L A. CONFIDENTIAL. Unsold television pilot, 2003. Keifer Sutherland, Josh Hopkins, Melissa George, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Eric Roberts. Director: Eric Laneuville. Based on the novel by James Ellroy.

   Filmed in 1999, says IMDB, as part of a deal with HBO in 2000 as the first installment of a 13-part mini-series. When that didn’t happen, Fox took interest, but in the end, they also turned it down. Their loss, and ours.

   The date 2003, by the way, is when the cable network Trio finally aired it as part of a long marathon of similar bankrupt and cancelled projects.

   I’ve not read the book, which is number three in Ellroy’s series of 1950s L.A.-based novels: The Black Dahlia was the first; number two was The Big Nowhere; and the fourth was White Jazz. I’ve also not seen the full-length movie version of L. A. Confidential (1997), a huge gap or gaffe on my part (take your pick), but at least you can say that this review of the TV version is unbiased in terms of any sort of comparisons, or any other kind of useful information.

   This TV film, all that was ever made, is only 50 minutes long, and it ends with a large TO BE CONTINUED across the screen. Just as all of the pieces were coming together! Utter frustration.

   Keifer Sutherland, not yet a 24-carat star, is Det.-Sgt. Jack Vincennes in this one, the role played by Kevin Spacey in the film. Melissa George is would-be movie starlet Lynn Bracken, played by Kim Basinger in the movie. I could go on and on like this, but the TV version is not the same story as the earlier version (or so I’m told), but essentially a different (and ultimately longer) adaptation of the book, produced and created by men with different ideas, limitations and goals in mind.

   Basic story: Vincennes, having killed an innocent man during a drug bust gone bad, tries to make up for it by anonymously sending money to the dead man’s widow. This means that he needs more money than he makes, which means in turn that he has to go on the take. Not a good idea when Internal Affairs is watching, not to mention the editor and publisher of Hush Hush Magazine.

   The TV version is visually striking in color, but in terms of overall production values, I doubt that it holds up in that regard to the movie. Note to self: watch the movie, and report back.

[UPDATE]   I haven’t found any images to add to this review, but for as long as it’s there, you can watch this short pilot online in five parts, beginning with http://www.truveo.com/Part-1of-5-LA-Confidential-TV-pilot-Kiefer/id/1356656397

[UPDATE #2] 03-07-12. As suspected, the video above is no longer there. See the comments, though, for information as to how to find a copy.