Sometimes the movie you see isn’t entirely the one the director set out to make. There are all kinds of reasons for this. Maybe edits had to be made to keep the running time reasonable or to procure a specific rating. Maybe the studio lacked confidence in the director’s vision and did their own edit. Or maybe there were simply two different but equally viable versions of the movie.
No matter what the reason, director’s cuts on DVD and Blu-ray have become a big business. They’re a way for audiences to see the filmmaker’s true intention and, in some cases, a chance for that same filmmaker to have the vindication of getting their preferred version released. This July will bring the Blu-ray release of one of the most notable director’s cuts of recent times: Zack Snyder’s R-rated version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It will be 30 minutes longer and reportedly contain violence that would have prevented it from getting the PG-13 rating necessary to allow younger viewers, who make up a sizable chunk of the audience for superhero cinema, to see it.
Not every film is that lucky. Below are some movies that didn’t end up in front of your eyeballs the way they were initially intended to. Seeing them as their makers wanted would be both entertaining and instructional.
Here are 13 Movies That Deserve A Director’s Cut On Blu-ray.
13. DREAM HOUSE
My Left Foot. In the Name of the Father. In America. What do they all have in common? They’re all critically acclaimed, award-nominated films from director Jim Sheridan. The guy knows how to make a picture. He’s versatile, too, having also directed 50 Cent’s semi-autobiographical drama Get Rich or Die Tryin’. In 2011, Sheridan attempted to make a thriller. The result was Dream House, in which Daniel Craig plays a writer who moves into a beautiful new home with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and their two young daughters. He learns that the previous owner, who brutally murdered his family in the house, has been released from a psychiatric hospital. This fact may explain why there’s a creepy-looking guy trolling around the backyard. Naomi Watts co-stars as the neighbor across the street who holds important information.
Problems with Dream House started on the set. Sheridan, who favors an improvisational approach with his actors that he believes leads to more authenticity, deviated from David Loucka’s screenplay. The unusual method clearly worked for the director in the past, but executives at Morgan Creek – the company financing the movie – didn’t like the results it yielded in this instance. Neither did test audiences. Reshoots took place, but they failed to calm anyone’s anxieties. Morgan Creek then took Sheridan’s footage and assembled their own cut, taking what was clearly intended to be a character-based suspense story and turned it into a routine chiller.
Sheridan tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the picture, which was both a critical and box office dud. Given the high quality of his previous work, it seems that Sheridan should be given the chance to show what he wanted to do with this amazing cast and atypical (for him) subject matter.
Walter Hill knows a thing or two about science-fiction, having been a producer on all the Alien movies. As a director, he made popular hits like The Warriors, 48 HRS, and Streets of Fire. His 2000 project Supernova was intended to be a dark sci-fi tale about a search-and-rescue patrol that finds itself in danger after rescuing a man who sneaks a weird alien artifact onto their ship. Hill lined up an impressive cast that included James Spader, Angela Bassett, and Robert Forster.
Trouble began when the studio, MGM, opted to test screen Supernova without finished special effects, much to Hill’s dismay. Not surprisingly, the feedback wasn’t good. Director Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2) was brought in for reshoots and re-editing. He altered the tone of Hill’s story, adding more humor and removing some of the character development. Sholder’s version tested better, but new MGM management still wasn’t happy. A year after shooting ended, Supernova was turned over to famed director Francis Ford Coppola, who attempted to cobble something together from the two previous versions. The troubled project was eventually dumped into theaters in January of 2000, where it promptly stiffed. The director was listed as “Thomas Lee.”
Hill has given some fairly uninhibited interviews about Supernova over the years, making it clear that his version would have been far more disturbing and unnerving than the fairly traditional sci-fi story that ended up onscreen. Since pretty much nobody liked the release version, there would be no harm in allowing Hill to reassemble his cut so we can see what should have been.
11. Fantastic Four
The drama behind Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four has been very well documented in the media. The short version is that Trank was reportedly indecisive and erratic on set. When the film evidently didn’t seem to be coming together the way the producers and studio 20th Century Fox envisioned, reshoots took place. They failed to resolve the problem, leading the suits in charge to assemble their own final cut of the superhero movie that was apparently not totally in sync with Trank’s vision. The director took to Twitter the night before the film’s release to trumpet the merits of his own cut. That tweet was quickly deleted, but not before multiple media outlets got a screenshot of it.
No matter how you cut it, Fantastic Four was a disaster. Critics savaged the film. It was a box office bomb, pulling in an anemic $56 million. Fans were displeased. At this point, there’s really nothing left to lose, so why not give Trank all the footage and allow him to reassemble his cut? Doing so would probably make sound financial sense. Given how widely discussed the movie’s poor reception was, a lot of people — particularly legions of comic book fans — would almost certainly pony up the dough for a DVD that allowed them to compare what Trank wanted to what Fox ultimately delivered. It might help recoup some of the losses.
10. All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was also a huge best-seller. Naturally, a feature film adaptation was eventually put into motion. But the movie audiences saw (or, given the weak $15 million gross, didn’t see) in 2000 was nowhere near as captivating. Billy Bob Thornton, making his first directorial effort since his acclaimed Sling Blade four years prior, was brought on by Miramax to helm the film. Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, and Bruce Dern were among the cast members. By all outward appearances, it looked to be a prestige film, and possibly an Oscar contender.
Thornton handed in his cut to Miramax. It was nearly four hours long. Studio head Harvey Weinstein, long saddled with the nickname “Harvey Scissorhands” due to his penchant of demanding trims of the movies his company planned to release, couldn’t abide by that length. All the Pretty Horses was cut down to just under two hours. In a Playboy interview later on, Damon openly bemoaned the film’s fate, saying that the depth and soul of the story were excised.
Thornton’s cut still exists, and there have been plans to restore it to DVD. The holdup is said to be composer Daniel Lanois, who wrote the original music score that Weinstein had replaced. Apparently still feeling the sting of that, he has reportedly refused to license his work for use in the director’s cut. In the end, Lanois is a brilliant composer and Thornton apparently had a grand vision for All the Pretty Horses. It’s time for everyone to make nice and let the world see whether the uncut version is a masterpiece.
9. Superman Returns
On the list of Bad Ideas That Probably Seemed Great at the Time, Superman Returns would have to be somewhere near the top. Bryan Singer’s film about the Man of Steel was designed to be an homage to the Richard Donner Superman movie from 1978. Singer even went so far as to hire an actor, Brandon Routh, who closely resembled Christopher Reeve. When audiences got a look at the finished product, the reactions were mixed, at best. The movie felt outdated and stale, especially coming just one year after Christopher Nolan’s dark, gritty Batman reboot Batman Begins.
By most accounts, Singer was not unduly pressured by Warner Brothers to do anything he was dramatically opposed to doing. That said, it became widely known that a major sequence was cut from Superman Returns. The original five-and-a-half minute opening scene was scrapped, despite the fact that it cost a reported $10 million to assemble. (You can watch that clip here.) The original DVD release contained a number of other deleted scenes, causing fans to wonder if Singer had a longer, better cut at some point. They even petitioned online for a director’s edition. That hasn’t happened, but it’s hard for Superman fans not to wonder how the film would have played with that elaborate opening — and perhaps a few other deleted scenes – reinserted.
8. Gangs of New York
Martin Scorsese is the kind of director who says “the release cut is the director’s cut.” That’s because he’s Martin Scorsese, and a cinematic genius, and no one can really tell him how to make a film. That said, Scorsese is also a professional who is willing to collaborate with studios to meet certain distribution demands. And collaborate he did on his Oscar-nominated 2002 epic Gangs of New York. Like All the Pretty Horses, the film was made for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax Films. Also like Horses, it was deemed too long. Scorsese’s original cut ran three hours and thirty-six minutes. Together, they spent a full year working, reportedly with some contention, to cut it down by an hour.
Several prominent film journalists got to see a workprint version that was twenty minutes longer than the theatrical version (i.e. one that ran about three hours), and the consensus among them was that it was a richer, fuller experience than what ultimately hit theaters. Scorsese publicly insisted that he was pleased with the release cut. Still, the man understands cinema like no other, so it would be amazing to have the opportunity to see the unabridged version. Any extra Scorsese footage is a master class in and of itself.
7. Jersey Girl
Kevin Smith made a name for himself with the raunchy R-rated comedies Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when he made Jersey Girl, a sweet PG-13 dramedy that didn’t seem at all targeted to his usual audience. The movie cast Ben Affleck as a widower struggling to take care of his young daughter as a single parent. Reviews were generally mixed, and the box office take of $25 million was unremarkable.
The real problem for Jersey Girl, though, had nothing to do with what was onscreen. Jennifer Lopez played Affleck’s doomed wife. They were a real-life couple whose relationship attracted a disproportionate amount of media attention, especially after starring together in the infamous box office bomb Gigli (which we’ll get to in a minute). Knowing that this small film couldn’t stand the weight of “Bennifer” baggage, Smith either opted or was pressured by Miramax to chop most of Lopez’s scenes. In the theatrically-released version, her performance amounts to little more than a cameo.
Smith has shown his preferred director’s cut in public a number of times over the years. By and large, it was warmly received by those who viewed it. The director additionally made multiple promises that it would hit DVD, although that has yet to happen. Given that Smith’s recent filmmaking efforts, Red State and Tusk, were not exactly among his finest work, now would be a good time for that director’s cut of Jersey Girl to drop.
So about Gigli…
Martin Brest is a celebrated filmmaker who scored with hits like Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run. His 2003 movie Gigli stars Jennifer Lopez as a lesbian criminal and Ben Affleck as a kind-hearted mobster. The story looks at how these characters forge a unique relationship when they’re forced to team up to kidnap a federal prosecutor’s mentally-challenged brother. Or at least it sort of does.
Brest feuded with Revolution Studios head Joe Roth about pretty much everything, including the movie’s tone, its third act, and even its marketing materials. Entire portions of Gigli were reshot, and the movie was recut six ways from Sunday. What eventually ended up onscreen felt like several different movies mashed together at random. Any sense of plot was virtually eliminated.
Given Brest’s track record, it’s pretty likely that he had a clear, if potentially non-commercial, idea in mind for Gigli. Now considered one of the worst movies of all time, it is due for an overhaul. Allowing Brest to put together his original vision for the film could vindicate him, and possibly change the way the world sees this infamous motion picture. He certainly has the time to do it; Brest hasn’t made a film since Gigli was released thirteen years ago.
5. American History X
Who doesn’t love the incredibly talented and versatile Edward Norton? Tony Kaye, that’s who. The music video director made his feature film debut with American History X, the story of a former Neo-Nazi skinhead trying to prevent his younger brother from following in his misspent footsteps. It was a bold, ambitious, potentially controversial story — certainly a big step for a first-time filmmaker. Added to the mix was the fact that Norton was, by this point, already a star and Oscar nominee (for Primal Fear). Moreover, he was a star with some strong opinions about his own work.
By Kaye’s account, shooting went smoothly. The trouble started when he submitted his cut. The studio, New Line, and Norton both gave the director “notes” following the first test screening. Kaye went back to the drawing board, delivering a second, substantially different cut. He liked it more than his first cut. New Line didn’t. Neither did the star. At this point, the studio brought in another editor to take a pass at the film, with direct input from Norton. An enraged Kaye tried to take his name off the film, demanding that the directorial credit go to “Humpty Dumpty.” He lost that bid. Meanwhile, American History X went on to garner critical raves, while earning Norton another Oscar nomination.
In an interview with The Guardian, Kaye described his cut as “a hard, fast, 95-minute rough diamond of a picture.” The release version, on the other hand, was twenty-five minutes longer, with Norton “generously [giving] himself more screen time.” American History X has seen its reputation grow in the years since its theatrical release. Maybe it is time to allow Kaye’s version to be seen. It would settle once and for all the issue of who was right and who was wrong in this famous Hollywood battle.
4. Alien 3
The producers of Alien 3 must feel really stupid. They hired David Fincher, a noted music video director, to helm the third installment in the popular franchise. It was his first feature. Faced with an unfinished screenplay and high-pressure deadlines designed to allow the film to come out during the lucrative summer season, Fincher tried valiantly to put his own stamp on the material while still delivering something that fit squarely into the series. What he turned in was dark, moody, and unsatisfactory to those in charge. Desperate to save the franchise, the producers and studio 20th Century Fox took Alien 3 away from Fincher. They released their own cut into theaters in May of 1992, where it was met with weak business and generally negative reviews.
Fincher has since gone on to become one of the most revered filmmakers on the planet, having demonstrated his skills on everything from Seven to Fight Club to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. With that in mind, it would make total sense for the producers and Fox to finally allow Fincher to show what he had in mind with Alien 3. A so-called “Assembly Cut” that reinstates more than 35 minutes of footage is available in the Alien Quadrilogy box set, but that doesn’t count because Fincher did not supervise it. The holdup here is likely to be the director himself. He has long refused to comment on Alien 3 or have anything to do with its DVD releases. Those responsible for removing him from the project would be smart to extend an olive branch and see if they can get him to let bygones be bygones. The world needs to see what an Alien movie from the great David Fincher really looks like.
Speaking of the Alien franchise, original director Ridley Scott came back to this fictional world with Prometheus. Scott coyly denied that the film was a prequel to his 1979 classic, although he did allow that it took place “in the Alien universe.” That little nugget displeased some hardcore fans of the series, who hoped that Prometheus would draw more fully-formed connections to the original than it did. The Alien DNA was visible onscreen, yet the movie often forged its own path.
20th Century Fox asked Scott to do a director’s cut for the DVD and Blu-Ray, reincorporating about 30 minutes of unused footage. (They had previously convinced him to insert a couple new scenes for a theatrical re-release of Alien, despite the fact that he preferred the picture as it was.) Scott refused to cooperate, insisting that everything he left out was done so for good cause. He liked Prometheus just fine. It’s hard to argue with an esteemed director who is satisfied with the work he delivered. Still, Alien fans would no doubt love to see an “alternate” version of Prometheus that associates more closely with the original. It’s not something we need, but it’s certainly something that would fascinating on a compare-and-contrast level.
Most people who have seen it would agree that Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy didn’t need to be remade. The 2003 South Korean revenge drama is considered to be one of the finest examples of its kind. Nevertheless, Spike Lee decided to give it a whirl. He assembled a fine cast, including Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley. Lee and Brolin worked tirelessly to not only replicate Oldboy‘s most famous sequence — a long, uninterrupted fight scene in which the lead character lays waste to a horde of bad guys with a hammer — but also to outdo it.
Lee’s film clocked in at three hours, which was a full hour longer than its source material. The studio felt that it was too hard a sell at that length, so they chopped eighty minutes from Oldboy. (For perspective, that’s about the length of the first Paranormal Activity movie.) Perhaps most painful of all was that they shortened the fight sequence everyone had worked so hard on.
It’s true that Spike Lee’s movies can be hit or miss. For every masterpiece like Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, there’s an ambitious misstep such as She Hate Me or Girl 6. But the idea of a master filmmaker remaking another master filmmaker’s most revered work is inherently intriguing. Lee’s Oldboy needs a director’s cut DVD so we can study how one dark, violent story can be interpreted differently by two skilled directors.
1. Pootie Tang
Pootie Tang opened on June 29, 2001. No matter how you slice it, the movie got dumped hard by Paramount. It played in only 712 theaters, with almost no promotion or publicity whatsoever. The opening weekend gross was just $1.5 million. Critics savaged it, with the venerable Roger Ebert declaring that the 81-minute (including end credits) Pootie Tang was “not in a releasable condition.” Even under the best of circumstances, it’s a bizarre film. The story is a sort-of spoof of Blaxploitation pictures, featuring a hero who is unintelligible. “Cole me down on the panny sty” is just one of his notable quotes.
There’s a reason why Pootie Tang deserves a director’s cut DVD perhaps more than any other movie on this list. Paramount didn’t have faith in the vision of the film’s writer/director, Louis CK. According to him, they wanted “Austin Powers for black people” and tried to cut the film to fit that mold. In the years since, Louis CK has gone on to become a wildly successful comedian and actor, responsible not only for some of the most hilarious stand-up specials ever, but also the beloved TV series Louie. His immense popularity virtually demands a director’s cut so his multitude of fans can see Pootie Tang come to its full comedic fruition.
As it stands, the movie is a mess, albeit one with many individually brilliant moments. A comic mind as sharp as Louis CK’s certainly had a bigger plan for Pootie. Not only do we clamor for a director’s cut, we’d even offer the suggestion that the Criterion Collection give Pootie Tang its own special edition release, complete with bonus features. Now that would be a real wa da tah to the shamma cow!
Are there any other movies you think are deserving of a director’s cut DVD? Tell us which ones in the comments.
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