“Apocalypse Now, Final Cut” on Arte and ten other films with multiple versions

On November 7, Arte is broadcasting the Palme d’Or 1979 in its latest version. Longer than the original, shorter than the “redux”, this version promises to be the “final cut”. Coppola’s film is not the only one to have several formats. The proof by ten.

“Metropolis” by Fritz Lang (1927)

Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm in Metropolis, by Fritz Lang (1926).


Often silent cinema films have had as many versions as copies, or almost. Let us mention Metropolis, by Fritz Lang, whose two and thirty-three hours were turned upside down immediately after the first presentation, in Berlin. And which knew, among other adventures, a colorization and a musical accompaniment signed Giorgio Moroder in 1984. A word also from Raptors, by Erich von Stroheim (1924), which MGM boss Irving Thalberg reduced from eight to two hours. And Napoleon by Abel Gance, a “final” version of which is expected very soon (before the next one).

“L’Atalante” by Jean Vigo (1934)

Dita Parlo and Gilles Margaritis in L'Atalante, by Jean Vigo (1934).

Dita Parlo and Gilles Margaritis in The Atalante, by Jean Vigo (1934).

Gaumont-Franco Film-Aubert

It would take an entire article, and even a book, to tell the story of Jean Vigo’s masterpiece (1905-1934). Released first under another title, The Passing Barge, with another song and deprived of about twenty minutes, the work was reassembled in 1940 by Henri Beauvais, in a form more in accordance with what Vigo wanted. Henri Langlois made corrections in 1950, then the restorations on the basis of found copies followed one another, in 1990, 2001, 2017… Note, the film, like others by Jean Vigo, is to be seen in a few theaters these days. this.

“The good, the bad and the ugly” by Sergio Leone (1966)

Eli Wallach, alias Tuco, in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, by Sergio Leone (1966).

Eli Wallach, aka Tuco, in The good, the bad and the ugly, by Sergio Leone (1966).


This is the example of a film where the director has to fight with his producer… but also deal with the different countries in which he goes out. If Leone wins the first battle, with a duration of two hours and forty minutes and despite the injunction not to exceed 120 minutes, he must agree to modify the export versions. England discovers a two-twenty-eight western; Italy is offered a two-fifty-seven spaghetti. This will pose a problem when we try to harmonize all this, in 2003, and when we have to double the added scenes, available only in Italian. Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach remake their voices, but Simon Prescott must take care of those of Lee Van Cleef, who died in 1989.

“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” by Sam Peckinpah (1973)

Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, by Sam Peckinpah (1973).

Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, by Sam Peckinpah (1973).


Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984) often had to fight with his producers (The Savage Horde, Major Dundee…). For Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the filmmaker manages to show a version director’s cut to reporters before MGM director James Aubrey cuts the 15-minute film for its theatrical release. It was not until 1988 to discover the first version, before a third was mounted in 2005, on the basis of notes left by Peckinpah.

“The Door to Heaven” by Michael Cimino (1980)

Christopher Walken in The Door to Heaven, by Michael Cimino (1980).

Christopher Walken in The Gate of Heaven, by Michael Cimino (1980).

United Artists

Having two hundred and twenty hours of rushes on the editing table leaves a certain choice. In this case, the bitter failure of the film, then, did not help matters. Result : The Gate of Heaven is a funnel. Yes, a funnel: five twenty-five for the version shown to the producers, three forty for that intended for the American public, two hours twenty-nine for that which leaves the borders after the intramural fiasco… In 2012, once everything the world has finally understood that he had made a masterpiece, Cimino presents his final version at the Venice Film Festival at three thirty-five – okay, it’s half a funnel.

“Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott (1982)

Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982).

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, by Ridley Scott (1982).

© The Ladd Company

There, it sucks: there are five, six or seven versions of the film (depending on whether the first test screenings are counted or not). For the release, in 1982, the version will be the one with the voice over of Harrison Ford, and the end called “happy ending”. When we tell you that it sucks! Then there will be the international version, the TV adaptation in 1986, the director’s cut in 1992, the final cut in 2007. To better navigate, a video exist.

“Once upon a time in America” by Sergio Leone (1984)

Once Upon a Time in America, by Sergio Leone (1984)

Once upon a time in America by Sergio Leone (1984)

Warner bros

In general, it is the duration that is the problem. But sometimes it is also the order of the sequences. Warner’s feat at the film’s release: reducing it from three forty-one to two nineteen, putting the scenes back in chronological order, disgusting the cinema Sergio Leone, who no longer shot any film until his died in 1989. In basketball, we call that a triple double. Fortunately it is cinema, and we were then able to put together a director’s cut three forty-one, but also a extended director’s cut from four eleven, broadcast during the Cannes Film Festival 2012, and released on video two years later.

“Dune” by David Lynch (1984)

Alicia Witt in Dune, by David Lynch (1984).

Alicia Witt in Dune, by David Lynch (1984).

© Universal – Dino De Laurentiis Company – Estudios Churubusco Azteca SA

Overall, Lynch isn’t proud of this movie that the producers haven’t really left him alone for. But of the four versions, it is the three-ten for television that leaves him the most bitterness. He even outright insisted that his name be replaced by Judas Booth in the credits. Judas for the one who sold Jesus, Booth for the name of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin. Fortunately, he made other films afterwards, unlike Sergio Leone. Fortunately, too, there is now an excellent Dune.

“Brazilby Terry Gilliam (1985)

Jonathan Pryce in Brazil, by Terry Gilliam (1985).

Jonathan Pryce in Brazil, by Terry Gilliam (1985).


Producer Sidney Sheinberg (Universal) is a boy who loves when, in the end, we get married and have a lot of kids. As Blade runner, Brazil thus knows a first version, of one hour thirty-four, where all’s well that ends well. Terry Gilliam then engages in a media battle – retraced by the documentary The Battle of Brazil –, that he only earns half: he imposes his duration (two hours twelve) but the producer keeps his end, in the United States. Europe will be entitled to director’s cut (two twenty-two).

“Queen Margot” by Patrice Chéreau (1994)

Isabelle Adjani in La Reine Margot, by Patrice Chéreau (1994).

Isabelle Adjani in Queen Margot, by Patrice Chéreau (1994).

Renn Productions – Degeto – NEF

We too have beautiful, tumultuous stories, even if they don’t usually involve the producers. In 1994, Patrice Chéreau gave a provisional version of two thirty-nine hours at the Cannes Film Festival. Then the film was released in the United States, shortened by twenty minutes, before being extended for the French public. In 2008, a compromise of two and thirty-four hours was proposed for the DVD release.

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“Apocalypse Now, Final Cut” on Arte and ten other films with multiple versions