Ferocious 5 sheds light on a whole universe of pop and geek culture connections with bite-size lists. Explore topics, properties, fandoms you never knew existed in this article series on Bunkazilla.
Sometimes filmmakers and studios don’t necessarily see eye to eye. It’s a filmmaking way of life and that means original visions aren’t always fulfilled first time around.
In a rare occurrence, now and then, director’s cuts of previously released films give filmmakers the chance to revisit their work and produce a new edit of the movie that aligns with their original intentions. These edits sometimes bring a new lease of life and appreciation of the films.
So this edition of Ferocious 5 takes a look at five films that had extensive director’s cuts. You might look at one of these films in and completely different light.
Touch of Evil (1958)
One of Orson Welles’ landmark titles, this black and white noir film saw Charlton Heston set out to discover the truth about a car bombing that has killed a wealthy American businessman. It’s not an easy task as his wife (Janet Leigh) is kidnapped and his investigations are also running into the continuous brick wall that is Orson Welles as a fellow American cop.
It is fondly remembered for bringing one of cinema’s astonishing opening scenes, a one-shot take showing the car bombing taking place.
Orson’s final studio film did have a rough ride as the film’s original release compromised from Welles’ vision. Welles issued a memo to the studio following his disagreement over the studio’s rough-cut outlining changes he felt had to be made. While some points were acted on for the original release, it was still considered a studio version and not Welles’.
It was only in 1998, Universal Studios produced a reconstructed version of the film that takes Welles’ memo and created a film that closely resembled the legendary filmmaker’s vision for the film.
Thanks to Eureka’s Masters of Cinema range, you can see both these versions – in different aspect ratios too – on Blu-Ray.
Blade Runner (1982 – 2007)
Is there any film more associated with director’s cut than Blade Runner?
The sci-fi noir starring Harrison Ford as Deckard, a blade runner who is tasked with finding and terminating a group of illegal androids known as replicants. Blade Runner is a cult sci-fi classic but audiences had to deal with a variety of different visions of the film.
Following test scores and studio opinion, the original US Theatrical Cut that hit cinema screens and included Harrison Ford narration to help audiences understand the narrative. Plus a happy feel-good ending for everyone. Suffice to say, Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford were not fans of this version. It’s International release the same year would be similar to that original US theatrical cut but has a few more violent scenes.
In 1992, the film’s workprint 70mm print was discovered and Warner Brothers decided to promote the discovery as a “Director’s Cut” and booked several screenings. However, when Scott informed them that this wasn’t his cut of the movie the screenings were pulled. But the popularity of interest in the screenings prompted the studio to assemble a definitive director’s cut of the film – with notes provided by Scott.
For the 1992 version, those voice-over narrations were gone. So was the “Happy Ending”. But it did include a newly instated unicorn dream sequence. It was a little bit closer to a director’s vision – though Ridley Scott still didn’t have 100% control of the edit.
He would finally get that chance for the film’s Final Cut in 2007. This final version of the film, worked on by Scott himself, improved sequences and effects, contained the original full-length unicorn dream, plus the additional violence and edits from the international cut were added.
A full rundown of all the edits across all versions can be found on the film’s IMDB entry. Thankfully, the editing nightmare Scott’s film endure did not happen to Denis Villeneuve’s highly-acclaimed sequel.
Out of the films listed in this article, Payback is a fascinating entry as it truly embodies the moniker here of being a completely different movie in its director’s cut.
Payback is a crime revenge tale with Mel Gibson playing Porter, a seemingly low-level thief who has been doubled crossed and left for dead. The film charts his attempts to get his revenge and collect the $70,000 he is owed. If only things were that simple…
After the initial shoot and original cut were delivered, the studio and Gibson (producer) were concerned about the film’s success following poor test scores. The film’s director, Brian Helgeland, found it hard to implement the proposed changes and departed the film. Payback would go on to reshoots ahead of its 1999 release and a bit a moderate success.
In 2005, Helgeland was permitted to return to the film and complete his original cut of the movie. The process of rebuilding the film from the negatives to composing new music accompaniments are chronicled in the film’s current blu-ray release which allows viewers to watch both versions of the film.
So what’s different about Helgeland’s version? Well, substantially quite a bit. The most notably this cut of the film has a completely different opening and finale and the film’s blue steel tinted look reversed. Some characters from the original version – like Kris Kris Kristofferson’s head honcho – don’t even appear. Dive deeper and subtler differences in the film can be found in the presentation of Porter. Helgeland’s cut presents the protagonist as a more sociopathic and unapologetic thug. At a period when Mel Gibson was adored by audiences with his roguish charm, prior to his public controversies, this was definitely not a role his fans would have fully invested in as the test scores revealed.
Having remembered watching the film a few times in my youth, Helgeland’s cut shifts the film’s tone more in line with 70s, early 80s style grimy crime flicks. Both versions are perfectly watchable. It depends on how you want to enjoy Payback. You can have it ice cool but quirky or a dirty no-holds-barred revenge tale.
(Note, the trailer above – despite labelled as Director’s Cut – is actually just showing the original theatrical version of Payback)
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Ridley Scott makes a second appearance on the list! This time we’re going on a historical crusade.
Ridley Scott attempted to recapture the magic that his roman epic, Gladiator, achieved with this medieval epic focusing on the crusades. Orlando Bloom plays a wayward knight looking for purpose and journeys to Jerusalem – eventually ending up as one of the key defenders of the city.
Unfortunately, the film didn’t hit the same success as Gladiator and was – in its original form – a bit of a forgetful affair and one with a short-lived cinema run despite reliable direction from Scott and the cast including Eva Green, Liam Neeson and a masked Edward Norton. The film would find a new lease of life on DVD & Blu-Ray with its unique director’s cut a year later in 2006.
Taking the idea of epic literally, like Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven added 45 minutes of new material to the film. Scott also brought in an overture, intermission and an entr’acte to help build the atmosphere of the film.
The film, in this format, feels more appropriately fleshed out with new scene additions that fill in some of the plot holes, there’s also an extra subplot for Eva Green’s character, Sibyalla, and more graphic violence in the battle scenes. Overall, it feels like a complete cinematic experience that is worth giving a go if you haven’t seen the movie yet or haven’t seen it in years.
Even in this final form, Kingdom of Heaven still doesn’t quite live up to the success of Scott’s Gladiator but is a treat for the director’s and the film’s fans. In that regard, it’s a no-brainer addition to your collection for sure.
Daredevil was a title that came during a peak comic book movie rampage in the 00s – way before the MCU was up and running. Sony and Fox were the two studios throwing out Marvel adaptations left, right and centre. While Fox had started this trend with X-Men, Sony was winning the plaudits and commercial success on Spider-Man. So, more Marvel characters would eventually get a chance on the big screen.
Enter Daredevil, the man without fear, played by Ben Affleck. The Daredevil movie ticks off a lot of established characters in the Daredevil universe, Jennifer Gardner plays love-interest Elektra, Colin Farrell would be the evil assassin Bullseye and – in inspired casting – the late Michael Clarke Duncan was Kingpin.
Daredevil did not come close to matching successes of X-Men and Spider-Man. But it certainly wasn’t the worst attempt at a superhero movie during this period of comic book movies. It just didn’t catch audiences’ attention and, to fans, some of it was just plain silly. At least it introduced me and the world to Bring Me To Life performed by Evanescence. I have a soft spot for the movie – though I’m more fond of the soundtrack and Farrell’s scene-chewing turn as Bullseye.
The director’s cut, released on DVD in 2005, doesn’t come tamed as the original cut did. Fights are longer, hard-hitting and quite brutal. Full-blown swearing is reinstated too – Bullseye gets his “f**king” costume at long last. There’s an additional subplot featuring rapper Coolio as a wrongfully accused client of Murdoc. As well as adding new scenes, this cut removes the fireplace love scene between Affleck and Gardner that generated quite a bit of cringe.
Daredevil’s Director’s Cut doesn’t necessarily present a mind-blowing new film but delivers a film that’s more faithful to Daredevil’s world. It’s my preferred version when revisiting the film. For die-hard fans of the character still wounded by the big-screen adaptation, his world would get a new lease of life thanks to Netflix’s acclaimed Daredevil series over a decade later.
As for Affleck, he would find some redemption in his portrayal of Batman in Batman vs Superman, which he seemed far more comfortable in.
That’s our list for now. Hope you enjoyed reading this edition of Ferocious 5. Let us know your thoughts and share any great director’s cuts you remember.
Until next time, stomp on monsters of culture, stomp on!