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Senior HTF Member
May 22, 1999
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I know, I know. THE DEER HUNTER is a highly-revered, Oscar-winning war story and HEAVEN'S GATE is the disastrous, over-indulgent epic western that nearly busted United Artists (see a book called "The Final Cut" by Steven Bach). I guess HEAVEN'S GATE is simply a guilty pleasure for me, as I prefer it about ten to one over DEER HUNTER. I saw it theatrically in 1980 in its two-and-a-half hour edit, and even at that length thought it to be a much more involving film than DEER HUNTER, which I find to be a hugely overrated movie...its first 45 minutes are a rip-off of the first two Godfather movies, staging a wa-y-y-y overlong celebration but not finding the insight or depth of character revealed in the Coppola films. The ten-minute deer hunting sequence is good, and the half-hour Vietnam sequences fairly riveting (if entirely fictitious). But the rest of the movie is pretentious, long-winded and, even if well-acted, uninvolving for me. HEAVEN'S GATE, while also pretentious (especially the Harvard sequences at the start), just seem more interesting on a minute-to-minute basis. Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography for HEAVEN'S GATE is not as good as it was for DEER HUNTER - the colored filters are overused and everything looks distorted. Still, this movie holds my interest while DEER HUNTER bores me. The DVD transfers of these films are of roughly equal quality (i.e. not very good), so it becomes a matter of which film tells a better story. I am not a Michael Cimino fan - I consider him to be a meglomaniac and I await with baited breath the day when someone with a similarly misplaced ego (Michael Bay)will take a fall the way Cimino did - but HEAVEN'S GATE seems to me to have been a much-maligned but not-so-bad movie that deserves another look. Yes, it went wildly overbudget and Cimino was way out of line, but I just don't think it's the disappointing follow-up to DEER HUNTER it was said to be. Other opinions? (Flame sheilds up).

Jay Blair

Second Unit
Nov 3, 2001
Both these films look far better in anamorphic widescreen. I am a big fan of Heaven's Gate (though also a big fan of Deer Hunter) and the film is a much difference experience seeing justice done to it with the anamorphic Australian release compared to the non-anamorphic US release. HG at its best is a visual poem and suffers greatly if not viewed under the best of circumstances. The Deer Hunter is also anamorphic down under. Neither transfer however falls into the great category. I would still love to see both of them remastered.

In short, no flames from me, other than to say that I think the cinematography of HG is if anything even better than DH.

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