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.
Fair warning: this is going to be a sad and tragic installment. Movies fall apart for all sorts of reasons. Usually the money just falls through. That’s the most common option. Ideas just never come together and with franchises it can be especially complicated, usually for reasons pertaining to the rights divided between companies and creators.
Other times, there are more insane, shocking, almost unbelievable reasons for why a film project might not come together. Surprisingly, Fright Night Part III falls into that category.
After the underrated but under-performing Fright Night Part II, Roddy McDowall still loved the character of Peter Vincent and wanted to play him in a third entry, hopefully reuniting with original writer/director Tom Holland, who did not return for Part. II.
According to Holland, he would occasionally go to McDowall’s house every now and then for dinner. Inevitably, they’d start talking about ideas, projects, working together again. Holland mentioned setting up meetings with a producer named Jose Menendez, who had just acquired the rights to the Fright Night franchise. McDowall was apparently very excited at the prospect of returning for another Fright Night, especially with Holland back on board.
As time went by, Holland began to talk more and more with Menendez and wanted to set up a meeting with both the two of them as well as McDowall to talk about how they wanted to move forward and whether or not Fright Night Part III should be done for the theatrical or video market.
At the end of the ‘80s, the video market had begun to boom with companies like Full Moon and Vestron creating a surplus of original films exclusively for video retailers. Given that Part II had underperformed at the box office, there was talk of possibly taking the straight-to-video route for the third. But they had not reached a decision on that one way or the other.
When Holland again met with McDowall to prepare for their meeting with Menendez, the actor’s attitude had completely changed.
Before they were scheduled to meet with him, McDowall met up with Holland and told him that Menendez was the worst man he had ever met in his life. Holland was shocked to hear this, mostly given McDowall’s predisposition for politeness and optimism. It was rare, according to the director, for the actor to hate anyone. McDowall wanted to tell Holland this so he knew ahead of time before they went into their meeting.
Except that they never had their meeting because two weeks before the scheduled date, Jose Menendez was murdered by his two sons.
According to the neighbors, they had heard strange “popping sounds” coming from inside the house. At first, they thought nothing of it, with one neighbor saying “I didn’t even think it could be gunfire, especially around here.”
While he was sitting in his living room watching The Spy Who Loved Me, Menendez was shot in the back of the head. His wife, Kitty, was shot several times as she attempted to run to the kitchen. Both parents were then shot in the kneecaps post-mortem in attempt to make the murder look mob-related.
The Menendez case was hugely televised when it went to trial in 1993. The death of Jose Menendez led to the liquidation of all rights he held at the time, which were all of his current producing ventures, including Fright Night Part III.
As the trial went on and became so highly publicized, more and more grim details about Menendez and his relationship with his sons came to light. For many people, his treatment of them was no secret. Had he given them a reason? Had he pushed them to it, or had they simply snapped? Most of these questions still remain without a concrete answer.
Holland remained friends with Roddy McDowall until the actor’s death in 1998. According to Holland, they never mentioned Menendez again after the tragedy. All hope of a direct sequel to Fright Night ended with the 1993 trial.