Saving my IMDb thread: Replaced scenes in ‘Sleeper’ (1973): Part Two

………….REPLY:You’re going to have to email Woody or Soon-Yi to get to the bottom of this…”

ME: “Yes, or just go up to London and crash the film set of the new picture.

I bet that he wouldn’t know, anyway. As I’m sure you know, once he’s made a film (having seen it hundreds of times during the editing) he never watches it again, being too busy thinking about his next film. I bet even he wouldn’t have a clue, considering how many films he’s made since then.

You know what? I think the way to go is to try to find writers who have written extensively about the great man; see if they write for any publications and, therefore, they’ll be contactable by e-mail; and see if they know why this situation came about. Or maybe contact United Artists? Or maybe I won’t have to bother because some genius reading this right now will put me/us out of our misery?”.

REPLY:Yes, that’s probably true. He wouldn’t recall what happened 30+ years ago. But a lot of people consider “Sleeper” to be a classic, so somebody must have that information.”.

REPLY:I definitely recall the scene you’re talking about. I would have seen it on U.S. TV a few years back.

My guess is this: the film was shot in 1.33:1, and then cropped to 1.85:1 for theatrical (and subsequently DVD) release. For home video and TV prints, they would have reverted back to the 1.33:1 prints (this also would explain the boom mike in some shots). Some TV prints may have been accidentally taken from a slightly earlier edit. The scene in question was likely never intended by Allen to be in the final cut, but rather a mistake by the studio when they sent out the copy to TV stations.”.

ME: “Thanks for replying with such a detailed answer…..Your guess sounds feasible.
What I find to be so strange is not that the dinner scene was cut, per se – as there can be a number of reasons why a perfectly good scene won’t make the final cut of a film – but that it was replaced by a scene that, while funny, wasn’t AS funny.

I think the ‘woman in the mirror’ scene was a revised version of a joke in some movie by ‘The Marx Brothers’ but the dinner scene had more elements to it and was just outright funnier. Woody and his editors must have had the dinner scene in one “hand”, the mirror scene in the other and decided that the mirror scene deserved to go in, at the expense of the dinner scene. I wish that both were included but, if I had to make a choice, the dinner scene would win 100 times out of 100.”.

REPLY:I’ve heard of some movies that, when broadcast in television, are extended (or shortened) with material left in the editing room to fit in the schedule. It may have been the case with Sleeper. It seems that channels sometimes recut films specially for their broadcasts. I read that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the Bond movie) was modified extensively with use of flashbacks, and split in two “chapters”.

By the way, Sleeper is a great movie.”.

ME: “Your excellent posting has reminded me that I once read something similar about one of the Airplane films in a film magazine; that someone once saw an extended version of that film and it contained scenes that they’d never seen before. The answer given by the magazine was along the lines that you’ve just mentioned so you might well be on to something in regards to “Sleeper”

On the title page for “Sleeper”, I think that the trivia section says that the edit was completed only a couple of days before the premiere and that edit came from 35 hours of material. No doubt, then, that there was a lot of stuff that didn’t make the (supposed) “final cut”. Maybe films can a bit more “fluid”, and less “solid”, than we think?…..

…..The thing is, I also read that Woody has huge control over all his films; that, even for his early films, they can’t be messed about with in any way by any TV company. For example, all of that bad language in the fantastic “Deconstructing Harry” simply can’t be censored. Either the whole film gets shown, as is, or it can’t be shown at all. The “Airplane” films are utterly wonderful and funny but they’re “studio product” movies whereas Woody’s films, even his, perhaps, broader earlier films, are more personal, auteur-like.

Having said all that, compare Kubrick and Woody in the late ’70s. Woody was so dissatisfied with “Manhattan” that he said to the studio that he’d make his next film for them free-of-charge if they’d NOT release “Manhattan”! That didn’t fly for him but when Kubrick asked his studio employers to withdraw “A Clockwork Orange” from the UK, he got his wish. So maybe the 1970s Woody wasn’t so much the power-packing auteur of today (who can make films in London with BBC support and get their permission to not include their logo in the titles of his films and to just mention their involvement in his usual white-on-black lettering) Or maybe Kubrick is a special case and it’s not a fair comparison to judge anyone against his very special relationship with Warner Brothers?

I don’t know (and it’s past my bed time!) but thanks for your reply.”.

REPLY:I just finished watching Sleeper, a version recorded off the TV in the UK years ago, and it had the dinner scene in.”.
ME: “Hats off to you but that horrible sound you can hear is of my teeth grinding with jealousy!”.

REPLY: “I have just been reading up. This probably isn’t much help, but the dinner scene with Miles and Luna was in the French print only, and for some reason never made it into US or UK releases. Don’t ask me why, that’s just what I read ! That was probably the version that was broadcast, and which is why it has caused so much confusion! I’d love to see the scenes!!”.

“In the 1970s it was common for producers to make an alternate edit for in-flight movies, or TV use due to sex or language, and sometimes cut scenes from the theatrical edition would make it back in, either due to time or continuity problems. The missing scene should appear in the original script, if it ever got published. “.

ME: “Yes, that’s a fair point about the alternate edit theory. The thing is is that I’m sure that the time difference between the two versions is minimal/negligible. The dinner scene was replaced by the mirror scene but everything else about the film was exactly the same; the running time wouldn’t have changed through the process of constructing the new version. Additionally, there’s no problem with sex, violence or bad language, so why the change?

It’s a funny point about the dinner scene being only in the French print because I actually e-mailed a French friend of mine about this but she couldn’t shed any light on it. Maybe the original cinema print in France has been superseded by the DVD print, which reverted to the US version for everywhere?”…….


Money and the Hammer’s Main Pages



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