DIRECTOR'S EXPANDED EDITION OF THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
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DTS SURROUND SOUND, WIDESCREEN ANAMORPHIC FORMAT, DIRECTOR'S EXPANDED EDITION DVD RELEASED ON JANUARY 23, 2001!
After two enthusiastic campaigns, and a very long wait, the much sought after, eagerly anticipated Director�s Cut of LOTM has finally been released. Presented this time around via the high end of the technology spectrum, DVD, the Director�s Cut promised, at least, to be a superior edition visually and audibly to the original. The story content itself, having undergone another round of editing, remained questionable in regard to its improvement or lack thereof. There was to be additional footage, widely welcomed, though no one knew what exactly these additions would be. The director, Michael Mann, had edited the release which offered reasonable confidence that the re-editing would be an enhancement ... would it? Here, we offer one, actually two, opinions on this ...
What�s NOT Here: Largely because of discussion & speculation here on this Web Site, expectations were huge for this release. Dances With Wolves, when released in Director�s Cut form, had nearly one hour of additional footage ... While no one thought there�d be THAT much new material, it was generally assumed there would be 15 or so minutes, including a "love" scene between Alice & Uncas, added to the film. All based on pre-theatrical release reviews, plus comments made by many of the principals in various interviews, most Mohicans fans eagerly awaited more, More, MORE! Forget it! It�s not here. That�s not, it is obvious, what Mr. Michael Mann had in mind for this gem of a release. More on that later. There is NO Alice/Uncas love scene. In fact, this release does absolutely nothing in the way of furthering that relationship. It stays as it lays. Uncas has not one additional line, Alice one or two. Nearly all hypothesized new scenes are nowhere to be found on this DVD. In no one's wildest imagination, did anybody think that some material would actually be CUT from the original. That matter was never addressed. So, though, it is. GONE ... Not ever to be heard again in the DVD-age are SEVERAL of Hawkeye�s most quoted lines ... things like "Clear it up any?" "Just dropped in to see how you boys is doing!" "Someday you & I are going to have a serious disagreement!" "Nothing better to do on the lake today, Major?" All have seen the axe. Part of the exchange between Hawkeye & Cora at The Burial Ground has been lopped off. That one hurts. No longer do you hear, "That is because they are a breed apart and make no sense!" What??!! Can it be? Want to hear more? Clannad�s I Will Find You no longer lilts through the misty riverside air as Hawkeye, Chingachgook & Uncas begin their journey to rescue the Munro sisters. It just isn�t there. No matter how many times you play it over, it�s still gone! Disappointed? Go on, admit it! You feel terribly disappointed! Sulk awhile. Go on! Feel morbid depression, consider a leap off the ledge at Nature�s Shower Bath. Get it all out of your system! Allow yourself to feel the pain! Then, FORGET IT! In any case, you still have your wide screen THX video version to savor, so get a grip! Now, place your hopes & expectations aside. Forget that you�ve ever seen The Last of the Mohicans. Go out and buy the new Director�s Expanded Edition of this classic film and bravely pop it into your DVD player. Go on. It really won�t hurt. Get ready to watch 1992�s The Last of the Mohicans again ... for the first time!
The DVD Experience: Perhaps, you are like us, you�ve never before owned a DVD disk. Get ready for a real treat. You will never, when given a choice, want to watch a VHS tape again. You have immediate scene access, you can zoom in intimately on any shot. Sure, you can also pause, run in slow motion, rewind and fast forward. This time, though, with a difference. What you see is crystal clear! No more blurred images or lines running across your screen ... just pure IMAGE ... and you can run it at various speeds. The normal picture quality is near-perfect. You get vivid, rich colors. Details long lost in the murky gloom of the VHS night scenes will POP out at you while watching the DVD version. You�ll see things you never saw before, much like watching the 35mm film on the big screen. For that quality alone, this is the definitive version to view. Like sound? Distinct stereo separation, even on just your TV�s speakers, can be heard ... Every little sound becomes a part of the viewing experience. You will miss nothing. Clear, precise sounds ... no distortion ... the sights & sounds will cause you to fully be engulfed by the film. If it was the identical release to the original, you�d still feel like you were watching a Director�s Cut, so much more will become apparent to you. Such is the quality of a DVD. You will be amazed. Oh, and did we mention the optional sub-titles? Never again will you have to guess what it is characters are saying. It can all be there for you, on screen, if you so choose. If you�re at all like us, all these little perks will provide you with long moments of exploration & amusement, causing The Last of the Mohicans to run for well over 3 hours, instead of its listed 117 minutes.
So, What IS Here: Only 117 minutes, you say? Yes, and that�s only 3 minutes over the original! Figure that maybe up to a minute of time was sliced out, that leaves about 4 minutes, total, of new footage. [Well, so our math is a little off! See MM's mathematics below!] That can be a lot of film, and so it is ...
The first thing that you�ll see is the dazzling The Last of the Mohicans title bouncing seductively on your screen. Then you�ll be greeted with Hickory Nut Gorge, thunderous waterfalls, scenes from the movie, and you will have an opportunity to explore the DVD ... choose Language Selection, to set your sound & caption preferences, view The Cast, select various scenes, or play the movie. Go ahead. Play around a bit. Then, click on Play Movie, sit back, relax, and enjoy the awesome splendor, the beauty of the cinematography, the spellbinding soundtrack, the powerful images, the adventure, the action, the romance ... watch as Michael Mann transforms his 1992 masterpiece, real "subtle"-like, into a MASTERPIECE ...
It is obvious that Mann intended to reconstruct a portion of Hawkeye's character. No longer the pop-action hero, he has become serious, intent ... at the end, almost boyish, as he questions his adopted father, Chingachgook, high above Linville Gorge. The Hawkeye we see here is a stronger Hawkeye. No more flippant remarks in this life or death struggle. Hawkeye�s main aim here is survival! Possibly for the same reasons, Clannad�s haunting melody was removed. Out of place in this primeval wilderness, the tune is replaced by the Trevor Jones/Randy Edelman score. During the battle sequences, The Siege and Massacre Valley, the music is mixed down considerably allowing the sounds of war - the stark realities - to permeate the film. During the former, the score is allowed to fully explode upon the scene only as the fort is reached by the main characters. During the massacre, the theme rises in intensity, but again, is only allowed to bear its full force on the proceedings as Hawkeye and Cora embrace ... great stuff!
As you watch, after being floored by the clarity of the image, you�ll be delighted by the deeply rich colors of The Elk Hunt. Then, nighttime at Cameron�s Cabin brings you into a whole new world. Just TRY to absorb all those details in just one sitting. Here, too, you see the first addition to the film, a new take of John Cameron grabbing his rifle, a cautious approach to the door, and then, after realizing who is drawing near, uttering the first new line, "Alexandria ... Set 3 more places." So very quietly, Mann sets out to actually strengthen the story by skillfully placed morsels that help to further relationships, spotlight motivations, and establish political climates. Re-introduced is Le [Renard] Subtil, Cooper�s Magua; as known to the French ... The Sly Fox. We see, even more, Duncan as a warrior, courtesy of the new Courier Diversion scene. We realize he is very much the same as these warriors of the forest. We hear, and see, a very effective new piece at Webb�s HQ�s, providing amplification of the British/Colonial dispute early on. Cora & Alice have brief new things to say at the patroon�s house connecting their past a bit more to 1757 colonial America. We see the column of escorting soldiers symbolically enter into the wilderness. The Abenaki Chief, Magua, Jack, and especially Montcalm & Colonel Munro are given new life through an added line or use of a different take. It�s all very small tinkering on Mann�s part. Nothing monumental, but its cumulative effect certainly ties the underlying stories that are the foundation of this film together in a much more palatable fashion, especially benefiting the uninitiated. For your information (DVD scene name in parenthesis), the main expanded scenes would be: The diversionary efforts of Heyward to enable the courier to flee to safety under the cover of Uncas and Hawkeye (A Run To Fort Edward), The Parlay scene (Terms For Surrender) which is radically expanded to our benefit, providing more interplay between the two antagonists, the former Clannad scene (Stay Alive) which intersperses, beautifully, scenes of the captives being hauled away, at one point set against a radiant sunset, with shots of their Mohican rescuers in pursuit ... you can hear the pants of exhaustion, sense the desperation ... and the final scene (Last of the Mohicans), where Chingachgook rightfully takes over the title role and artfully allows him to become the wise elder, poignantly foreseeing the future of the frontier. It is a grand moment that makes a strong ending even more puissant. All we could say was, "Wow!" Fifteen scenes, in all, are listed as containing footage not seen in the original theatrical release, though we were hard pressed to spot them in one (Lovers), and found little added things in two scenes not listed (A Stirring in the Blood and Trophies of Honor). Bits & pieces skillfully interwoven into the substance already there to create the definitive version ... Or, as the liner notes say, "[Michael Mann�s] definitive vision of the film." We couldn�t agree more!
A Word On The Blemishes: Several reviews mention uneven editing of this new cut. In fact, included with the DVD is this little note: "In order to create it [this DVD version], certain shots had to be lengthened, resulting in a momentary jump in the image." We noticed but two or three. These minor flaws are easily negated by the overall outstanding image clarity, deep colors, and improved sound.
Contained within the disk packaging, the following scene list (added/expanded scenes in red):
Main Titles - The Deerslayers - The Cameron House - A Call To Arms - The New Major - The Scotsman's Daughter - The War Party - To Fort William
Henry - The Faces Of War - A Stirring In The Blood - The Siege - Magua's Hate - The Look Of Love - A Run to Fort Edward - Final Decisions - The Escape
Plan - Lovers - Sedition - The Whole World's On Fire - Terms for Surrender - Magua's Pain - The Defeated - Magua Strikes - Escape - The Falls - Stay Alive... - Trophies Of Honor - Heyward's Choice - To Save Alice - A Father's Revenge - Last Of The Mohicans - End Titles
For Another Opinion Of The DTS Re-Release, See:
What are some of Michael Mann's thoughts on this release? What follows is a brief interview, done at Amazon.com, with the Director:
Amazon.com: Was The Last of the Mohicans a film you particularly wanted to revisit, or did this opportunity just present itself?
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THE NON-DTS VERSION ... RELEASED IN NOVEMBER, 1999!
More From Michael!
To read the interview in it's entirety, go to: The History Making Michael Mann
Borders: Since you often write, produce, and direct, what is your favorite part of filmmaking?
MM: Every aspect of it. Producing is the least favorite. It's just something I do to protect the rest. Working with the actors is great. Working with Eric Roth was great. The research I did on Mohicans was fascinating. It opened up a whole new world. I realized how revisionist James Fenimore Cooper was in 1826 when he was revising [the perception of American Indians] into noble savages [who had] their life, their culture, their territory, their commerce, who [did not] need more sophisticated folks (like Cooper and his family), to look after their interests and their and. So, it was eye-opening to do the research on the Mohicans and get to the true dimensionality of that society. I usually operate [the camera], some of the time, and I mix the tracks and editing, so I love all of it. I'm especially fortunate to have fallen upon something when I was 21 years old that I really love to do. I think that casting Russell Means -- apart from being a great American Indian activist -- was fantastic in the role of Chingachgook.
Borders: Were you at all surprised at the depth he brought to that role?
MM: No, because in the casting process (where it's the director's job to see what will be there and what you could then work with), it's a game of projections. You're sampling another person's ability to lose themselves in a dramatic moment, and it's particularly dicey when the person you're doing this with is not a professional actor. There is no mechanism that's a get to that moment of being truly Chingachgook in a moment of passion, a moment of feeling the tragedy of Uncas' death, for example. They don't have the mechanics to get themselves to that place, so it's really kind of a raw, improvisational method that I would use with them. We were sitting him on a floor in my office off Sunset Boulevard, and I'm trying to take him back to 1757 and to see what's there. You look for a glimpse of something -- that's quite extraordinary sometimes with real people like with Russell Means -- then as a director, you can make a projection, which involves some guesswork and a lot of intuition that yeah, Russell can do this. And then begins a long, long process of training and rehearsals and a lot of other things to go and get him to deliver himself into the character so that he becomes Chingachgook. What is going for Russell is, of course, the depth of his feelings and his whole history. Now, Russell liked the film because the character of Magua not because of the character of Chingachgook. He wanted to play Chingachgook, and I wanted him for Chingachgook, but politically he thought that Magua was a stunning realization of a character because he's the antagonist. But he's also victim of history and he's articulate and has a political analysis and is faced with this dilemma of what are we to do [about] the imminent demise of our culture, of our very lives, of our property, of everything that we've experienced probably since the end of the Ice Age with this challenge of this massive invasion of Euro-Americans. [These] are historical forces. What are we to do in the face of this? It's a question that Magua has and [he] has one analysis of it. There's that Chingachgook answer in the new ending on the DVD, which was not in the theatrical version, but should have been. And the Huron, Sachem, poses that. We've been asking ourselves for generations, just talking about the Hurons, "What are we to do?" And there is no answer, but still Chingachgook rejects Magua's way because that would make them not themselves ... That's his answer to it. That's why Russell was so taken with doing it, and now Dennis Banks is also in the film, who was Russell's partner in '71 in Wounded Knee. He's only in there briefly, but he plays Chief Joseph Brandt, who was a leader of the Mohawks. In 1757, Chief Joseph had been to Europe three times, he lived in a European-style house, ate on Irish linen. At the time, the Mohawks controlled 65 percent of the world fur trade [in their role] as middlemen. When they were trapping furs from the Great Lakes all the way east, most of it was handled by the Mohawks. They were commercially very sophisticated folks. The Northeastern woodlands Indians in the 1750s is not the picture you have of American Indians, but this is the reality of it. And he said a famous line that was historically accurate and we repeat it in dialogue in the film. Hawkeye advises him to leave the fort, to abandon the British. And Brandt's reply is, "No he's going to stay," and it's a dilemma. The way he articulates it he says, "We're too many to die and we're too few to win." It's like the numbers are destroying them.
Borders: Since you brought up the character of Magua, how much of his role was scripted and how much do you think that Wes Studi brought to that performance?
MM: All of his role was scripted. And Wes brought immense power to the performance. It becomes amplified, interpreted, made human, and that's to say "made human" [is] a small thing and it doesn't mean "made sentimental." We're animals. We perceive just the way dogs and cats and horses and tigers and lions perceive things. We read other people's body language, their facial gestures, the smallest expression -- the twitch in a muscle around an eye indicates somebody isn't as steadfast in their aggression as they want us to believe they are. We read all these things, and lots of times our visual intake of other people -- what they're thinking and what they're feeling and how they might behave and what behavior might come next-- is way in advance of anything that we could be cognitive about or put into language. So when somebody really inhabits a character, inhabits a role with every fiber of his or her being, you get a detailed manifestation that's so much more than anything it could ever be on the page. I mean you can imagine how many times I've seen the movie, right? Having shot and operated on it, edited it, mixed it for months and months and all this, but nevertheless that battle between Chingachgook and Magua at the end when both men look at each other, there's more going on there than any dialogue. They're adversaries. One just killed the other man's son. They're in opposition to each other and they're [reacting] to the condition of being faced with the end of their people. But at the same time, they both share the condition. I mean there are just volumes, and it's not accidental that the rock looks like Magua's cheekbones. So, I think, volumes are added by what Wes Studi did.
Borders: You mentioned that you have looked at this film a whole lot.
MM: Thousands and thousands of times.
Borders: And even more recently in order to produce this director's cut for the DVD. How difficult was it to mesh what came out originally with the new version?
MM: Everything that I added had been there at one time because when we first put a film together, it's longer. Then, as you try to find the rhythms and the shape of the story, you compress or you find finesses through the material. You make certain decisions. Often times in that process, you may be looking at the film for the 3,167th time and you try to pretend you're objective and you're [the] audience who's never seen the film before. That's the struggle that you have, [that] all directors have in editing, and sometimes you guess wrong. I mean no one else took [the scenes] out, I took them out. There were things that were taken out in the interest of moving, in the interest of capturing [the actor's] emotion, and in our holding on to them, we were probably too tight. The scenes didn't have to be quite that tight. There were some dimensions of some of the people that were terribly important for the story to have its maximum impact. Some of the dimensions of Heyward, for example, really had to be there. The political intelligence of Magua, how smart he was about what was going on, had to be there for the story to be less a song and more an orchestral piece, you know? And so the wonderful thing about the digital realm is if you've been lucky enough to have your film archived correctly, you can go back and put these pieces back in. We [don't] leave a film in immaculate order with last minute decisions about "I'm going to take out this scene" or "I'm going to trim this line of dialogue down." All those final decisions are still intact and canned as cut pieces of film (which we call lifts). So if the stuff is kept in pretty good order, it's relatively easy to put it all back. We were fortunate in that 20th Century Fox did a wonderful job archiving this film (which is not common). So when we got about 80 large boxes full of film including old mixes and some what we call pre-mixes -- where it was a different soundtrack that incorporated the missing scene which I'm now putting back -- we were able to just literally reassemble everything. The only hit that the DVD takes is that if I cut a particular shot of say, Daniel Day-Lewis, and he says something, and then he goes on and says one more sentence and I cut that sentence off and I cut the picture there, to reassemble it we actually cut the negative and so you lose a frame or sometimes two frames. Now when I'm going to put it all back, those, there's an interim frame that in fact has been destroyed, and we have to clone and digitally recreate the missing frame to join the two pieces of film back together again.
Borders: Is that a time-consuming process?
MM: Yeah, but it's sometimes a little jump cut. If you're maniacal and looking for it, [you'll notice it, but] if you're taken away by the story, you'll not notice any of these things. That's the only little interfering problem, but we were able to do it in almost all cases.
Borders: There are several scenes in a few of your films, in Heat and in Mohicans and as well in The Insider where there's a minimal light source. Is there a particular reason why?
MM: Well, Mohicans was fascinating because imagine: you're going to shoot a film in which you're outside at night. There aren't any streetlights in 1757 ... How do you light it so that it doesn't look really "sourcey"? And if you're inside the fort at night, where's the light coming from? You have to light or the film's not going to get exposed. What do you do? We found ways to simulate the kind of glow of fire light so we'd have a wall an orange-ish-reddish glow. This was created by working with Dante [Spinotti]. You wouldn't see the wall of light that's causing it, but you have that sense that it's very dim, as it would be. Or, if you're in a forest at night [and there] just happens conveniently to be a moon out. So, you get the silver-blue and slightly green tinged light of moonlight at night in a forest or the yellow of candlelight. This has fascinated directors and cinematographers for a long time starting with Kubrick with Barry Lyndon ... Take the battle on the fort, when we first discover that Fort William Henry is being assaulted by the French army. The set was 40 acres. We built a fort for real. We built this whole battlefield. Well, we had vast lamps called "dinos." Each lamp, it's about the size of a billboard, and it has many little lamps within it. Then we imported cranes, some were as high as 200-225 feet. We were lighting on a vast scale almost like you light a football stadium and these were way deep in the forests and extended high up, so that they stayed out of all the shots [and] it looked like there was a general ambient light like moonlight. That's how you do something like that.
With 12 new, or extended, scenes added - totaling 15-20 minutes of additional footage, theatrical trailer(s), widescreen THX format ... the Last of the Mohicans Director's Cut is finally here!
In November of 1997, we generated a push geared at Michael Mann for the release of a director's cut. Passionate, emotion-evoking letters were gathered.
In November of 1998, at the suggestion of Forward Pass Productions, we re-directed our efforts towards 20th Century Fox. Even more letters were accumulated & forwarded on.
Now, in November 1999, we have reached our goal! ... Thank you all for your time, effort, & belief!
Some past news:
CONFIRMED AUGUST 16, 1999 by FORWARD PASS PRODUCTIONS!
Forward Pass Productions, Michael Mann's production company, adds that work was completed the weekend of August 14/15, 1999! They anticipate the actual release to be sometime before the release of Michael Mann's latest film, The Insider (November 5 release date).
Why a Director's Cut? Why bother? Why tamper with what is already a near-perfect gem of a film? .... Hmmm ...
Glad you asked! Here's why ... The film's creator, Michael Mann, had the film all finalized as he wanted us to view it. It was shortly before its official release. The movie, then, logged in a full 15 minutes longer than what we see now. For some reason, Twentieth Century Fox declared it too long and "ordered" its trimming. Thus, even though the film had already been previewed in the longer version, it was cut and released in the 114 minute format we have all seen countless times.
So, in effect, a Director's Cut version of The Last of the Mohicans already exists ... somewhere. We know the infamous Alice/Uncas love scene is missing. Eric Schweig tells us that. He also mentions receiving the cut from the Hurons as the Mohicans' party approaches the fort. Both these scenes were scripted. Eric Hurley (Soldier #2) mentions a stunning shot of the 35th amidst the low-lying smoke of their own musket volley. Of course, there is the "courier diversion" scene, viewed by many already, courtesy of network TV.
One contact of ours has seen the preview version! Ros (known as Magua's Moll in the Off The Beaten Trail section of this Site) tells us more ...
"As best I can remember, the beginning was longer with more development of the characters. For example, there is a longer time spent in the Cameron's cabin where the whole explanation of the French battling the English, the need for the militia and which Indians are supporting whom and why is discussed. Hawkeye also talks about why he and Uncas and Chingachgook are not participating. It is a nice anti-war speech. There is also a longer time spent during the lacrosse match. And the arrival of Heyward with Cora is more detailed with him expressing his love and their past together. The journey through the woods, following Magua, is more involved. Alice becomes faint which is why Cora asks Heyward to stop, There is also a scene, somewhere hereabouts, that Magua plans the attack, so you know why he wants to continue walking. There are some scenes of great affection between Alice and Uncas and it is clear they love each other. And at the beginning Cora and Alice spend time with some of their father's army men so that when they arrive at William Henry, the characters they meet at the hospital etc. are not new to the audience. Now that is all I can remember at this time. The movie was just developed more and provided for better continuity, I think. I will keep trying to get a copy. Hope this helps ... Ros"
We have heard from Michael Mann's production company, Forward Pass. They are not opposed to such an idea, and, in fact, have supplied us with a contact over at Fox where we should direct our push.
Be a part of it! Sit down ... clear your mind ... let your feelings spew forth.
Need further inspiration? Read AN OPEN LETTER TO MICHAEL MANN, the cover letter for our first attempt at achieving this goal in November '97.
Last Update: 04/10/2005