Thanks to Blu-Ray re-releases movies have a longer life than ever before, with some classic films even getting entirely new, distinctive versions
It’s a process that has yielded some decidedly mixed results over the years, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
With the news that Mad Max is to get a black and white version in an upcoming “black and chrome” edition on Blu-Ray, we highlight some of the best and most curious alternative versions of some of your favourite films.
Apocalypse Now: Redux
Francis Ford Coppola’s eerily hypnotic, Joseph Conrad-inspired Vietnam flick was already regarded as a classic upon its released in 1979, and at roughly two and a half hours, wasn’t exactly short to begin with.
Nevertheless, in 2002 Coppola decided to return to the jungle, adding around fifty minutes onto the bones of the original for a new-fangled “Redux” version.
While the new cut does feature some nice, previously lost moments (more screen time for Robert Duvall, no matter how minimal, is never a bad thing), it also re-inserts some unneccesary, tension-killing flab, such as the clumsy plantation scene which just comes across as patronisingly simplistic, or Martin Sheen and co’s utterly redundant second encounter with the Playboy bunnies.
Aliens: Special Edition
Often cited as one of the great sequels, James Cameron’s frenetic, action-packed follow up to Ridley Scott’s comparatively restrained deep space slasher was beefed up in 1991 to the excitement of fans, with the addition of seventeen scintillating minutes.
The previously unseen footage includes some nail-biting moments involving a set of ‘sentry guns’, a deleted emotional subplot involving Ripley’s daughter, and an earlier introduction to the character of Newt and her family on the colony planet.
While the new material does inevitably come at the expense of the original’s relentless pace, there is arguably more suspense in the longer version, with more time spent getting to know the characters (before most of them die horribly).
The alternative version of Frank Darabont’s Stephen King-adap is similar to the original in every way, save for one all-important detail: it’s in black and white.
What may initially strike you as a minor, and frankly unnecessary change, ultimately makes all the difference in the world for this monster-infested chiller though.
The new colour scheme gives the film a deceptively cosy, retro feel before erupting into chaotic, hysterical terror and violence, while also going some way to masking some of the less effective visual effects on the otherworldly critters.
Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut
The curiously uninvolving theatrical version of Ridley Scott’s Crusades epic drew the ire of critics and punters alike for its choppy, frequently incoherent narrative, the result (as many suspected) of pre-release tampering at the hands of Fox executives, who ordered Scott to cut around an hour of material before it hit theatres.
An amnesty of sorts came the following year, however, with the release of a new version which incorporated copious new subplots that expand and, frankly, improve upon many of the film’s characters (Orlando Bloom’s knight, who was simply aloof in the original version, is far more relatable and empathetic here), while tidying up many of the story threads, such as Eva Green’s descent into madness which previously came out of thin air.
While not all of the new scenes hit the mark and not every plot strand/character arc is resolved satisfactorily (we’ve still no idea what happens to Kevin McKidd), this remains the superior version and, frankly, the only one worth your time.
Brazil: Love Conquers All Edition
Here is where the alternative version can go horribly, horribly wrong.
A studio imposed hatchet job of Terry Gilliam’s beloved surrealist dystopian masterpiece, the so-called Love Conquers All edition scraps around 50 minutes of Gilliam’s intended version and, crucially, installs a happy ending in place of the original bleak conclusion.
Essentially, it flies in the (stretched) face of the movie’s key themes, point and overall vision. Arguably the most shameful ‘Hollywood-izing’ of a finale you’ll find.