By now, everyone’s aware of the idea of a director’s cut: nasty mean studios and cinema chains force filmmakers to cut their movies, re-edit them, etc, to fit whatever agenda they have (getting more bums on seats or interpreted more charitably, making the movie into something people might want to watch).
However, come DVD time/20 years later and suddenly the option to make more money looms large – surprising though it may seem, studios now make more money from DVD sales and rentals than they do from theatrical showings – and the idea of releasing an alternative version or creating special edition that costs more suddenly becomes very appealing. So the studios give the director a call, say “make it how you wanted to make, provided it’ll only cost an extra £50”, and hey presto, a director’s cut is born.
Most famous of all, and the one that really started it all (bar Close Encounters’ special edition, a thinly veiled way to stop certain producers from getting any more money from the original release) is Blade Runner‘s director’s cut, now available in a googolplex of different versions, but all of which generally lose the narration and the end bit nicked from The Shining‘s left-overs, and have a unicorn dream sequence injected to make it clear Deckard’s a replicant.
But I was musing on the concept and wondering are directors’ cut necessarily a good thing?
After all, films are collaborative processes and quite often the things that will emerge in discussions between the editor, director, writer and other production staff will be better than what the director will come up with by himself or herself.
Without a focus audience and the interjection of the studio bosses, The Shawshank Redemption would never have ended as it did, but would have stopped with Red on a bus. Which would have been miserable and bollocks.
Is the Blade Runner director’s cut really better than the original? I actually quite like the narration. It makes the whole thing more Chandleresque and explains things that you probably wouldn’t have got without it (eg the social connotations of use of the phrase ‘skin job’). Yes, the extra unicorn scene makes it clear that Edward James Olmos knows Deckard is a replicant, but there’s already a scene in which he has replicant eyes, so it should be entirely obvious that he is already.
Then there’s Amadeus. I loved the original. Trouble was, the original release was one of those double-sided DVDs you had to flip halfway through the movie. So I naturally bought up the director’s cut as soon as it came out and gave away my original.
Absolute rubbish. If I wanted to go to the opera, I’d go. I don’t need Milos Forman sticking in an extra 40 minutes or something of opera footage just to show off all the trouble he went to. It kills the pacing of the movie completely and I haven’t got the original to fall back on. Bastard.
So today’s question of the day: can you think of any directors’ cuts that have indisputably been better than the originals and worth waiting for? Or are directors’ cuts just a way to fleece the punters again?