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.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I’ll keep you post­ed on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!

5 Worst Films To Win The Oscar For Best Film.

5. Mil­lion Dol­lar Baby (2004). For its first 90 min­utes or so (most films’ actu­al length), Clint East­wood’s box­er chick flick shuf­fles along as a poor man’s Rocky. But then, with what’s laugh­ably described as a plot “twist”, it sud­den­ly veers off into the final scene of Bet­ty Blue, which it man­ages to drag out for a fur­ther ¾ of an hour.

Nei­ther one thing nor the oth­er, it man­ages to be dull and tedious twice over. Incred­i­bly, it tri­umphed at the expense of the right­ly laud­ed Side­ways, the charm­ing Find­ing Nev­er­land, and Scors­ese’s under­rat­ed The Avi­a­tor.

Hav­ing to write Mil­lion Dol­lar Baby was obvi­ous­ly the price that Paul Hag­gis had to pay for being allowed to direct Crash, which quite cor­rect­ly won the fol­low­ing year.

4. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003). The final install­ment of Peter Jack­son’s mag­num opus affords a third oppor­tu­ni­ty to spend yet anoth­er three hours (3 hours and 20 min­utes actu­al­ly…) watch­ing one set of com­put­er gen­er­at­ed char­ac­ters in a series of increas­ing­ly noi­some bat­tles with A N Oth­er set. Which, inex­plic­a­bly, they occa­sion­al­ly do with subtitles.

Watch­ing a video game with­out being able to par­tic­i­pate is the cin­e­mat­ic equiv­a­lent of being treat­ed to a lap dance with­out being allowed to touch. For hours and hours. Oh and it beat Lost In Trans­la­tion and Clint East­wood’s superb Mys­tic Riv­er.

3. How Green Was My Val­ley (1941). Is John Ford the worst film mak­er of all time? Or is that Kuro­sawa? They are, as they say, well met.

Either way, just in case you thought that get­ting it mon­u­men­tal­ly wrong on Oscar night was a mod­ern phe­nom­e­non, Ford’s oh so dull and typ­i­cal­ly lead­en tale of, yawn, a Welsh min­ing town was duly award­ed the gong in 1941. And at whose expense?

Well, for one there was a cer­tain Cit­i­zen Kane. Then there was John Hus­ton’s enig­mat­ic and gen­uine­ly quirky noir clas­sic, The Mal­tese Fal­con. And William Wyler’s ice-cold but razor-sharp Bette Davis vehi­cle, The Lit­tle Fox­es (which, like Kane, was shot by Gregg Toland). As well as Hitch­cock­’s Sus­pi­cion, star­ring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.

2. Titan­ic (1997). Our very own Ford and Kuro­sawa rolled into one (see above), the first thing you want to do with James Cameron’s mes­mer­i­cal­ly tedious  3 hours and 17 minute film is to take each and every one of its shots and chop off their open­ing and clos­ing 25%. That would bring it down to just over an hour and a half.

You’d lose noth­ing. You would how­ev­er see even more clear­ly that it’s lit­tle more than a shot by shot remake of the 1958 film A Night To Remem­ber, but with­out any of the lat­ter’s charm, social graces or under­stand­ing of eti­quette. And as for those spe­cial effects. Well, they’re cer­tain­ly spe­cial all right.

1. The Artist (2012). Any­one who’s ever done any of those Hol­ly­wood screen­writ­ing cours­es will know that there are a cer­tain num­ber of arche­typ­al plots. One of which is the Iron­ic Plot, a clas­sic exam­ple of which goes as fol­lows; he does some­thing to avoid being caught, and hide his true iden­ti­ty, only to dis­cov­er that what he does is pre­cise­ly the thing that leads to him being unmasked.

The one thing that Hol­ly­wood is obsessed with, is prov­ing to the rest of the world that, con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, it is not in fact peo­pled by philistines. So they fell over them­selves in their haste to lav­ish The Artist (reviewed by me here ear­li­er) with ill-con­sid­ered praise on the grounds that a) it’s French, b) it’s in black and white, and c) it’s silent.

But by fail­ing to spot its com­plete absence of dra­ma, or to notice that it’s made up of one-dimen­sion­al card­board cut-outs, albethey beau­ti­ful­ly drawn ones, whose nar­ra­tive arc could be com­fort­ably pre­dict­ed by most below-aver­age­ly intel­li­gent 9 year olds, they have, need­less to say, con­firmed all our worst sus­pi­cions. So there you are then, QED.

Appro­pri­ate­ly enough I  sup­pose, Hol­ly­wood itself has become a clas­sic exam­ple of one of its own genres.