Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews

Original movie reviews untainted by time!

5 thoughts on “Gremlins, Streets of Fire, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Once Upon a Time in America, 1984

  • Warner Bros. was so short-sighted! They were convinced that nobody could sit through a movie that exceeded 3 1/2 hours! Sergio Leone actually had 8-10 hours of footage, then trimmed it down to 6 hours. He originally wanted to release the movie in 2 parts, but the studio wanted no part of that. Then Leone edited it down to 4 1/2 hours, but it still couldn’t be released. By the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, it was trimmed to its original commercial running time of 3:49. And even though the critics labeled this a masterpiece, the studio still thought it was too long for American audiences. So they cut it down to 2:19 and re-arranged the story to make it chronological! And the result was a confusing mess that flopped at the box office!

    The 3:49 European version was thankfully released on home video. A project to restore the 4 1/2 hour version started in 2011. A version was released at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival that had 24 minutes missing because of licensing rights for the deleted scenes. So the movie was pulled from release and further restoration is now ongoing, with the help of Martin Scorsese assisting the Leone Estate in gaining rights to the missing footage. So stay tuned!

    • Let’s clear something’s here regarding who did what here Patrick because you’re totally off base. First of all, Warner Bros. was the distributor of the film not the one who made it. Arnon Milchan was the investor along with PSO (Producers Sales Organization) which was notorious with messing with films (ie. Eight Million Ways To Die starring Jeff Bridges in which they took the film away from the late Hal Ashby before he could edit it.) Milchan, The Ladd Company (which distributed Blade Runner), Embassy Pictures, who was notorious for not having faith in their projects (ie. Blade Runner) and Regency Enterprises who now owns the film which is why it appeared later on by Fox Home Entertainment since the company went to there for their back catalog of films including Heat and L.A. Confidential along with later projects such as Gone Girl for example. It was Embassy the one who had the most invested in it and the ones who decided to cut the film shorter for the US release because they felt that the audience was stupid and felt they were not smart enough to catch onto what the basis of the story that Leone was trying to tell. If DeNiro had dreamed up everything because of his opium high or was it something that hadn’t happen yet, but was going to happen and already knew the outcome of his life. The story goes so many ways and very smartly that it simply went over the heads of those studio executives except Milchan who had faith in it and has stuck with it over the years to get Warner Bros. to completely restore it to its’ 251 Minutes. You have to give him total credit for that which was a revelation for extra material for Treat Williams and Louise Fletcher who were cut out of the original theatrical cut which was 229 minutes for the Warner Bros. special edition Blu Ray which is now out of print. If they were to expand this yet again, it would be through Disney if even more footage survived that could add weight to the story not just expand it because the material is available which at this point might be very rough to the point that it could be unuseable depending on how this missing footage is stored.

      The biggest crime of this situation was the non submission of Ennio Morricone’s masterpiece of a score which easily would’ve beat Maurice Jarre’s A Passage To India in 1984. This was his last score for Leone and really pulled out all the stops on this one and even if the film was destroyed in the US, at the very least Embassy and the group should’ve submitted Morricone’s work for Oscar consideration regardless. At the very least, it would’ve had at least one nomination for something in spite of the situation the problems the film had. That is an even bigger travestry in which you cannot forgive those involved for this. Think of this way, Morricone would’ve been nominated with in a 3 year span had this score been considered and nominated for Oscar along with The Mission which he barely lost to Herbie Hancock’s seminal Round Midnight, which was worthy of the win not that The Mission wasn’t worthy of winning but this just wasn’t the score that Morricone should’ve won for. It’s definitely without question it is this one and that makes it a real tragedy of the situation. Thankfully, he got his long overdue Oscar for Hateful Eight, which was a terrific score but yet, it is not as memorable as the one for this film and never will be.

      You’re also forgetting Patrick that Warner Bros. did a similar thing to Mike’s Murder starring Debra Winger that was filmed in 1982 and sat on the shelf for about a year and that was mainly because James Bridges’ film also told Winger’s story in flashbacks and present moments and the film I believe started at the end and ended at the beginning much like a test run for Christopher Nolan’s Memento seventeen years later and was also like a detective like story. I’m sure the test screenings for that film were down in the dumps because the film was reedited into a more straightforward (like this one) narrative that put everything in chronological order when the film is not supposed to be in chronological order. It was more successful for Mike’s Murder more so than this one because Gene hit the nail right on the head when he stated that in the US cut, Robert DeNiro appears 45 Minutes into the film when in the original cut, he’s on screen right away and that’s where the film is ruined from start to finish in its’ 140 Minute version. If they had bookended this version with DeNiro’s presence like in Leone’s true version, it might have some leverage but there was no way in hell it would’ve been saved since the essence of the relationships past, present and future? was completely cut out of the narrative and the US version never recovered from that and Ebert was right, that release was just destroyed and thankfully there was demand for the complete cut and that’s what is available now. It would’ve been interesting to include the US cut just to see how awful it really was and really pinpoint all the changes that had been done and bash it personally. I guess it still is embarrassing 38 years later.

      Also, what was Warner Bros. even thinking of releasing this as a Summer movie along side Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds and Bachelor Party which are summertime popcorn entertainment for example? This was definitely Fall/Winter for Oscar Consideration without question in which would’ve been amongst the best if they left it in tact. They also blew it on that front too!

      • I didn’t actually write that post Danielle. It was Clifford.

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