This is a comparison between the US Cut called "Forever, My Love" and the uncut version of "Sissi". Both are included on the "Sissi Collection"-Blu-ray boxset released by Film Movement.
In 1955, Ernst Marischka directed "Sissi", a movie based on the novel of the same name written by Marie Blank-Eisman. The movie was a huge success with audiences and thus received two sequels. In Germany, the movies are usually broadcasted on TV every Christmas. For main acctress Romy Schneider, the role was a blessing and a curse. The portrayel of Sissi started her career, yet she was never able to shake the image of the emperess off. Even Karlheinz Böhm tried to succeed in changing his image by playing the role of a voyeuristic serial killer in "Peeping Tom".
In the first movie, archduchess Sophie plans to marry her son - young emperor Franz Joseph - to his cousin Helene. Helene's mother Ludovika plans to travel to Bad Ischl, where they plan to announce the enagement during a ball. As a disguise - in order not to get Ludovika's husband Max to get to know of the plans - Helene's sister Sissi is supposed to travel along. By accident, Sissi runs into Franz during a fishing trip. Franz immediately falls in love with her, not realizing that she is his cousin. He invites her to a hunting trip and tells her about the engagement to Helene that is about to be announced. Sissi runs away because she does not want to interfere with the plans. When Franz eventually meets Sissi again during the ball, he realizes that he is in love and officially announces that he will be engaged to her. From now on, Sissi is unsure about her situation. On the one hand, she is in love with Franz, on the other hand she is sad that Helene was disgraced in public, since Franz does not love her back. Once Sissi gets to know, that Helene has another suitor - the prince of Thurn and Taxis - she is happy again and from then on, there is no more problem regarding the wedding with Franz.
In the direct sequel "Sissi: The Young Empress" Sissi misses her hometown and the life on castle Schoenbrunn more and more. Additionally, the country goes through tremendous changes, since they might have to face war with the neighboring country Hungary. On a ball in honor of the Hungarian elite, there is an affront when Sophie rejects the Hungarian count Gyula Andrássy an audience. Sissi is able to calm the situation down by chosing him during the ladies' choice and talking to the count. Surprisingly enough, she loses consciousness during this and the doctor tells her that she is pregnant. After birth, Sophie wants to raise the kid, since she thinks that Sissi is too childish to do that and that she is to busy, being the empress. Sissi flees to her parents and Franz follows her. The two of them reconnect during a short vacation in Tyrol. Back in Vienna, the conflict is still unresolved and Sissi again threatens to leave the city. Ludovika travels to Vienna to calm her sister down who finally relents and gives Sissi back her child. Franz and Sissi travel to Hungary where they are crowned King and Queen.
In "Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress", the final entry in the series, Sissi happily lives with her daughter in the Hungarian village Gödöllo. She is close with count Andrássy, resulting in a rumor of them having an affair. During a ball, Sissi is able to win over count Batthyani, an enemy of the Austrian monarchy. When Andrássy admits to be in love with Sissi, she tells him that he is nothing but a friend to her. In order to get away from the situation, Sissi travels to Vienna and runs into Franz halway who planned to pick her up. They decide to go on a short vacation. Sissi is in horrible pain and her personal doctor Seeburger examines her. He detects a major illness of the lungs and advises her to move to an area with a different climate. Sophie talks to Franz about a possible new wife, yet Franz thinks that such thoughts are inhuman. Sissi is brought to the Madeira Island to get well. Her mother Ludovika supports her physically and mentally and finally, Sissi gets well again. In Lombardo-Venetia the emperors are provoked by the fact that the aristocrats send their employees to the opera, wearing expensive clothing. Additionally, the musicians perform Verdi's "Va, pensiero". Sissi is able to defuse the situation. During a rally in Venice, however, the people at first dismiss the emperors. Yet, when Sissi is reunited with her daughter on the Piazza San Marco, the people get happy and yell "Viva la Mamma".
Film Movement released a special Blu-ray Set on 31st October 2017 which includes the movies "Sissi", "Sissi: The Young Empress", "Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress" as well as "Victoria in Dover". In the bonus material you can find a feature about Romy Schneider called "From Romy to Sissi", a documentary called "Sissi's Great-Grandson at the Movies" that features one of Sissi's heirs watching the movie, as well as the US Cut called "Forever, My Love". For the latter, the studio had cut all three movies together. For that they apparently used an old theatrical print, including the Paramount logo at the beginning. In comparison to the restored image of the HD you will quickly realize, how much they have acutally softened the image. Sometimes you might even get the impression that Sissi is a saint. The version of "Forever, My Love" is not perfect and has issues regarding contrast and color. The overall condition is surprisingly well though - there are no damages or film tears.
As was mentioned before, "Forever, My Love" is a compilation of all three Sissi movies. If you take a look at the runtime of the individual movies("Sissi" 102 minutes, "Sissi: The Young Empress" 107 minutes, "Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress" 109 minutes) and compare these numbers to the overall runtime of the US Version (145 minutes) it is becoming clear, that a lot of scenes had been cut.
For "Sissi", roughly half the movie was cut out. Among other things, US-viewers were missing out on Major Böckl, who suspects Sissi to be an assassin, as well as a lot of footage showing Sissi's family. In a later part of the movie, there is a sequence of a servant entering Sophie's room and closing the door. The scene is four seconds long and already missing in the German version on the Blu-ray. Most likely it got cut due to a film tear.
Things are getting more interesting with Sissi: The Young Empress. For the US-cut, the producers apparently got their hands on an alternative version of the movie. As far as we can tell, it consists entirely of alternative scenes. Overall, this does not really alter the plot, since the structure of the story is still the same - despite the alternative footage. Sometimes, scenes run a little longer, sometimes they are shorter or arranged differently. Oftentimes they used different image sections. Still, it is verys surprising that such an alternative cut exists.
It is most striking to see that the second act of the flick, when Sissi flees to her parents and Franz follows her and has a short vacation with his wife, was taken out. After all - that's 30 minutes that were taken out back to back.
The final movie Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress is based on the German cut. Among other things, they cut out the entire subplot of Ludwig marrying an actress who then becomes royal and finally is introduced to Ludwig's parents. Additionally, Böckl making approaches to Sissi were taken out. At the same time, however, they cut some of the sequences of Sissi and Franz spending a vacation in part two back into the plot of the third movie. After all, thematically they also fit here. Towards the end when Sissi fights her disease, the movie uses alternative footage until the sequence when they are welcomed in front of the opera house. It seems as if this was an entire reel of alternative material. It is unclear whether this one was sent to the USA on purpose for this alternative cut.
Despite the drastic cuts, "Forever, My Love" works surprisingly well if you can forgive some continuity errors. Fans of the series might find an interesting gem which is worth seeing for the alternative footage in part two and three alone.
Sissi: 105:48 min.
Sissi: The Young Empress: 105:51 min.
Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress: 108:49 min.
Forever, My Love: 145:20 Min.
The US Version misses out on the opening credits. The tracking shot of the statue starts earlier.
The US Version instead shows a still image of the statue.
US Version: 2 sec.
German Version: 2:14 min.
The men bow down and then are asked to step forward.
German Version: 12 sec.
Sophie comes into countess Esterházy's room and wants to talk to her alone. She says that she always wants to be informed about what Sissi does. Esterházy wants to get the birds out of her room, yet Sophie says that the birds are supposed to stay where Sissi wants them to be. Sophie asks for Sissi's diary. Esterházy tells her that Sissi complained about the bathing facilities and Sophie counters that these are available in sufficient numbers. Esterházy then says that Sissi asked about a colonel Böckl. Sophie does not know him.
Then we see Böckl who tells the postmaster that he was promoted to be a colonel and was relocated to Vienna since he brought Sissi's ring back He says that he fell in love with Sissi.
Sissi reads a book and then a servant shows up for the language classes. Sissi asks what she thinks about Hungary and by doing so commemorates a painful memory - the teacher lost her husband in this country. Sissi apologizes.
German Version: 4:04 min.
Sissi tells countess Bellegarde to let Dr. Falk in.
Sophie talks to the general who has no good news for Franz.
Dr. Falk shows Sissi a few paintings that are supposed to represent Hungary's beauty. Sissi feels drawn to the Hungarian countryside and wants to do everything she can to help. Dr. Falk says that the Hungarians love Sissi.
German Version: 1:48 min.
Sophie shows Franz Sissi's diary. He does not want to read it, thus Sophie reads to him a poem-passage. Sissi writes abut missing her home. Franz wants to be left alone.
Sissi goes over to the castle carrying flowers. Sophie leaves the room. Sissi comes to Franz and exchanges flowers. They have missed each other. She sees her diary on Franz table. He asks her about the poem. Sissi admits to be homesick. She says that she has this feeling due to him not being with her that much. Someone introduces a baron who comes in and interrupts Sissi and Franz kissing. Sissi leaves.
The scene of colonel Böckl who just arrived in Vienna starts a little earlier.
German Version: 4:41 min.
The man tells colonel Böckl, that his relationship to Sophie is very bad and that he is not allowed to criticize anything at court. He then wants to explain how audiences with the queen usually take place when suddenly, Sissi enters the room. Sissi is happy that Böckl came to Vienna and he promises to be a faithful servant. Sissi is convinced that he will and leaves the room. Böckl is a little dizzy because Sissi's smile bedazzled him.
Sophie's husband asks her about her mood. She says that she is fine - yet sounds nothing like it. Countess Bellegarde comes into the room. Sophie wants to know how Sissi progresses regarding studying courtly behavior. The countess responds that Sissi went out horseriding, which Sophie calls "typical".
During her ride, Sissi runs into her stepfather. He tells her that he hears quite well, yet sometimes is deaf when people talk about things he does not want to hear.
Countess Bellegarde tells Sophie, that Sissi went shopping on the "Kohlmarkt" and someone ripped her dress. Sophie finds this to be outrageous.
German Version: 4:37 min.
The first part of the letter is missing in the US Version. The mother reads out the letter. She drank beer and ate pork hock. While reading, Sissi thinks about her father.
German Version: 19 sec.
Ludovika continues reading and gets to know that Franz fulfills Sissi's every whish. Then she tells Max not to drink so much. He jokingly comes back at her.
German Version: 17 sec.
Sissi and Franz are shown dancing a little earlier.
German Version: 11 sec.
Dr. Falk says that she should not have left since they are the Emperors' guests and not the mother's. Gyula does not care and insists on him leaving.
German Version: 15 sec.
The man says that his is impossible, yet countess Bellegrade says that this is Her Majesty's wish.
German Version: 9 sec.
Gyula asks if everybody is there. They shortly debate whether or not to say goodbye.
German Version: 12 sec.
Gyula walks to Sissi.
German Version: 4 sec.
The US Version cuts to Sissi on the bed.
The guests are shown longer.
The women debate why Sissi had a feeling of faintness.
Sophie comes in and says that Franz has to make difficult decisions that might end up in war.
Sissi and the doctor are shown earlier.
German Version: 52 sec.
The US Version cuts to Sissi on her bed after the parents have heard about the good news.
In the German Version, kids run in who also know about the good news. Ludovika confirms them and the kids are happy. Servant Thomas congratulates Max. Then he brings the kids to bed.
Ludovika and Max wonder whether it will be a boy or a girl. Max remembers Sissi's birth who was born on Christmas Eve. They chink glasses.
US Version: 1 sec.
German Version: 1:45 min.
The US Version fades to the baby in the cradle.
The guests wonder what the kid's name will be and Sophie responds that she and Franz already decided to call it Sophie. Max says that this is not a nice name and Franz Joseph agrees.
Thomas reads the kids from a letter Ludovika wrote. It tells Sissi's daughter's name. She and Max will come back in a few days. The kids storm out to play.
US Version: 1 sec.
German Version: 1:40 min.
The US Version fades from Sissi to Franz.
In the German Version we see Sissi visiting an orphanage. The nurses show her the nowborn kids and Sissi interestedly looks at them.
US Version: 1 sec.
German Version: 1:38 min.