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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Heaven's Gate -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    If I might make a single suggestion regarding this Criterion release of Michael Cimino's slightly changed director's cut of Heaven's Gate, it would be to go in with no pre-cognitions.

    This is the first time that the (almost) original cut of the film has been seen in decades in a quality version, and there are myriads of extraordinary sights and sounds that are offered by the film.

    If this epic suffers from a single negative force, it would probably be its tendency toward the elephantine. Everything is huge. In a way it reminds me of David O. Selznick's 1946 Duel in the Sun, even if this later epic bests Duel by 86 minutes.

    The questions that many of you, after hearing about the film as a "disaster," may be asking yourselves, are "Is it worth my time? Is it worth the purchase?"

    My answer would be a resounding Yes!

    Look past the size of the production, and an equally huge story comes to the fore. Today, three decades after it's original release, and a disastrous 70 minute re-cut down to 149 minutes, we finally have a viable representation of the film on Blu-ray.

    And that is a major event.

    With the original negative used for the re-cutting, and previous home video versions taken from a used 70mm print, we finally have the opportunity to see the film with Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography coming to the fore. With an image harvested from a set of complete separation masters, the original look of the film still shines through. Rich blacks, with a superb gray scale and equally rich shadow detail, tells us that this was a well-made set of sep masters. Unfortunately, this doesn't always occur.

    Criterion's support of the project also needs to be noted, as without their perseverance, and especially that of Criterion's Lee Kline, this might never have been seen.

    Audio was been re-mixed from the original 6-track mags down to 5.1, and is a treat for any high-end audio system.

    With sales on their way for the holiday season, Amazon's current $35 price may come down, but the point should be made, that even at that number, this Blu-ray is a steal.

    Heaven's Gate is a film that must be seen, and evaluated without the baggage that has surrounded it for decades.

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
    ljgranberry and Brian McP like this.
  2. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Well-Known Member

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    For those wanting it Barnes & Noble still have their Criterion's in store at 50% off Thru the 26th! I picked up my copy yesterday and will be watching it Thanksgiving day.

    I've never seen the film before but was always curious. Even more curious to see Kris Kristofferson's "Weathered sensuality" in HD as Criterion put it on the back cover of the release.
     
  3. Robin9

    Robin9 Well-Known Member

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    It isn't a steal for me.
    I saw this movie when it first came out and I was privileged - I didn't realise it at the time - to see the full version. I didn't think much of it and that was before Heaven's Gate became widely regarded as garbage. I've never seen it again. If this BRD was at a normal price, I might buy it just to see the film once more, but I'm not paying Criterion prices for a BRD I'll watch only once.
     
    davidHartzog likes this.
  4. Ray H

    Ray H Well-Known Member

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    As mentioned, Barnes and Noble has this on sale for $24.99 online (+ shipping) and in-stores for the next week. There's a 30% off coupon floating around for this weekend that should bring it down to a very reasonable $17.49 (even less if you have a membership).
     
  5. Charles Maesschalck

    Charles Maesschalck Active Member

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    Is the Barnes coupon for non members and online?
     
  6. Guest

    Yes, the coupon is T9P3E3W.
     
  7. Charles Maesschalck

    Charles Maesschalck Active Member

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    Thank you.
     
  8. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

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    There's been much renting of garments around the 'net about the 'missed opportunity' by Criterion. And, for whatever reason, I think there's little doubt that they've had to bow to Cimino's demands on the supplements front. So no; no 'Final Cut' documentary, no Johnson County War contextualisation, no this, no that.
    But what I am getting here is a minor miracle; the film restored, revived and looking real purty and ripe for, if anyone has a need to, reappraisal. A dozen years ago, I paid around £12-£13 to import a non-anamorphic DVD (one of my very first imports) of the film and I've recently paid just over £15 for the labour of restorative love that is this Blu-ray.
    A minor miracle indeed.
    I'm not in a frame of mind to moan about a lack of supplements; after all, are there no libraries..? I can't wait for it to arrive.
     
  9. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    blind bought this one on the B&N sale. Can't wait to finally sit down to it. I've had a version taped off TV sitting around unwatched, waiting for the right opportunity. This is it!
     
  10. Dick

    Dick Well-Known Member

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    I kick myself to this day for having not signed up for Zigmond's week-long Cinematography workshops not far from me in Rockport, Maine during the 80's. I love his work. And, credit where credit is due, Cimino and Criterion have produced a Blu-ray that restores natural (and gorgeous) color to the image, where all prior video releases I remember, plus the 35mm theatrical print of the 149-minute version I saw, were yellow and brown and crappy. This is a nice transfer. Does it it increase my appreciation of the film? Yes. Of Michael Cimino? Not so much.
     
  11. lark144

    lark144 Premium
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    "Heaven's Gate is a film that must be seen, and evaluated without the baggage that has surrounded it for decades."
    Amen!
     
  12. Andy_G

    Andy_G Well-Known Member

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    Any reason why they had to go to the seps? Did the studio junk the trims?
     
  13. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Well-Known Member

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    Yes. When John Kirk did a photochemical restoration of this back in the early-2000s, he discovered that in the early 1990s MGM had junked all the negative trims of not just HEAVEN'S GATE, but just about every other MGM/UA film, as well, in order to save money on storage costs. Kirk also didn't have access to the seps back then, he had to make due with various other dupes for his photochemical work, including a bit of black-and-white work print!
    Vincent
     
  14. Jim*Tod

    Jim*Tod Well-Known Member

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    I saw the cut down version of HEAVEN'S GATE when it first came out and remember the prints being somewhat sepia toned. (Oddly enough, it was shown in a double feature with MCCABE AND MRS MILLER, another Zsigmond shot classic with unusual color values.) Just bought the blu ray and it is gorgeous, no question. I know this transfer was supervised by Cimino. But nowhere was there any mention of Zsigmond being involved with this restoration.... from what I have read he considers it his best work. Was the sepia toned quality the original intent on the initial full length prints? Or is this just the result of decades of bad print/bad transfers?
     
  15. Dick

    Dick Well-Known Member

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    If the "sepia tone," as you put it (I simply recall dusty yellow and brown, with very little that might suggest the grandeur of the American West), was intentional, that might be one reason why the movie failed at the b.o. I never saw anything beautiful about HEAVEN'S GATE until I watched this Criterion release. Now the film is rather watchable in spite of its many script and performance flaws.
     
  16. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Well-Known Member
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    I picked up this release for its historic value, and as a final nod in the direction of the late, great Z channel of Los Angeles fame.

    The movie, as always, is beautiful to see. It's just that it's overwhelming. Hollywood history is replete with large-scale movies, and particularly large-scale epics that foundered upon release. (Waterworld is but one example, but there are also a couple of brushes with peril by James Cameron that are worth noting...)

    Heaven's Gate is historic for the damage it did, not only to the director but to the studio that financed it. It was bound to happen in the late 70s, and this was the one that finally did it - a situation where the studio execs let a director get so far out of control that they lost the whole enterprise.

    We should remember that Cimino did the recut himself after the disastrous opening, publicly saying that he wanted to take more time to shape the movie better. The movie was not taken away from him, even after the aborted release.

    I would greatly have preferred to see a fuller examination of the process of the making of the film, but it is clear that Cimino would not brook this concept. I hope that at some point, another company does put out a DVD with the Final Cut documentary, or perhaps with a new one. There are lessons here that we do need to remember, regardless of whether Cimino wishes to sweep them away.
     
  17. atcolomb

    atcolomb Well-Known Member

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    First time i saw Heaven's Gate was back in late 1990's when the cable channel Bravo was showing art films and they did show the longer version of the film. I miss the good old days of Bravo!
     
  18. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Well-Known Member

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    While technically this is correct, there's no doubt that the horrific reviews out of New York informed the recutting. Cimino said in 1982 that it was his original intention to treat the New York and Los Angeles premiere screenings as extended previews and to further shape the film before it's originally planned wide release in early-1981, not unlike what Kubrick did with 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but that after the NY reviews, it didn't work out that way. Instead of trying to "perfect" the film from its premiere version, it became an issue of radically trying to "save" it, and the short cut suffers from this.
    Vincent
     
  19. Peter Neski

    Peter Neski Well-Known Member

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    Vilmos Zsigmond in American Cinematographer
    "We arrived at that different look by flashing not only the negative but the prints,as well,Our Aim is to have a low-contrast,pastel and sort
    sepia-tone image all the way Though the picture"
    This of Course is about the Original not the shorter Version
     
  20. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Well-Known Member
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    Vincent is correct, but we should also remember that Cimino was at the disastrous screenings where people's reactions were pretty evident. It wasn't just the bad reviews or the bad press - it was the people directly telling him and showing him what they thought of it. Given that, his attempt to fix the situation is understandable - albeit late...
     

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