Happy 2000, and Reflections on DVD

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Posted by Myrrh on January 02, 2000 at 18:46:16:


Okay, friends, I had to wait till end of the month payday so I could plunk down $200 cash deposit at my neighborhood Hollywood video for a DVD player. I've watched the DVD twice so far, and these are my reflections.

First let me say that the very fact of the release of a new cut of this film has led me to see it with new eyes … that's pretty neat, for a film that's six years old, and that I've seen dozens and dozens of times!! The second thing is, digital makes the audio and the visual absolutely sublime! Such clarity! Whoooeee! What a banquet for the eyes and ears. I loved seeing nearly every leaf in the forest, hearing every bird, and the beautiful, bubbly flowing of the various streams. Magnificent!! (Academy Award for sound even MORE richly deserved!)

Okay, on to specifics.

At Cameron's cabin, I thought the addition of John Cameron and Jack Winthrop getting up and grabbing their guns at the sounds they heard outside was great - really conveyed that aspect of living in the wilderness, especially during a time of impending war - preparedness born of fear. However, I thought Jack's "Alexandra, set three more
places" had flat delivery and clumsy timing. Maybe if it had been delivered differently, I would have welcomed its addition.

In Albany when Jack and friends are at Webb's headquarters arguing, the line "No colonial militia is goin' to Fort William Henry" is a different take, delivered with open anger, whereas it was much more controlled, and sort of snotty, in the original. Either is okay with me. The anger makes sense especially in light of what follows, with a
couple other colonials shouting about some missing men, and Webb's guy yelling, "Those men will be found!" I liked all that, and thought it made the whole scene more forceful, giving us even more emotional investment in the situation.

Cora and Duncan at tea in the field: I loved Cora's added line, "Alice and I have depended upon you and respected you since we were all children." Before, I had always thought that Cora was too abrupt in her attempt to reject his proposal here. This new line, besides giving us a sense that they had a history together, made their exchange more sensible, especially since Duncan then says, "Respect and friendship, isn't that a reasonable basis…" I always used to think, "Respect? She didn't say anything about respect, where'd he get that?" But now
she does!

I thought Duncan saying to Alice "It can be dangerous" and her reply, "Nonsense! Papa wouldn't have sent for us!" were completely unnecessary and an attempt to telegraph messages to the viewer about what was going to happen. Clunky.

The added shot of Duncan and company marching into the forest was wonderful, and really fit there, artistically.

The river walk: I still think "Clear it up any?" should have been left in. It conveyed something about Hawkeye's mindset and personality. It's not a tragedy, but I would have liked it better left in.

I detected a strange jumpiness in the film as they were leaving the Cameron's cabin massacre. Others have mentioned such things.

The whole "breed apart and make no sense" thing, and the resulting "In your particular case Miss, I'd make allowance" are gone, as we all know. I'm not broken hearted about it, but I do think its absence makes the scene slightly choppy at the moment where it's missing. I feel two ways about it. I'm kind of relieved that they're not at
such odds at that point anymore, but on the other hand, that little heated exchange kind of made things INTERESTING between them. I LOVED Hawkeye's added "sent Uncas and I to Rev. Wheelock's school, so we would know both worlds." Extra Hawkeye talk! Yeah! *lap, lap, lap*

By the way, as the Ottawa and two Francais approach and Uncas claps a hand over Alice's mouth, I turned my volume WAY up, and distinctly heard Uncas whisper in Alice's ear, "Be quiet"!! I mean, only the consonants are JUST BARELY audible, even with the digital sound turned WAY up… BUT IT'S THERE! I can't tell you what a thrill that was! (We Uncasites will grasp at any smidgen of extra Uncas-awareness!)

Also by the way, all the dark scenes in the movie were even more dark on my TV with the DVD - as opposed to what others have said. (Except for the first approach to Cameron's cabin…that was gloriously clear.) Don't know why. I even adjusted the picture. Very, very dark. I always saw the Ottawa swarming up the hill behind Uncas before, and this time I could barely see them! Go figure…

"Just dropped in to see how you boys was doin'." Okay, so it's gone. I can deal with that.

A big plus for the Duncan diversion scene! Strengthens the whole courier sequence.

"Serious disagreement" omitted. Okay, okay … I can live without it. (big breath, chin up)

Now, as Cora is tending the dying man in sick bay, right after he passes on, and she turns around to survey the scene, there is an INEXCUSABLE jump in the film … even the sound abruptly STOPS for a second and then resumes. Like I said, inexcusable. 50 lashes for Michael Mann.

There's something different about Hawkeye's striding walk through the fort in search of Cora … haven't figured it out yet, but it's different, and a bit less satisfying.

The music during their love scene has been mixed differently. It seems not as overpowering. I guess that's okay…because I could hear every breath and sigh, and for some reason, the scene was much more moving to me! :) * pant, pant *

(By the way, the music throughout just wasn't quite the same, and this was unsettling to me. I could really tell the difference between scenes he had left alone, and scenes he'd edited. I think I've watched it so many times, each tiny note and nuance is etched in my brain, and when things all of a sudden don't match that way any more…well, maybe I just have to get used to it.)

I thought the added dialogue between Montcalm and Munro at the surrender scene was FANTASTIC! Really really enhanced the scene.

I also liked the additional dialogue between Montcalm and Magua. Enhanced my understanding of the backstory. And by the way, I love the added references to Le Renard Subtil! Magua, you foxy thing you!

Liked the shot of French and allies entering/seizing the fort after the surrender. Balances things out, adds to the flow.

I'm not heartbroken that "Got nothin' better to do on the lake today, Major?" is gone. But for the first time, I see that Cora picks up a paddle and begins rowing right after Uncas jumps overboard to help out the other canoe. Go Cora, Go Cora!!!

"If only one of us survives, something of the other does too" is gone. Hmmm. Not sure how I feel about that. Because Hawkeye then says "No! You stay alive!" which would seem to be a response to what she just said. Oh well. It's okay I guess.

Now, here comes another INEXCUSABLE glitch: Just before the Hurons enter the part of the cave where our people are, there is a very noticeable audio wrinkle and increase in volume. Sorry Mr. Mann, but this kind of thing is just NOT ACCEPTABLE in a movie that's supposed to be a masterpiece. 50 more lashes for Michael. Where's my cat-o-ninetails?!

The music substituted for I Will Find You, and that whole pursuit sequence: I still think I Will Find You was more suitable, but I'm not bemoaning its loss. Maybe the music, being of a certain duration, would no longer fit because of the added trekking scenes?? Who knows! I LOVED the extra shots of the Hurons and captives plodding along
(especially the sunset one), but the long string of shots of our heroes running forever was a bit much. Maybe he should have snuck in a shot of them stopping at a stream to drink, or something to break it up just once. It borders on silly for a second there. Not to mention-- Hurons and captives are WALKING, but Mohicans have to continually run, run run. Are they THAT far behind?

Now, I come to the final INEXCUSABLE glitch. As the Sachem is speaking French and Duncan is translating, they've added a line or so to the Sachem's speech. Now because of that, Duncan actually translates the line "What are the Huron to do?" BEFORE the Sachem speaks it!!!!!!!!!! Good God...(Not THAT cat-o-ninetails, the one with the NAILS in it!) There was NO NEED to mess with that already beautifully-edited scene!!!

Now for the ending scene. First of all, Chingachgook's extra lines start out really weak and clumsy sounding. After about the first 10 words it picks up, and I must say that Russell Means did a fantastic job on the rest of it. Especially the final line, which, I will agree, is an emotional killer. The tears just came gushing out.

I loved Hawkeye's "That's my father's sadness talkin'." I just loved any more of him I could get, and this was sweet!

However, I still think it was better to end with the final words "…last of the Mohicans" and Chingachgook's incredibly sad face. No more words were needed. The added speech was unrealistic and jarring because of it. I kept thinking, yeah, the words are nice and insightful, but I can't imagine him in this situation actually saying those things. It SOUNDED like a speech written by a 20th century director, and as such a gross attempt to manipulate my emotions, and that did a disservice to this wonderful work. When something has to come hit you over the head, then it's no longer a subtle work of art.

The last scathing criticism I have is that the music died out long before the credits ceased to roll. In the previous version, it was PERFECT… I can only guess why this occurred. But it was crappy.

So, that's my reaction to the DVD. Some things were enhancements, some things were detractions, a few things were sloppy, inexcusable, clunky flubs. And of course, some things were MISSING. I had to laugh, looking at the fancy graphics on the menu that said "Director's Expanded Edition." Uh … NO!

All in all, if I had to choose, I'd choose the first version, and Michael Mann deserves a more than a good spanking.

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