Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Director's Cut?

Prompted by the publication of a new monograph on Philip Kaufman by Annette Insdorf, the Film Society of Lincoln Center recently presented a 35mm print of Kaufman's The Wanderers.  FSLC dubbed the screening a "Director's Cut," and the print, indeed, came from Kaufman's private collection, but after watching it, it seemed to me to be a pre-release version of the film, perhaps shown to test audiences or exhibitors before the actual release date and before final editing tweaks took place.  This "director's cut" contains numerous scene extensions and 1 or 2 other entirely new scenes.  While they were fascinating to see, especially for someone like me who knows the film backwards and forwards, none of them improved the film to any appreciable degree.  On the contrary, most of these bits highlighted either some shaky acting or over-writing or a little bit of both.  The release version, which is perhaps 5 minutes shorter, is tighter, obviously, and more effective, a case of the old "less is more" school of thought.  All that said, it would be wonderful to see this extra material as a supplement on a future Blu-ray release (we can dream, can't we?).


As an example of what I'm talking about, in the theatrical release version, Turkey (Alan Rosenberg) is slashed by a Ducky Boy after he puts his hand on the gang member's shoulder and propositions him with an invitation to a go somewhere like a park.  A frightened, bleeding Turkey then runs and climbs from an ever-expanding phalanx of Ducky Boys before falling to his death. 

The "director's cut," has Turkey explicitly ask the Ducky Boy if he wants a "blow job," to which the Ducky Boy responds with "Blow job?" and then viciously knifes Turkey.  Turkey is then surrounded by a group of angry Ducky Boys to whom he pleads that he is "not a faggot!" and, in fact, a Marine (this coming after Turkey and a group of Fordham Baldies drunkenly sign up for Marine service).  After this, the film transitions to what we see in the "regular" version of the film as Turkey is chased and terrorized to his death. 

One of the most effective aspects of the release version of The Wanderers was that the utterly frightening Ducky Boys remain silent throughout; having the Ducky Boy verbally respond to Turkey's blow job offer, however, weakens the overall cinematic presentation of the Ducky Boys.  Further, having Turkey more explicitly express his sexual desires and then loudly proclaim his heterosexuality is unnecessary; the writing is too on the nose.


There is another example later, in the "director's cut," of a character (John Friedrich's Joey) telling another (Tony Ganios' Perry) that he is, in fact, straight, not a "fag."  If it was, in fact, truly Kaufman's desire to have this dialogue be as direct as it is in this alternate version of the film, I'd be curious to know what the motivation was and why it was cut.  It may have been deemed to risque for 1979 audiences by the studio, but as the film stands now, in its shorter theatrical release length, the handling of this homoerotic material (which appears throughout the film and Richard Price novel) is more deft, more sophisticated, and smarter than what I saw the other night at the Walter Reade.  Where the "director's cut" spells things out for the audience, the theatrical release version, shows us all we need to see.

Even with all of this additional material, one scene I've always been curious about remained m.i.a.  It is illustrated in this lobby card and German still depicting a post-coital Ken Wahl and Karen Allen. The banjo Nina (Allen) strums is a tantalizing link to the later scene in which an out-of-place Richie (Wahl) spots her entering Folk City to see a young Bob Dylan perform "The Times They Are A- Changin'":

ADDENDUM: Michael Sragow confirms in this New Yorker piece that what screened at FSLC the other night was, indeed, a true "Director's Cut." Even with that knowledge, I must remain partial to the theatrical release.

17 comments:

J.D. said...

Interesting stuff. Thanks for this. Ideally, it would be nice if they included both version on the Blu-Ray that way you could compare and contrast if you wanted to. Wish they would do that with THE WARRIORS.

Ned Merrill said...

It would great to have this version for posterity. I wonder if the materials exist anymore outside of this print. And, yes, it's a damn shame that the WARRIORS "director's cut" has completely replaced the theatrical version on physical media formats.

aburbage said...

LOVE your blog. I read it all the time. Thanks for this spot about the Wanderers. Two things came to mind while checking this out...one, Linda Manz had way too short an acting career. She radiates in every film she was in.And, two, I read Ace Frehley's autobiography recently where he details being inducted into the Ducky Boys, the most violent gang in his Bronx neighborhood growing up. He credits getting into music for saving him from untimely death! Who woulda thought? Take care Ned...

Ned Merrill said...

aburbage,

Your very generous praise is SO appreciated. Agreed on Linda...love her. She was supposed to be at a screening of OUT OF THE BLUE a couple years back at Walter Reade and I was dismayed when I got into my seat to hear the announcement that she wouldn't there after all, because she does not like to fly. Fascinating story about Ace Frehley and further testament to the true origins of THE WANDERERS and its many supporting characters.

Jack said...

I can't believe I missed this screening. "The Wanderers" has always been one of my favorite films. Years ago, at NYU, I read a first draft of the script which contained numerous scenes either cut prior to filming or during the editing. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to photocopy it. I took notes but they're long gone. I don't remember much except that at the end Joey and Perry pick up a hippie hitchhiker heading to San Francisco. I believe he lights up a joint in the car and it's their introduction to the new world. Anyway, I have two questions. First, the running time for the director's cut is listed at 113 minutes, but the theatrical cut is listed at 117. You wrote that Kaufman's cut was longer. Are the running times listed wrong, or do you think it's possible that some scenes in the theatrical version were cut from Kaufman's? Second, could you please describe the other new scenes? Thank you, and thanks for the wonderful blog!

Ned Merrill said...

Jack,

Sorry you missed it! The hippie scene was not in the version that showed at Walter Reade. Wouldn't be surprised if that didn't end up getting filmed.

The running time listed by FSLC was wrong. The "Director's Cut" ran 5-6 minutes longer than the theatrical version. I know that cut quite well and I don't believe anything was missing at all.

There was more material with Perry and Joey in Perry's apartment where they discuss possible far flung places that they could travel to.

There was another scene at school with Buddy and other Wanderers chastising Turkey for leaving the gang; in that scene Turkey was seen wearing neither Wanderers or Baldies colors.

During the meeting with all the gangs at the beginning, Perry makes a dramatic entrance where he pledges his loyalty to the Wanderers.

At the elevator, at the beginning of the film, Joey tells Perry what the people on the 5th floor are doing...pissing in the elevator.

There's more material during the "cock and roll" scene with Peewee mocking Joey's manhood even more explicitly. There was perhaps a bit more male nudity in that scene, if I recall.

There's some more material with Chubby Galasso lecturing Richie at the bar...mostly stuff that he repeats in another scene, IIRC.

There were some extra lines of dialogue with Joey, Richie, and Peewee during Joey and Perry's farewell.

There was another scene of Joey painting his mural while humming "The Wanderer." Emilio looks on, wondering why Joey can't draw normal people and brags to his wife about his muscle measurements--all things that are repeated in another similar scene later.

The fight scene at the football game happens without "The Wanderer" on the soundtrack or the patriotic music that comes in when Emilio enters the fray. It only uses the creepy library music, which we hear whenever the Ducky Boys are on screen in either version of the film.

Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoy the blog so much!

Jack said...

Much thanks, Ned! I saw the listing for the screening back in June but then it slipped my mind. I really appreciate your detailed scene descriptions.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania I was 15 years-old when "The Wanderers" was released. It was summer, easy to get into "R" rated movies back in those days, and my friend and I biked a few miles to see it several times. We were mesmerized by the pop sounds and images of that film and the world it opened up to us.

Since you always post amazing, and obscure, movie material I was wondering if you've ever come across the artwork that "Mad" magazine artist Jack Davis created for "The Wanderers"? They were published as a series of one page adds in "Variety" when it was released. Each page featured caricatures of the different gangs. I saw this issue in the local library back then. If you google "The Wanderers" and "Jack Davis" the one for the Del Bombers comes up because the original artwork sold at auction back in 2008. I've been searching for these pictures for years.

Agree wholeheartedly about "The Warriors" director's cut. A damn shame. The new opening with the comic book panels may have looked better if they actually drew them in the style of older comics and printed them on pulp paper and then shot the images but it looks horrible as is, and the original scene transitions are far superior.

Ned Merrill said...

Jack,

I try to remember to put screenings in my iPhone calendar...it's about the only thing I use it for. :-)

Cool story about seeing this film so many times during its release! I was way too young to have experienced it then. I was under the impression that WANDERERS got a pretty limited release, especially after the violent incidents associated with WARRIORS and BOULEVARD NIGHTS screenings. How "rural" was your theater?

Didn't know about the Jack Davis artwork for the film. Thanks for the tip! I will look into it next time I'm at the library.

Jack said...

Ned -

The theater "The Wanderers" played in was the first, I believe, multiplex in the area. If I recall correctly it had three screens. It was located on a stretch called the Golden Strip, basically a strip mall, which connected a township and a larger city. Outside of the city limits and smaller towns was countryside and farmland. The adjacent city also had three single-screen, great, old theaters: The Capital, The Rialto, and State. As a kid I saw a lot of movies at those theaters, and I used to get my father to drive me into town when the movies were closing and I would ask the managers for the posters. I still have a couple hundred posters from that period. The State theater used to show MGM children’s matinee during the day, and then often softcore films at night. I remember going to collect a poster one evening from the matinee screening, “Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion” or “Zebra in the Kitchen” or something, and “Candy Stripe Nurses” was playing. I had to go up to the projection booth to collect the poster and the projectionist let me stand on a crate and watch through the window for a few minutes. But the Golden Strip theater kind of took over by 1979. The Capital started hosting events and later became an arts center. State was demolished. And the Rialto closed in 1980 and a few years later became a church, still to this day. I saw Bogdanovich’s “Nickelodeon” at the Rialto with my friends for a nickel opening night.

Anyway, enough reminiscing about movie theaters. The Warriors opened sometime earlier in the year, wintertime. I remember the Monday after seeing it , sitting around the school lunch table with my friends jabbering excitedly about it. We had heard, or read, about the shooting incident in some theater far removed, so it just seemed ridiculous. I had no idea that it may have stifled distribution for the other films. I don’t remember Boulevard Nights coming to town, but I may have just missed it. I saw it later on HBO.

Ned Merrill said...

Thanks again for the really great remembrances, Jack. Those were the days...you're lucky to have experiences those theaters before they died out. What are some of your poster treasures?

Joe from Boston said...

Hi Ned! Im a HUGE Wanderers fan since I was a kid when i first saw it! I always wondered growing up whether Turkey and Terror etc were gay or not. In the theatrical release you only got undertones of the homosexuality whereas you say in the deleted scenes it was explicit overtones. I figured always that was why the Ducky Boy slashed his face and killed him! Also, were the Ducky Boys gay or drug addicts? I would love to see these deleted scenes! Any chance that Kauffman will finally release a GOOD director's cut with all these scenes and not the GARBAGE that the new Warriors turned into with those awful comic book style! I always wanted to see a Warriors version with all those scenes they show on the TV version, like with the daytime meeting on Coney Island before they head to the Bronx that night etc! Also, I have just like you always been curious about that promo picture of Karen Allen and Ken Wahl laying in bed together! Was that scene actually filmed or just a picture?! I wonder where it could have been placed in the narrative of the story? Maybe upstairs in the Gollasso house at the party? If it is at Richie or Nina's house I just dont understand where it could have taken place in the narrative? I would REALLY love to see that scene as well because I have always had a huge crush on Nina in that movie since i was younger! Well, i really do hope we can get a blu-ray director's cut of this movie because we deserve it! It is such an underrated movie and one of my top ten all time favorites! Hope to hear back from you! Thanks for the great blog!

Ned Merrill said...

Thanks, Joe! Yeah, I think it was clear enough in the theatrical release (which I prefer to the "director's cut") that there was some homoerotic tension between most of the gang members, whether it was Terror and the Baldies or Joey and Perry, in particular, in the Wanderers.

But, I think it's there with all the guys. Does that make them gay? Maybe some of them will figure out that they are gay, but I think it's mostly just young guys spending a lot of time together and bonding (not necessarily in sexual ways) at an age when they're still figuring stuff out and still quite impressionable.

In the scene with the Ducky Boy and Turkey, it was always clear to me, even without the extra dialogue in the director's cut, that Turkey was propositioning the Ducky Boy. He probably would've been slashed by the Ducky Boy regardless of this, but his offer only precipitated things.

It would seem that the scene between Ken Wahl and Karen Allen with the guitar was shot because the lobby cards are production stills shot on the set during the making of the film. Perhaps, the scene could have been placed sometime between the party at the Galasso's house and the football game. In any event, sometime before the scenes where Despie and Richie reconcile and Chubby initiates Richie into the family.

Perhaps the rights holder, no longer Warner Bros., will see fit to release the film on Blu-ray with both the theatrical cut and director's cut...that would be my preference, anyway.

bernie ramone said...

I went to see this at the drive inn here in Brisbane Australia in 1980. It was a double feature with the Warriors. Then about 5 years later I got the VHS tape of the Wanderers to show my friends. The scene at the end - where Karen allen walks by and enters the café (bob Dylan and Joan Bias) was deleted completely???
Maybe they didn't have permission for the Bob Dylan song???
anyone know??

Ned Merrill said...

Hmmm...I've never seen a version of this film ever without that scene in the club with Dylan. That includes 35mm, 16mm, VHS, laserdisc, cable, and DVD. Maybe it was a music rights issue in that territory?

Anonymous said...

A fantastic blog thanks you so much for this information about The Wanderers especially .It was and is my favourite film ever .It is a true cult classic. Growing up when the film was released me and my friends wanted to be Richie,Perry and Buddy et al. You mention at one point that you always choke up at the scene where Perry and Joey say goodbye to Richie and that part of their lives is over , me too ! It gets me every time ! For me it symbolises the end of my carefree teenage years , the end of those days I thought would NEVER end . Memories of those friends I thought would be friends for life. Many of the scenes in the movie mirrored my own life and the soundtrack ! oh those tunes WERE the tunes we listened too as we stumbled our way through adolescence ! If I close my eyes and listen to The Wanderer , i am back there,back then.I can smell the bottle of cider ! Smell the girls perfume we used to be endlessly chasing ! I am 15 again and the tears roll. We really did think it would never end.Sadly of course it did end.Times changed ,we changed .We grew up. I will never forget those wonderful times though .

Todd said...

Great blog. One of my favorite movies of all time. I'd love to get a Blu-Ray with the Directors Cut included. The scene with the Dylan impersonator at the end may just be my favorite scene from a movie ever.....and turned me into a life long Bob Dylan fanatic. Thanks for all the info.....we don't get screenings like that here in Pittsburgh so the info is appreciated.

Marineband said...

Excellent piece on The Wanderers! However can anyone say why this film has not yet been given a good Blu-Ray release? I mean there lots of movies from this period out on Blu-Ray so why not one of the most loved movies of all time???