Heaven's Gate: Soderbergh's Butcher's Cut

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One of cinema’s biggest disasters just got the ultimate fan cut. When it was launched in 1980, the period epic Heaven’s Gate was already far behind schedule, not the least because director Michael Cimino shot over 220 hours of footage – surpassing Francis Coppola’s obsessive record from Apocalypse Now. He delivered a film of over five hours long, which the studio refused to accept – Cimino agreed to re-edit and eventually delivered a 3-hour version.

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By this point Heaven’s Gate had quadrupled its $11 million budget. But audiences hated it and the movie made less than $4 million. The film was pulled and a shorter, much-maligned 2-hour cut was released. That also gained no traction: the project died with great infamy and led to United Artists, home of James Bond, being sold to MGM. The lead actor, Kris Kristofferson, only saw such A-list movie attention again when he starred in Blade.

Today Heaven’s Gate holds much more acclaim, especially among fans of the period genre. It even has a Criterion edition. But director Steven Soderbergh decided to give it a go and created The Butcher’s Cut – clocking in at even less than Cimino’s hated second cut – by 40 minutes. JoBlo has the scoop, quoting Soderbergh’s site:

As a dedicated cinema fan, I was obsessed with HEAVEN’S GATE from the moment it was announced in early 1979, and unfortunately history has show that on occasion a fan can become so obsessed they turn violent toward the object of their obsession, which is what happened to me during the holiday break of 2006. This is the result.

Why would you watch this? Well, the original film is really long and perhaps a bit slow by today’s standards. Maybe Soderbergh’s version is the perfect refresher for the Youtube generation. It’s also worth it if you are interested in seeing actors like Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke and Jeff Bridges in early roles.

Last Updated: April 29, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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