As a film fan and an inveterate reader I am fond of books about Hollywood. One of my favourites is Final Cut by Steven Bach, the definitive story of the making of the film Heaven’s Gate and the consequent failure of United Artists film studios. I bought the paperback when it was first published back in 1986 and liked it so much that I insisted one of my good friends borrow it. Naturally, it was never returned. A couple of weeks ago the book came up in conversation with my daughter. She didn’t know the book or the film and I suggested she should attempt to get hold of both. Being the wonderful father that I am, I hunted down two copies of Final Cut on ABE books (one for her and one for me) and bought a copy of the movie on ebay.
My original conversation had been related to the original release of the film. The director, Michael Cimino, who had been allowed more than enough rope to hang himself – due to the success of his previous film, The Deerhunter – had indeed hung himself and just about everyone connected to the project. He delivered a 325 minute cut of the film which the studio insisted be cut down to 219 minutes for release. That version ran for one week. An alternate 149 minute cut was then released – I heard that this was pretty much unwatchable as it re-ordered scenes and left more than half Cimino’s film on the cutting room floor.
But certain critics who saw the director’s cut of the film pronounced it a possible masterpiece. I saw this version on TV at least three times and thought the critics might just be right. It had its problems – a muddy soundtrack for instance – but it was a magnificent film on so many levels.
Anyway, I got my books from ABE and both my daughter and I are reading our copies – a bit battered but the words are all there and in the right order and it’s as good as I remembered. The DVD I bought also arrived the other day. It’s branded as an MGM product – I suppose someone had to claim the red-headed step-child but I thought MGM was a little ironic (check the tangled histories of MGM and UA) but the ultimate irony kinda kicked me in the teeth when I glanced at the back of the box where it proudly proclaims the running time as 144 minutes – a mere five minutes less than the unwatchable print released into theatres.
I’m almost afraid to watch it. I’m certainly apprehensive of destroying any shreds of credibility I may have by showing it to my daughter.