Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.
Hollywood is full of mystery and intrigue, and sometimes the production of a film can garner more attention than the release itself. This is a list of infamous movies that allegedly are cursed. Is it simply bad luck, a eerie coincidence? Or was there truly a curse plaguing these famous films?
The 1982 horror film Poltergeist was heavily linked to an alleged "curse", mainly due to multiple of its stars passing away. While a few of them were somewhat expected, two of the deaths were not. Dominique Dunne portrayed big sister Dana Freeling in the first film, and was tragically strangled by her abusive ex-boyfriend and died at 22 on November 4, 1982. Heather O'Rourke was the child actress who played Carol Anne Freeling, who sadly passed away at the age of 12 from septic shock on February 1, 1988. Initially thought to be a bout of the flu, the young O'Rourke underwent surgery to remove a bowel obstruction that proved fatal. Though she had previously been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, her death shocked fans everywhere.
The deaths of two young stars caused many to whisper about bad luck, and even a curse. During the filming of sequels to the movie, actor Julian Beck died of stomach cancer in 1985 and Will Sampson died due to complications from a heart-lung transplant in 1987. It's easy for people to jump to conclusions about a curse, but it also could just be a tragic coincidence.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre and eerie alleged film curses is not from the horror genre, but from a comedy movie. Atuk is a comedy about an Alaskan Inuit based on the 1963 novel of the same-name. The script itself has been around since the 1970s, and many Hollywood film studios expressed interest in producing the film. However, that is no longer the case. The alleged curse in question highlights the fact that all the actors who have shown interest in the lead role have died. Here are the big names that were once connected to the film:
John Belushi: The first "victim" of the film was Saturday Night Live alum and film star John Belushi. After reading the script, the actor wanted to play the lead role. However, soon after completing the script Belushi passed away from a drug overdose in 1982 at the age of 33.
Sam Kinison: After the death of John Belushi, comedian Sam Kinison took over the role and even filmed a few scenes. He quickly grew dissatisfied with the role and wanted the script rewritten, therefore halting production. Kinison was then fired, and shortly after died from a car accident in 1992 at 38.
John Candy: Next up on the list of potential leads was John Candy, who was in the process of reading the script when he died suddenly of a heart attack. The funny-man was only 43. It was after Candy's death that some began to speculate the script was cursed.
Other actors who were connected to the film was Michael O'Donoghue, who was a writer/comedian and close friend to Belushi and Kinison. He read the script and recommended it to his buddies, before dying from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1994 at the age of 54. Saturday Night Live alums Chris Farley and Phil Hartman also were in consideration for the film. Farley was close to accepting the lead when he sadly overdosed in 1997 at 33. His death mirrored that of his idol John Belushi. Finally, Phil Hartman was interested in a supporting role when his wife committed murder-suicide by shooting in 1998. The screenplay is currently stuck in production hell.
The Wizard of Oz
It's hard to imagine a beloved film like The Wizard of Oz having a dark and mysterious background, but the iconic musical does indeed. The technicolor film had a troubled production, with directors coming and going from the project. Buddy Ebsen (the Tin Man) suffered deeply when the aluminum powder used to make his skin silver irritated his lungs and hospitalized him. He was unable to continue in the role, and Jack Haley stepped in as the Tin Man. Haley himself had an eye infection from the aluminum paste, causing him to be off set recuperating for four days. Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West) was burned when the pyrotechnics that marked her teleportation spell misfired. She was hospitalized but able to continue filming.
It is also alleged that Judy Garland suffered during production, and was even given tobacco to suppress her appetite. The curse heavily focuses on the tragedies that befell the cast. Clara Blandick (Auntie Em) committed suicide years later, and Frank Morgan (The Wizard) was in a horrible car accident just a few months after the film's release. The real "darkness" that possibly surrounded the film came from Dorothy herself, Judy Garland. The iconic actress was beloved but deeply troubled, having been plagued by alcohol and substance abuse that would ultimately lead to her death in 1969 at 47.
The Twilight Zone: The Movie
The Twilight Zone: The Movie suffered from a tragic Hollywood incident that led to many believing the film was cursed. During the filming of a scene on July 23, 1982, a helicopter crashed on the set, killing three people on the ground (actor Vic Morrow and two child actors: Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen). It also injured the six helicopter passengers and director John Landis. The night scene called for Morrow to carry the two children across the river while being pursued by US soldiers flying a helicopter. A rotor failed, causing the low-flying helicopter to spin out of control. Morrow and Le were decapitated by the rotor blades, and Chen was crushed to death.
The horrific accident led to the arrest of John Landis and producer Steven Spielberg, along with the helicopter's pilot and the pyrotechnics technician. They were all charged with manslaughter and later acquitted of the murders. Authorities also found that laws were broken during filming the scene: it was a breach of child labor laws as they filmed at 2:30 a.m. While it was definitely a tragic, on-set accident, people continue to believe the movie itself was indeed cursed.
Rebel Without A Cause
The brooding and handsome James Dean had fans and critics alike anticipating the young star's rise to fame. The actor appeared as loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) before starring as troubled teenager Jim Stark in the iconic Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Sadly, Dean wouldn't live to see the film released. He was killed in a car crash on September 30, 1955 at only 24. His other major role was in Giant in 1956. James Dean was not the only person from Rebel Without A Cause to die far too soon. Sal Mineo, who played John "Plato" Crawford, was stabbed to death in an alley behind his apartment on February 12, 1976 at 37.
Natalie Wood outlived her co-stars but her death remains tragic as well. The starlet drowned on November 29, 1981 at the age of 43. The events surrounding her death are conflicting and controversial, with foul play potentially suspected. Perhaps the deaths of these young stars are merely coincidental, but the film continues to insight whispers about a curse.
The 1976 horror film about the Antichrist appearing in the form of a little boy, was plagued with a series of catastrophes that lead to the legend of "The Omen" curse. The devastating events included lead actor Gregory Peck's son committing suicide shortly before production. Peck's plane was also struck by lightning en route to London to film, and the engine even caught fire. A producer's plane also was struck by lightning. The London hotel where producers and others were staying at was bombed by the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Also, a worker at an animal sanctuary where they filmed was killed by a tiger.
Eerily, the most bizarre and frightening portion of the alleged curse involved special effects designer John Richardson, who created grisly and gruesome effects. Richardson was in Holland a few months later when his car was involved in a head-on crash. While he was only injured, his assistant Liz Moore was killed by decapitation. Richardson would later claim he awoke to see a road sign in his view showing the distance to the next town. Scarily, it happened to be the Dutch town of Ommen, and was 66.6 kilometers (41.3) miles away. Fact or fiction? You decide.
The 1956 Genghis Khan epic movie filmed in Utah downwind from a US Army site that had once tested 11 nuclear bombs. Cancer plagued the cast and crew upon completion of the film, and would affect those involved years later. Director Dick Powell died of cancer in January 1963, seven years after the movie was filmed. Actor Pedro Armendariz was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1960 and committed suicide in 1963 upon learning his condition was terminal. Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and the famous John Wayne all later died of cancer in the 1970s. John Hoyt also succumbed to lung cancer in 1991.
Many could say this was all a coincidence, but in 1980 People magazine revealed that of the 220 cast and crew members from the film, 91 developed some form of cancer. 46 of those people died of the disease. In fact, several of Hayward and Wayne's relatives who visited the set had a cancer scare. Producer Howard Hughes was said to have felt guilty by his decisions about the film's production, and reportedly watched The Conqueror endlessly in his final years. In addition to these tragic deaths, a sudden flood had halted production, and a panther nearly bit Hughes during filming.
© 2018 Rachel M Johnson