In the golden age of cinema between the 1930's and the 1950's it was routine for Hollywood studio's to make their final cut of the movie and then destroy any film footage that was removed thus viewers never got to see the spider pit sequence from the original King Kong nor did they get to see the jitterbug from The Wizard Of Oz, modern films take a different approach and we often get to see deleted scenes on blu ray and the obligatory extended edition/directors cut of movies.
While studio's release extended and director cuts they wil also give us the theatrical cut usually on the same disc using seamless branching technology which allows us to choose the version we want to watch. This is one of the benefits of DVD/Blu Ray.
The advent of better digital tools and more sophisticated film processing software also allows film directors to revisit their past films and this is where things get a little hazy and worrying, the films we once knew are sometimes turned into something we just don't recognize anymore.
In 1998 cinematographer Vittorio Storaro proposed the Univisium format, his idea was that television and cinema would merge and everything would be framed at 2.00:1, unfortunately he also decided to revisit past films and crop them to meet his vision of the future and so we have films such as Apocalypse Now and The Last Emperor being cropped from their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to Storaro's Univisium ratio and this results in image information being lost, Apocalypse Now features some of the most stunning images ever committed to film and Storaro won the best Oscar for cinematography for the film.
Storaro has claimed he framed Apocalypse Now for 2.00:1 but thats just nonsense because back in the seventies home video formats were not yet established and film makers used the full width of the frame and made no compromises to how a film would look on television.
Francis Ford Coppola spent many years making Apocalypse Now and it's star Martin Sheen even had a heart attack due to the pressures and stress of making the film, it was shot for 2.35:1 yet Storaro insists on cropping because he wants to sell his Univisium crap to the world, it just isn't happening, Univisium is dead and no one except Storaro wants it so i think it's time Mr Coppola grew some balls and gave us Apocalypse Now on Blu Ray in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Thankfully both the original theatrical edition and the redux edition will be released on Blu Ray this year and Francis Ford Coppola has finally put his foot down with Storaro and decreed that Apocalypse Now will be released in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio on blu ray, fantastic news, at last Coppola has grown some balls and told Storaro no and he is finally giving the fans of this film what they want, the fact screens are getting larger likely played a part in Coppola's decision.
George Lucas is another who cannot stop tinkering with his films, the Star Wars films are continually being altered and even now George is sitting in a room making changes to these films and it's not just the original classic films but the newer ones are being changed. I actually do not mind some of the new CGI effects in the original trilogy but i do object to changing major things and that includes Greedo now shooting first and the absolutely horrendous voice they have now given Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back.
In Star Wars we are introduced to Han Solo and he is a ruthless smuggler who would probably sell his soul for cash or at least he would in the original version of the film, then Mr Lucas decided he would change things and make the character much nicer and so Han now shoots only after Greedo does and some may think that is ok and it's not a big change but it actually changes the entire character and alters his path of redemption from bad to good that occurs at the end of the film, that very scene being altered makes Han too nice and far less ruthless so that his change as the film goes on is much less dramatic and can be seen coming and all because Lucas changed one little scene but in film changing one little scene can have a massive effect on the entire movie.
The Empire Strikes Back is regarded as the best in the Star Wars series and we are introduced to the bounty hunter Boba Fett, in the original version of the film Boba Fett speaks with menacing deep tones that are very appropriate for the character and he sounds like a badass.
George Lucas decided to change the voice and match it with the Australian actor Temeura Morrison who plays Jango Fett in Star Wars Episode 2 Attack Of The Clones, now the reasoning for doing this is sound and logical, Boba Fett is a clone of Jango Fett and thus will grow up to speak like him, thats all logical and i understand it fully but in changing the voice and getting Mr Morrison to record all the lines of dialogue again for Empire they have weakened the character, he was just much more menacing with the original voice. I feel it would have been far better to dub Morrison's voice and make him as menacing as the one in Empire but nope george has to do it the wrong way and weaken one of the best films ever made.
Last year The French Connection was released on Blu Ray and people were horrified at what had happened to it, the director William Friedkin decided to revisit the film and change everything that made it the success it was, colour timing, contrast boosting and loss of detail all because Friedkin wanted to play with some new tools which have made his Oscar winning film look terrible. To Live and Die in L.A. has also recently been released on Blu Ray but suffers none of the image manipulation of his earlier film and that's likely because MGM couldn't afford to let him mess with it and not because he didn't ask. The Exorcist is hitting Blu Ray later this year and many fear that Warner have allowed him to tinker with it, let's hope not but we will find out soon enough.
Other films which have had contrast boosting applied and are director or cinematographer approved include Leon aka The Professional, Ghostbusters and RoboCop.
Steven Spielberg is another director who has gone back and revisited older films, in Raiders Of The Lost Ark when Indiana Jones comes face to face with a cobra you could always see the reflection of a glass barrier between Harrison Ford and the snake but they have altered that so the glass is no longer visible, thats something i do approve of, i don't mind wires being taken out and small changes which improve the film experience.
I hope when E.T. is eventually released on Blu Ray that we get the original theatrical edition and not the version where walkie talkies now replace all the guns during the end chase sequence, at the very least if they must give us that version then do what they did for the twentieth anniversary DVD release and give us both versions of the film.