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 PAT GARRETT DVD, something of a travesty...
Thomas Clay
Posted: Jan 13 2006, 03:26 PM


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I am surprised to discover that the new DVD of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID is something of a travesty...

The 2005 Special Edition makes a strong case in places. The scene with Garrett's wife is nothing short of essential, although we are told in the commentary that this was in the original preview cut and should have been in the 1988 release all along (it was skipped over due to the scene being removed from the original negative for network television use). The return of Dylan's lyrics to Pickens death scene is also a blessing - Peckinpah may have preferred Fielding, but once you go with Dylan you should go all the way; the surviving preview cut did not include sound and the decision to drop the Dylan lyrics was made in 1988. Some of the tougher editing and re-ordering of scenes also makes sense. I'm even quite partial to the new ending, although I'm not sure I prefer it to the old (preview) one which would seem from the evidence to be Peckinpah's favoured conclusion.

And herein lies the problem. Rushed and rough around the edges as it may be, the 1988 cut represents a full Peckinpah cut of the film. The 2005 Special Edition is a speculative attempt to make improvements, some successful others very much open to debate. Since the theatrical opening credit sequence was a response to the removal of the Garrett death sequence, why bother including it now? It also seems strange to ditch the Poe interrogation scene due to the 'bad performances' when the Ruthie Lee scene that replaces it is far more clunky and unwelcome...
and why the hell they ditched the longer, meatier, funnier version of the scene between Garrett and the brothel owner for what is clearly a sanitised studio hack job is absolutely beyond me. Regardless of the temptations, I believe a respectful restoration would have restored the original preview version to its full glory (including Garrett's wife scene and possibly the Dylan lyrics) and left it at that.

None of which would matter so much if the 1988 cut of the film had not been treated with such a lack of care. The transfer is inferior, less clear and colourful, with far more dirt and visible reel change marks. Unforgivably, the soundtrack goes all wobbly at the end making the final 2 or 3 minutes practically unwatchable. Not good...
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Brian Camp
Posted: Jan 13 2006, 03:39 PM


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So now there are FOUR versions of this film. None of them are the definitive version, although it sounds to me, Thomas, like you're making the case that the 1988 cut is the closest to a definitive version. I haven't seen the new version yet and I guess I'm wondering what the consensus is/will be on the new version, i.e. will interested parties agree on the '88 version being the closest to what Peckinpah wanted.

And when is one of these Special Editions/Box Sets going to include the long-missing TV cut?



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William D'Annucci
Posted: Jan 14 2006, 04:59 PM


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I can throw my two bits in as a Peckinpah fan who was never really impressed with PAT GARRETT before based on a rented VHS tape that made me sleepy. I watched the '88 "preview" version last night, some of it again with the commentary, and the 2005 version with the commentary. You need to listen to the commentaries to understand the thinking involved with making the new version, such as the opening credits, and how some of the changes most likely were Peckinpah's decisions. The main problem is that no "real" finished version of PAT GARRETT exists. Peckinpah was working with a shaky script and an abbreviated deadline that gave him far too little time to make a fine cut. Peckinpah's friends and critics interviewed here dance around the sad fact that Peckinpah's alcoholism had gotten totally out of control during PG&BTK, leaving him with a scant amount of functional hours in the day. The version we'd all want, with Peckinpah at his full energy focus and skill displayed in the WILD BUNCH, was never fully allowed to happen.

That being said, I like PAT GARRETT a lot more now due to the DVD. I like to think of the '88 version almost as the Jim Jarmusch cut in its slow, dreamy pace and oddball characters. Bob Dylan particularly seems like some Jarmusch character who took a wrong turn into Peckinpah land. I'd almost prefer the very beautiful 2005 version for the Knockin' lyrics re-instated (what a classic film moment) and the scene with Garrett's wife. But I am kinda annoyed at some of the dialogue trims, such as Armstrong's "spider's web" line and Chil Wills' extended whore monologue. I guess this will be kinda like ALIENS, where I wish I had a version in between the theatrical and extended versions, just re-instating the daughter photograph scene. Guess you can't have 'em all.
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David Scott Butner
Posted: Jan 14 2006, 08:31 PM


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Am I really the only one out there who prefers the fact that the '88 cut omits the lyrics to the Dylan song? Okay, I understand that everyone's now saying that having the vocal part left out of this cut was a mistake and was not one of Peckinpah's ideas, but I find the beauty and poignency created by Slim Pickens' and Katy Juardo's silent glances at each other utterly compromised by the intrusion of a vocal that describes the action unfolding upon the screen. Don't get me wrong, I love the song "Knocking on Heaven's Door," and I'm a big fan of Dylan in general -- I even really like his voice. Here, however, I feel that less is more.
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Thomas Clay
Posted: Jan 15 2006, 05:27 AM


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I have listened to some of the commentary. One of the guys on the commentary is the primary instigator of the 2005 Cut. I agree with the basic principal of what he is trying to do - ie. find a median between Peckinpah's own rough cut and the fine cut supervised, in part, by Peckinpah but also by James Aubry, head of MGM. The result of such an exercise, however, should be to remove Aubry from the equation. Not, as happens here on occasion, to second guess and 'improve' upon Peckinpah's own decisions.

I don't regard PAT GARRETT as a flawed film. It has little in common with THE WILD BUNCH aside from its genre - PAT GARRETT is more stylised and dreamlike, the narrative is thinner, the mood thicker. It does not need saving from Peckinpah's perceived lack of focus.

When it comes to assembling a 'perfect version' there are some genuinely contentious issues, such as the Dylan lyrics. But why scrap the original title sequence? The new editor talks about 'confusing the audience by combining place cards and title cards' but this is his own (somewhat conventional) point of view. Why remove the return to Garrett's death at the end? Again, the editor presumes to know better than the director. Why remove the brothel owner's speech? Or Billy firing a second shotgun load into Bob Ollinger? These are decisions of a purely prudish nature.

One wonders why Roger Spottiswoode and Garth Craven were seemingly uninvolved in the 2005 cut. They would be the most accurate source of information on which aspects of the fine cut belong to Peckinpah. Spottiswoode was involved in the 1988 release.

It is frustrating, because the 2005 version is a genuine improvement in many ways and the Preview cut, as presented here, is almost unwatchable due to the temp soundtrack (damaged, to boot). This isn't Aliens - the ommissions / flaws are not of the director's doing - and it is hard not to view the release as a missed opportunity.

I might add, btw, that the new transfer of THE WILD BUNCH is stunningly beautiful.

This post has been edited by Thomas Clay on Jan 15 2006, 05:34 AM
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Andrew Fitzpatrick
Posted: Jan 15 2006, 04:10 PM


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QUOTE
Or Billy firing a second shotgun load into Bob Ollinger?


That is precisely the cut that made me suspicious about just how carefully this new version was prepared. The second "Keep the change, Bob" blast was missing from the original theatrical version, but reinstated in the '88 cut. This reminded me of the "director's cut" of Blade Runner that reverted back to the version that had been edited for an 'R' rating, even though certain violent bits had already been reinstated for home video. I thought this was especially careless, and made me doubt how much effort Ridley put into preparing it.

Clearly, the assembled Peckinpah experts began working with the original theatrical cut instead of the '88 cut. I don't have a problem with putting a new cut together - even though I don't like anything that they've done - but this careless, and relatively minor, cut really irks my ire.

I wonder why, since they all seem to hate the scenes with Emilo Fernandez's Paco (which I agree don't work all that well), they decided to leave it in their version? In general, cuts made here for the sake of pacing are kind of silly. Peckinpah is one of my very favorite filmmakers, and PG&BtK is my favorite of his films. But the pacing is just plain bad, and no amount of scene shuffling/rearranging can fix that. It's charms lay in the small character moments provided by the greatest collection of character actors ever assembled. Removing any of those scenes, but specifically the scene with Elisha Cook Jr. and Dub Taylor, does nothing but take away from the films charms. Why not remove the duel scene between Kris and Jack Elam?

This post has been edited by Andrew Fitzpatrick on Jan 15 2006, 04:14 PM


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Vincent Pereira
Posted: Jan 15 2006, 04:24 PM


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QUOTE (Andrew Fitzpatrick @ Jan 15 2006, 04:10 PM)
This reminded me of the "director's cut" of Blade Runner that reverted back to the version that had been edited for an 'R' rating, even though certain violent bits had already been reinstated for home video.  I thought this was especially careless, and made me doubt how much effort Ridley put into preparing it.

Re: BLADE RUNNER- there's an excellent chapter in the book FUTURE NOIR that details the trials and tribulations regarding the preparation of the 1992 "Director's Cut" of BLADE RUNNER. As you suspected, Ridley wanted to extra violent bits from the "international" cut included, but a maze of miscommunications between Ridley's camp and Warner Brothers basically resulted in the 1992 "Director's Cut" being literally assembled at the last possible moment, and as a result, the original film elements for those violent bits weren't able to be located and cut back into the film in time for its locked-in premiere date.

The fact that the 1992 "Director's Cut" was so compromised is one of the reasons so many of us were elated when it was initially announced that WB would be releasing an ALL-NEW Director's Cut on DVD that was being prepared by Ridley himself, as in the intervening years all of the BLADE RUNNER negative trims had been located, among other things (in 1992, they were only able to locate workprint trims). Unfortunately, vague "legal issues" reared their ugly heads and the release was put on hold indefinitely.

Sorry to stray off-topic re: PAT GARRET, but it's somewhat related when it comes to discussing long after-the-fact "Director's Cuts".

Vincent

This post has been edited by Vincent Pereira on Jan 15 2006, 04:25 PM
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Brad Stevens
Posted: Jan 16 2006, 05:16 AM


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QUOTE (Andrew Fitzpatrick @ Jan 15 2006, 04:10 PM)

In general, cuts made here for the sake of pacing are kind of silly. Peckinpah is one of my very favorite filmmakers, and PG&BtK is my favorite of his films. But the pacing is just plain bad, and no amount of scene shuffling/rearranging can fix that.

Bad by what standard? It's not supposed to be THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It's not even supposed to be THE WILD BUNCH. It's the dream of a dying man. The 'lethargic' pace of the preview version makes perfect sense when seen from this perspective. Nobody is obliged to like the film, but please credit Peckinpah with doing what he set out to do.
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Andrew Fitzpatrick
Posted: Jan 16 2006, 07:38 PM


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QUOTE
Bad by what standard? It's not supposed to be THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It's not even supposed to be THE WILD BUNCH. It's the dream of a dying man. The 'lethargic' pace of the preview version makes perfect sense when seen from this perspective. Nobody is obliged to like the film, but please credit Peckinpah with doing what he set out to do.


Well, bad by my standard I suppose. I really have a hard time imagining any director (especially Peckinpah) deciding to give his film a deliberately lethargic pace. The editing of the opening scene makes Peckinpah's intention of establishing a dream state clear enough without having to resort to cheap theatrics. And why should anyone be obligated to take the word of the assembled commentators on what exactly Peckinpah "really" wanted to do with the film? I think their reasoning for most of the changes they made to the '88 preview cut are highly suspect - and the fact that the '88 cut was given a substandard presentation on DVD because they opted to cobble together a new version (22 years after the death of the director) damn near scandalous.

I probably could have been a bit more clear in my post about how fond of this movie I am - but where did I mention wishing it could be more like The Magnificent Seven or The Wild Bunch? I love this film for what it is, but I'm not blind to its faults.

This post has been edited by Andrew Fitzpatrick on Jan 16 2006, 07:52 PM


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Brad Stevens
Posted: Jan 20 2006, 06:18 AM


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Watched the new cut of PAT GARRETT last night, and was surprised by how much I liked it. Paul Seydor will go to Heaven simply for giving us the opportunity to see the footage of Garrett and his wife. It was also nice to finally see the scene showing Garrett interrogating Ruthie Lee in widescreen (I've only previously seen this in a pan-and-scan copy of the theatrical version). But the biggest surprise is that the latter scene goes on longer than it does in the theatrical print (where it ended with Ruthie Lee saying "Fort Sumner"), with additional footage that allows the scene to segue into the scene of Garrett and the prostitutes (which actually replaced the Ruthie Lee scene in the preview cut). Also, though there is no mention of this on the commentary track, the famous riverbank scene plays longer in the theatrical cut than it does in the preview print - the latter version eliminated the opening shot, which is restored here. For all of this, much thanks.

I don't buy Seydor's explanation for why the scene with Garrett's wife was missing from the preview print. He claims it must have been removed so that it could be included in a television version. But several other scenes (including the scene with Chisum) were also restored to the TV version, while remaining in the preview version. And if somebody was going to take the scene with Garrett's wife out of a print so that it could be used elsewhere, then why does the shot of Garrett walking up to his house (which begins the scene in question) remain in the preview print? Seydor describes the latter shot as bewildering in isolation, but to me it's far from bewildering. We see Garrett walk up to his house, pause as if steeling himself for an unpleasant experience, then reluctantly open the gate. Garrett's relationship with his wife is perfectly summed up in that one image, and I think we have to at least consider the possibility that Peckinpah decided to cut the following scene because everything important about it had been summed up in that one shot.

I certainly miss a lot of the bits and pieces that can now only be found in the preview cut - the story Billy tells about the two sisters who are waiting on Garrett "with a knife" seems to me completely pointless in the theatrical/2005 cut, since the lines which the anecdote is leading up to ("Pat said 'you could use a few stitches'. I didn't figure she did") have been removed. I also miss the longer edit of Peckinpah's cameo - Seydor's assumption that Peckinpah cut this by choice, rather than as part of his negotiations with MGM seems very questionable.

I would also question the validity of a restorationist cutting scenes (such as the one with Elisha Cook) simply because he doesn't happen to like them. I would probably be a lot more negative about this new cut if I thought it was going to replace the preview version in circulation. But the preview version is right there on the second disc, and those parts of the transfer I sampled didn't seem as bad as I'd been led to suspect (though I did notice a large scratch as Garrett rides away at the end). As for the problems with the temp track on the preview print - all I can say is that I've seen the preview version some 15 times over the years (twice theatrically at the ICA in London, then various television editions), and it never even occurred to me that the soundtrack was in any way unfinished.

Incidentally, somebody here recently wondered why Peckinpah would shoot a scene showing Poe beating Billy's location out of a miner, as well as a scene showing Garrett obtaining the same information from Ruthie Lee. The implication was that one of these scenes would have been rendered redundant by the other. I claimed that these scenes, taken together, made an important point about Garrett's similarity to Poe, and suggested that the best solution might have been to cut them together in typical Peckinpah style, with shots of Garrett beating Ruthie Lee intercut with shots of Poe beating the miner. So I was amused to find that the DVD includes a rather spiffy trailer in which shots from these two scenes have been intercut in exactly the way I suggested! The trailer also includes shots from several other scenes that didn't make it into the theatrical version (notably a shot of Garrett and his wife), as well as a shot of Billy and Rita Coolidge that doesn't appear in any version of the film.
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Thomas Clay
Posted: Jan 20 2006, 10:08 AM


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Point taken about the Garrett Wife scene. 'Essential' is the wrong word - although I do feel it adds emotional weight to the beginning of the film.

There are def. problems with the sound mix, eg. the sheriff's line being spliced in half as they approach Fort Sumner at the end and the ghastly pitch-bending during the final Dylan track that sounds like an old tape recording which is about to snap. Most of the raw stems appear to be in place in both versions, however in the preview version the levels jump around and dialogue is often too loud. Some of the atmospheres and effects get lost under a layer of hiss that has been cleared from the 2005 mix. Either there is dialogue fill missing from the preview cut or, when they were restoring the 2005 cut, they made an effort to neaten up the dialogue editing. So, to back track a little, the preview mix may perhaps be no different from previous incarnations but it does not meet the standard one would expect from a Warner restoration in 2006.
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Brian Camp
Posted: Jan 20 2006, 10:36 AM


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QUOTE
Watched the new cut of PAT GARRETT last night, and was surprised by how much I liked it. Paul Seydor will go to Heaven simply for giving us the opportunity to see the footage of Garrett and his wife.


Well, that scene was in the TV cut of PAT GARRETT as well.

Also, I'm hearing complaints here about the soundtrack on the copy of the 1988 "preview cut" contained in this new box set. Has anyone compared it to VHS copies of that cut which have been in circulation for at least 15 years? Did the VHS copy have those sound problems? I have the VHS copy, but not the new box set, so I'm not in a position to make such a comparison yet. Is anyone else?


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Brad Stevens
Posted: Jan 20 2006, 11:29 AM


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QUOTE (Brian Camp @ Jan 20 2006, 10:36 AM)
Also, I'm hearing complaints here about the soundtrack on the copy of the 1988 "preview cut" contained in this new box set. Has anyone compared it to VHS copies of that cut which have been in circulation for at least 15 years? Did the VHS copy have those sound problems? I have the VHS copy, but not the new box set, so I'm not in a position to make such a comparison yet. Is anyone else?

I don't have the American VHS tape. Was that letterboxed? I used to have the UK VHS, which was panned-and-scanned. It was also missing parts of the cockfight and one shot of a horsefall, thanks to the BBFC.

I have several transfers of the preview version screened on UK television: an uncut NTSC transfer shown on TCM, letterboxed at approximately 2.20:1; a better quality transfer screened on Film Four, more accurately letterboxed, but missing the horsefall and cockfighting shots; and a much older transfer screened on Channel 4 (cropped to 1.85:1), which was uncut. A transfer screened even earlier by the BBC appeared to be perfectly letterboxed, but was actually zoomboxed (with an image framed at 1.85 masked to 2.35). It too was missing the cockfighting and horsefall shots.

I'm going to compare the soundtracks of these copies with the preview version on the DVD later today.
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Brad Stevens
Posted: Jan 20 2006, 01:30 PM


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In the old Channel 4 transfer of the preview version, the following dialogue is heard over the shot of Poe, Garrett and McKinney:

Poe: "I'd just as soon ride in, get it over with. He ain't gonna be there anyway.

McKinney. Hell, I don't have nothing against the kid".

On the TCM UK transfer, however, the shot of the three men contains no dialogue, only music. The dialogue resumes in mid-sentence ("...nothing against the kid") as soon as the next shot begins.

The same is true of the version screened on Film Four, in which the line is even shorter ("...against the kid").

The DVD transfer of the preview version is identical to the Film Four version, with the line truncated to "...against the kid".

Incidentally, the scratch over Garrett's head as he rides away at the end is visible in every transfer of the preview version.
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Darren Gross
Posted: Feb 9 2006, 02:35 PM


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QUOTE (Brad Stevens @ Jan 20 2006, 01:30 PM)
In the old Channel 4 transfer of the preview version, the following dialogue is heard over the shot of Poe, Garrett and McKinney:

Poe: "I'd just as soon ride in, get it over with. He ain't gonna be there anyway.

McKinney. Hell, I don't have nothing against the kid".

On the TCM UK transfer, however, the shot of the three men contains no dialogue, only music. The dialogue resumes in mid-sentence ("...nothing against the kid") as soon as the next shot begins.

The same is true of the version screened on Film Four, in which the line is even shorter ("...against the kid").

The DVD transfer of the preview version is identical to the Film Four version, with the line truncated to "...against the kid".

Just as an FYI, I checked this part of the MGM Laserdisc release of the extended version and this dialogue exchange is included in its entirety and is clear as a whistle.

So, if I understand correctly, this line is botched on both cuts on the new DVD?

If so, Damn.
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Thomas Clay
Posted: Feb 9 2006, 02:57 PM


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It is only botched on the director's cut. My guess is that they used an unrestored audio track to help "prove" the argument that the director's cut is unfinished...
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Brad Stevens
Posted: Feb 10 2006, 07:25 AM


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QUOTE (Thomas Clay @ Feb 9 2006, 02:57 PM)
It is only botched on the director's cut. My guess is that they used an unrestored audio track to help "prove" the argument that the director's cut is unfinished...

Except, curiously, it is the earlier prints of the director's cut - the ones released on laserdisc and screened on Channel 4 in the late 80s/early 90s - which include the dialogue. It is only in prints that seem to have been struck much later - the ones screened on TCM and Film Four - that are missing this dialogue.

Watching the 2005 cut again, I noticed another problem. During the scene in which Garrett talks to his wife, he has a very slight moustache. But in the very next scene - showing Garrett meeting the Santa Fe Ring - he has a full moustache. Clearly, the Santa Fe Ring scene takes place some weeks after Garrett's conversation with his wife, but the single shot of Garrett on horseback that divides these two scenes in the 2005 cut is hardly sufficient to suggest the passage of time.

If the scene with Garrett's wife had been restored to the preview print, it would have been divided from the Santa Fe Ring scene by a montage showing both Garrett and Billy travelling across country by day and by night. This montage (some shots of which appear later, in a quite different context, in both the theatrical and 2005 cuts) would have very adequately suggested that some time has passed. Of course, the elimination of the scene with Garrett's wife from the theatrical cut meant that the montage no longer had any particular purpose. I'm surprised Paul Seydor didn't notice that restoring this scene but not the following montage would make for a particularly rough transition.

Sadly, such clumsiness is all too typical of Seydor. Ron Shelton's COBB, which Seydor edited, has some similarly clumsy transitions. This kind of thing is certainly not representative of Peckinpah's artistry.

This post has been edited by Brad Stevens on Feb 10 2006, 07:29 AM
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Darren Gross
Posted: Feb 13 2006, 02:41 PM


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Oh, and by the way, the trailer for Pat Garrett is narrated by Roger Davis, star of Alias Smith and Jones and Dark Shadows.
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Chris Neill
Posted: Feb 15 2006, 07:33 AM


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I always presumed the slower pacing of the 1988 cut was a precursor to what Peckinpah did next: BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. You can't get more dreamlike or bleak than this masterpiece.

As long as the cut I know and love is still available I'm happy but I really do question the necessity of the re-edited version.
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Thomas Clay
Posted: Feb 15 2006, 12:05 PM


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...and yet the 2005 disc is such a horrible reminder of how good the 1988 cut could have looked and sounded...

Off topic, excellent film though it is, I can't help but find ALFREDO GARCIA slightly disappointing in the context of Peckinpah's previous work. The script and the acting are there for the most part (although the ending is an unsatisfyingly thin rehash of the THE WILD BUNCH) but formally/aesthetically it's startlingly primitive; the characteristically tight editing can't cover up the sometimes ragged lack of poetry in the dailies.
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