Directors: The Phantom Menace

I am of the believe that once a film is oficially screened to the public - leaving aside the thorny issue of test screenings - it is oficially a piece of history as far as the film is concerned. It has been seen by its intended audience and, for better or worse, it should be regarded as such. Any future additions, alterations and other such things should be regarded as such and NOT as replacements.

I for one applaud the DVD of The Wicker Man not only for suppling us with the Director's Cut - or a reasonable replica - but retaining the Theatrical Cut. Now the theatrical cut is 15min shorter - albiet with a additional scene not in the longer cut - it messes with the time frame and removes scenes of characterisation and an awesome musical number. Even so, I as a studier of the history of the cinema would want this cut present in order to understand how audiences first saw this and so would people who for whatever reason - nostalgia, preference for the pacing, a phobia of snails - prefer this cut.

Now if a film was cut by the censors - mainly the MPAA - and the subseqent footage was restored at a later date, I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who'd wish to keep the R-rated cut so I'd understand why it isn't on DVD - I don't count censorship as an artistic preference.

And finally, the main rant of this blog. The title problem.

Directors screwing with their work and refusing - or at least preventing - the original and publically - by public, I mean fans - approved versions.

The Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)
George Lucas' ongoing tampering with the trilogy - which for many moviegoers are cultural milestones - getting beyond a joke as he has gone to the extremes of removing entire contributions by actors - Clive Revill and whoever did Boba Fett's original voice are examples - changing musical numbers and adding bad CGI which clashes badly with the material. Now some of these changes I like - I LOVE the closing musical number on the Special Editions of Return Of The Jedi but I am aware that it is not the original and I am being denied the chance to make my own decison on which I prefer. And don't get me started on bloody Hayden Christian...

The Shining (1980)
A genius maybe, but the notoriously hard-to-please Stanley Kubrick's obsessive stripping down of his horror masterpiece (OK, some hate it but I'm entitled to my opinion), seemingly in response to critical backlash, is pretty annoying. True, the ending as it originally premiered in theatres may not be as effective as the one we have today but if the rumour that Kubrick requested the footage to be destroyed is true, than he is a fool for that. And apparently, the reason the non-US DVDs still have the 2-hour cut is because Kubrick intended it as such - as a UK resident, I guess he wanted his video copy to be his final version. Now, the scary thing is Kubrick is no longer in a position to actually oppose an restoration or whatever but the DVD producers still oblige. Imagine if he wished for the US DVD to use the 2 hour cut. They'd probably have agreed to that as well! (OK, maybe I'm overeacting but you never know...)

Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975)
I am not familar with the story behind the making of this film and its subsequent cutting to make a Director's Cut - indeed, the novice viewer probably wouldn't realise it - but Peter Weir's cutting down of a film that had been freely been avaliable for over 25 years is bizarre and senseless - who would pay to see a version that is nothing but a shorter cut of something we've been watching for two decades. As far as I know, there are no additional scenes, just at least a quarter of an hour of deletions - including my favourite scene!

Dracula (1979)
A final example and for the casual viewer the most obvious one, as everytime I've watched this film with friends, they complain about the picture. Guess who is blame? Correct, director John Badham! Originally, he wanted to make the film in black and white and it's a shame that he was denied this opportunity to do so, as a major scope Dracula in stark black and white would look incredible! So the film was shot instead in a magnificently lush colour scheme by cinematographer Gilbert Taylor - whose name is conspicuously absent from the credits on the DVD box! When the DVD came out - or perhaps this dates back to laserdisc - Badham had the brilliant scheme to completely alter the colour scheme by draining away the colour, as some sort of compensation for the fact that the film wasn't what he wanted. The result is hideous: the picture is way too dark - even the dark scenes look naff - everyone looks green and detail is gone. The only good thing I can say is that it makes the Maurice Binder love scene look even more effective but the fact remains the film now looks like a mess and Taylor's fine work is now obliterated by a fussy director - and why would the studio bother to appease Badham and not, say, a filmmaker who wished to make a genuine restoration of thier film?

So to all DVD producers, please remember to respect history as well as the nutty spur-of-the moment wishes of crazy directors. Then everyone is happy - and my hands wouldn't hurt so much from typing!

Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:14:51

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