As long as I'm talking about Westerns, here's a piece that was supposed to go up last fall but never did.
In 1978, MGM/UA gambled about $44 million (around $150 million in today’s dollars) on Michael Cimino’s Western HEAVEN'S GATE. The director was running hot off of the critical and commercial success of his Oscar-winning THE DEER HUNTER and seemed like yet another auteur in the Scorsese/Coppola mold of Hollywood young turks poised to continue the paradigm shift of '70s American filmmaking.
Unless you’re a cinematic dilettante, you know how this story ends. Far more famous than the film itself is HEAVEN'S GATE’s troubled saga of floppery. The film’s name became shorthand for a sort of filmic Waterloo, a bloated folly that was too big not to fail. HEAVEN'S GATE: The Film has played second fiddle to Heaven's Gate: The Symbol of (Fill In Your Thesis Title).
Last fall, Criterion released a deluxe Blu of Cimino's definitive final cut, a grand occasion for those of us who'd never seen any version of the film. Their Cimino-supervised restoration has beautifully rendered his original vision and (hopefully) will steer attention back to the film itself, rather than the hash made of it by trade magazine pundits and industry wonks. I, for one, went into the film fully expecting to love all 216 minutes of it - I have a soft spot for long films, westerns, and crazy pet projects.