On Halloween night in 1993, River Phoenix — one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars — died of a drug overdose outside Los Angeles’ Viper Room. At the time, he’d finished about 80% of his latest film, Dark Blood, a thriller with Judy Davis. The financiers of the movie decided it couldn’t be finished, so they abandoned the film, recouping their costs from the insurance company. As a result, the film became the property of the insurance company, and eventually the company decided to stop paying to store the film’s negative.
That’s when things got a little crazy — the film’s director George Sluizer apparently walked into the storage facility and, uh, liberated the negative. He then cut together a “finished” version (he’d hoped to get River’s brother Joaquin to overdub narration, explaining the missing bits, but ended up doing it himself). The sort-of finished film played at some festivals, but since the insurance company still owned the film, it made showing the film elsewhere legally difficult. In the end, twenty years after filming, this version received a limited VOD release.