Five Director's Cuts You'll Probably Never See

Absolutely not coming to a streaming service near you any time soon.






THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)


Orson Welles' follow up to Citizen Kane is practically the poster child for studio interference. Welles had conceded his final cut right to RKO and they wasted no time making changes after the director's first cut performed poorly with preview audiences. Over an hour's worth of footage was removed and a new, happier ending was shot. Welles did not approve of any of the cuts, but was too busy in Brazil filming another film for RKO (which was ultimately left unfinished) and unable to do much to protect his film. Composer Bernard Herrmann was also unhappy with the changes made to his score and even went so far as to have his credit removed from the film. The excised footage was later destroyed to free up vault space while a print of the first cut sent to Welles in Brazil was lost.

THE KEEP (1983)


Michael Mann's second film, about a group of Nazi soldiers who get slaughtered one by one when they awaken an ancient evil after occupying a fortress in Romania, was plagued by problems from the very start. Filming went nine weeks over schedule and millions over budget. The design of the film's monster changed numerous times while shooting because Mann couldn't make his mind up about how it should look. The film's original ending, which would've involved a special effects heavy confrontation between the hero and villain, had to be abandoned when the studio refused to fork out more cash and Wally Veevers, the film's visual effects supervisor, died two weeks into post-production.

The director's original cut was over three hours long before Paramount told him to cut it down to two. After a poor preview screening the studio cut another half hour against Mann's wishes. Because it was done in a rush, this 96 min version is full of plot holes, continuity mistakes, and poor sound mixing. The film was a critical and commercial flop on release, but has since developing something of a cult following. Fans have long hoped that Mann's original three hour cut will one day see the light of day, but the director himself has made it clear that he has no intention of ever revisiting The Keep.

DUNE (1984)


Frank Herbert's Dune is one of those books that filmmakers have been struggling to get right for decades. In 1974, Alejandro Jodorowsky began work on his 10-14 hour version that would've featured music by Pink Floyd and Magma, concept designs by H.R. Giger and Jean 'Moebius' Giraud, Salvador DalĂ­ as the Emperor, Orson Welles as Baron Harkonnen, Mick Jagger as Feyd-Rautha, David Carradine as Leto Atreides, and his own son, Brontis Jodorowsky, as Paul Atreides.

After Jodorowsky's effort fell apart, Dino De Laurentiis purchased the film rights and hired Ridley Scott to direct in 1979. Scott planned to make two movies, but the production process was so slow and time consuming that he eventually left to make Blade Runner instead. De Laurentiis brought in David Lynch to replace him. Making Dune was not a pleasant experience for Lynch and he has stayed clear of big budget studio films ever since.

Lynch originally intended that the film would run for over three hours, but under pressure from the studio he cut this down to two, simplifying many scenes and adding in narration to explain every single damn thing about the Dune universe. This was the only cut of the movie Lynch ever made and he has refused all offers to release a director's cut or even discuss the film in interviews. A few extended versions have pop up over the years, but Lynch has disowned all of them and had his credit replaced with Alan Smithee.

FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)


I'll never forget the monumental lack of enthusiasm from the cast and crew of Fantastic Four (or Fant4stic) when they came to promote the film at San Diego Comic Con in 2015. You could just tell that no one on that stage was excited to be there and it didn't take us long to find out why. One day before the film's release, director Josh Trank went on Twitter to denounce his own film, saying that he had made an amazing version of Fantastic Four and that was not the one that audiences were going to see.

Following Trank's Twitter outburst all sorts of stories came out about the film's trouble production, Trank's apparent erratic behaviour on set, and his clashes with the studio over the film's tone. He wanted to make a film that was closer to David Cronenberg than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, while 20th Century Fox obviously wanted a fun comic book adventure, something akin to The Avengers. Unsatisfied with Trank's work, the studio effectively shut him out of the production, had the script rewritten and ordered extensive reshoots, which were obvious to spot in the finished film thanks to Kate Mara's wig.

The film ended up being a huge flop with audience and critics, doing even worse than the previous Fantastic Four movies. Trank has put all the blame for its failure on the studio and repeatedly insisted that his version would've, in his own words, got great reviews. We'll never know if that was true. By his own account he was unable to film all the stuff he wanted making a director's cut impossible. Even if he had, there's no way in hell Disney, which has since gobbled up Fox, would ever give him the chance.

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)


The same day that the Fant4stic team was barely pretending to give a damn, Warner Bros. unveiled their grand plans for the DC Extended Universe which would include a two-part Justice League film. By the time everyone returned to Hall H the following year those plans had already changed as Justice League became one film to accommodate Ben Affleck's The Batman. Towards the end of filming, director Zack Snyder stepped down following a personal tragedy and Joss Whedon was brought in to complete the film. Before departing, Snyder had completed a rough cut of the film that was over three hours long and apparently described by some executives as "unwatchable".

Following the negative response to Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad, the studio mandated that Whedon give the film a more lighthearted tone and that the runtime be no longer than two hours. This resulted in extensive rewrites and reshoots which created numerous post-production headaches (such as Henry Cavill's infamous moustache removal), but the studio was unwilling to push back the release date as that would've cost executives their bonuses. Like most of the films on this list, Justice League was a critical and financial failure. It may have grossed $657 million worldwide, but due to its massive production costs it needed to make at least $750 million just to break even.

Since the film's release Snyder and his surprisingly devoted legion of acolytes have repeatedly demanded the release of the fabled Snyder Cut, which they insist will not only be better, but one of the greatest movies ever made and make everyone recognise Snyder's obvious genius. Based on his previous output I'm a somewhat sceptical of that. While Snyder is more willing than the likes of Mann and Lynch to make a director's cut of his film, the studio is less than enthusiastic. His version of Justice League currently only exists as a very rough edit without complete special effects and with several scenes missing because he was unable to shoot them before he stepped down. Releasing it in a complete form would cost Warner Bros. an estimated $40 million, which is a pretty hefty price tag for something that would only appeal to a vocal few.


Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

9 comments:

CoramDeo said...

I would be really interested to see the unfinished rough cut of Snyder’s Justice League as-is, if only because it would be interesting to see how a film looks in rough cut form and how it can change between that and the finished product.

Billie Doux said...

Mark, this is an enjoyable and interesting read. I had only been aware of the Dune situation.

magritte said...

I wonder if a Director's cut could save Dune. The studio release was a mess. I've never seen any version of The Magnificent Ambersons, but they re-released A Touch of Evil some years ago with a cut based on Orson Welles' notes and it was terrific; it's one of my favorite films.

migmit said...

Judging by his filmography, if Lynch had gotten his way, Dune would've been utterly indecipherable as opposed to merely confusing.

(c) https://www.cracked.com/blog/5-famous-filmmakers-whose-dream-projects-were-disasters/

TJ said...

I would have loved to see the original cut of "The magnificent Ambersons". Although a fantastic movie, you can tell that there is something wrong or missing.

Juan said...

What about Cats? #ReleaseTheButtholeCut!
That's one that we'll never see for sure... :(

Anonymous said...

I doubt that the Director's cut of Fan4stic would have been very good either. I've seen this film twice (once because some mysterious deity decided to teach me a lesson about not reading reviews, once in horrified fascination), and no scene was good, even the scenes that weren't reshot. Of special note is the part where the genius scientists decided to call their way under-qualified friend to go on an unsantioned/very-ill-considered mission, but left the actually qualified female scientist at home.

Billie Doux said...

Justice League Snyder cut is coming on HBO Max!

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/justice-league-snyder-cut-plans-revealed-it-will-be-an-new-thing-1295102

Juan said...

Well color me surprised! O_O (a really nice timing with this article by the way!)