Comparison between the French Extended Version (taken from Disc 2 of the the French DVD release by HL Video) and the Taiwanese Extended Version (taken from the Taiwanese VHS by Long Shong)
French Extended Version: 123:02 min w/o ending credits (124:11 min w/ ending credits) in PAL
=> equal to 128:17 min w/o credits (129:29 min w/ credits) in NTSC
Taiwanese Extended Version: 135:09 min w/o ending credits (136:21 min w/ ending credits) in NTSC
- 9 cuts
- total cut length: 436,7 sec (= 7:16 min)
=> The additional time difference is a result of some mastering mistakes, most of them are under 0,5 sec ong and therefore will not be mentioned here. The longer missing parts on the Taiwanese VHS, however, will be discussed.)
John Woo's masterpiece was released in Taiwan as a about 25 minutes longer version on VHS. In the bonus material of the French DVD, John Woo talks about some longer cut of the movie, which had to be shortened down to less than two hours due to demands by the producing company. It seems to be a reasonable guess that the Taiwanese VHS contains exactly this version.
Besides some longer plot scenes, there are mainly many small extensions, as can be seen in the comparison between the Theatrical Version and the Taiwanese Version here.
Of course, such a VHS from Taiwan is hard to get these days. However, there is another interesting release, the French DVD by the enthusiast label HK Video. The 2-disc edition contains a cut called "version longue" with forced English subtitles on disc 2. The first thing that strikes the viewer is the great picture quality. It still isn't the best quality there is for this movie (the German DVD by e-m-s is still top of the notch here), but it is better than the earlier (German) releases. This is something that is nothing that can be taken for granted, especially with rare versions of older Asian movies.
This version is actually based on the Taiwanese version and contains almost every extension. Almost. With a running time difference of about 7 minutes it is clear that those versions cannot be identical.
The biggest part of this difference is a result of the only really long new part in the Taiwanese version: The scene, in which Lee takes Jeff's part when he defends Jennie from some baddies, is missing on the French DVD. There are also two longer cuts that even cut parts which could be seen in all the other releases. This somehow leaves a bitter taste, especially because the cuts are quite obvious. I can't really understand why these parts were cut.
Furthermore, there are some mastering mistakes to be found on the Taiwanese VHS. They have been included in this report and are written in italics, these missing parts are included in the original theatrical version and the other releases. Because of this, the Taiwanese version isn't really complete as well, but it is the by far longest version nevertheless.
The French release can - despite the cuts discussed here - be recommended without hesitation. There probably will be no possibility to watch the Extended Version in such a good quality anytime soon (compare the images at the end of the intro). The missing scenes are annoying, yes, but on the other hand are the many other extensions included. Things that may not seem significant here improve the movie, especially in the action-driven finale, a lot. All in all, the French version really is worth a try.
By the way. the long scene involving Lee and Jennie can be found in the bonus material of both the German DVD by e-m-s and the British DVD by Hongkong Legends.
These are the most important versions of the movie:
1. The Theatrical Version (106min PAL / 110min NTSC)
=> Contained on almost every release worldwide, small running time differences result from different company logos etc
2. The Taiwanese VHS (131min PAL / 136min NTSC)
=> Longer version, contains more than 100 extensions in both story and action scenes, as can be seen here
3. The French "version longue" (124min PAL / 129min NTSC)
=> Based on the Taiwanese Version, discussed in this report.
The first German DVD by Laser Paradise contains 20 sec additional material from the Taiwanese version, the rest, however, is just the original theatrical version. You can have a look at the comparison here.
Running time designations are formatted like this:
French DVD in PAL / Taiwanese VHS in NTSC
12:37 / 13:09
The Taiwanese VHS shows Jeff as a b/w overlay, in the French version he is standing in the room in full color.
No difference in time
21:12 / 22:16
Mastering mistake in the Taiwanese VHS, the beginning of the shot is missing. Jeff is sitting down before Sidney shows him the photograph.
+ 0,8 sec
38:44 / 40:23-40:28
The shot of the photofit is missing completely, the next shot of Tsang talking to the nurse also begins a bit too late.
38:46 / 40:30-40:53
A short part of the said shot is to be seen on the French DVD, however, the rest of it and the additional material is missing. This makes it pretty obvious that somethin is missing in contrast to the original version, in which the scene is missing completely.
Lee goes to the window and his boss is approaching.
39:23-39:24 / 41:32-42:27
The French DVD shows Lee a bit longer, he is shutting his mouth.
The Taiwanese VHS shows Lee's boss' reaction. Then, Lee and Tsang look at the photofit and the Lee brings it to the illustrator, who starts working immediately. Lee is stating Jeff's features. Lastly, he talks about Jeff's eyes, which is good for the next scene (which can be seen in both versions) showing Jeff.
Taiwanese VHS 54 sec longer
40:35-40:36 / 43:41-43:44
The Taiwanese VHS features a longer shot, Sidney is hanging up. The French DVD, however, starts the next shot a bit earlier, Johnny pulls on the cigarette.
Taiwan-VHS 2 sec longer
44:16 / 47:33-52:04
The long version on the French DVD shows - as well as the regular Theatrical Version - a fade over from a shot of the door to Jeff in his room waiting for Sidney.
Unfortunately, the complete longer scene of Lee rescuing Jennie from some rowdies and takes her home just like Jeff did at the beginning of the movie. The latter watches this, but when Lee notices him he is gone and has merely left a small note.
Die Szene ist auf der Taiwan-VHS übrigens eher ungeschickt eingefügt worden, da es sowohl zu einem Bruch bei der Musik kommt als auch nach der Szene unpassenderweise einfach nochmal die Aufnahme der Tür gezeigt wird, von der die Überblende erfolgt.
51:25-51:28 / 59:32
The French DVD starts earlier: Lee taps the backrest of a couch before he sits down.
+ 2,9 sec
57:43-57:44 / 66:03
The beginning of the shot is missing on the Taiwanese DVD. Lee is hurrying outside.
+ 1,4 sec
60:51 / 69:18-69:19
Weng smoking is missing completely in the original version, the French DVD, however, only lacks the first second.
65:03-65:06 / 73:42
The long shot is longer, then Sidney can be seen earlier in a close-up. (Mastering mistake in the Taiwanese version)
+ 3 sec
64:32-64:47 / 73:56
A rather long part is missing in the Taiwanese Version here. Jeff turns around desperately, then there is a long shot. Jeff angrily throws his weapon into the jeep and then touches his forehead in a close-up.
+ 15 sec
82:25-82:26 / 91:30-91:32
Both versions are lacking some material here (probably due to a reel change).
The Taiwanese VHS shows Jeff longer, but starts later in the following shot of Lee.
The French DVD shows Lee significantly earlier in the floor, but there is a jump cut after approx a second, causing some frames to disappear.
Taiwan-VHS 0,6 sec longer
102:59 / 112:56-114:14
When Sidney just fled from Weng's mansion, the French DVD is lacking a longer part, which can be seen in the original version. At first there are more shots of Sidney being pursued by some baddies, the injured Weng is getting into a car. Then, there is a talk between Jeff and Lee. Jeff wants to serve as a organ donor for Jennie in case of his death so he has done something good.
The French DVD continues when Sidney is driving into the yard.
110:14 / 121:48-121:49
Jeff staggers around in slow motion earlier.
To conclude this report, here is a picture comparison between the Taiwanese VHS and the French long version DVD. The 2nd and 4th images are taken from scenes that are exclusive on the DVD, the quality is the same as in the shared material.