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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Directors' Cuts Not Always Better Than Theatrical Releases

Recently I had the chance to view the Director John Frankenheimer's cut of one of my favorite Xmas (as opposed to Christmas) movies, REINDEER GAMES, starring Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, and Gary Sinise.

While this version was, as advertized (on the slipcase), sexier and edgier than the theatrical release,  it was not better.  To be sure, I had no issue whatsoever with the reinstated sex or violence scenes. They didn't add much, but neither did they take away from the overall product. However, the additional subplot twist Frankenheimer included in his cut added nothing but confusion. In short, this is one example of a studio's being smarter than a director.

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Another example ? Ridley Scott's cut of BLADE RUNNER seemed  more plodding and less atmospheric than the theatrical release.
I may well be the only fan of BL who believes that the theatrical release benefited greatly from Dekker's interior monologue, which so eerily evoked memories of Raymond Chandler's PI Philip Marlowe. Sans the monologue, the director's cut seems flat.

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By contrast, Sam Peckinpah's cut of THE WILD BUNCH is not simply longer but superior to the theatrical release. From the latter, Warner Brothers excised scenes which either vividly illustrate the relationship between Deke Thorton and Pike on the one hand, or create a more rounded characterization of the Mexican warlord Mapache on the other.

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Similarly, the recent "restoration" of Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, masterminded by Walter Murch and based on Welles' own 58-page memo to RKO--decrying the studio's mismanaged edit--is clearly superior to what audiences of the day experienced in theatres.