Though a restored version ofMichael Cimino's epic Heaven's Gate has been screening in Berlin thisweek, it is now looks as if its out-takes will never be found - thanks to aclear-out at UA which saw discarded footage from this, and several other filmclassics, destroyed.
It isn't just Heaven'sGate - out-takes from seminal works such as Raging Bull, the Last Waltz,The Alamo, Yentl, Woody Allen classics, the Pink Panther films andmany, many others were binned in a studio clear-out 14 years ago. Details wereonly beginning to emerge this week of the extent of the cultural vandalism.
Michael Epstein's BerlinForum entry, Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking Of Heaven's Gate revealsthat Cimino shot over 200 hours of footage. The first cut he showed his bossesat UA was over five hours long. But most of this has now been lost.
Speaking this week inBerlin, MGM/UA archivist John Kirk (behind the restoration of Heaven's Gate)confirmed the loss, which took place after MGM bosses threw out all of itsboxes labelled "trims" in the early 1990s in a bid to save a fewthousand dollars in storage costs.
The studio discarded footagewhich film historians and distributors releasing special edition DVDs nowregard as gold dust. Steven Bach, head of UA at the time Heaven's Gatewas made, only learned in Berlin this week that this had taken place.
Kirk revealed that theoriginal negative of the three and a half hour Heaven's Gate that openedin New York to some of the most hostile reviews in Hollywood history in 1980has itself been discarded.
"The studiopanicked," Kirk said. "They pulled the film and it appears that theoriginal negative was cut to conform to the short version and those trims werethrown away. One third of the film was intentionally just discarded. When I wasworking on the film, the only way that I could put that missing one hour 20minutes back in was from dupe elements that had survived."
When he began work on FinalCut, Epstein was expecting to have unfettered access to UA's archives. Whathe discovered shocked him. "What I found out was that MGM had thrown outall of their out-takes. It was not just Heaven's Gate, but RagingBull, Pink Panther, all the Woody Allen out-takes, all the Scorseseout-takes...every trim was dumped to save about $20,000 in storage costs. Itwas absolutely criminal."
Cimino didn't help withMGM's restoration of Heaven's Gate. (Kirk relied on advice from Cimino'scinematographer Vilmos Szigmond.) It remains to be seen whether he has some ofthe original footage still in his possession, but Kirk thinks it highlyunlikely.
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