Following a highly successful run in the 1970’s, director Francis Ford Coppola ran into some trouble with his movies. He had two modest successes with film adaptations of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Rumble Fish (both 1983) and a notorious commercial flop in One from the Heart (1982); however, the most ambitious film he made during the 1980’s might have been The Cotton Club, a story about the famed Harlem nightclub and the colorful characters that populated it. Previously released on DVD by MGM in its original theatrical version, Lionsgate – through their deal with Coppola’s American Zoetrope company – has given the extended director’s cut of the movie its Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 4/5
In the late 1920’s, cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) is just barely making by until the night he saves mobster Dutch Schultz (James Remar) from a nightclub shooting. From that point forward, Dixie becomes entangled with Dutch and his mistress Vera (Diane Lane) amidst a burgeoning career as an entertainer and actor. Also crossing paths with Dixie are a talented tap dancer (Gregory Hines) who’s enamored with an up and coming singer (Lonette McKee), his own brother (Nicolas Cage) who becomes an enforcer for Schultz, the owner of The Cotton Club – mobster Owney Madden (Bob Hoskins) – and his right hand man (Fred Gwynne), and a Harlem mobster (Laurence Fishburne). All paths lead to the legendary Harlem nightclub, where an explosive Dutch may end up getting his just desserts…
The Cotton Club went through a very interesting and troubled production; to put it in short terms, director Francis Ford Coppola and producer Robert Evans frequently clashed over who was at fault over the film’s escalating production costs, one of the film’s backers was murdered during production, and the film bombed at the box office despite garnering critical acclaim as well as a Golden Globe nod for Coppola and Oscar nominations for the production design and film editing. With the Encore cut of the movie, 11 minutes are restored (in the form of 3 additional music numbers) and the focus of the movie is more on the lavish and well executed musical interludes rather than the light romance between Dixie and Vera. While the plot is still a little bit on the light side and not quite having the dramatic weight one would expect, it can be forgiven, since the musical and dancing performances are so good and the pacing is actually a little more quicker than the original theatrical release. In short, while The Cotton Club often swings for the proverbial fences, it reaches them often enough to make it one of Francis Ford Coppola’s better post-Apocalypse Now efforts; the Encore cut allows the original intentions to fully shine through and, hopefully, get the movie the recognition as a work of art that was elusive the first time around.
As the cornet player caught up in the New York underworld (likely based on the real life George Raft), Richard Gere gives a fine performance; he also performs all of his own solos in the movie (he’s an accomplished trumpet player in real life). Gregory Hines, along with his brother Maurice, gives a great performance as the dancer hoping to make it into the Cotton Club (their characters’ relationship in the film partly mirrored that of their own real lives); James Remar makes for an appropriately explosive Dutch Schultz. Diane Lane is very lovely as Dixie’s love interest in a modest performance; Nicolas Cage – in one of his earliest performances – makes for a very intense brother of Dixie (his character is modeled after the infamous mob hitman Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll). Other notable performances and appearances amongst the cast include Lonette McKee as Lila Rose, Bob Hoskins as Owney Madden, Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster himself) as Madden’s right hand man and friend, Allen Garfield as Schultz associate Otto “Abbadabba” Berman, Gwen Verdon as Dixie’s mother, Jennifer Grey as Dixie’s sister-in-law, Julian Beck as mobster Sol Weinstein, John P. Ryan as an ill-fated mobster, Woody Strode as the Cotton Club’s doorman, Laurence Fishburne as the Harlem mobster Bumpy (loosely based off of the real life Bumpy Johnson, whom Fishburne would portray in the 1997 movie Hoodlum), and former Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro as the infamous Lucky Luciano.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio for this release. Film grain is organic throughout with some density shift in some scenes that utilize the restored footage. Colors are vivid throughout with minimal issues and minor problems like scratches, dirt, or tears present; overall, the restored version of the movie has been given likely the best presentation on home video.
The film’s soundtrack is presented on a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear and the sound mix is represented faithfully as well; the source music and John Barry’s incidental score are both given clarity, ambiance and fidelity. There’s hardly any instance of problems like distortion, hissing, or crackling present, which means that this is likely the best movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 2.5/5
Introduction by Francis Ford Coppola (2:16) – Coppola talks about his initial vision of the movie in this brief promotional intro.
The Cotton Club Encore Q&A (19:07) – Francis Ford Coppola, Maurice Hines, and James Remar talk about the movie and its recut in this Q&A session taken from a recent screening during the revival run.
Overlooked and a little misunderstood by audiences upon first release, The Cotton Club Encore reveals the original vision of the movie and gives it a little more depth and scope that was missing. Lionsgate has done a solid job of giving the movie high marks for both audio and visual quality, despite a very light slate of special features – a film that had quite a rocky production like this is deserving of a larger slate. Minor quibble about special features aside, this is now the definitive version of The Cotton Club and highly recommended.https://www.amazon.com/Cotton-Club-Encore-Blu-ray-Richard/dp/B07Y9BDWB4/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1CQ7YBXSVVRWY&keywords=the+cotton+club+encore&qid=1578694860&s=movies-tv&sprefix=the+cot%2Caps%2C250&sr=1-4