It is always sad to see an unrealized project. It is especially sad, however, when a project dies because someone behind it literally dies. Such is the case with the proposed THE OVERLORDS. Riding high on Lucas and Spielberg's coattails post-STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS respectively, exploitation director William Girdler was planning an epic sounding sci-fi flick. In just a few short years, Girdler had established a keen exploitation eye. When THE EXORCIST hit big, he came out with the blaxploitation version in ABBY (1974). Warner Bros congratulated him on his success and even sent him flowers. Yeah right, they sued his ass off and got the film pulled from theaters. Of course, this didn't stop Girdler. With THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE raking in big bucks, he put out THREE ON A MEAT HOOK (1975). When Spielberg hit it big earlier with JAWS, Girdler transported the action inland and gave us GRIZZLY (1976).
There is no reason to doubt his riff on aliens and close encounters would have been awesome. Tragically, it never got made as Girdler was killed in a helicopter crash on January 21, 1978 in Manila. He was there scouting locations for this upcoming sci-fi project that boasted it would be shot in 17 (!) countries. Here is a mention of the soon to be abandoned project in Starlog circa 1978:
And here is a trade ad that Avco Embassy ran for the film in Variety in 1978. Listed screenwriter Harry Kleiner gave the world FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966) and BULLITT (1968), so you know it would have at least had a good script. I don't know about you, but seeing this ad makes me sad for whatcouldahbeen. I, for one, would have welcomed our new film THE OVERLORDS.
Here is THE OVERLORDS in an Avco Embassy ad from the same issue. I like the filming location being listed as "the universe."
UPDATE (to be said in Robert Stack voice)! Reader Jerome alerted us to this project living beyond Girdler's demise (see his link in the comments section below). A little further digging unearthed some additional details. Here is a small item from the June 12, 1978 issue of Box Office promising Marvin J. Chomsky taking over as director with filming to begin in August 1979.
And this news item appeared in Starlog in April 1979. This gives plenty more plot details and still lists Chomsky as taking over as director. Ultimately, it never got made but it still did manage to kick around for a while after Girdler's untimely passing.