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2009-05-10

A little-known victim of the Islamic Revolution

SEATTLE, Washington - As if there weren't enough negative consequences to having a country fall into the control of fundamentalist Muslims - turns out one of the victims of Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 was an almost-completed Orson Welles film that might be a classic.

By the early 1970s Welles was developing The Other Side of the Wind, a film about an aging film director returning from years of exile in Europe to direct a final, avant-garde Hollywood feature. Welles's reputation for profligacy forced him to hunt high and low for new suckers to fund his ventures, and one of the investors in Wind was an Iranian production firm run by Medhi Mouscheri, brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran.

By early 1979 shooting was finished and Welles was editing the film when the Shah was overthrown, marking the beginning of a 20+ year battle over the ownership of the film (which sat in a humidity-controlled vault in Paris the whole time). The newly-installed theocratic regime presumably had better things to do than work through film investments. Welles died in 1985 and his heirs, like all heirs, were in the thick of much of the legal tangle-work.

The Other Side of the Wind's fate is now in the hands of Peter Bogdanovich, who was one of the actors in the film. In 2004, Mr B (whose career bogged-down-ovich after the success of The Last Picture Show in 1971) announced that he would edit the remainder of the film and release it. We're still waiting - Mr B seems to be pulling a Duke Nukem Forever with this, dripping news out every so often without ever producing any results.

A clip or two of the movie can be seen in documentaries, and some who have seen a good hunk of the footage claim that it's top-notch work, with an Academy Award-level acting performance by John Huston as the aging director. Can Bogdanovich possibly craft the film into something resembling Welles's original vision, or will it bear the stamp of Bogdanovich? Here's one clue - if The Other Side of the Wind finally gets released and you see Cybill Shepherd in it... that was Bogdanovich's doing.

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