Botched!: Cruising & Thief and the Cobbler

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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emcflat
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#1 Post by emcflat » Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:32 pm

Hello one and all. My virgin post with this site so be gentle please and thank you. Most of you folks are a good bit farther along at this than me
but I have decided to throw my brain into the mix anyway.

Whaddya say let's talk about films that have been disatrously cut or taken from geniuses and made into trash or semi-trash. Two that come to mind are Friedkin's "Cruising" with Al Pacino and "the Thief & the Cobbler" by Richard Williams (also called Arabian Night). More obviously is Magnificent Ambersons.

Got any others? Supposedly there is a work-print of Cobbler bootlegged out there but I can't find it. These are the kind of movies that make the greatest and most important DVD studies in my opinion.

cbernard

#2 Post by cbernard » Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:54 pm

Was Cruising cut for general release? It's not uncommon for a director to do a little trimming, but would you really say that the film was "butchered"? It's pretty strong as it is, in my opinion.

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david hare
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#3 Post by david hare » Fri Mar 11, 2005 9:24 pm

Re CRUISING I recall that the production was affected by Gay rights protesters at the time who were concerned at an anti gay backlash to the movie's depiction of the leather scene. I understood that Friedkin attempted to accomodate some of these concerns but in the process I think he has botched the movie. Again, I understand, but have not read the book which Dennis Altman assures me is actually homophobic in a way the movie is not, so, ironically, the Pacino character's actual homosexuality is made explicit in the book but only barely hinted at in the movie, indeed the closing sequences are frankly confusing amd de-motivated in terms of Pacino.

The sad irony surrounding this movie, which was supposed to have been part of a wave of more "mainstream" gay movies form the majors, is that it came out at the dawn of that appalling scourge which, two years later in 1982, would be given an unforgettable name.

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david hare
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#4 Post by david hare » Fri Mar 11, 2005 9:31 pm

After all that welcome to the forum! And I forgot to mention one of my pet hack jobs - Cukor's CHAPMAN REPORT - another king hit from Warners! Not only were scenes cut but the entire structure of the movie was rearranged, re-edited, etc. Cukor did not have good luck with Warners, given this and STAR IS BORN which is at least partially restored but still somewhat unsatisfying in this form.

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DDillaman
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#5 Post by DDillaman » Sat Mar 12, 2005 7:44 am

As it happens, I just read an interview from an old Sight and Sound (November 1998) with Friedkin about CRUISING, and he said that roughly 40 minutes were cut, and equated it to MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS in terms of scale and effect. Among other things, the entire original opening scene and some intensely hardcore scenes that I can't even imagine how anyone would think would have passed with less than an X, including
SpoilerShow
golden showers and a "graphic (fisting) scene in which you could see a fist visible in somebody's stomach".
Sorry if anyone was just eating breakfast, hence the spoiler tags. Anyway, the article intimates that all the cuts were MPAA-requested, although the title card at the start was a response to potential outrage from gay groups.

I should really watch this movie at some point.

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#6 Post by GringoTex » Sat Mar 12, 2005 8:13 am

flixyflox wrote: I understood that Friedkin attempted to accomodate some of these concerns but in the process I think he has botched the movie.
Gay critic Robin Wood wrote an excellent and highly sympathetic essay on the film in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan that deals with its incoherence.

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#7 Post by david hare » Sat Mar 12, 2005 4:34 pm

I can't agree with Friedkin that the movie is in any way in the league of AMBERSONS. As for the fisting scene - this is actually shown indirectly with a shot of a guy in a sling in the first leather bar sequence, although the other bar sequences merely show people dancing - not a favored activity in bars like The Minseshaft in those days. I cannot see how anything like 40 minutes was cut. What really damages the movie is what looks likes re-writes and re-shoots of the later scenes when Pacino is closing in on the killer and is (supposed to be) questioning his own sexuality.

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#8 Post by THX1378 » Sat Mar 12, 2005 11:23 pm

I havn't seen the film in years. I rented once about 8 or 9 years ago to see what the fuss was all about. It did feel that the film was cut, like they wanted to show you more but couldn't because of the feared X rating. And I always hated the ending because-
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Karen Allen goes to Al Pacino's apartment and finds the leater jacket and hat leading you to belive that he's into the gay leather S&M scene now or it's just left over from him going undercover, you deside
As for Thief I don't think were ever going to see the version other than the workprint, unless someone or Miramax ponys up some money for Richard Williams to finsh the film.

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#9 Post by DDillaman » Sun Mar 13, 2005 6:55 am

To clarify, Friedkin doesn't think that his movie is in the league of AMBERSONS - just that the extent of damage to the final product was comparable in scope. (Exact quote, in response to the question "How much material did you lose?": "It was butchery on a scale comparable to THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS - we must have lost about 40 minutes of material.")

From that interview: "I don't think it totally works as a picture. I think the continuity is botched. I'm not crazy about all the casting and I don't think Pacino's is the performance of a guy with a deep understanding of his role." (He then goes on to say that it does stand out, nonetheless, because it makes people uncomfortable.)

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#10 Post by inri222 » Tue Mar 15, 2005 8:39 pm


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#11 Post by postmodern-chuck » Sun Mar 20, 2005 3:11 pm

I've always thought of The Cabinet of Caligari as something of a botched masterpiece, if only because the filmmakers were strapped with a clunky framing device per the demands of the studio. For those who haven't seen it,
SpoilerShow
the expressionist joyride turns into a lame dream sequence / fantasy that, in the end, undermines the film's intentions.
With this, a very surreal, nightmarish, anti-authoritarian masterpiece turns into a sort of cowardly lame duck -- and, according to some articles I've read, a precursor to Nazi Germany.

It's historically fascinating, but I've seen far better examples of early expressionism.

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Dylan
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#12 Post by Dylan » Tue May 16, 2006 3:08 am

In case anybody is interested, "Cruising" has been playing on IFC this month in OAR 1.85:1.

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Antoine Doinel
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#13 Post by Antoine Doinel » Tue May 16, 2006 7:49 am

In depth article on the butchering of The Thief And The Cobbler by Film Threat. Fascinating stuff.


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#15 Post by inri222 » Thu May 18, 2006 11:13 am

Another interesting article: Cruising: Re-examining the Reviled

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#16 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat May 20, 2006 6:35 pm

Whaddya say let's talk about films that have been disatrously cut or taken from geniuses and made into trash or semi-trash... More obviously is Magnificent Ambersons.
Since Magnificent Ambersons was already mentioned, I could not help thinking of IT'S ALL TRUE, another film that was not so much botched, as completely erased from Welles' career.

Anxious to avoid Nazi influence in the South Americas in the time leading up to the United States' entry into World War II, the film was commisioned by the US government as part of a good neighbor policy toward Mexico and Brazil. Welles was singled out to helm the project, while he was still working on THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. The shooting of AMBERSONS barely completed, and with RKO's promise to send editing equipment and technicians to help Welles finish the film while working in Brazil, he packed up and went down to Sao Paulo to begin work on what never became IT'S ALL TRUE.

I recently viewed the Paramount DVD of the same title, which is a documentary by Richard Wilson (who was one of the technicias on the original project), Myron Meisel and Bill Krohn. What I had not expected was the inclusion in the documentary of a reconstruction of an entire narrative thread of the film. "Four Men On A Raft" would have constituted roughly one third of the finished film, and was the segment that Welles managed to complete most of, before the production of the project was shut down, and Welles himself fired from RKO. Apparently the footage was never edited, and sat in a vault for close to 50 years, before it was discovered, assembled and given a kind of release in the early '90s.

Although the segment (which runs about an hour) cannot be said to represent a real Welles film, it is still fascinating to watch. It would be interesting to know what kind of record existed in terms of the sound and editing -- as it is, the segment comes across more as a semi-fine cut than as a finished film. The pace and rhythm is not what one would expect from Welles, and some of the musical cues that have been added are distracting to say the least. Yet, in the way individual shots are composed and framed, the play of light and shadow in individual scenes, the many low angle shots, and extensive use of wide angle lenses, the material very clearly bears Orson Welles' signature. Most powerful is a scene of the inhabitants of a small fishing village burrying a young fisherman, who has drowned at sea. The long procession of grieving villagers are seen silhouetted against the sky, as they inch their way from the beach up to higher ground in order to complete the ritual of burial. Recalling the funeral procession in OTHELLO, it is easy to imagine the power of this scene, had Welles been able to complete it with his own sound.

Perhaps sadder than the mere fact of the incompletion of this film in itself, is the notion that this would have been such a different type of film for Welles. It would have been a film centered on a real love of humanity. The empathy that Welles felt towards the people he met and lived with in Brazil is very clear in the way he depicted them in the footage that survives, and it is an element that I do not believe is really present in any of the work that Welles did complete throughout his career.

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#17 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sat May 20, 2006 7:46 pm

There's more material from the It's All True shoot that Bill and Myron and the UCLA film archives hope to edit in the near future.

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#18 Post by david hare » Sat May 20, 2006 8:16 pm

The notorious gossip writer Charles Higham, who seems to have kickstarted the "Welles-as-own-worst-enemy" club, claims to have viewed all the unedited Technicolor rushes of the Rio footage at the Paramount lot, during the 70s, just before the "guardians" dumped it all into the Pacific. The one minute's worth of edited stuff on the disc makes you hubger for lots more of THIS.

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#19 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sat May 20, 2006 11:09 pm

Well they didn't dump it all into the pacific ocean, as the partially reconstructed It's All True demonstrates. The second volume of Simon Callow's Welles biography has just come out in England and among other things it disputes the "own worst enemy" line, showing Welles to be constantly creative and productive come hell or high water.

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#20 Post by david hare » Sat May 20, 2006 11:59 pm

And thank god for that. All Higham's writing is totally incidental to serious film work and the Welles line was never more than a distraction from the real issues.

And again it was Higham who made the claim they had junked all the IB Rio footage. Trouble with him is you never know what to believe. He told me this personally during one his "soirees" in Sydney before he left for LA, all the while brandishing piles of documents sent from Richard Wilson, including a hand-written "billet doux" from Welles to one of the Mexican cast or crew from It's All True. (His eyes rolled to the whites with glee as he did this..).

The most memorable thing about these events (Jim Sharman was there too that day) was the way he would secrete the booze you had brought into the kitchen, and you had to sneak out during breaks to get a badly needed drink!

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#21 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun May 21, 2006 5:38 pm

David Ehrenstein wrote:There's more material from the It's All True shoot that Bill and Myron and the UCLA film archives hope to edit in the near future.
Are there any more details on this to be obtained anywhere? The technicolor footage included in the documentary certainly made me wish to see more, and the sequence with the christening of the animals that would have been included in a segment of the film directed by Norman Foster also looked very interesting. Is there any reason to hope that they may be able to recreate any of these other segments to the extent of "Four Men On A Raft"?

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#22 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sun May 21, 2006 5:44 pm

No details at the moment.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#23 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon May 22, 2006 9:38 am

inri222 wrote:Another interesting article

Cruising: Re-examining the Reviled

http://www.fringeunderground.com/cruising.html
This is a fascinating read. Many thanks.

I also think that Video Watchdog ran an article on the deleted scenes/subliminal footage in Cruising a few years ago. I'll see if I can find it.

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Lino
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#24 Post by Lino » Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:06 pm

Mark Kermode on Cruising:
For some years now, I've been attempting to get a documentary together which would include some of the long censored footage, of which Friedkin asserts there is "around forty minutes" including "my favourite scene I've ever shot" in which cop Joe Spinell and his partner beat each other around the buttocks with their truncheons while singing "I'm going to Kaaaansaas City" spread-eagled on the hood of a police car. "I loved that scene," Friedkin enthuses to this day, "but to the censors it was outrageous, a direct attack on authority, and it just had to come out in its entirety."
I hope he gets his wish.

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#25 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:13 pm

The novel Cruising, by Gerald Walker, is set in the NYC gay scene of the late 60s and early 70s, long before there was such a thing as a leather or S&M subculture
Complete bullshit!!!

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