Thursday, 29 April 2010

Recutting Conan the Barbarian

I was doing a little back-reading on The Cimmerian, when I found this old gem from Leo:
Other changes listed at Wikipedia sound even more dear, such as Faramir once again resisting the Ring as Tolkien so poignantly envisioned. I also hope that Théoden is less a grumbling and bitter contrarian and more the noble and wise lord that in Tolkien’s book prompts Pippin’s charmingly understated evaluation: “A fine old fellow. Very polite.” In any case, while there is still far more wrong with Jackson’s vision than can be cured with a re-edit, I’m going to download this version and give it a fighting chance to win me over. Just watching the montage in the new trailer of a deadly serious Gimli reaping his grim axe-harvest at Helm’s Deep was enough to stir my blood in a way I thought Jacksonian imagery never would. And if this new Two Towers does it for me, perhaps I’ll hunt down the re-edit of the entire expanded trilogy that’s supposedly floating around out there somewhere.

Intrigued by the concept of fan edits, I explored further.

There's a whole community out there, with fans seeking to make various alterations to films: omission of groan-worthy "comedy," brisker editing, restructuring of narrative, restoration of deleted scenes, even new special effects and sounds. Disappointed with the changes made in the Star Wars Special Edition DVDs? Try out Episode IV Revisited! Want to see a version of Jackson's Lord of the Rings that tries to get even closer to the books than the Purist Edit? Have a gander at Kerr's epic series, which is split into six--just like the book! Hated Peter Jackson's King Kong, but loved how he recreated the infamous lost footage of the spider pit for the DVD, and wished it could be included in the original film? Wish no more! Ever felt that Pan's Labyrinth would've been even more awesome if it either stuck to the fantasy story or the tense war drama? Now you can enjoy both films for the price of one!

There are tons of these. How about a version of Raiders of the Lost Ark split into 14 10-minute episodes like the classic serials to which it owes its inspiration? Edits of The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade that more closely suit the tone of their eldest brother? A historically accurate--well, as close as is possible--edition of Braveheart? A more serious version of Conan the Destroyer that removes the bad jokes and makes Conan more heroic? Wait a minute...

It got me wondering...

Is a Howard-compatible version of Conan the Barbarian possible? Obviously, one can't magically turn it into an adaptation of, say, "The Tower of the Elephant" or anything. Still, perhaps it could be turned into a pastiche, one that doesn't directly contradict Howard.

There would likely be some massive, wide-reaching changes that'll surely upset Milius/CtB fans. The biggest is that Conan & Thulsa Doom should have no real connection until the death of Valeria: obviously this totally changes the tone of the film and Conan's characterization, and thus a lot of jiggery-pokery will have to be done to have it make any sense. This single act would then necessitate a lot of other, smaller changes, but the idea should be to include as much of the original footage as possible, while altering the context to make it more "Howardian." Maybe even whip up a few pictures illustrating possible ideas for SFX a la the Star Wars Special Editions and remastered Star Trek.

In my version, any scenes taken from the stories would also be ripped out, to prevent them from spoiling adaptations of real Conan stories: a notable exception will be the De Camp ones, because nobody's going to adapt them anyway. I'd do my best to not just make it El Ingenioso Bàrbaro Rey Konahn de Simaria, but there may be cases where it's unavoidable.

Hmm, I wonder...


  1. I've wanted to download those Rings movies for a while now.. I'm just not sure of the legality of it.. is the MPAA going to come and bust down my door (even though I own four different versions of the movies already) if I download it.. its like bloody Russian roulette.

    I could see the merit in re cutting something like Rings to be more like Tolkien's vision. I can't see it in doing it to Star Wars.. since no matter what anyone thinks, they belong to Lucas and he can pretty much do whatever he wants to too them.. Even if that means something stupid..

    I mean, I think your idea about re-editing CTB has merit, I just think that by cutting out the few bits which were adapted from Howard.. You would be left with a largely unwatchable movie.

  2. I think the basic idea is: if you have a legal copy of the films, you should be alright. There seems to be an option on the site to buy a copy of the genuine articles, not sure if it does something to do with it. Still, I can understand not wanting to incur the MPAA's wrath.

    The thing is, a number of things in the Star Wars DVDs are really, really stupid. I'm talking "giving Darth Vader a pink lightsaber" stupid. So I can understand that point of view, as simple colour-correction. And there's always the justification of staying true to Lucas' vision: just the vision that he had in 1977.

    Well, I don't think it's possible to make a truly Howardian film with CTB, but I do think there are ways to eliminate the worst aspects, via judicious editing and rearrangement of scenes.

    To tell you the truth, a lot of things still work: the battle of the mounds, Conan & Subotai's conversations, the heist, the orgy battle. Then there are those scenes stolen from REH (). Finally, those that don't have any damn place in a Conan film (Wheel of Pain, Mongo homage, snake-shooting, praying to Crom, capture & beating by two lugs).

    All in all, I think it'd be possible to cut only about 20 minutes out of the film, half an hour tops. That'd leave 100-110 minutes, a pretty decent runtime. It surprising how different Conan's character ends up when you delete Conan & Doom's personal connection and some of the more stupid bits. Still not REH, but a lot closer.

  3. I suppose I'd have to buy the star wars special editions on dvd.. I've not gotten around to it as I own the Laser Disc "Definitive Collection" trilogy set..

    But yeah I can see stuff like color corrections are a no brainer..

    But Hey if you decide to do this, which you should I think since you seem to know what your on about.. I look forward to it.

    I've often thought about doing something like this with the Transformers cartoon.. except making it more serialized.. I've got a whole ton of notes and stuff on how to re-jigger it...

  4. Well, I don't know if I'd manage to do an actual recut of CtB - though I could make a go of it, I have video editing/capture software, it's just the RAM on my computer is four years old - but I am working on an outline. I've come up with some really fiendish ways to keep some scenes in that one would think would be incompatible. The power of editing...

    Your re-jiggering of TF sounds intriguing: Primus knows there are enough problems I have with it too!