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  • Theatrical Version
  • Director's Cut
Release: Mar 11, 2016 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: DaxRider123 - external link: IMDB
This is a comparison between the Theatrical Version and the Director's Cut (both available on the German Blu-ray released by Studiocanal).


After five years of research about the actual events in the popular, title-giving nightclub, Miramax bought the rights to director Mark Christopher's 54 and filming started in 1997. The hopes were to have a summer blockbuster movie ready for the following year. Once the final work hit the theaters in 1998, it was not only panned by critics but also became a bomb at the box office. One of the reasons for this might have been that the viewers found out about how much the final theatrical version had been changed in comparison to the original cut. It is a classic example of a movie studio having too much influence on a project based on marketing ideas which were not in tone with the movie's direction... but lets get to it one at a time.

Originally, it was intended to portray a love triangle between the main character portrayed by Ryan Phillippe and the companioned couple (Salma Hayek and Breckin Meyer) as a major plot point of the movie. All of this was supposed to be embedded into the world of New York's infamous nightclubs, whose temptations soon wear off. Drug consumption, bisexuality, and semi-criminal intrigues are an everyday occurence. Behind the glittering fassade, the club owners are often lonely and without prospects.
During first test-screenings, the audience was apparently unable to identify with the rather ambivalant characters and was especially struggling with the homosexual aspects (including Phillippe's and Meyer's kiss). Only two months prior to the movie's release, the Weinsteins insisted on shooting new scenes and changing major parts of the story: Meyer's character was reduced down and a heterosexual lovestory bewteen Phillippe und Neve Campbell, apparently more suited for mass audiences, became the focus of the peak of the dramatic events.

The digital release was even worse for Christopher: The first release for home theaters was an additional version. Back then, this was a popular thing, thus the studio decided to release an additional sd slightly longer version. This "Extended Version" (with seven additional minutes) had been cut together without the director and solely included a few deleted scenes. For years, the project seemed to be done for. However, in 2014, there were surprising news: The "Berlinale" was supposed to include a "Director's Cut" which Christopher himself was to bring to the big screens. In this regard, people were talking about roughly 45 minutes of new material that was not used in the theatrical version. At the same time it was said that most of the material that was shot weeks before the theatrical release were taken out again.

After the Berlinale's screening of the Director's Cut, the movie was shown during a few more festivals in february 2015. Throughout the following months, one was abloe to read first reviews and watch Q&A-sessions that gave a closer impression of where things might lead to in the future. Even the movie's look was revised, since Miramax decided to go for bright and colorful lights; the Director's Cut is much darker, as the creator intended. The release of his desired version was justified by the fact that nowadays, series and movies portray complex anti-heroes close to the characters in the movie. Therefore, the lack of likeability is no longer a problem with modern audiences.

However, festival-screenings are a different thing. Waiting for a release on DVD or Blu-Ray can become exhausting for fans. A similar example would beNightbreed that had fans waiting for years until the director was finally able to release his originally intended version. So far, Germany is the only country that gave fans a happy ending. Since January 24th, 2016 the movie can be bought on Blu-ray/DVD. Yet, it does not look too bad for US-audiences, after all, they are able to see the new version on streaming platforms like Amazon.
For this report, we used the German Blu-Ray wich - thankfully enough - also included the Theatrical version.

The Director's Cut

First of all, two things have to be said which one should now when taking some time to read this report, as well as when sitting down to watch the new version.
On the one hand, we went without naming an exact number of differences, since the realization of both versions made this almost impossible. More than often, there are "recuts within recuts" (which means that material that is included in both versions was entirely torn apart and put back in in entirely different contexts over several different scenes), additional differences regarding the soundtrack (bock regarding voice-overs and music), the aforementionend color grading, and the list goes on. If you were to put a number to this, one would easily get to 200 individual changes with 45 minutes exclusive to the Director's Cut and 30 minutes of material solely shown in the Theatrical Version.
On the other hand there are moments with varying image quality, since some of the material could only be saved from a VHS tape. One might think that this difference might give us a hint at all the new scenes, yet this is not the case: They were able to get most of the material from original negatives or film roles of the test screenings. However, some of the scenes that were either missing or unusuable from these sources had to be taken from VHS dailies that were accidentally found.

A first difference we can make out are the major differences regarding the plot which were already mentioned in the first paragraph. Neve Campbell's Julie now is a rather unimportant starlet, while Shane (Phillippe) has sex with Anita (Hayek) in a bathroom, and kisses Greg (Meyer) whom he shares more emotional moments with. The longer the movie goes, the greater the differences within the character Greg become. In the theatrical version, he is rather focused on making money, which results in him stealing. In the Director's Cut, he is rather straightforward regarding his business and rather struggles over his problematic marriage (wich results from affairs they both have). Shane also comes across as a different person, especially since his development makes more sense now and includes more depth than being "eye candy" for amorous teenie-girls. Shane's father should also bementioned, since his disdainful comments about "niggers" in the club or similar things result in a more intense family feud. Apart from the actual characters, the Studio 54 comes across as being immoral (not only thanks to the darker look), instead of being glamorous as the theatrical version portrays it.

That being said, lets take a look at another atmospheric aspect: the theatrical version's simplification. It is very obvious that in order to make the movie appealing to all audiences there are numerous voice overs by Shane throughout the movie, which explain the characters' motives and other backgrounds - despite the fact that all of this is already pretty clear from the movie itself; also, some sort of vagueness would have been appreciated at times. The Director's Cut got rid of almost all of these comments. Only towards the beginning there is a slightly different voice-over which Ryan Phillippe recorded for the occasion of the new release of the Director's Cut. Another aspect that fits to the category "The audience is able to figure this out itself!" regards several cuts to flat dialogs or the detective's observations regarding the ongoings in the club.

A next point to talk about regards the severe re-cuts. There is no clear scheme that could be applied to all sequences, yet it seems pretty clear that the structure of the theatrical version screwed up the original timing the director intended. It is very noticeable that Shane moves out much quicker in the Director's Cut which puts him in a drastic situation earlier in the film. In general, these changes were done to change the context which gives many scenes a very different feel in the Director's Cut. A small, yet striking example are two scenes with Shane (Jacuzzi and bedroom) during wich the new version suddenly includes a male sex partner.

A simliar thing happens to several scenes with alternative takes, which make out a major part of the marginal difference in runtimes, despite the great number of version-exclusive material. Often, the scenes are very similar regarding perspectives and dialog, yet the deliery or short additional sentences can lead to varying results. This is especially noticeably when it comes to dialog between Shane and Anita which - due to the knowledge about each other's affairs - lead to very different endresults.

Last but not least, the alternative ending deserves to be mentioned separately. The theatrical version included a corny and inappropriate comeback party for Steve a few years later. Of course, the main trio achieved some major success in their lives - and Shane was able to establish a relationship with love interest Julie. All these additions for the masses were taken out again. Instead, the raid in the club makes the main characters bundle together.

All in all, 54's Director's Cut is definitively not a must-see movie and still includes some dramaturgic flaws and could have been cut shorter at times. Yet, it is without a doubt an alternative movie version which - even if you know the theatrical version - is worth to be checked out; despite its similarities to the theatrical version one should view it as an entirely different movie. If you have not seen the movie yet - pick this version, especially due to the fact that is closest to the director's original vision. A lot of criticism the movie received aims at the differences the studio made back in the days, thus, it is nice to finally see the original version.

Time index refers to
Theatrical Version / Director's Cut
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The German Blu-Ray includes a Studicanal-logo towards the Director's Cut's beginning.

20.1 sec

Alternative Scene
00:14-00:26 / 00:34-01:33

The Theatrical Version starts with opening credits and music.

The Director's Cut shows the credits in between some shots of a party. The music that is playing at the scenery is interrupted by the credits as well.
In the end we see Shane stumbling around just as at the end of the movie. We hear a (newly recorded) voice-over. He emphasizes that it actually was the biggest party in the world. Additionally, he quotes Steve by saying "The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom“. He explains that this is the ultimate escape from a fucked up city during fucked up times. Then he talks about the evanescence of this escape, followed by a (different) title card.

Director's Cut 47.6 sec longer

The following voice-over is placed over identical stock footage, yet different in terms of its content. For example, in the Director's Cut the phrasing is a little more direct (e.g. by saying things like "Everybody was screwed"). Additionally, he says that it is "crazy" (instead of "amazing") that he can only remember "snapshots" (Theatrical Version) / "flashes" (Director's Cut). At the end he – in the Theatrical Version – says that everything came down to one man, while in the Director's Cut he simply says that everyone was looking for a way out or at least a place to belong to.

Note: All dialog will only be paraphrased in the following.

Theatrical Version longer
00:45-01:28 / 01:52

After an introduction to the societal background, only the Theatrical Version already gives a short glimpse at the glamorous world of Studio 54, accompanied by the movie's title. Shane introduces Steve a little more extensive (via voice-over) and also already mentions Disco Dottie. Overall, he says, it was a place without rules.

+ 43.5 sec

During these 20 visually identical seconds, the voice-over was re-dubbed and is pretty similar, yet slightly different here and there.
In the Director's Cut, Shane introduces himself with his full name Shane O'Shea, and instead of his "guys" he hangs out at the bar with his "gang".

01:48 / 02:12-02:46

We get a glimpse at the aforementioned flings with the girls as well as some conversations..
Shane apparently came a little too early and tells the girl that this is because she is so pretty and that he wants to go out with her again tomorrow. The girl says that she is from Montclair and thus would not go out with people from Jersey City.

33.3 sec

During the following seconds Shane only in the Theatrical Version explains via voice-over that he did not even have a car.

Theatrical Version longer
01:56-01:59 / 02:54

The following transition starts a little earlier in the Director's Cut.

+ 2.6 sec sec

Some minor cuts to the following shots sum up to 2.7 sec.

Alternative Scene / Re-Cut
02:20-02:24 / 03:12-03:16

When Shane critically introduces his father, we in the Director's Cut see a more fitting shot of the man – which in the Theatrical Version can be seen at 46:13-47:27 / 55:31-55:41.

Theatrical Version 0.7 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Theatrical Version longer
02:32-02:33 / 03:24

The hairstyling-image in the newspaper is shown slightly longer.

+ 0.6 sec

04:12 / 05:03

Instead of "You ain't seen nothing yet" the Director's Cut uses a different instrumental-song during the nightly car ride through the city.

05:19 / 06:10-06:12

In the Director's Cut Shane is shown a little earlier standing in the crowd when he is called up.

2.2 sec

Alternative Scene
05:48-05:53 / 06:41-06:46

When Ricko tries to sneak to the front of the line and gets caught, we – for whatever reason – see an unspectacular alternative take.

Theatrical Version 0.2 sec longer

Theatrical Version longer
06:37-06:40 / 07:30

Only in the Theatrical Version Shane turns around in slow motion. We hear a voice-over saying that he was chosen and that this had never before happened in his life.

+ 3 sec

Alternative Scene
06:49-06:53 / 07:39-07:59

There is an alternative and distinctly longer shot of Shane slowly walking to the door, followed by a closer shot of him.

Director's Cut 16.1 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Alternative Scene / Partially Re-Cut
07:20-07:26 bzw 07:27-07:30 / 08:26-08:33

Different shots inside the club.
The last tracking shot in the Director's Cut which passes a grey colored man is also shown in the Theatrical Version (which is why there are no images to it below), yet it only follows a few seconds after the cut to the Roman on the steps.

Theatrical Version 1.4 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

07:30 / 08:34-08:42

A few additional shots in the Director's Cut before he movie continues at the bar.

7.6 sec

Alternative Scene / Partially Re-Cut
07:33-07:42 / 08:45-10:00

In ther Theatrical Version there are a few additional shots of Shane walking through the crowd, followed by a woman walking up the stairs.

The Director's Cut includes more walking through the club as well as a timid walk up to the dancefloor. In between we can see the girls that the Theatrical Version already included at 07:20-07:26.
In the end, he also sees the woman on the stairs, yet in a differend and longer take. Additionally, the following shot of Shane on the stairs is shown earlier.

Director's Cut 66.4 sec longer

07:50 / 10:08-10:21

Said shot of Shane is shown much longer: A guy stares at him.

13.1 sec

Alternative Scene
07:50-08:11 / 10:21-10:59

In the Theatrical Version we can see the two men kiss. Immediately, the camera pans to the couple behind them.
The Director's Cut instead shows a different shot of the men, then Shane. Then follows the later part of the Theatrical Version's shot. However, the image section is slightly different.

Once the woman gropes Shane, we can see two alternative takes again (the Director's Cut uses an uninterrupted long shot, making the scene more intense).

Director's Cut 17.1 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

08:11 / 10:59-11:07

Additional dancers in the Director's Cut.

7.6 sec

08:14-08:17 / 11:10

In the Theatrical Version we see a shot of the moon – a reocurring thing that happens again and again throughout the movie.

+ 3.3 sec

Alternative Scene
08:20-08:26 / 11:13-11:27

Shane is touched by the woman carrying a magic stick.
The Theatrical Version shows Steve onscreen a little earlier, while the Director's Cut shows Shane distinctly longer who increduously reaches for the lametta.

Director's Cut 5.4 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Alternative Scene
11:44-11:56 / 14:46-14:58

Before Shane starts talking about the balcony, the conversation is a little different.

In the Theatrical Version they all awkwardly look at each other and Grace asks for a few more things.
In the Director's Cut Shane instead talks about a singer who looks down at them and his father shortly asks "Negro?" The racist undertone immediately stops the conversation and Grace immediately starts her questions – in a n alternative take.

Director's Cut 0.8 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

12:05 / 15:08-15:09

After Shane mentioned the dark balcony, we can shortly see the father in the Director's Cut.

1.6 sec

Theatrical Version longer
12:09-12:13 / 15:15

In the Theatrical Version the family sits around the table a little longer.

+ 3.5 sec

12:13-12:14 / 15:15-15:20

A first shot of Shane as well as a few scenes on his TV are shown earlier. We can hear some criticism regarding president Carter (or rather "Death to Carter!"-shouts).

In return, the next scenes on TV are shown a few frames earlier in the Theatrical Version.

Director's Cut 6 sec longer

Theatrical Version longer
12:41-12:42 / 15:47

In the Theatrical Version Shane goes out of the room a few frames longer.

+ 0.7 sec

Altered Soundtrack
12:42 / 15:47

Subsequently, Shane sits in the car. Only the Theatrical Version includes a voice-over regarding the upcoming interview and how it came to be. Then he mentions how much he admires Steve for his advancement. He anticipates complex questions, which immediately leads over to Steve asking „What's two plus two?“

Theatrical Version longer
12:48 / 15:53

Another shot was unspectacularly cut down.

+ 0.5 sec

Altered Soundtrack
14:46 / 17:51

After Shane spotted Julie, he only in the Theatrical Version enthusiastically comments on this via voice-over.

Alternative Scene
14:49-14:53 / 17:54-18:24

The Theatrical Version shows some slow motion shots of Julie during which Shane comments that in reality she looked even better than on TV. He continues to comment by saying that Julie also is from Jersey, yet made it.

In the Director's Cut we instead see the ongoings inside the club. Steve enthusiastically welcomes the Italian guy Fiorucci. All of this is later also included in the Theatrical Version!

Director's Cut 25.8 sec longer

Alternative Scene / Partially Re-Cut
15:11-15:42 / 18:42-19:01

A short alternative order of events until Shane follows the model in the hallway.

In the Theatrical Version we get some background information via black and white pictures and Shane's voice-over. Then we see Steve welcoming Fiorucci.

The Director's Cut instead shows money bags being carried outside. Anthony pays Greg and in the end we shortly see Steve high on drugs (a sequence which in the Theatrical Version follows at 30:50-30:59 / 31:45).

Theatrical Version 10.2 sec longer
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