The 5 Worst “Director’s Cut” Films.

Beatrice Dalle in Betty Blue.

Beat­rice Dalle in Bet­ty Blue.

There are two ways that a Direc­tor’s Cut gets released. Either the direc­tor and the stu­dio fall out, and they each release a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the film, as with Cimi­no and Heav­en’s Gate in 1981. Or alter­na­tive­ly, a direc­tor returns to a film to un-do the changes that were forced upon him at the time, which is what hap­pened to Lawrence of Ara­bia (’62), when David Lean went back to it in 1989.

For those of us who chose a film based on who has direct­ed it, a Direc­tor’s Cut ought to be a god­send. And yet remark­ably, and with the hon­ourable excep­tion of Lawrence of Ara­bia, so far they have all been worse than their orig­i­nals. Here are the 5 worst offenders:

5 Blade Runner.

Look­ing at the all too con­ven­tion­al films Rid­ley Scott has made since, it’s pret­ty obvi­ous that Blade Run­ner became a cult clas­sic despite rather than because of its direc­tor. And none of the slight changes that Scott made to the many alter­na­tive edits are an improve­ment on the ver­sion released by the studio. 

On the con­trary, both the voice over and the so say “hap­py” end­ing that they  insist­ed on are per­fect­ly in keep­ing with its noir feel.

4. Nuo­vo Cin­e­ma Paradiso

When Tor­na­tore com­plained that he’d been forced to edit down his remark­able debut, we all of us won­dered how on earth his new direc­tor’s cut would improve on the orig­i­nal ver­sion we’d all been so charmed by. Well it didn’t. 

The Pro­duc­er’s cut was lean­er, sharp­er, and sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter paced. And a prop­er direc­tor ought­n’t to have need­ed his pro­duc­er to deliv­er it. Dis­ap­point­ing­ly, but unsur­pris­ing­ly, noth­ing Tor­na­tore has done since has lived up to that ear­ly promise.

Nastassja Kinski and Gerard Depardieu in The Moon InThe Gutter.

Nas­tass­ja Kin­s­ki and Ger­ard Depar­dieu in The Moon InThe Gutter.

3. Bet­ty Blue

So explo­sive and com­pelling are the open­ing 20 min­utes or so of this, that you try to ignore the fact that as it pro­gress­es, the film comes increas­ing­ly to sag. 

Secret­ly though you won­der whether per­haps the film’s pal­pa­ble appeal might be down to the chem­istry and sparks pro­duced by the two fiery leads. The Direc­tor’s cut alas, answers that.

Beineix’ cast­ing is impec­ca­ble, as it was in Diva and the under­rat­ed The Moon In The Gut­ter. And all three of those films look fan­tas­tic. But as the longer ver­sion of Bet­ty Blue shows, Beineix has alas no feel for dra­ma. And he too has sad­ly if all too pre­dictably fad­ed from view.

2. The Abyss

It’s not hard to see what hap­pened here, when you’ve watched the two ver­sions of The Abyss side by side. Orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed as a drea­ry spe­cial effects vehi­cle, the project was clear­ly hijacked by the two leads who turned it instead into a charm­ing love story.

The “spe­cial” ver­sion, as James Cameron called his Direc­tor’s cut, mer­ci­less­ly takes what­ev­er charm the orig­i­nal cut had and clubs it uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly to death. And nev­er again would a cou­ple of pesky actors be allowed inject a sense of human­i­ty into one of his projects. From that point on, all of his films would be “spe­cial”.

Steven Bach's magisterial Final Cut.

Steven Bach’s mag­is­te­r­i­al Final Cut.

1. Heav­en’s Gate

One of the myths sur­round­ing Heav­en’s Gate is that it ran aground because Cimi­no was forced to release the trun­cat­ed ver­sion. As a mat­ter of fact, they’re equal­ly awful. It’s just that one of them is awful for a lot less of your time.

There’s stuff every­where. Props and cos­tumes and noise and sound effects and music and noise and dia­logue, real­ly, real­ly bad dia­logue, and noise and just about any­thing you could care to men­tion, except any­thing approx­i­mat­ing a believ­able sto­ry. Or any char­ac­ter made of any­thing oth­er than card­board, and con­struct­ed using more than the one sin­gle dimension.

It does have one sav­ing grace though. It led to Steven Bach writ­ing his mag­is­te­r­i­al Final Cut here, one of the best, and one of the most beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten books on mod­ern cin­e­ma. 

If any­one can think of a Direc­tor’s Cut that was an improve­ment on its orig­i­nal, I’d love to hear about it.

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