I’ll start by saying that at the time I’m writing this, I haven’t seen Rogue One yet, but after it came out last week, there have been a lot of people online pointing out that there is a lot of footage in the trailers of that one that didn’t make it in the final cut of the movie. A LOT. This would make it the second movie this year that has had that happening. The first one was Suicide Squad. The common theme? Both movies had massive reshoots done way after the first trailers were already out. Based on the lists made in the web, it looks like Rogue One had it’s entire third act completely retooled. And of course now people are wondering if there will be a “director’s cut” coming out on home video.
I doubt it.
But this whole thing made me think about the home video-releases of director’s cuts/extended cuts. They have really become a thing ever since the invention of DVD and Blu-Ray. Sometimes they can actually make one hell of a difference: just take a look at Ridley Scott‘s Legend and Kingdom of Heaven. Or Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings-trilogy. On other occasions they just have a couple of scenes added for cosmetics (or maybe some F-words just to call it “unrated”) – like the recent Suicide Squad extended cut.
But what I was thinking was – what old films I would want to see in an extended form, knowing from the history that they got seriously compromised by the studios? Hence, this list that follows now. I know this is just wishful thinking for the most part, and none of these will probably never happen. But hell; just as food for thought I felt this would be an amusing list.
And a completely unrelated tangent from Rogue One.
Eaters of the Dead
Dir. John McTiernan
Well, this has always been one of those “holy grails” of unseen movies. I will say for the record that I DO like The 13th Warrior, but the original version always sounded very intriguing as well. So the story is, that John McTiernan did a dark,, nihilistic, gritty, dimly-shot horror-like adventure film, but in the test screenings it was just not well-received. And I do believe it was a pretty finished film, as composer Graeme Revell even had a complete score recorded for it (this score has been available as a bootleg for ages – interestingly Lisa Gerrard also performed on it, a couple years before her gig in Gladiator).
But – the test audience didn’t like it – the studio did not like that the test audience didn’t like it – Michael Crichton did not like that no one liked it, so they spent like $60 million for reshoots, kicked McTiernan off and the reshoots were directed by Crichton himself. It’s not known exactly HOW much of the film was reshot; the estimation goes around 25-35%. The “Mother” Wendol was recast, as in the original she really was an old woman, but the concept of the vikings killing an old woman was not acceptable to the Powers that Be. And the final one-on-one battle between Buliwyf and the leader of the Wendol was an added moment. Other than that, I assume some of the more humorous moments with the Vikings joking about Ibn’s “strange eastern ways” and the overall brotherly bonding are added. After that, Jerry Goldsmith was quickly hired to compose a more brassy and rousing soundtrack and the film was retitled The 13th Warrior (I guess Eaters of the Dead didn’t sound warriorly enough). And it completely bombed at the box office.
The only real remaining piece of that original version is this early trailer from 1998 – the year the film was originally meant to be released:
Dir. John Woo
Hard Target, as I’ve said before, is probably my favorite Van Damme-movie. But it went through an arduous post-production process before anything ended up on the screen. Even in it’s “final” form, there were two versions of it: the American R-rated cut and the European cut, which adds a LOT of violence. Needless to say, I prefer the latter one. I have seen the R-rated version – in fact it was the first time I saw this film – and it is just majorly watered down. But… these versions, with their respective lengths of 96 and 99 minutes, are nowhere near John Woo‘s original vision, which was around 128 minutes. The “Workprint” version has been circling the world as a crappy VHS copy from an Avid, with timestamps and a temporary score, and yet – if you see past the sub-par quality of the print, it feels like a more complete movie. With fuller characterizations.
Example: the villains. In the shorter version Lance Henriksen‘s Fouchon and Arnold Vosloo‘s Mr. Pik really come across as pretty one-dimensional cartoon villains, with some quirks. But in the longer version you see more of their dynamics; Fouchon really does picture himself as the Last Great White hunter. And while there was a short scene in the theatrical version of Pik’s exceptional tracking skills, we get a helluva lot more of that in the longer cut. Van Damme’s Chance and Yancy Butler‘s Natasha also get more screentime, revealing their character histories.
Okay – there’s also a song & dance scene between Van Damme and Wilford Brimley that is a bit awkward, but it ends up saying a lot of their character’s backstory as well.
The whole thing feels just more like a complete John Woo-movie – Woo at his prime was NOT just an action-director, but a skilled visual artist in both action AND drama. And in the theatrical cut the movie just feels like a tightly-edited “best of”-collection of Woo’s action moments.
Dir. George P. Cosmatos
Okay, so Cobra – as it is – is a perfectly enjoyable, stylized Reagan-era macho shoot-em-up that runs about 86 minutes. So it just flies by, right? The audience doesn’t really get time to see some pretty big holes in it – unless you go frame-by-frame and spot some continuity errors and such. Well – not counting those, there is another big bit in it that may not occur to you at first: you ever stopped to think that “gee – the Nightslasher and his gang actually are not that much in it. In fact, most of what they do is kinda just told in news-reports or by other people and they seem to just be hanging at their basement lair just scowling around and banging those axes together….“. There is a very simple reason to that: most of the stuff focusing on them hit the cutting room floor. And not just them, but pretty much every character on screen that wasn’t Stallone. And even he is not really doing that much “cop” stuff, just “shooting & beating up people” stuff. See, the original director’s cut of the movie was about 2 hours long. And then the studio and Stallone kinda did a number on it, getting it waaaaay short, so they could get more screenings per day. And the old MPAA also had something to do with it as well.
So, gone are pretty much all the scenes featuring Nightslasher and his crew in the middle act. Gone are longer scenes of Cobra’s partner, David Rasche’s photographer, gone are scenes where the police actually do… you know – police stuff. There was a long segment of all the various characters doing character business (including Cobra actually doing some investigative work!), which was basically reduced to a 3-minute music video montage. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good song, and it’s always been a cool montage, but knowing NOW all that was supposed to happen there, I’d kinda want to see ALL of that. Some scenes were later added to a TV version that circled in some parts of the world, and using that as well as some unused shots from the trailer plus stills/text descriptions, this guy has done a pretty comprehensive look at what was missing:
Another 48 Hours
Dir. Walter Hill
This movie was never going to feature in my “Best of Walter Hill” series of articles. Why? Well, outside of the fact that it’s pretty much a remake of the first film, it also does not make a hell of a lot of sense plot-wise. Sure, there are some parts of it that I like; I like how Hill brings the Western-influences into it through the bikers, I like the casting of Andrew Divoff as the younger brother of the James Remar-character from the first movie, and the action-sequences are good.The movie actually has one of my all-time favorite stunts:
But the movie and the characters are just crazily hopping from scene to scene – sometimes with a cool, stylized fade-effect that looks as if it was inserted there only to distract the audience from the fact that “hey – this really doesn’t make a lot of sense…“. How Brion James‘ villain – or who is ultimately revealed to be such – really even isn’t IN the movie that much? How Frank McRae, who pretty much created the “angry, yelling police captain”-trope in the first movie, only appears in the background of one scene – in a non-speaking role?
Well – there is a pretty good reason for that. The theatrical version that runs at 93 minutes was cut down by the studio from a 120-minute finished version, ONE WEEK before it’s premiere. Reason? Length – AGAIN. The story, told by Brion James, goes like this: “Total recall – unohda tai kuole (1990) came out a week before Another 48 Hrs. (1990) that summer, it made twenty-five million, became the number one movie in the country and the studio panicked because they had invested a lot in the 48 Hours franchise, but they felt that at well over two hours, that the movie might be too much. My stuff was in there until one week before the film opened; that is when they cut twenty-five minutes out of that movie, a week before it opened. It went from around 140 (Hill’s original workprint length, which he himself cut down to 120 minutes) to down around 95 minutes. They said, “Cut all the behaviour, action, comedy…” I lost every major scene I had. That’s the last time I ever cared about a movie because I went to the press screening and it was like getting kicked in the stomach, seeing what is not there. I was the third lead and now I looked like a dressed extra. All the stuff that they had in the set-up, stuff in the trailer, all those scenes were gone.”
I have said in my Walter Hill-articles that one thing I like about his movies is that they are short and to the point and tightly edited, but in this case I would make an exception, as the final version of the film is definitely NOT his version. Needless to say, he never worked with Paramount Pictures again.
That’s just four examples I managed to dig out from the Mainframe. You have other ones? Put ’em in the comments.