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Heaven's Gate


  • Director's Cut (Blu-ray)
  • Director's Cut (DVD)
Release: Apr 01, 2018 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: Tony Montana - external link: IMDB
Compared are the Director's Cut on Blu-ray (German Blu-ray by Capelight - identically equal with the US Blu-ray by Criterion, released as "never before available cut") and the Director's Cut on DVD (German DVD by MGM - identically equal with the US DVD by MGM, except for the NTSC/PAL difference that is)

- 7 documented differences
- Length difference: 124.4 sec (= 2:04 min) [in PAL]

A (Small) Summary of the different Cuts of HEAVEN'S GATE

Michael Ciminos legendary Western flop Heaven's Gate cost more than twice as much as the originally estimated $20 million and critics hated it. After an alleged workprint with a length of 325 minutes, the original Theatrical Version in 1980 had a length of 219 minutes (210 minutes in PAL). It did not take long and Cimino cut another cut - on the insistence of the studio. In 1981, this version was released theatrically in the US. Worldwide, the so-called "Director's Cut" (219 minutes) has always been the more established version though. Back in the day, this version was released on VHS and Laserdisc and also on the German and the US DVD while the "Recut Theatrical Version" (149 minutes) was released on DVD in e.g. France or the Netherlands.

Before we get to the numerous alterations of the "Recut Theatrical Version", there is another version that should be dealt with first: The 2012 Restoration which was shown at the film festival in Venice, Italy and which also made it on Blu-ray releases worldwide. The first Blu-ray release containing said version was released by Criterion in the US in 2012. The very same transfer was used for the UK Blu-ray which is censored in a cockfight (a seperate comparison will follow) and the German Blu-ray release is based on that transfer as well (and unlike the UK release, the German Blu-ray is uncensored). With a length of 217 minutes, perceptive people might wonder about the length difference to the DVD but there is more.

What can be said at this point: The HD Version is closer to the director's oiginal intentions, the 219 minutes DVD Version is being considered unfinished and it was edited under time pressure. The much better picture quality alone makes the choice whether or not to upgrade pretty simple. But since the version is a little shorter, the question is "What are the differences?".

The HD Version of the Director's Cuts

Last year, the suffering regarding Cimono's intention was summarized in a news about the release of the US Criterion Blu-ray. First of all, it should be pointed out that the versions are basically not that different resp. the order of events is pretty much the same - unlike the "Recut Theatrical Version". The DVD Version should be the version closest to the original Theatrical Version while Cimino changed a few things for the Criterion release. Criterion then used that as part of their marketing: The release is director-approved and contains a "never before available cut".

And indeed, the alterations causing the length difference can be found in the second half of the movie. What stands out is the fact that the Intermission is cut. Actually, the movie fades out from the smoke and subsequent to the piece of music, the movie fades back in. These parts are simply cut so that it has less impact, of course. An argueable decision, no doubt - even though it is obvious now that most of the length difference is a result from cutting the black screen during the Intermission.

Subsequently afterwards, there is some missing dialog but that seems rather superfluous resp. the question is whether or not the missing footage when Christopher Walken pays the killers is actually a loss and the same goes for the scene with Ella and Averill and also for the mirror image in the first half of the movie. A little editing here and there that only makes sense for the director. Allegedly, Cimino had further alterations like that in mind. Among other things, it appears as if he intended to add the noise of a weapon being fired in the woman's suicide sequence - but Criterion employees would not let him.

Last but not least, there are two issues that are difficult to document in a comparison like this one. For starters, the audio track is completely new. In some scenes, such as Averill's conversation with Cully at the station for instance or parts in Downtown Casper, the dialogs are barely audible due to the music playing in the background. According to Cimino, this never caught anyone's attention because the sound is different in internal screenings at MGM. Anyway, the flawed audio track has been altered in order to correct these things.

But there is more because the color scheme massively differs as well. Vilmos Zsigmond, director of photography, intentionally used sepia and that coloring does not excist any longer. Some of the scenes look pretty much alike while others look entirely different. A few examples can be found at the beginning of the following comparison, a screenshot comparison with HD pictures can be found on The link also perfectly illustrates why the quality of the DVD simply sucks - even for an release from back in the day.

Time index refers to
Director's Cut Blu-ray / Director's Cut DVD (in PAL)
Only the Blu-ray contains th MGM logo & the UA logo is different.
Not considered as length difference.

Blu-ray 23 sec longer


Will not be listed anymore: The text on the screen slightly differs in size and hight.
Then a few examples for scenes with an incredibly strong shade of sepia on the DVD.


20:23-20:32 / 19:11-19:20

Starting from a further distance, the Blu-ray slowly zooms in on the face Averill's girl from Havard.
The DVD on the hand contains a close-up of her face and then zooms out.

no difference


127:45 / 122:15-124:03

On the old DVD, the shot of the fog drifting past Billy is approx. 5 seconds longer, then the DVD fades to black. Intermission appears on the screen and one again, the DVD fades to black with some score (for approx. 1.5 seconds) playing in the background.
In addition to that, the first 3.5 seconds of the subsequent shot are missing: Fade-in and Cully appears from the right.

107.4 sec

149:58 / 145:23-145:26

After Canton slaps Billy, there is an additional shot of the latter.

2.9 sec

150:06 / 145:33-145:38

Additional shot of Billy: "'Son of a bitch' has always been a favorite expression in this country."

5.4 sec

151:11 / 146:41-146:45

Canton walks away longer & Ella earlier inside.

3.8 sec

151:52 / 147:25-147:26

Before Ella says "I can manage it", the shot of her shrugging starts a little earlier on DVD.

1.4 sec

152:53 / 148:24-148:27

Averill stands up longer, then she says: "Christ, the piety of a whore!".
Then Ella briefly earlier.

3.3 sec

Slightly alternate logo subsequent to the end credits resp. only the DVD mentions UA here.