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Heaven's Gate Comes Out on Blu-Ray Soon

Restored Director's Cut of Controversial Classic

After the success of The Deer Hunter, director Michael Cimino could pretty much do whatever he wanted at United Artists. He decided to tackle the western Heaven's Gate having an 11 million Dollar budget at his disposal. However, everything went south and the budget inflated to 40 million, almost causing UA to file for bankruptcy. Cimino's sense for perfection didn't help. Allegedly, he wished to shoot more material than Francis Ford Coppola did for Apocalypse Now. In the end, 1.3 million feet of film succeeded over Coppola's 1 million feet. With more than 200 hours of filmed material, Cimino won.

This yielded a film being longer than 5 hours, even though director and studio settled on a final cut of under 4 hours (129 minutes). The first screenings were a disaster for both the audience and critics. Obviously, it was that bad that Cimino himself asked to pull it from theaters. He saw a reason in the rushed post-production that didn't leave him enough time for the final cut. After that, he produced a new cut with a runtime of approx. 2.5 hours, hoping that all critics are convinced. It was released in theaters in early 1981.

However, it was too late. Heaven's Gate was one of the biggest flops of movie history, making back just a fracture of its budget. UA only survived because MGM bought them. While the American audience continued to hate Heaven's Gate in the following years, the film acquired many admirers in Europe. This was due to many brilliant elements. At least some cineasts liked the film and this group continued to grow over time.

In 1982, the film had its premiere on American pay-tv. The aired version wasn't the 2.5 hour-cut but the longer Director's Cut (219 minutes). According to several sources, this marks the first time that the term "Director's Cut" was used in this context. Later, there were releases on VHS, LD and DVD, almost every time containing the DC.

A first restauration took place in 2005. However, Michael Cimino didn't participate in the process because he wasn't interested in the film that caused him so much headache. A few years later, he could be convinced to revisit the film once again. The result is a runtime of 216 minutes, resembling the duration of the old DC. Cimino put some touches on the film and corrected some things that he didn't like in his first cut for cinemas. Here's what he said about the process:

Michael Cimino: "Because of the new digital technology, I was able to make colour changes, editorial changes, all sorts of things that were impossible at the time we made the movie. Seeing it reel by reel was astonishing… seeing it through the digital equipment, it was a new movie!"

The premiere of this new cut took place on the Venice Film Festival this year. On November 20th, 2012, the Blu-ray will be released within The Criterion Collection.



  • New, restored transfer of director Michael Cimino’s cut of the film, supervised by Cimino
  • New restoration of the 5.1 surround soundtrack, supervised by Cimino, in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
  • New illustrated audio interview with Cimino and producer Joann Carelli
  • New interviews with actor Kris Kristofferson, soundtrack arranger and performer David Mansfield, and second assistant director Michael Stevenson
  • The Johnson County War, a video interview with historian Bill O’Neal about the real-life conflict that inspired the film, and its resonance in popular culture
  • Trailer and TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and programmer Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan
Release: Sep 17, 2012 - Author: Doc Idaho - Translator: Mike Lowrey - Source: The Independent

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