Metropolis (1927): When it debuted, to only moderate success, Fritz Lang’s magnum dyst-opus ran 153 minutes. Nervous American distributors hacked it down to 114. Later, cuts ran between 67 and 107 minutes; a 1984 Giorgio Moroder “restoration,” boasting the sounds of Pat Benatar and Freddie Mercury (you know, for the kids!), ran 80. All the slicing and dicing resulted in misplaced footage, most of which was “replaced” by explanatory intertitles in the version reissued in 2002. Thanks to a 16mm copy found in Argentina, “only” eight minutes are lost in the 2010 version. Close enough.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942): While Orson Welles was off directing a film in Brazil for FDR’s Latin American-outreach “Good Neighbor Policy” program, RKO chopped 43 minutes out of his sophomore film and added a surreal happy ending. The footage presumably is sharing a room with Nixon’s missing 18 minutes and the body of Jimmy Hoffa. Even in its mutilated form, Ambersons is, in several ways, the best thing Welles ever did.
The Idiot (1951): Originally intending to make a two-part, 265-minute film of Dostoevsky’s novel, Akira Kurosawa watched as Shochiku studios cut out a whopping 99 minutes, then lost said footage.
A Star is Born (1954): George Cukor removed 14 minutes from his behind-the-scenes sudster after it premiered at 181 minutes. But studios thought it was still too long, and hacked it to 2 1/2 hours. The footage went AWOL, but the soundtrack didn’t; even today’s cut features sound over top stills of footage we may never see.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Stanley Kubrick was notorious for recutting his films after release. Nineteen minutes were excised from the original 160-minute premiere, including a snoozy-sounding 10-minute intro in which a scientist lectured the audience. Kubrick demanded his minions immolate the removed footage. So it was.
The Breakfast Club (1985): John Hughes’ script for this chat-a-thon ran about 2 1/2 hours. Much of this was filmed, and Hughes claimed the supersized version existed only on VHS somewhere in his house. It has yet to be found. ■
The 25 missing minutes discovered in a Buenos Aires vault do more than make this movie closer to complete: They bring it to modern-day length.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises