it became clear that they would not be able to make that goal a reality and the film became smaller and smaller. Instead of Max Von Sydow, Argento brought Udo Kier back in an effort to tie the movie back to the original. When they were unable to make a deal with Sienna Miller, Argento cast his daughter Asia in the role instead.
The result was a much smaller movie than people had been anticipating, and the fact that fans had been waiting over thirty years for it didn’t help the movie to stand on its own merits. It’s not the Mother of Tears we could have had, by any means, but it also has some interesting ideas at the same time. Had it a little more money to flesh some of those ideas out, it could truly have been a great end to a classic trilogy.