[editor’s note: this piece regarding unreleased director’s cuts comes to us from John Starling, reporter at large and man of leisure.]
However you feel about Zack Snyder’s films and whether or not you’re looking forward to seeing his much longer version of “Justice League,” there is one possible side benefit for film fans that could come out of this. If “Justice League”’s new release is considered a success on HBO Max, could it possibly encourage other studios to finally explore releasing long held back directors cuts of other films?
We decided to put together a wish list.
This is not a list of film versions that were never shot or never completed, that we wished we could see. So, not Edgar Wright’s “Ant-Man,” not “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” not Neill Blomkamp’s “Aliens” sequel film. This is also not a list of films with one or two cut scenes that we would love to see. This is for those films were a longer version exists (or is heavily rumored to exist) that for whatever reason, have not seen the light of day.
1. “Dune,” 1984
David Lynch has disowned this film over and over and it is unlikely that we will ever get an official director’s cut from him. But we know that a lot of footage was shot that never made it to theaters. The studio did release a longer cut on DVD with extra footage, but it was done without Lynch’s participation, and still did not include key scenes that were filmed by Lynch. Order “Dune” here.
2. “The Thin Red Line,” 1998
An enormous amount of footage was shot for Terrence Malick’s WW2 epic and many notable actors had their scenes cut entirely, or reduced to merely cameos. The story of the editing of the film is too long to recount here, but suffice it to say that some actors who had thought prominent lead roles in the film showed up to screenings only to find they basically weren’t in the movie at all. Actors who were basically cut from the movie include George Clooney, Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas, and Adrian Brody. Billy Bob Thornton recorded three hours of narration for the film, which was also scrapped. Rumor has it that there are enough cut scenes and storylines to create an entire second film. Order “The Thin Red Line” here.
3. “Babe: Pig In The City,” 1998
Even the current released version of this “children’s film” is dark and crazy (in the best possible way) and it’s safe to assume that this wasn’t what the studio had in mind after the first Babe was such a hit family film. But that’s the genius of George Miller (who took on directing duties of this sequel after producing the first one). Later he would go on to direct the very family-friendly (and very good) “Happy Feet,” but with “Babe 2,” he clearly still has one fit in his “Mad Max” darker style, with mind-bending results. A longer directors cut of this film is only a rumor, but watching the finished film, it’s easy to believe that a longer, even weirder, even darker cut exists. One tantalizing rumor is that there exists more scenes of Mickey Rooney’s creepy old clown character. And if you haven’t seen “Babe 2,” now you know that ol Rooney plays an unnerving old clown in it – you have to see it. Order “Babe: Pig in the City” here.
4. “Mad Max: Fury Road,” 2015
Speaking of the genius of George Miller, this is a film that still deserves a true extended edition. Only a small amount of deleted scenes appeared on the video release. The studio wanted a PG-13 film that was under 100 minutes. Miller wanted a rated R movie that was as long as it needed to be. Luckily, Miller mostly got his way and delivered the best action film of the decade which took home 6 Oscars. And, he even got to release a black and white version. However, much footage (some of it screened for test audiences) remains unreleased, and a longer version (or even a more complete special edition video release) would be eagerly embraced by fans. Order the “Mad Max: Fury Road” blu ray with Black & Chrome edition here.
5. “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” 1983
This 1983 Disney adaptation of the classic Ray Bradbury novel was troubled from the start, with Bradbury and director Jack Clayton wanting to be faithful to the book and Disney wanting something that was more accessible and family-friendly. Disney eventually sidelined the director and spent months and millions of dollars heavily re-shooting and re-editing the film. But guess what? A work print for this film exists, as was recently confirmed in a private group on Facebook.
And we suspect it’s much better than the version released (which is still quite good in places). We have been told that the work print was offered to Disney to include on their reissued DVD of the film, but they turned it down. Hopefully, one day, we’ll get to see it one way or another. “Something Wicked” is currently available on Disney+.
6. “The 13th Warrior,” 1999
This lesser-seen Viking film is based on Michael Crichton’s 1976 novel Eaters Of The Dead. It had a huge budget, Antonio Banderas, and “Die Hard” director John McTiernan. But test audiences mostly didn’t like it, and Crichton himself took over as director. The film was heavily re-edited, including replacing Graeme Revell’s score (that included Lisa Gerrard of band Dead Can Dance who would soon after sing on the “Gladiator” score) with one by Jerry Goldsmith. Reports from fans who saw the test screening (when it was still titled “Eaters Of The Dead“) claim that there is a great film there that the studio didn’t have the guts to release. The result of all the second guessing? “The 13th Warrior” bombed at the box office and lost millions. Given the revived interest in all things Viking, maybe it’s time for the “Eaters Of The Dead” to finally get its due. “The 13th Warrior” is currently out of print/unavailable on DVD and Blu Ray, but is available to stream on Amazon here.
The legendary 4-hour work print of Rob Reiner‘s “This Is Spinal Tap,” Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.‘s “The Thing” prequel from 2011, Michael Mann‘s original cut of “The Keep,” and Richard O’Brien‘s original cut of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
There are plenty more. Feel free to add yours in the comments!