The 10 Better Cuts of Great Movies
There are plenty of unrated and director’s cut DVDs chilling out on the shelves of the local big box store. Sadly, the majority of them are just a marketing ploys trying to separate you from your rapidly-shrinking entertainment budget. But the movies listed below actually benefited from another trip to the editing room.
Live Free or Die Hard: Unrated Edition
True fans of Bruce Willis’s classic action franchise let out a collective sigh of disgust when they found out the fourth installment was going to come with a toned down and obscenity-shy PG-13 rating. Willis and director, Len Wiseman, both went on record to express their discontent, even if they did later retract it. But when the unrated version hit the DVD rack, the amount of people bitching about it on the Internet was significantly reduced. They put back in all the cursing—which looked like it had been removed by an ape with Final Cut for the theaters—more violence and, most importantly, left McClean’s trademark, “Yippe kay yay, motherfucker,” intact. It would’ve been nice had they decided to release it on Bluray, but blood spurting and swearing are just as good in 480p as they are in 1080p.
Alien: The Ridley Scott Director’s Cut
Ridley Scott himself may disagree with us on this one, as he has been known to say that he actually likes the theatrical cut better than his own, but the deleted scenes that were left out of the original definitely add something good to an already incredible movie. The newer version is about half a minute shorter than the original, but has almost six-minutes of new stuff. Thankfully, he didn’t edit out any of the precious scenes with Sigourney is going all Alien Autopsy in nothing but her skivvies.
The Abyss: The Director’s Cut
James Cameron could make a couple of appearances here on this list, but the chop job he did to this underwater epic deserves to get called out on its own. Thanks to the art-hating jerks at the studio (kidding!), JC had to cut his original version by almost a half hour. In doing so he had to nix a whole Cold War sub-plot as well as an epic alternate ending that made the entire story, well, make sense. We would like to have been in the meeting when they said, “Let’s leave in the cheesy love story and take out the shots of the sweet-looking (at least for 1989) water aliens and the huge title waves that smash up New York City.”
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
This one isn’t without its fair share of controversy, but when it comes right down to it, Ridley’s final version is the best. The unicorn is back and the narration is gone, both of which are big pluses (we really love unicorns here at Screenjunkies), and the cheesy ending suckers saw in the theater gets gunned down like Pris in Sebastian’s apartment. The result is a movie that’s darker, and ultimately more satisfying. Not the same kind of satisfaction you’d get from a pleasure model replicant, but close.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Extended Edition
Its four-hour and twelve minute run time is enough to make casual fans and hobbit haters’ magic wands shrivel with fear, but all that added footage really does make a difference. You get to see Aaragorn cut a deal with the undead to use their ships. You get to see the aftermath of the destruction of Isengard. You’re actually given a reason to like Faramir. There’s even an avalanche of skulls, all of which helps the movie make sense to people who didn’t give up on losing their virginities to commit the books to memory. Of course they could’ve made it even better by lopping 45-minutes off of the end, but that’s a whole different article…
The Descent: The Original Version
Like a lot of people here in the US, I was actually really getting behind The Descent as a genuinely creepy and exciting horror movie. I went with a friend who is mildly claustrophobic and I thought he was going to leave a puddle under his seat. But the last two seconds of the film, in which SPOILER ALERT Sarah’s supposedly dead friend Juno inexplicably appears in the passenger seat of the jeep with tears of blood dripping down her face, are more confusing than they are scary. The reason is because the original UK cut of the film cuts back to Sarah who is still in the cave, having hallucinated the entire escape. The official reason for leaving it out is because US audiences didn’t like an ending that implied the main character gets torn apart like a tray of cinnamon buns at John Goodman’s house. The real reason probably has something to do with the sequel that is reportedly being developed.
Bad Santa: The Director's Cut
The original unrated release, which was titled Badder Santa, seemed like an improvement over the original thanks to its 7 extra minutes of footage, but somehow the cut that director, Terry Zwigoff put together managed to be both better and shorter than its chubbie brothers. It sounds like a total film-douche thing to say, but there is noticeable difference in the movie’s pace, making it seem both leaner and meaner. Lots of people missed out on this version because it’s easily confused with the unrated version, but if you buy the Bluray, you get both. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them to do another special release for the holiday that comes with a commemorative wooden pickle.
The Outsiders: The Complete Novel
The original cut of the movies is a total classic, but the book has been known to totally blow the minds of kids forced to read it in school. Francis Ford Coppola must have realized that fact, because he recut his cult classic version of the film with more than 20-extra minutes of footage that made it a much closer adaptation of the novel. He even tried to modernize the music, which may have been successful at the time, but comes off equally as buzzy and horrible when you watch it today. Plus, the whole thing is about 20% - 30% more Swayze-tastic, which is a word I just made up.
Payback: The Director’s Cut
Ask anyone who has seen both versions of the movie and they’ll almost inevitably tell you that Brian Helgeland’s cut is a lot “darker.” What does that mean, exactly? Well, for starters the dog, dies, there’s no voice-over (again, a good thing) and Kris Kristofferson never shows his handsome face. There’s still plenty of action and enough violence to make most moral decency groups frown into their crumpets, but it feels like a completely different movie. I guess when you reshoot a third of a film before releasing it to theaters, that kind of thing can happen.
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
Some people thought it was pretty ambitious when Richard Donner started shooting Superman and its sequel simultaneously back in 1977. Apparently they were right, since the studio handed Donner his walking papers half way through the filming of the second flick. They must not have understood how much money and time it took to get Superman’s bulge looking that perfect. Even though Donner’s cut doesn’t look as polished as the version Richard Lester rushed into theaters, it’s a better movie overall. He added the Marlon Brando scenes back in and took out most of the sight gags, including the big cellophane S that fanboys have been bitching about since the early eighties.