Aliens Special Edition - VHS Cover

Aliens Special Edition – VHS Cover

Back when I was a lad, special extended editions were a rare thing.

In actual fact, the only film that I can think of with an extended edition at that time was James Cameron’s Aliens.

Due to it’s limited release, the longer cut of the film was almost legendary and it wasn’t until the film finally came out on DVD, that many of us first got our hands on it.

Nowadays, super duper extended special editions are cropping up left, right and centre and are a thing to be expected. Some are good, some are ultimately and unfortunately pointless, and many don’t live up to the marketed name of “longer!”, “harder!” and “EXTREME!”.

In an effort to separate the good stuff from the cash-in fluff, here’s our personal top 5 Extended/Alternative Editions that we would recommend.

The Lord of the Rings: Extended Editions
One does not simple watch the theatrical versions of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.

I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy and each time I saw one, I thought it could not be bettered. And then Newline Cinema would release an extended edition of the previous film that fleshed out the characters, relationships and added an extra layer to the vast and epic world of Middle Earth.

Addressing issues not referenced in the theatrical cuts, director Peter Jackson treated fans with additional scenes that included the death of Saruman, the fellowship receiving gifts at Lothlorien and Legolas drinking Gimli under the table.

Charles Dance in Alien3

Charles Dance in Alien 3

Alien 3: The Assembly Cut
Giving a glimpse into what could have been a very different film, The Assembly Cut of Alien 3 tells you more about the dramas going on behind the scenes.

Dubbed The Assembly Cut purely because David Fincher has pretty much disowned the film, it features a completely different edit to the theatrical edition. Containing scenes that were not originally present, it also features drastically different plot points from it’s theatrical counterpart, including the fact that the alien chestates from an ox and not a dog.

Audiences are also treated to a plot strand involving Paul McGann’s character, Golic, a crazed individual who worships the Alien.  This perhaps explains why Paul McGann was given such a prominent billing.

Considering the dramatic changes between the The Assembly Cut and theatrical version, this edit is a worthy document to the troubled production that the third Alien instalment suffered.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
Originally hired to shoot both Superman 1 and 2, Richard Donner was fired by the producers before he had to chance to complete his vision.

Replaced by Richard Lester, the theatrical cut of Superman 2 was comical and campy. After fan pressure in 2004, Warner Brothers relented and began production on The Richard Donner Cut.

What Superman fans got was a film with a much better pace, albeit with a certain cut and paste quality to them (a number of scenes were screen tests and some scenes featured some rather questionable special effect shots). The new Richard Donner Cut also featured a number of scenes of Superman talking with his Kryptonion father, Jor-El.

After Richard Donner was initially fired by the Salkinds, Marlon Brando refused to let Richard Lester use any footage of him and along with Gene Hackman, point blank refused to come back for reshoots.

Cut to 2004, Warner Brothers managed to secure the rights to use this footage whilst making a deal with Marlon Brando’s estate over the use of his likeness in Superman Returns – meaning that Bryan Singer’s 2006 effort wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Daredevil – The Directors Cut
The Directors Cut is a better film, with more violence (the fights go on longer and there is more Kingpin ‘casual violence’), a more darker edge and a lot more of the ‘anguished’ character that I loved from the comics. Not only is there extra stuff in there (mainly a prostitute murder subplot featuring Coolio), but stuff has also been cut – namely the love scene with Jennifer Garner.

The thing that is different is that this was the original cut of the film, but the studio insisted it be under 100 minutes for pacing and so cut out a lot of stuff because they ‘didn’t understand it’. The theatrical cut was PG13, while the DC was rated R.

Daredevil contribution by Simon Fitzjohn

Terminator 2: Judgement Day – Special Edition
Cameron’s last contribution to the Terminator series is arguably the best and the Special Edition adds more substance to the plot and fleshes out the motives of both Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarznegger’s T800.

Memorable additions include a dream sequence featuring Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese, more scenes featuring Dyson and his family, a new ending and a rather amusing sequence with John Connor attempting to teach the T800 to smile.

Worthy Mention:

Star Wars – The Special Editions
We know the originals are arguably much better and we know that George Lucas probably hasn’t stopped tweaking with them – two factors that are a major reason these cuts didn’t make our top 5. But, lets face it, the 1997 cinematic re-release of Star Wars was a big deal.

Before the dark times, before Jar Jar – this was the age during the dawn of the internet – there was no youtube for studios to mass-market and saturate the product before it’s release, so everything we saw on screen was new, fresh and surprising.

With new special effect shots and previously deleted material such as the legendary Jabba the Hut scene from A New Hope, the anticipation was ecstatic and 1997 was possibly the last time it was dubbed cool to like Star Wars.

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.