In planning to review a few movies, including Superman and Superman II, I realized that I would be getting into the subject of the “Director’s Cut.” The term today is often misused.
Today, “Director’s Cut” often means a few delete scenes added to a movie so that they can sell another version of a movie on DVD. Often, scenes are deleted from a movie because they are not good enough to be in it. But, to get us to rebuy the same movie, the studios put these scenes in and call it the “Director’s Cut.”
During the era of the “Studio System”, which mostly ended in the late 1950s, “The Director’s Cut was the rough cut of a movie that the director submitted to the studio after completion. At that time, the director was seen as the authorities he is today. Studios then would often butcher movies, always cutting them in a traditional way.
When Gene Kelly directed Singing In The Rain, he destroyed the film for every take he didn’t like so the studio could not use it. In fact, when George Lucas shot Star Wars the studio actually cut it traditionally, taking out the fast paced action. Lucas fired the editor and supervised the re-editing. I think he got it right.
James Cameron, in his commentary on Aliens explained that, today, sometimes, a director is contractually obligated to turn in a movie that does not exceed a certain amount of time. This is so it can be shown four or five times a day in a theatre. So sometimes it is not the “worst” scenes that are taken out, but the scenes that can be removed without destroying the plot. In Aliens, this caused the removal of Ripley returning to earth and meeting her now aged daughter. Also removed was a scene where Ripley goes through a “gauntlet” to get to the monster. In the real “Director’ Cut” these scenes are put back in, and make the story much better.
Francis Ford Coppola was required to give a 2 hour and 20 minute version of the Godfather, which he later said was a disaster. He also gave the 175 minute “Director’s Cut” which turned out to be one of the greatest movies of all time. In fact, his two and half hour Apocalypse Now (1979) was a good movie, but his cut of the Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) is a better movie but is 50 minutes longer and is therefore probably best suited for home theatre.
There is no “Director’s Cut” to Alien, although there is a disc out now advertised as such. Ridley Scott was asked to do one but Scott said that the movie was just what he wanted! But he did a second cut for them anyway. Removed from the original and placed in the alternative version is a scene towards the end Scott felt dampened the pacing. Ripley discovers the nest of the Alien with many of the victims alive, begging to die. It is a great scene.
While filming Close Encounters Steven Spielberg did NOT have enough money to put in the music he wanted (“When You Wish Upon A Star”) and a few other things. After its release, the studio said that he could do a special edition, but he would have to add scenes inside the spaceship. Although he didn’t want to show that, he complied and the studio rereleased the movie in theatres and later home video and laser. But now, all but one of the “Special Edition scenes have been removed in the “Director’s Cut” although the “new” music remains. What scene remains? You can see the shadow of a flying saucer flying over a truck.
The studio actually damaged a great movie by Orson Welles, Touch of Evil. They even put credits over the opening scene which was a brilliant uncut opening that went about three and a half minutes without an edit. They also had another editor shot some scenes and reedit Welles’s original cut. Only recently, long after his death, but using his notes, was the movie cut close to what Welles would have wanted, and the opening credits removed.
That said, the studio destroyed Blade Runner. When I first saw the movie, it looked great, but made no sense. Allowed to give the definitive “Director’s Cut” Ridley Scott did a brilliant job.*
So when I refer to a “Director’s Cut” I will NOT be referring to every movie that just added a few scenes but the ones that restored the director’s vision.
When I review Superman I will be discussing a film restored to its proper length, and, for Superman II, the greatest “Director’s Cut” of all time.
SPOILER ALERT FOR BLADE RUNNER
In its original release Blade Runner had narration at the beginning that totally destroyed the movie in five minutes. Really!!! Harrison Ford explains that he was once married. (“Sushi, that’s what my ex-wife called me. Cold fish.”) It changed the mood and the story for the entire movie. It removed the possibility of his real background, the one that we witnessed in the “Director’s final cut.”
But there was one word in a scene much later in the movie that got to me. The Replicants trace down their creator and he asks, “Why did you come here?”
In the original, where the Replicants were painted as pure evil, Rutger Hauer’s character responds with an aggressive curse that is edited in the final cut to “father,” giving his response in the final cut a much different, thoughtful tone: “We want more life, father!”
And we want more real director’s cuts.