by Andrew Root
Lavish DVD box sets have become commonplace in today’s retinue of film marketing strategies. Producers, eager to capitalize on an already beloved product, will churn out countless editions of the same film, packaged with a myriad of special features, bonus materials, and imaginative trinkets designed to pry the hard earned cash from your wallet. When done imaginatively and with careful attention paid to the spirit of the film and the level of intrigue that the public has, these special edition box sets can be quite a lucrative commodity. The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions contained more bonus materials than the running time of the entire trilogy (including multiple commentaries, photo galleries, and behind-the-scenes featurettes), and contained specially made figurines and book ends, appropriately priced well above the theatrical version of the films, arguably setting the benchmark for DVD special editions.
However, the film need not even be decent for the producers to put together a sumptuous and enticing package. Showgirls, one of the worst films ever made, was re-released on DVD in 2004 with a host of bonus features, including (but not limited to) shot glasses, playing cards, a “how-to” tutorial on giving lap dances, and a nude poster of star Elizabeth Berkley so that customers could play “Pin the Pasties on the Stripper.” It sold. You better believe it sold.
Certain films, though, are doomed to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: neither beloved enough to be investigated to the nth degree, nor reviled to the point of being fascinating. Ghost Dad is one of those films. June 2013 marked the twenty-third anniversary of this lighthearted Bill Cosby comedy about a spectral patriarch trying to make sure his children are provided for after he drowns in a taxi, but no special anniversary edition re-release was forthcoming. Director Sidney Poitier (yes, that Sidney Poitier) did not push to assemble an opulent set of bonus features, or reunite the cast for special interviews to commemorate the platinum anniversary of one of the very worst films of 1990. But why not?
As it so happens, several bonus features and sundry collectibles actuallywere amassed, enough to slake the thirst of even the most rabid DVD collector, but all were ultimately rejected. Presented here, then, is the list of contents for the Ghost Dad Ultimate Bonus Collector’s Edition Re-Release that might have been:
Feature Commentary from director Sidney Poitier Rejected due to excessive apologies and half-hearted explanations. Producers felt that it “brought the tone of the entire film down”.
Official Soundtrack Re-Recording by Henry Mancini Rejected because the original instruments could neither be found nor replicated—all had apparently been burned and/or destroyed in 1992.
Authentic obstacle-based board game! Help steer Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) through the various dangers of his day, such as Amanda’s roller skates on the stairs, the faulty elevator at his office, and the psychotic, devil-worshipping cab driver. Rejected once producers realized that, in order to avoid a thoroughly morbid ending to the gameplay, a player would have to deviate wildly from the actual plot of the film.
“Parenting Tips & Tricks from Elliot Hooper” advice booklet Rejected because producers felt it was “deeply hypocritical.” One even went so far as to say that the negligence and delayed gratification that Hooper displayed towards his children, coupled with the mood swings he exhibited even before his death were “troubling” and “not suitable for prospective parents.”
Re-Syncer playset Modelled after the gadget that Sir Edith Moser used to bring Elliot Hooper’s voice and physical presence back into synchronization. Rejected due to “an excessive number” of electrical burnings during test phases.
“On Intercorporeal Maltransference” by Sir Edith Moser Designed to be an exact replica of the book which the character of Sir Edith wrote, explaining the thematic link between science and theology which is explored by the film. Rejected when the producers “couldn’t be bothered” to actually write it.
“Casting Ghost Dad" mini video game! As Sidney Poitier, you must try to pin a contract onto Kim Basinger (who was nearly cast in the film, but pulled out, labelling the script “horrible”). Producers claim that the game was faulty and only allowed the player to cast “desperate actors” and child performers who “didn’t know any better.”
“Anatomy of a Scene” featurette (focusing on the high-tech special effects used to simulate Bill Cosby’s passing through an oncoming bus) Rejected due to insufficient length. Special effects technicians were unable to elaborate beyond saying “We used a blue screen.”
Guide to the pronunciation of the rare masculine form of the name “Edith”Producers noted that apathy levels were far too high to move beyond the development phase of this guide.
Elliot Reads Bedtime Stories A set of cassettes, similar to the ones seen in the film, featuring Elliot Hooper reading bedtime stories to his daughter. Producers were quite confident that Cosby’s charisma, energy, and comic timing would be enough of a selling point for this feature and unfortunately rushed production on the obsolete technology format. Their elation faded when they realized that cassette players were now a decided rarity.
Where Are They Now? Listing the career accomplishments of the stars of the film. Rejected on the basis of being “too depressing.”
The final blow came when the original cover art, which had been produced exclusively for the special edition box set, landed the producers in a legal battle with the filmmakers behind The Invisible Man. As it turns out, they had been meaning to file suit against Ghost Dad for many years, but were heard to remark that they “didn’t really think it was worth it.”
Andrew Root is a professional part-time job holder, and a Senior Editor at Bright Wall/Dark Room. He lives by a creek in Peterborough, Ontario.