web analytics

Heaven’s Gate

After reading “Final Cut” by Steven Bach, I had to watch “Heaven’s Gate,” the movie that occupies the book and a significant amount of territory in the history of motion pictures. Bach headed United Artists, the studio that essentially gave Michael Cimino carte blanche to make the movie. He was still basking in success of “The Deer Hunter.” The book is very readable tells a good — if greatly padded — story. I just watched a YouTube video that claims the movie bankrupted United Artists. This is untrue. The movie prompted Transamerica, an insurance company that decided to stick its stinking toe in movie waters, to sell UA to Kirk Kerkorian who also owned MGM. The United Artists name lasted a short time thereafter and then was combined with MGM.

The death of United Artists was (and still is) accompanied by much hand wringing and nostalgic mourning. It had a long tradition. It was created in 1919 by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin. They wanted to wrest control of their work from the studios and thus founded their own.

“Final Cut” covers in great detail Cimino’s disregard for the initial $12 million budget. He spent $44 million and overran the production schedule by about a year. In 1980 — when the film was finally released — that was a powerful pile of cash. One version of its release was more than five hours long. Bach and Co pared it, but the movie was a bust. It put Hollywood off Westerns, damnit. It’s sad. One can watch “The Searchers” only so many times.

This movie is so bad, Netflix does not have it. I rented it from Casa Video. I watched the first hour and decided to watch an hour a night. Wednesday night I sat for the second hour. After about 20 minutes I could take no more. Every scene in this move is about three times longer than it should be. There is a plethora of dust and smoke in this film, enough to clog and fog three or four movies.  Some — many actually — of the scenes are beautiful and creative. Clearly, Cimino took his eye off the story and crafted a series of beautiful 20-minute videos. The roller skating scene is breathtaking.

One good thing came out of this movie: Hollywood became kinder to animals. The American Humane Association accused Cimino of killing four horses, disemboweling cattle, decapitating a chicken and staging actual cockfights. The AHA also claimed a horse and rider were accidentally blown up with dynamite. The horse died.

You can search YouTube for the trailer and other stuff.

Speak Your Mind