In these days of franchises dominating the box-office and films coming with sequel-friendly endings as standard, it’s interesting to look back at some that could or should have had follow-ups but, for whatever reason, didn’t. Sequels can be a good thing (no, seriously): they can provide an encore for popular characters, deepen or embellish the world from the original, or offer an opportunity to fix things that didn’t work first time around. Sometimes we’re left wanting more, and though we know in our heart of hearts a sequel is as likely to disappoint as not, that doesn’t stop us dreaming. So here are a few of my dream choices for the sequel treatment:
1. Flash Gordon (1980)
“The End?” The final scene’s tease in Mike Hodges’ adaptation of the classic comic strip promised a sequel that tragically never materialised. Yes, it’s as camp as hell, but who wouldn’t want to see a follow-up with more dodgy acting, crazy set designs and a rocking Queen soundtrack? Just think: more Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan! Could the world have survived it?
2. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Of all the films produced by Steven Spielberg geared towards younger audiences, this is perhaps the most overlooked. The Goonies has the biggest online clamouring for a sequel, but this introduction to the master detective was an enjoyable (if rather unfaithful) adventure mixing Conan Doyle’s familiar ingredients with a strong dash of Spielbergian fantasy, a decent cast and a killer closing shot. A follow-up would likely have disappointed, but been welcome nonetheless.
3. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Another Sherlock Holmes adventure, this time with a man born to play the lead role: Peter Cushing. This was Hammer’s attempt to continue their run of successful literary horror adaptations following The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958), and retained the core team of Cushing, Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher. It’s a gorgeously gothic take on the classic novel, and Cushing’s performance was terrific. Alas, no official follow-ups were made, despite the abundance of source material – though Cushing did get to reprise the character in a 1960s BBC TV series.
4. Galaxy Quest (1999)
This pitch-perfect satire of the Star Trek phenomenon was enjoyed by both fans and non-fans alike. The strong cast (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman) and clever story (about the has-been cast of a once-popular sci-fi TV show being forced to live through an episode for real) made it an ideal choice for sequelising (is that a word?). Unfortunately it didn’t sell as many tickets at the box-office as it should, and any thoughts of a Part Two were placed in hypersleep.
5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The curse of sci-fi comedy struck again with this adaptation of Douglas Adams’ ever popular series. With four published sequels from the author (and a fifth completed by Eoin Colfer), all the first film had to do was capture the audience’s imagination; the sequels would practically make themselves. The only problem: the film failed to find an audience in America. The Guide was quietly shelved.
6. Unbreakable (2000)
M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to The Sixth Sense was a slightly eccentric spin on the superhero genre, and arguably a few years ahead of its time. As the film ends the stage is set for an epic showdown between the hero (Bruce Willis) and the villain (Samuel L. Jackson). Probably one of those films that’s best left as a one-off, but the mind still lingers on what might have happened next.
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Unusually, Ang Lee’s arthouse blockbuster is already a sequel: an adaptation of the fourth book in a five-book series. It took over $100m in the US alone and further adaptations of the series were promised, but never came to pass. A shame, as its epic mixture of mythical action and doomed romance would almost certainly have justified a second visit.
8. The Untouchables (1987)
There’s little suggestion of further stories to be told at the end of Brian De Palma’s take on the Al Capone story, but after the edge-of-the-seat climax I was actually rather keen to see where Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and the other surviving Untouchable, George Stone (Andy Garcia), went next. Who knows? They might have assembled a new team and taken on other crime syndicates… *enters the land of imagination* *forgets to finish article* (the same applies to Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (1997) with Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce)
9. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
From a personal perspective, it’s simply criminal that a sequel to Peter Weir’s adaptation of Patrick O’Brien’s seafaring saga was never greenlit. Unquestionably the finest dramatisation of naval warfare during the Napoleonic Wars (a rather narrow genre, I grant you), the excitement, monotony and sheer terror of life aboard ship was superbly brought to life. Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin made a fantastic pairing. With at least another 18 novels left to adapt (this film merged two entries), and Crowe publicly stating his desire to reprise the role of Aubrey, one can only wistfully hope there is still time to pull a follow-up together.
10. The Italian Job (1969)
And finally, how can I not mention the film that will forever be engrained on the British public consciousness? THAT ending, as Michael Caine proclaims to have an idea as to how to retrieve his team’s stolen loot from the bus balancing on the edge of a cliff in the Alps, has come to define this country’s irresistible urge to support the underdog, the loveable rogue, the cheeky chappie – even if he is a common thief. We desperately want him to succeed, but we’ll never know if he did. It’s a terrific ending; a sequel showing what happened next would simply have robbed the film of a major part of its charm. Still, it did deserve a sequel, right?