The following is part three of a three part interview.
Different parties have different ideas about what material should or should not have been changed between the Nightbreed theatrical cut, the Cabal Cut interim restoration, and the final Nightbreed: The Directors Cut, now on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, and screening Thursday (October 30) at the Vancity Theatre.
David Cronenberg, who plays psychiatrist Philip K. Decker in the film, quipped, on discovering that his resurrection scene that ends the theatrical cut is one of the bits that got chopped, “No sequel for me!” Then he jested that if there was less of him in the film, he was “against it.” He needn’t have worried, and Cronenberg fans should take note: he does get a few extra scenes in the director’s cut—though not one amusing Toronto-versus-Calgary moment between Cronenberg and redneck cop Eigerman (Charles Haid), where Decker raises his eyebrows and mockingly repeats the name of the Calgarian militia, “the Sons of the Free.” That scene made The Cabal Cut, and is included as an extra on the three disc version of the Blu-ray, but is not in the director’s cut.
By far, however, the omission that has generated the most fan discussion, in places like the Occupy Midian Facebook group, is a love scene between the demonic, masculine Peloquin and the sexy porcupine-woman, Shuna Sassi. A hot little moment, found among the 500 boxes of trims that the director’s cut was assembled from, it exists in no version of the film—not the theatrical cut, not the Cabal Cut, and not the director’s cut, though it does appear as an extra on the “Tribes of the Moon” featurette. Why did the forces behind the restoration (including director/author Clive Barker, who oversaw the project) not include this scene? Was it because there was no audio for it?
“There was no audio for the scene, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway,” restoration producer Mark Alan Miller explains. “It was never a part of the story itself, it was never a plot point, it had no place in the film. It was only filmed for the intro, on one of those random days when Image Animation did their thing and the actors were improvising and doing fun, gnarly stuff in character. You know the title sequence, where the word ‘Nightbreed’ flashes across the screen, and behind the letters you see the monsters doing things that you don’t see in any version of the film, like Peloquin’s jaw unhinges, and there’s all these radical things happening? It was just one of those things; there was a lot of footage shot just to go behind the title sequence. But the title sequence already existed, and we didn’t want to mess with it. I think a lot of people think there’s this whole subplot we cut between Peloquin and Shuna Sassi, but…”
Some fans of the original version of the film are also upset by the absence of a line of dialogue, when Boone sets loose the Berserkers on the redneck militia, saying, “Go get’em, boys!”
“That was 100 percent Clive,” Miller says. “Basically what [editor] Andrew [Furtado] and I did was, we used the Cabal Cut as a template, and we went in and we scrolled through the 36 hours of footage and matched all the missing bits. So we had The Cabal Cut with film, essentially, and that’s when we brought it to Clive, and he started saying, put this here, this goes here, this goes before that, cut that, cut that, cut that, cut that—and it was incredible to see. I was in the editing bay with Clive Barker, and he’s going, ‘Don’t need it, don’t need it, this goes here.’ If there was anything that didn’t sit right, it was, ‘Let’s get rid of it.’ It was like watching a composer write his masterpiece. It was amazing. All those years later, it was still there, he knew what he wanted.”
“There was a lot of stuff that surprised me,” continues Miller. “The ‘Go get’em boys’ line is gone; he just wanted to get right to the Berserkers doing their thing. In the Cabal Cut, one of my favourite bits was when Decker’s mask actually talks to him. And we had that in there as well, and Clive said, ‘That was one of the earlier versions, we didn’t get a lot of Cronenberg reading lines as the mask, so we only had those two things. It didn’t set itself up very well, so let’s just cut that.’”
Also cut from Russell Cherrington’s initial assembly of the film is a scene with “the detective, Joyce, after the first murder takes place.”
Those who have seen no version of the film may wish to heed a SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this paragraph:
“There’s an extended sequence where Joyce is talking to the coroner, and it just puts a halt to the action. Clive saw, when Decker moves in the frame and he’s coming to the child, it cuts directly to Boone in the mechanic’s shop, and it leaves the impression that it is Boone doing the killings, instead of Decker. I got the opportunity to talk to a few people who were coming at the film as a total blank slate; they hadn’t seen it before, and we’re having these screenings, and it’s getting more notoriety, and there are people who are seeing Nightbreed who had never heard of it in the first place, and their introduction to the film is the director’s cut. And I’ve talked with them about the mystery aspect of the film, and across the board, the people who I’ve talked to do not suspect Decker, and they think that it is Boone indeed doing the killings. And that just makes me so happy, because it means we got it right. It appears that all of Clive’s notes were effective, in creating the story that was supposed to be told. Go figure!”
Two scenes that are left in the final version of the film that may surprise those familiar with its troubled production history are a scene featuring 1950’s B-movie hero John Agar (whose credits include The Mole People and The Brain From Planet Arous), being questioned by Decker, and another scene where the malign Buttonface deposits a severed head on a hotel room desk. These were among the scenes that Morgan Creek had Clive Barker add to the film that were not originally in the screenplay.
“The re-shoots weren’t always specific notes on what Clive should do, they were more like, ‘We need a kill here, we need something else there to add to the tension,’” Miller says. “So they weren’t Clive acquiescing to a bad studio note; I think that’s part of the testament to Clive’s ability and strength. Even though the theatrical version is not even close to the story he initially wanted to tell, it still did resonate with people, because these are still scenes that he wrote. And because of that, there’s this incredible iconic imagery that stuck with people. Those two scenes, though they were the product of a studio note, they were ultimately what Clive invented, and they did end up pushing the director’s cut further along. So, as Clive says, ‘Everything in service to the story.’ Everything that still served a purpose, Clive left in.”
Perhaps the greatest praise for the efforts of all involved to produce Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut comes from Clive Barker himself. He had essentially disowned the original studio version of the film, which, despite his participation at all levels, greatly diluted the story told in his novel Cabal and his original screenplay.
“Every time we brought him something new—he’s said this, I’m not telling tales out of school—he wept openly. It was something that we thought for all intents and purposes had died a painful death, and we had resurrected it. The best example that I can give is, when we finally reached picture lock, and Clive had given his last note, and we’d incorporated it and he gave the thumbs up, I pulled out my VHS copy of Nightbreed, which I’d had all these years but had never wanted him to sign it, because I knew his feelings about the film, and I said, ‘Now that we’re at the end of this journey, would you sign my tape?’ And he looked up at me, and he said, ‘Now that we’re at the end of this journey, it doesn’t hurt to.’”
Mark Alan Miller sends thanks to all those who supported producing Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut, on any level. “I’m grateful to everyone that helped make it happen. This was a grassroots movement, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone signing the petition and telling the studios and the distributors that the movie was still viable. And because of them, y’know, here we are.”
Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut screens at the Vancity Theatre on Thursday (October 30)