The double entendre of the title is the real reason why Steven Spielberg wanted to be just credited as producer and writer for Poltergeist. I’ve analyzed the filming schedules of the movie and E.T. well enough to know that there’s really no reason why he couldn’t just make one movie before being contracted to the other. Poltergeist could easily have been made by his company (Amblin) for his home studio (Universal), but chose MGM because he wanted to get in their good books for a post-Moore 007 movie where James Bond is played by a younger actor. Universal were okay with this treason, because it would add clout to future movies with Spielberg. You may already know why he took over Poltergeist and why he downplayed it, but you don’t know why he got away with it. Like with Twilight Zone: The Movie, Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Steve’s house of horrors movie was an experiment in how to get away with cruel technicalities.
Each case involved people being debased by a man who was already debasing long before he became a film-maker. According to a 1989 book titled How to Think Like a Millionaire, he enjoyed pelting oranges at fellow kids from his roof. Given how powerful that Jews are in Hollywood, Steven being a Jew who is friends with Jewish lawyers puts him in a position where he can find loopholes. With those three non-ghost movies, we’re talking about a guy who got away with an illegal shoot that resulted in manslaughter, found a way to fire the star before picture lock, and refused to not pay another actor as much as the other supporting actors. Even with there being a lauded Poltergeist site, I can still say that I have finally put together the missing pieces of this puzzling mystery. Part of the mystery is why didn’t Spielberg just direct it when E.T. was over? Well, it all begins with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. That was a house of horrors film which proved that Stan was better at horror.
Granted, The Shining wasn’t a bigger hit than Jaws; but Steven felt supplanted. He wanted to prove that he is an auteur too. When a producer writes a screenplay for someone else to direct, their style will come through. Tobe Hooper was the perfect choice because he had hardcore horror credibility whereas Spielberg’s name was guaranteed a family-friendly blockbuster. Such an intriguing mixture of names would only be rivalled when Steven agreed to take over Kubrick’s A.I. With Poltergeist, however, Steven sought vengeance because Kubrick’s daughter delayed the filming of the first Indiana Jones movie because she claimed that the snakes were mistreated. The below newspaper article (Poltergeist: Is Spielberg “Ghost Directing for” Tobe Hooper?) made the Directors Guild of America come down hard on Steven to the extent that he felt obliged to tap dance around the issue by apologizing in a way that is meant to deter people from following his example.
Steven knew that there would be a whistleblower who would tip off the D.G.A. in light of the impending directors strike. To prepare for this, he storyboarded every single shot which would be supervised by Frank Marshall (an Amblin ally who would prove to be his most valuable asset). Poltergeist is probably the only movie where no-one in their right mind would suggest releasing a director’s cut. The showcased newspaper article indirectly advertises the Universal remake of The Thing, but it could still be as seen as something of a slight to John Carpenter (who had an equally intriguing collaboration with Rob Bottin). In fact, one could argue that Poltergeist was rushed into production to disuade potential moviegoers from The Thing. Below is the DGA’s director employment agreement. It was originally 17 segments but I whittled it down to 9 for the sake of relevance (this meant changing numbers for ease of reference). I cut down the purple prose (i.e. legalese) to make it more concise.
Note: In this agreement, the term “Producer” could refer to a studio, production company or other financing entity that is engaging the director’s services.
I) Supervisory Services: Director accepts such employment and shall render all development services on a non-exclusive but first priority and regular in-person basis; provided that Director shall not render services for Director’s own account or for others which would materially interfere with the development services required by Producer hereunder.
II) Employment of Production Services: Provided all of the following conditions have been satisfied, Producer shall employ the production services of Director as director of the Picture.
I) Services/Exclusivity: Director will not, during exclusive period (including periods of suspension), render any services for Director’s own account or for others without Producer’s written consent in each case. After delivery of the Director’s first cut, Director will render services on a non-exclusive, first priority and in person basis until Director delivers to Producer the answer print of the Picture; provided that Director shall not render any services for Director’s own account, or for others that would materially interfere with the completion of the Picture required by Producer.
II) Approvals and Controls: Director shall use best efforts to direct the Picture within the budget, on schedule and as instructed by Producer in all matters, including those matters involving artistic taste and judgment. Subject to Producer’s right of final decision, unless Director is unavailable when Producer requires, Producer and Director shall mutually approve the following elements of the Picture: director of photography, production designer or art director, film editor, first assistant director, and principal cast members. No casual or inadvertent failure by Producer to obtain Director’s approval shall be a breach of this Agreement. Director shall not make or authorize any material changes in the final shooting script, shooting schedule or budget without Producer’s specific written approval in each case. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Producer shall have the right to review all script changes, artwork, dailies, sound recordings and other materials created in connection with the Picture at such times and places as Producer determines.