Cut!

Because the recent discovery of a complete 1927 print of METROPOLIS has set cinephile hearts everywhere reeling with the promise of What Else Is Out There? I thought it’d be fun to compile a list of my favored lost cuts of dream films. Except for KING KONG, these are in no particular order as I’d kill for any of them. Feel free to add on your own missing masterpieces:

KING KONG – If I had a time machine, I would go back immediately to 1933 and physically stop producer Merian C. Cooper from shearing a majority of KING KONG’s animation. At least I’d demand he make a print for history. But Cooper, God bless ‘im, probably would have laughed and blown pipe smoke in my face. Nonetheless, the first cut of Kong included such Willis O’Brien stop-motion miracles as a Kong versus triceratops battle; a snake that threatens Ann Darrow when she’s pinned under the tree; and most famously, a styracosaurus that traps the crew-men on a log over a ravine, followed by Kong shaking them off into the pit below, where they are horribly attacked by giant spiders, lizards and other bizarre critters. This famous scene was only shown at a test screening, where patrons allegedly screamed and fainted. Cooper thought it “stopped the show” and cut the spider pit sequence thereafter, showing his salty dog producer’s cred by likely burning the footage. But that was not all that was sheared. After Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow escape from Kong’s mountaintop lair, the ape angrily chases them down the face of Skull Mountain, replete with misty waterfalls (the photos of this are awesome). Other cuts include Kong jumping from building to building in New York and a comical encounter with a group of poker players. I think of all that lost stop-motion footage and I weep. Amazingly, one of the spiders survived the decades and here it is:

spider1

EASY RIDER – The original five hour cut of the 1969 film would have been a motorcycle epic. The opening showed Captain America and Billy performing in a Los Angeles stunt show (their real jobs), being ripped off by the promoter; getting in a biker fight; picking up women at a drive-in; cruising to and escaping from Mexico to score the cocaine they sell to Phil Spector. And that’s just the start of their journey. I’d love to see their encounter with the black motorcycle gang and extended versions of all the campfire scenes and especially the truncated Madam Tinkertoy sequence. John Phillip Law told me Dennis Hopper showed him the first cut and Law loved it. When I asked Henry Jaglom if the footage still exists, he cryptically said, “Somebody has it.” Apparently Columbia Pictures has the negatives and were even sued by Bert Schneider, the producer, to get them back. Can you imagine a five hour Road Show Version of EASY RIDER? I sure do.

1-1THE WIZARD OF OZ – Yes, I’d love to see more of those shorn musical numbers, like the extended “If I Only Had A Brain”dance sequence especially the infamous “Jitterbug” sequence with our heroes getting hassled by some flying, buzzing creatures. Too bad nobody thought to save such expensive footage.

CASINO ROYALE – No, not more scenes of Bond on cell phones or playing Texas Hold ’em. I’m talking about the 1967 big budget comedy version of Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel. Since producer Charles Feldman (WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?) owned the rights to only one Bond book, he knew he couldn’t compete with Connery. So he made an epic 1960’s mess that people like me love for all the excess. CASINO ROYALE had five directors, including John Houston, Val Guest, Kenneth Hughes among others, with writing contributions from Billy Wilder, Terry Southern, Ben Hecht and Woody Allen. The result is like five disparate parody films at the height of Bond-mania. Some of it is not so funny, but it’s watchable as hell, if only for the wild cast of David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, etc. etc. etc. And the music by Herb Albert is swinging loungecore at its finest. Not to mention the entire Mata Bond sequence directed by Ken Hughes is fantastic. Joanna Pettet plays Mata Bond with perfect sexy camp and steals the movie from all the other male 007’s. Directed in psychedelic expressionist style, Hughes captures the fun and cleverness of the Bond world in a way the rest of the film cannot. Despite that, massive cuts include much of Peter Seller’s already limited role after he walked off the set; many action scenes, including those around Dr. Noah’s island; and the fate of Vesper (Ursula Andress). It’s likely the footage is in some vault, possibly in the Feldman estate, but it would take an evil genius like Blofeld to pursue this mad dream of the deleted CASINO ROYALE scenes.

A NEW LEAF – Elaine May’s writing/directorial debut with Walter Matthau was a hit for Paramount in 1971, but only history will know if it would have been better in its three-hour version, cut by Robert Evans against May’s wishes, who disowned the film.

ANHEDONIA – Before it became ANNIE HALL, Woody’s first cut in 1975 was over two hours and was a completely different film. Allen is one of those directors who often radically changed his films in post-production, re-shooting scenes or even re-hiring actors. There’s a treasure trove of excised scenes from all of his movies that we’ll probably never see, from the black widow mating bit with Louise Lasser and Allen in spider costumes in EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK to Sean Young’s role in CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS to all of Michael Keaton as the lead in PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO. But ANHEDONIA would have played like Allen’s 8 1/2, a gag stream of consciousness that included such moments as a sci-fi parody of Los Angeles body snatchers; an elevator visit to Hell (cannibalized for DECONSTRUCTING HARRY); and Woody bonding with his jail mates after being arrested, among dozens of other scenes. Ralph Rosenbaum, Allen’s editor, said that version only existed briefly and no print was struck. He said it was hilarious and brilliant, but didn’t come together as a narrative until they started focusing on Diane Keaton as Annie Hall. What’s odd is that if you check out the lobby cards for the film, every single image is from the discarded sequences. Damn.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES – One of Walt Disney Studio’s big box-office failures from 1983 was a much different creature in its first cut. Director Jack Clayton (THE INNOCENTS) eschewed the “state of the art” spfx much in demand to present Ray Bradbury’s great novella using mood and suggestion, a deadly combo in the neon 80’s cinema. The Disney brass removed the Georges Delerue score for a more upbeat James Horner one, added dozens of new effects including giant spiders and animated lighting, and inserted a new opening and prologue. The film’s most expensive effect, a two minute computer animated sequence of Mr. Dark’s train and carnival arriving at midnight, was scrapped right before the premiere as the CG technology was too distracting from the live-action. Fortunately, I still have the great issue of Cinefantastique that details the unmaking of SWTWC, including a double page, color breakdown of the nifty CG train and carnival images — which I’ve never seen published since.

THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED – The Jerry Lewis infamous Holocaust Clown epic was filmed in 1969-71, although it was not fully completed due to lack of funding and the fact that Lewis never bothered to purchase the rights to the novel. Once the authors saw the result, they refused to sell him the rights. Ouch. This is certainly one of the most desired of all “lost” films, and only a privileged few have seen the footage, including Harry Shearer, who described it as “a black velvet painting of Auschwitz.” Here is the only available footage. I have the script replete with Lewis footnotes, and I don’t know if I could take the sight of Lewis as a grumpy clown in a concentration camp, pissing ice cubes because of the cold weather. But I would try.

THE PLAGUE – This is a cautionary tale. Not just the film, but the story of what happens after the film is made. Hal Masonberg and Teal Minton sold their horror script THE PLAGUE to Armada Pictures (although Screen Gems came on as financier/distributor without their knowledge) in 2002, and thanks to Masonberg’s vivid animatic storyboards along with the fact that the pair would not sell the screenplay without him as director, the film was greenlit. Not bad for a 3.5 million dollar Clive Barker production, although this film is far removed from the typical Barker film and ultimately became part of the post-production woe. And THE PLAGUE is a cautionary horror tale, the story of what happens when the children of the world fall into a comatose slumber. Sadly, this is where the story becomes archetypal as the director was barred from the editing room as the producers sought to make a more expedient version. Whole scenes were altered through obvious editing rather than the connective visual strands of Masonberg’s cut. Worse, even Dee Wallace-Stone’s part was truncated to shots of her in peril screaming. Since the cinematographer is the legendary Bill Butler (JAWS and THE CONVERSATION) this is particularly unfair as the chainsaw editing has altered the film’s entire visual design along with the directorial subtlty. Masonberg has been very pro-active trying to get his version released and is building up a network of support from those who have seen his version of THE PLAGUE. You can sign a petition here and find a wealth of information, plus a revealing documentary featuring interviews with Dee Wallace-Stone, other cast members, and noted genre experts (including this humble writer). It’s worth a look and worthy to get the word out to preserve the writer/director’s unique, unsettling vision.

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES – By 1970, the waning days of the Road Show movie epics, studios were losing big bucks on elephantine lumbering three-hour “spectaculars” such as DR. DOOLITTLE; STAR!; DARLING LILI; GOODBYE MR. CHIPS; PAINT YOUR WAGON and many more. It’s no surprise that Paramount got cold feet on one of Billy Wilder’s most elegiac, interesting films and cut out at least an hour before its lackluster 1970 release. In its original form, TPLOSH contained two more mini-versions of Holmes’ deductive adventures, only small portions of which were recovered for the recent DVD release.

SMOKEY IS THE BANDIT – Believe it or not, the third sequel to 1977’s beloved SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT was actually filmed with Jackie Gleason in dual roles not only as Bufurd T. Justice — but as The Bandit, replete with mustache and cowboy hat. There seems to be no earthly reason for this stunt casting, save that Gleason’s ego was so enormous he thought he could pull it off. Maybe he did, but preview audiences in 1983 were so befuddled (or annoyed) that all of his scenes as The Bandit were re-shot with Jerry Reed impersonating the trucker hero, though Burt Reynolds makes a cameo in a strange dream sequence. If this crazed version had been released, SKIDOO might have had a run for its bizarro money. Allegedly, the only print in existence resides among the Gleason estate.

BACK TO THE FUTURE – It’s not that I love this 1985 film, as I think it’s extremely likable and clever, a pop 80’s classic, albeit filled with Reagan-era propaganda, but I would love to see the footage shot with Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly, who was enlisted to star after Michael J. Fox was unable to get out of his FAMILY TIES schedule. So at least 60 percent of BTTF was shot with Stoltz as a decidedly more hip and edgy McFly. Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg felt that while he was obviously a terrific actor, he played the role too “intense” without Fox’s engaging amiability. Once Fox was free of FAMILY TIES, Zemeckis personally fired Stoltz. Sadly, the producers chose to not include any of this footage for the DVD releases, at least for now. But if you want to see dozens of shots of Stoltz in action, check out this video. McFly!

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23 Responses to “Cut!”

  1. halmasonberg Says:

    You rock! Thanks for including THE PLAGUE.

  2. Great post.

    Hands down I’d have to go with Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed.

    Cut down from nearly 8 hours, the current version runs about 2:15. Supposedly 32 reels of negatives were melted down by MGM to recover the silver nitrate.

  3. halmasonberg Says:

    I suppose my top choice for a restoration of lost footage (yes, even over my own film!) would be Orson Welles’ THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. Originally 131 minutes long, the film was butchered in Welles’ absence (he was in South America at the time). Entire scenes were re-shot with a different director, many others entirely scrapped, and a happier ending tacked on. The released version was (and still remains) 88 minutes long. Even in its truncated and bastardized cut, one can see the masterpiece that almost was, especially in the earlier scenes which have been far less altered than the film’s second half. A print was thought to have been sent to Welles in South America, but no one has ever found it and many consider it rumor. In my most cherished dreams, this missing footage is found.

  4. Karl Holzheimer Says:

    An emphatic “Yes!” to all the above. But in the “be careful what you ask for” mode, let’s not forget Mr. Coppola’s own “The Complete Novel” cut of THE OUTSIDERS which completely destroys the pace of the film while illuminating some lost plot points. I’s love to see Mankiewwicz’s first cut of CLEOPATRA. I know that this is not many people’s favorite film (nor is it mine), but I’d sure like to see his original intention. I’d also love to see the roadshow versions of SOUTH PACIFIC and THE SAND PEBBLES not just the faded remnants (which of course I’m grateful for) of the excised scenes. And all the footage removed from Cukor’s A STAR IS BORN still hasn’t been found.

  5. christian Says:

    I was going for a more obscure list of lost films but of course GREED and AMBERSONS would be on the big list. Can one imagine an 8 hour cut of GREED? Or Griffith’s INTOLERANCE?

    But I’m thinking of oddball things like ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER (1970) another Road Show fatality, an hour cut out including most of Jack Nicholson’s part and even his hippie guitar song to Barbara Streisand!

    Then there’s SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE, whose French director was fired and replaced by Lamont Johnson and whole scenes re-shot. The same fate befell ENEMY MINE, much of which was shot with a different director and make-up etc.

  6. I agree with your list, but have to correct you in one area; Eric Stoltz hasn’t ‘denied’ them use of the ‘BTTF’ footage- I work for his management company- they have never asked him or his agency (CAA) or us for any permission. The fact is that when he signed the contract to make the film, he signed over all rights for all footage in perpetuity to Universal and Amblin Films Inc.
    I told Mr. Stoltz about your post, and he was flattered that you thought he had such power! But the reality is that they get actors to sign away everything upfront.

  7. christian Says:

    Mark, thank you so much for that lightning quick response. I will amend the piece to the facts. I thought I had read an interview with Bob Gale that Mr. Stoltz had some kind of refusal rights. But I found this recent interview with Gale here: http://darkcommandos.typepad.com/voices_from_krypton/2007/07/back-to-the-f-1.html
    Gale does indeed confirm it was their choice. Obviously, I am a fan of Eric’s work and it would be cine-historical to see that footage. Thanks again for stopping by.

  8. Sometimes I just sashay past and I don’t post anything because I don’t have anything concrete to contribute.

    Let’s just say it goes by degrees…

    Until someone in this thread mentioned the 1954 version of A STAR IS BORN, I had completely forgotten about it. I own that and I adore it beyond all measure. As much as I admire GRACE KELLY (and thought she was magnificent in THE COUNTRY GIRL), JUDY was ROBBED. She is such a powerhouse in that. She takes it right to the wall.

    There are very few performers that could pull you into a song like JUDY could and her acting is just superb. Even for a card carrying feminist like me (I wouldn’t EVEN think of taking a man’s name – even if you put me in front of a firing squad) when she’s on that podium at the end and she says, “This is Mrs. Norman Maine,” I get chills.

    But it was a very different era…

    Since I became a regular moviegoer, ASIB has made the rounds. I never saw it in a theatre (to my deep regret) but a girl I worked with had a mom who went. She ate it up with a spoon. It hadn’t been properly restored at that point (and it hasn’t been to this day to my knowledge). So they just used stills and fades to gloss over the missing parts.

    It must’ve been a glorious experience regardless.

    I like LIZA a hell of a lot. She has much of her mama’s talent. She was amazing in CABARET. But it still annoys the living hell out of me that the industry passed JUDY over.

    I can’t help it. It’s just not right. Especially when GRACE married the prince anyway. DAMN IT TO HELL…

    As far as ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER goes, I’ve always been a huge BARBRA aficionado. I own that too. I knew that it was cut but I didn’t realize to what extent. I believe there is only one brief scene left of Jack where BARBRA introduces him to someone. Their characters dated but they were related by marriage. Well, Jack’s worn me down over time. He’s iconic. Lots of talent and charisma. I was never a fan so I don’t really miss his absence.

    But I do dig that flick. For a musical, it’s about as unorthodox as they come and very much of the period. I never got why they cast Monsieur Montand, though.

    HE CAN’T EVEN SING. There is a coldness and a detachment about that man that I find rather irritating. I heard that he broke MARILYN MONROE’S heart and that he was awfully mean to her. That does seem rather likely.

    But the ending always gets to me. It’s ingenious and it makes me think. So BARBRA and Monsieur Montand don’t end up together. BUT THEY ACTUALLY DO.

    It’s great….

    I was born much too late. I missed all the road show musicals. But I guess there will be always be something else.

    Right around the corner.

    Brilliant insights and gorgeous writing as always, Christian. Your particular brand of awesomeness is inspiring…

  9. Great post, Christian.

    Ok, ok, I’ll be the guy to say that an 8 hour cut of GREED would be miserable. I’d sit through the entire thing, brag about it to my cinephile friends, but probably begin to hate the experience somewhere around the 4 hour mark.

    I’m sure it would be a wonderful find for film historians the world over, I’m just saying…

  10. christian Says:

    Yes, GREED would have to be devoured over the course of three nights, which would work fine.

    I should have also put down the premiere Road Show version of IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, which Robert Harris has been trying to restore for years. Most of the footage has been found but there’s still some missing stuff.

    Miranda, I’m a big fan of Judy and Liza, and I would love to see the STAR IS BORN footage. I’m a sucker for the Road Show films. But you’re right, ON A CLEAR DAY is out of whack with Yves Montand, who’s a bland cypher in the film and terribly miscast. But the musical number that I really want to see that was cut from OACDYCSF was a futuristic scene set in Central Park. O the humanity!

    I also should have mentioned I’LL SAY ANYTHING, the James Brooks musical from 1994 that had all of the musical numbers (songs by Prince) CUT, a movie first.

  11. ISA had songs BY PRINCE???????????????????!

    Oh no.

    *sigh*

    That makes me sad….

  12. christian Says:

    Preview audiences started laughing at the first song sung by Julie Kavner and it was all over…

    My cool sister Lynn emailed me this:

    “I was checking out your cut scenes wish list the other day, and I’ve always wanted to see the bathtub scene that was cut from The Seven Year Itch (apparently ’cause the studio didn’t think it apropo to show MM in a bubble bath). Also a whole scene that was re-done because she was wearing a shorts outfit that again, was too suggestive for Fox. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, there were two dance numbers cut from the film that I would love to see, but I don’t know if the film was even saved. And the famous pink dress from “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” was not the original costume (again, it was too “hot”) but I don’t know if they actually filmed the number in the cut costume, but there are stills that show her wearing the completed ensemble.

    And of course that damn spider pit scene from King Kong, the granddaddy of all cut scenes, I think.”

    I would also add that I’m glad I got to see all the Marilyn footage edited together for SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE. It’s amazing how easy MM was able to fit into the burgeoning 60’s era cool. She’s great in the clips and positively glowing. The movie is an enormous trifle tho.

  13. I’ve really got nothing to add, but *Damn*. Great post, Christian. Like you, I’d be interested in the five-hour cut of Easy Rider, even if it might have been something of a mess, it would be something to see.

    Somehow, I’ve always felt like Woody Allen has continually been trying to make up for losing Anhedonia by cannibalizing parts of it (such as the elevator to hell in Deconstructing Harry and from what I hear at least a couple of scenes he used for Stardust Memories), Fellini-izing, 8-1/2-izing certain films to make amends for losing that.

    Love the poking at Bond using a cell and playing Texas Hold ‘Em in the ’06 Casino Royale. I’d love to see all of the things you describe from the ’67 version.

    And the spider scene in King Kong! Yeah…

    The Magnificent Ambersons, I fear, is beyond saving from sheer mutilation.

  14. I would have commented earlier but I finally ran out of adrenaline. I can only prowl the magnificent jungle for so long before it hits me. Then I return to the lions’ den and awake refreshed and ready for battle.

    Now that I’m finally running on all cylinders….

    I do recall hearing a while back that ISA had all of its songs cut. What I DIDN’T REMEMBER (or likely didn’t hear) was that they were PRINCE songs.

    But then the original BATMAN (1989) had two separate soundtracks released. Someone told me this and I had it confirmed. There was the DANNY ELFMAN score and then the PRINCE collection of songs. I own the movie (the score as well on CD) and, as far as memory goes – I’ve only seen that a billion times at home – the only PRINCE song actually used in the film is SCANDALOUS, which plays over the closing credits. BATDANCE was a fairly big single but it was never used in the picture.

    I guess THE PURPLE BOY had a superior contract for that one…?

    Your sister Lynn is not only cool. She’s a goddess of the highest order. Intelligence and exquisite taste are a powerful combination any day of the week.

    Must be one of those genetic things, my fair Christian….

  15. Alexander, I agree that Woody might feelhe never got his 8 1/2 out there, but his films have always been Fellini-esque. Harlan Ellison once made the apt claim that Woody was one of our great fantasy filmmakers. A valid point if you look into it.

    Miranda, I know it’s tiring out there in the jungle. ISA also had Carly Simon songs, an odd patchwork. And in BATMAN, they do use a Prince song when the Joker is on parade in Gotham. But forgive me, I thought Prince should be nowhere near the Batman universe…

    And yes, my sister does take after me…ha!

  16. PARTY MAN. I forgot, Christian. DAMN……

    Will people continue to worship me if they know I’m not perfect…?

    *tosses blonde mane with impish grin*

    Hmmmm. I THINK so………………………………….

  17. christian Says:

    It’s okay M. It’s just a forgettable moment;] Altho I guess I get a Prince/Batman connection: the Joker wears purple…

  18. This is awesome. I’d have to see half of the movies you listed first, but yeah, this is still awesome.

    I guess we kind of take it for granted these days with DVDs and deleted scenes and making-ofs and 24-disc sets and so on.

  19. christian Says:

    Thanks Daniel. Which ones haven’t you seen?

    Because this has been the third most popular post since my blog started, i will be returning to this subject again…

  20. Aussie Boy Says:

    Correction: Burt Bacharach did the score for Casino Royale. Alpert performed some of the songs.

  21. christian Says:

    I was refering to the main theme written by HA. But the whole Bacharach score is a part of the whole too.

  22. halmasonberg Says:

    Just a follow-up here, I am in talks with the folks over at Sony Pictures about getting the distribution rights to THE PLAGUE back. While not one of the great “lost classics”, I do appreciate Christian placing it alongside such cinematic wonders mentioned above. Sony’s talking to me simply as a result of an e-mail campaign by fans who want to see the proper cut of the film released. We may need fans to step up again before all this is over. I’ll keep y’all posted. Thanks!

  23. Caligula Says:

    A couple years late, but I did want to comment in the Smokey IS the Bandit film. It’s been a big misunderstanding about that movie. Gleason doesn’t play two roles, the character of Smokey is the one who has to do the outrageous stunt in a bet with Big and Little Enos. In other words, he is now the Bandit. Watch the film again (if you can stomach it), and it becomes obvious. Audiences expected some tie to the other films, so they shot some stuff with Jerry Reed that doesn’t really fit into the story very well.

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