The 13th Floor

The Stuart Gordon / Arnold Schwarzenegger Horror Movie That Almost Was!

This week’s episode of the horror podcast Shock Waves featured very special guests Joe Begos and Graham Skipper, the writer/director and star, respectively, of the upcoming indie Sci-Fi/Horror thriller THE MIND’S EYE. (Out August 5th on VOD and limited theatrical!) A little past the hour mark of the episode, the subject turned to someone that both the guests and co-hosts harbor a tremendous amount of love and respect for – “master of horror” director, Stuart Gordon.

For myself and Elric, we’re just big fans, but for Skipper, he played Herbert West in the hit show RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL and worked directly under the wing of the auteur director. One of the first jobs that Begos had in the business was working for Stuart; reading scripts, writing coverage and other odd jobs revolving around Gordon’s production company. So after delving a bit into their collective history with him, we then started gushing about our love of his filmography.

But what about the movies of his that never got made? One bombshell that Begos dropped was the unproduced Arnold Schwarzenegger horror film that Gordon was supposed to direct back in the mid-80s. Let’s go back a bit, first.

What’s the connection between Arnold and Stuart? Arnold’s long time double, Peter Kent (who performed all of Arnold’s stunts in THE TERMINATOR), was actually in RE-ANIMATOR. (And some of the same sets were used in both RE-ANIMATOR and THE TERMINATOR.) He’s the first corpse that gets re-animated by Herbert West and Dan Cain in the morgue.

Naturally, Arnold saw the movie and loved it. At one point, Schwarzenegger was attached as the lead of the movie FORTRESS. He had to drop out and his role went to Christopher Lambert, but Arnold recommended Gordon as the director for that project which finally came to fruition in the early ’90s. But before that, there was another little project planned with Gordon, Schwarzenegger and RE-ANIMATOR writer Dennis Paoli.

“They were supposed to make this awesome movie together called STEROID,” explained Begos on the podcast. “I was working for Stuart when the whole Chris Benoit thing happened, and we talked about how shocking that was. And he told me he was supposed to do a story like that in the 80’s with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He flipped through his filing cabinet and pulled out a script called “STEROID.” He said in it, Schwarzenegger plays a wrestler that’s addicted to steroids and he ends up going crazy and going on a murder spree through New York City. And I’m thinking holy shit!”

Skipper adds, “Can you imagine a 1987 Schwarzenegger horror movie directed by Stuart Gordon?!”

After some brief investigation online, all I could find was a sales art poster created to finance the proposed feature under the name “BERSERKER.” Charles Band was going to produce it as an Empire Pictures film.

While there’s not much information on this mind-blowing unmade feature at the moment, this won’t be the last we hear about this nearly historic collaboration. I checked in with filmmaker Daniel Griffith, who is currently in post production for his epic feature length documentary CELLULOID WIZARDS IN THE VIDEO WASTELAND: THE SAGA OF EMPIRE PICTURES and he assured me that there’s a segment in the bonus features for his doc that focuses on unmade Empire Pictures, and “BERSERKER” is one of them!

Until then, let’s just stare at that poster art again and imagine we got to live in a world where Stuart Gordon made a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For your convenience, episode 10 of Shock Waves is embedded below. If you want to hear the above story, along with anecdotes about Gordon’s unmade AMERICAN PSYCHO movie with Johnny Depp, or how he used to direct old TWILIGHT ZONE episode scripts with film students, skip on over to about the 1 hour 10 minute mark!