Monday, October 12, 2009

moments lost in time - five films that you cannot (really) see (legally).....

hey everyone

well, for no apparent reason, my thoughts have been drawn to the infamous "workprint" version of Apocalypse Now. such thoughts led me to consider what other films are out there, either in different versions or just never released. to this end, i found a few interesting titles, including at least one version of a classic that sadly just does not exist anymore.

to list all the films that either no longer or exist or are impossible / tricky to get would be rather banal, so i have listed five. that said, before we start, here are some films that didn't make the cut :

Electric Dreams, Turk 182, Hannibal Brooks and The Hot Rock : four great films, but not exactly impossible to see. the last three have surfaced on DVD at various stages, and all four are available on video if you look hard enough.

Blade Runner (workprint) : available on the five disc version of the film, although annoyingly Ridley Scott decided to "touch it up" and clean it for the DVD release, which somewhat defeats the whole point of seeing it!

Star Wars (workprint) : the initial release of this film exluded the "Episode IV" title. this version has since been issued on DVD.

otherwise, things like Napoleon and The Aryan Papers from the late, great Stanley Kubrick had to be excluded simply because they haven't been made. onwards, then, to five films which were made, but for various (mostly legal) reasons you can't really see.

this probably goes without saying, but this article bears a big *** SPOILER WARNING ***, so read at your own risk....

C********r Blues

the film (ahem) 'CS Blues' follows The Rolling Stones on their tour of America in 1972. as the name of the film suggests, however, this is far from a standard concert film. you get to see more of the Stones than you could ever possibly have wished, expected or wanted to.

other than some exceptional concert footage, CS Blues shows off exactly what happens on a tour. well, i supposed what used to happen - most bands are so dull these days they'd be horrified by what they saw here. groupies, drugs and, in the case of Mick, "self pleasure" are there for all to see.

the band, contrary to popular belief, were not entirely against the way the realities of their lives were shown. Mick Jagger, though, was of the view that if the film was seen in general, there was every chance that the band, either together or as individuals, would be prohibited from entering America ever again.

to this day it has never had an official release, but this is the only film on this list that, oddly, you can see legally in a cinema. under certain circumstances.....

how to see it legally : in the terms of a quite frankly bizarre court ruling, it is legal to screen this film once a year as long as the director, Robert Frank, is present at the screening. as he lives the life of a recluse, it's rare that this happens. if you can catch a screening, lucky you. otherwise, perhaps one day the Stones will either relent and allow it to be released (for years they did try and suppress Gimmie Shelter ), or simply die (unlikely in the case of Mr K Richards) which in theory would open the door for a release.

how to see it not exactly legally : easily. there are many bootlegs of this one, including i believe a "stream" of it somewhere on the interwebnet. as with all bootlegs, however, there's a "varying quality" thing - most copies suffer from bad sound and/or picture.

The Day The Clown Cried

Please Note : the text in-between the next two pictures could very well be disturbing and distressing for some. the sensitive who have read this far would be advised to skip.

in short, The Day The Clown Cried is about a circus clown who is imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II and is expected to lead the children into the gas chambers of the concentration camps like some sort of macabre, fascist-supporting variant of the Pied Piper.

Jerry Lewis was at first horrified by the suggestion of the film but, after reading the script, became obsessed by it. he threw his own money into the completion of the filming but, as producer Nat Wachsberger did not pay for the rights to the script and story in the first place, it has never legally been screened.

whilst certain films have "borrowed" from the premise of this film (notably Jakob The Liar and Life Is Beautiful), none has ever dared tread where this one went. "when fear rules,", the saying goes, "the very worst sound is that of laughter.". taking Jerry Lewis' bumbling, slapstick routine characteristics and making it confront the darkest area humanity has ever been to could have created one of the most horrific, brutal and affecting anti-war, anti-persecution and anti-prejudice statements of all time. reviews and comments from the 8 (eight) confirmed people who have actually seen it suggest that it doesn't get it quite right.

for more information on this film, i heartily recommend you visit the excellent Subteranean Cinema site - it features all known variants of the script, as well as actual footage from the film.

how to see it legally : you cannot. the only known copy of it sits in a briefcase, which is in a vault on a property owned by Jerry Lewis. your one shot at seeing this film, as things stand, is being invited by Mr Lewis to come and watch it. as he has declined to even mention the film after his autobiography some 30 years ago, however, i wouldn't expect an invitation.

how to see it not exactly legally : you cannot. if someone has somehow managed to get their hands on a bootleg copy, or even the reels of film shot for use or discarded outtakes, they have been astonishingly quiet about it. owing to the legendary, near mythical status of this film, someone would have said something if there were even fragments of it in circulation. basically, if Jerry Lewis destroys the tape, or if it gets chewed up in a machine, it's game over for this film.

Apocalypse Now (330 minute 'workprint' version)

with The Day The Clown Cried well and truly out of circulation, the 'workprint' of Apocalypse Now has taken on the status of the holy grail of rare versions of films.

as long as the released version of the film was, it was well known that even more footage existed. this particular version of it was reviewed in the magazine Film Threat in the mid-90s (who bypassed any legal questions by just stating that they "found the tape of it on a chair in their office"), and the magnificent documentary film Hearts Of Darkness even showcased some of the scenes.

with knowledge of yet more footage of this masterpiece available, excitement greeted news of the release of Apocalypse Now Redux in the early 2000s, but still we knew there was footage that didn't make it here.

so what's the big deal with this 'workprint' version? mostly curiosity, it has to be said. it features nothing whatsoever that enhances or improves the original release of the film; indeed all Redux did was illustrate what a great job Coppola did editing it down in the first place.

the 5+ hours of this version contains entirely superfluous moments, but moments that are fascinating for those of us mesmerized by this film. via the magic of really bad bootlegs, the origins of which are still mysteriously unknown, fans can see extra footage of the "tiger incident" (including the tiger tamely walking by Martin Sheen), the infamous helicopter attack from entirely different angles, the presence of Scott Glenn, the demise of Dennis Hopper and, most unnervingly, Martin Sheen spearing a small child en route to slaying Kurtz.

add to that a "guiding" soundtrack made up exclusively of music by The Doors and you do indeed have something film buffs would be all to eager to see.

how to see it legally : Francis Ford Coppola has in the past shown that he's not exactly against the idea of re-releasing "new" versions of his films to generate income, so you never know. in fact, despite denials that any more footage exists, some of this workprint version (about 10 - 15 minutes) featured in the Steelbook Edition of the DVD. beyond that, try getting a job with Mr Coppola; if you earn his trust he might let you see it.

how to see it not exactly legally : with incredible ease. presumably Francis Ford Coppola's approach of issuing denials of any of the footage you can see in the workprint has hampered any legal approach he could take to stopping the proliferation of bootlegs. the motivated can find it online with ease; those in a hurry can buy bootleg tapes or DVDs of it for no more than $US30. be warned, though, the quality is very poor indeed - don't bother with this unless you have at least two of the four official versions issued on disc.

The Wicker Man

hang on, if there's already the standard "official" 88 minute version of this, as well as the 100 (+ / -) "director's cut" of this film out, then why does it feature on this list? because, as film buffs will known, there was indeed even more footage of this film that hasn't made it out, and most likely never will.

the length of the missing (presumed destroyed) footage of The Wicker Man depends on who you ask. some say a few moments, many will tell you in the region of 30 minutes of film has been lost. two key sequences apparently gone forever, and i again warn you of spoilers, feature Christopher Lee taking Edward Woodward around the sparse apple trees of Summerisle, and another features a long close-up of Christopher Lee's shoes, something of relevance to the procession later. both were cut presumably because they might well have given the game of the surprise ending away a bit too soon, but it would have been nice to see. there was also much more conversation between Lee and Woodward, as well as some more "detective" work by Woodward's character.

some people have claimed to see the footage mentioned above, along with one or two other scenes. as no recorded screening of any of it has ever been declared by the makers, it seems most likely that they think they saw things they read in articles on the missing footage, or perhaps read in the novelization of the film.

how to see it legally : none whatsoever, it seems. as far as anyone can tell, all the original negatives have long been destroyed or buried. all possible sources were exhausted to compile the "director's cut", if someone is sat on even more footage then they are keeping it to themselves.

how to see it not exactly legally : pretty much the same way you would make an interesting deposit in the Queen's handbag whilst having a chat with someone who actually liked the horrid 2006 remake of this film. you will need a pick axe, a pneumatic drill and details of all major road works conducted in England from 1973 - 1976, as the negatives were buried as part of landfill for these road works. if it helps, start around the M3. and, of course, hope that somehow the negatives are still in one piece.

The Breakfast Club

not an obvious choice, this, but do bear with me......

everyone fondly remembers this one, a wonderful tale of five rather different students thrust together for a Saturday detention. the dialogue and bonding which occurs as time passes and the characters interact and develop is storytelling at its best.

the standard 90 or so minute version available is brilliant. what's interesting, though, is the (sadly late) director John Hughes claims to have assembled a staggering 150 minute version of the film.

what's different in the longer version? no idea, really. Hughes only alluded to it, to the extent of boasting about it really, in one interview. you can only imagine it contains more exchanges, possibly flashbacks to how it is that each of the five ended up in detention, who knows?

as John Hughes famously fell out with Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald during the making of this film the intended sequel never happened - just what was he planning to do with this longer version?

how to see it legally : who knows? if a longer version was really put together it's entirely possible that some sort of "anniversary" or special edition was planned for the film. as all versions released on DVD thus far have featured next to no extras, it's about time this film got a proper release.

how to see it not exactly legally : none at all. no one is really sure if this version even existed outside of John Hughes' head. with no unfamiliar publicity stills or even "out-takes" in circulation nothing is known of any possible extra footage.

well, there you have it. all comments and corrections welcome, although i would like to say that i appreciate that there's other, rarer films "missing" out there somewhere. these five represent the films or versions i'd most like to see.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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