Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dumpster Diving: Deleted Scenes that should have stayed in the final film.

One of the common threads that has come out of the recent DVD/Blu Ray release of Star Trek, aside from the video/audio scores and the quantity of extras, is the unexpected quality of the deleted scenes. While most deleted scenes reels simply show how on-target the filmmakers were in terms of what to keep and what to cut, the deleted footage of Star Trek was obviously cut for time. First of all, aside from the extension of the Kobayashi Maru test that makes Kirk come off like even more of a prick, the scenes are all rock-solid bits that expand characterization. Second of all, at least one segment fills in major plot holes concerning the villainous Nero. Since his lack of development and the somewhat arbitrary time-line of his scheme was a major flaw in the picture, I'm baffled why at least that segment was not kept in the theatrical-release print. Still, let us take a moment to point out several deleted scenes that didn't deserve to end up on the cutting room floor. Scenes that became part of an official extended or director's cut need not apply.

The Sixth Sense (1999) - Toy Soldiers.
Since M. Night Shyamalan himself explains why this bit was trimmed, I won't rehash it here. I don't disagree with Night's reasons for cutting it: the scene would have risked revealing the supernatural angle much sooner than intended. But it's a beautiful character moment, as well as the kind of 'big scene' that might very well have won Haley Joel Osment a much-deserved Oscar ten years ago. Frankly, the film should darn-well have won every one of the seven Oscars it was up for that year. The three-hour network television cut of The Sixth Sense contains this and three other deleted scenes cut back in.

Dirty Dancing (1987) - The parents get fleshed out.
I never actually saw all of Dirty Dancing until just a few years ago. Truth be told, it's only in the final act that the film goes completely off the rails, but the picture is a definitive piece of female-escapist fantasy regardless. Ironically, one of the biggest problems I had with the picture was the lack of dimensionality given to Baby Houseman's mother (Kelly Bishop) and father (Jerry Orbach). Astoundingly, each had a terrific and revealing scene that ended up on the cutting-room floor. In Mrs. Houseman's big third-act moment, Bishop admits that she knows full well what her daughter has been up to. She admits that she had at least one torrid affair in her youth, and it's just something that Baby needs to get out of her system before settling down with a more proper husband. Orbach wrings sympathy in his big second-act scene, where he explains that the reason he has such issues with the lower-class kids like Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) is that they remind him of the punks who used to beat him up for being Jewish. It's a shame that these two revealing moments didn't make the final cut, as it would have gone a long way into preventing the parental units from coming off as cartoon characters.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) - Birth of the Rebel Alliance.

It would have been just five extra minutes in the already 140-minute Star Wars finale, but George Lucas cut this subplot involving the birth of what would eventually become the Rebel Alliance. These scenes would have accomplished three goals. First of all, it would have further connected the two trilogies. Second of all, the finale of this plot gave extra shadings to Anakin's eventual turn to the Dark Side, as it seemed that even his wife was theoretically out to betray him. Third of all, most importantly, it would have given Natalie Portman something to do other than sit around literally barefoot and pregnant, worrying and crying while the galaxy fell into dictatorial rule.

The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Banner gets his head examined.
I've complained at length about the butchered 110-minute cut of The Incredible Hulk. As I wrote back in November, the most grievous offense was done to the character of Dr. Leonard Samson (Ty Burrell), the boyfriend of Betsy Ross. Much of the forty-two minutes of deleted footage worked to flesh out his character. Even in the final film, Dr. Samson ended up being a smarter, warmer, and more sympathetic character than either Bruce Banner or Betsy Ross. Upstage the stars at your peril. Anyway, the scene above is a two-minute scene where Banner sits down with the lover of his ex-girlfriend and lets the psychiatrist do some armchair diagnosing. The quality of the dialogue and the naturalistic acting of both parties should have made this a keeper. Ironically Edward Norton (who wanted the longer, more character-driven cut) recently made a cameo on Burrell's new sitcom Modern Family. By the way, with Scrubs officially over (that mediocre revamp 2.0 is something else entirely); Modern Family is currently the funniest show on television).

Blade (1998) - When everyone is a vampire, what will vampires eat?
If you had a scene that explained away a massive plot hole, wouldn't you keep it in the final film? Stephen Norrington felt otherwise, leaving this breakthrough Marvel-adaptation with a major storytelling gap. Relatively late in the game, it's revealed that the evil Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) plans to turn the entire world's human population into vampires. So once the world is turned into vampires, what will vampires eat? Great question. Well, there is actually a deleted scene where Frost shows off a giant room filled with captive humans who are being harvested and slowly bled out. Ironically, Norrington's cut is the Spierg Brothers gain, as their upcoming Daybreakers uses this exact concept as the jumping-off point for its entire story.

Final Destination (2000) - Alternate Ending.
The flaw of the Final Destination series is that it's always tried to have it both ways. On one hand, it portends to be a serious mediation on mortality and predestination. On the other hand, it expects you to whoop and holler when characters get bumped off in over-the-top gore spectacles. Well, the first film in the series really tried to be a real movie, with thoughtful characters, a pall of tragedy, and a tragic but appropriate ending. But dumb test-screening audience members got in the way, more or less forcing New Line to shelve the original tonally-consistent finale in favor of an audience-pleasing 'gotcha' moment. And the die for this popular series was cast.

Iron Man (2008) - Stark and Obadiah get a final moment.
For those of us who felt that this comic-book adventure crapped out at the end, trading character and narrative for soulless robot-smashing, this extended version of Jeff Bridges's death scene is bittersweet. It's not much, but it allows the hero and villain to actually have a final scene together, which is the kind of thing that these pictures should thrive on. But for whatever reason Jon Favreau felt the need to omit this lone character moment amidst the high-tech mayhem. Oh well.

Galaxy Quest (1999) - Dr. Lazarus's Quarters.

By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, this is my favorite deleted scene of all-time. I can't imagine why this was trimmed from the final film. No spoilers, just enjoy this deleted gut-buster (about 2:14 in) from the very best Star Trek film ever made.

I'm sure I left off any number of your favorite deleted scenes. I'm also partial to the extended Ian Holm moments in the first act of Garden State, as well as a brief moment in Away From Her that explains the surprising connections between a few major characters ("Life is... complicated."). And considering that I'm not all that crazy about the movie, I was shocked at the bounty of riches in the thirty-five minute deleted scenes collection for Love Actually. Your turn to share. What are your favorite deleted scenes?

Scott Mendelson


R.L. Shaffer said...

The extended ending with Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation is another goodie. After Marcus' speech it fades to white, then Kyle is burying him (a touching callback to the "we bury out dead" speech). He stops for a moment to reflect, places his hand in his pocket and finds the picture of Sarah Connor, it fades back to white. Cue Connor's final speech. It's on the BD, in the Maximum Movie Mode, but it's nowhere else on the disc. Such a better way to end the movie, closing the storylines for all three characters and giving a fine callback to the first film.

Razorgeist said...

Woah that Final Destination alternate ending is way better than the finished one!

Anonymous said...

Heavily agree on Revenge of the Sith. When that DVD came out, i was very angry that those scenes were left out (in a movie that really didn't have to delete any scenes honestly).

While not a favorite, the alternate ending to "The Butterfly Effect" was much better.

"Back to the Future Part II" recalls elder Biff Tannen(From 2015), returning after giving 1955 Biff the sports almanac, to 2015 and vanishing, never to exist because he changed time, helping to explainthat its okay that Marty and Doc(in this film's universe) can still exist having said events happen.



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