Lighthouse wrote:MichaelB, do you remember if the Rising scene, (we are having so much fun with) was in one or both versions you have seen back in the early 80s?
To be honest, I can't remember this reliably - I've certainly seen the scene in question, and I have an inkling that it was in a big-screen version. It's not at all beyond the bounds of possibility that it was in the shorter cut, and that its presence was the first thing that alerted me to the fact that I was watching a different print to the one I saw in 1982 and 83, but there's no way I can confirm that reliably.
On the other hand, I've done a bit more Monthly Film Bulletin
digging, and the August 1982 issue makes it clear beyond any doubt that the UK release version up to then was the 144-minute cut. They update the credits so that the running time is now 168 mins (based on 15,120 feet), and ran a reasonably lengthy article entitled "The original version's the thing...", whose opening paragraph reads:
In recent weeks a new kind of film has arrived in the West End. Interspersed with the endless run of sequels that come appended with numerals, this new variety of follow-up is certainly cheaper and probably more rewarding: the restored, reintegrated version of films previously released only in abbreviated, dubbed or otherwise trammelled forms. What is interesting is that this restoration work, which used to be the province of independent, maverick distributors, has now been taken over by the majors: one beneficial result, perhaps, of the dwindling supply of new product. A little while ago, United Artists led the way by reissuing New York, New York, not only with the fifteen minutes that had been cut for British distribution restored, but with new material added. United International, the company into which UA was absorbed, has now released the uncut Once Upon a Time in the West, while Columbia-EMI-Warner has opened an uncut, subtitled version of The Boat only weeks after the abbreviated, dubbed version came and went. Meanwhile, Cinegate has opened James Ivory's own version of The Wild Party.
I love trawling through old articles like this, at least as much for what they reveal in passing. The reference to "the dwindling supply of new product", for instance (the number of films in 35mm distribution fell sharply in the early 1980s, thanks to poor cinema receipts and the decline of the double bill), or the excitement over the novelty of restorations, which we take in our stride in the DVD/Blu-ray era. The Boat
is of course Das Boot
, though I think it went under the English title in Britain until the late-1990s revival - ironically, given the use of the word "uncut" above, of a much longer version, though not quite as long as the full TV version, of which the author was presumably ignorant. (Another thing to bear in mind about old articles like these is that their authors wouldn't have had any access to online resources, so German TV transmissions might as well have happened on the moon if the researcher was based exclusively in the UK).
Anyway, the introduction mostly goes on about other films, but does mention in passing that:
UIP's re-release of Once Upon a Time in the West was prompted by the imminent possibility that Leone's Once Upon a Time in America would finally happen and, more ironically, by the company's desire to re-present 'classic' films in their original versions. But it seems that after its West End run, this complete print will be withdrawn.
This may explain why the Gate screened the shorter cut, though I'd seen the longer one at the Empire in 1982 and the NFT in 1983. Certainly, when I was in the rep booking business myself (from 1989), the only version we screened was the longer cut, so something must have changed - but it is of course possible that the ecstatic reception made UIP change its withdrawal plans and that my hypothesis that the Gate screening was down to a straightforward print delivery cock-up still holds true.
The feature then discusses The Wild Party
in depth, before tackling OUATITW
in similar fashion (Steve Jenkins is credited as the author of this section). It's too long to cut and paste comfortably, but it begins:
When originally reviewed in the Monthly Film Bulletin (September 1969, p.187) by John Gillett, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West had been cut by 24 minutes, from 168 to 144 minutes (the Bulletin gave the original running time, incorrectly, as 165 minutes). The missing footage, removed by Paramount (who co-financed the film for world rights minus Italy) after unfavourable initial reactions in the US, has now been restored in this country and the film has been re-released intact.
The piece then goes on to discuss the four main cuts - though it also refers to "the trimming of seconds from various other parts of the film". But the big four were:
1. The 14-minute scene in which Jill stops at the trading post run by Lionel Stander, including Cheyenne's first appearance. After describing it in detail, Jenkins concludes:
The whole scene is clearly of major importance as it brings together, for the first time, three of the film's four main characters, making their subsequent encounters rather less puzzling.
2. The two-minute scene outside Frank's Navajo cave hideout, just after he has first met Jill at Sweetwater. This revolves around a conversation between Frank and Morton, culminating in Morton being kicked off his crutches.
3. About one-and-a-quarter minutes in which Frank finds Morton's train, strewn with dead bodies inside and out. (In the cut version, Frank only discovered the dying Morton by the side of the train).
4. The four-minute scene with the death of Cheyenne.
The piece also adds:
(A detailed resumé of the cuts, along with details of eight groups of scenes shot by Leone but cut prior to the assembly of the Italian print, is contained in Christopher Frayling's excellent book Spaghetti Westerns, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.)
Gallingly, I used to have a copy of this, but I can't for the life of me remember what happened to it, and I definitely don't have it now. I suspect I foolishly lent it to someone and forgot all about it.