River Phoenix's final movie "Dark Blood" will finally see the light of day after 21 years in the vault. Sales company Cinemavault announces Lionsgate has just bought distribution rights for North American release and plans to unveil the movie on VOD later this year.
The psychological thriller follows Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis as a Hollywood couple whose honeymoon goes awry when their car breaks down and they seek help from a young widower, played by Phoenix. It's still halfway done when he died from drug-induced heart failure in 1993.
The production was subsequently halted and Phoenix's family took legal action to stop it from getting completed. "When River died, the movie was totally cancelled and everyone went away. It was declared impossible to finish," director George Sluizer told The Hollywood Reporter.
An insurance company eventually took possession of the film, but Sluizer managed to save it from being destroyed. He reportedly took the film rolls which were abandoned in a London warehouse in the middle of the night. "I call it saving, not stealing," the director said to The Times.
Sluizer didn't touch the movie for a long time before eventually revisiting the material in the recent years. "The negatives were still good but part of the sound needed to be rebuilt and re-recorded," he says. "And only 65 percent of the story was shot...so I had to rewrite the story."
"Dark Blood" premiered in Berlin in February last year and played at the Miami Film Festival a month later. It took time to land distribution deal for the movie presumably due to legal complications that the insurance company owned the rights to the original footage. "I hope it's coming to an end soon," Sluizer previously said. It seems the case has been settled now.
Regarding Phoenix's family who was initially reluctant to see the movie getting done, the director insisted he had been in touch with the actor's mother Arlyn Phoenix. "All I know is that two years ago when the movie was achieved, we contacted River's mother, who wished us good luck," so he said.