Heaven’s Gate: Review

hgHeaven’s Gate is the film a lot of people know as the movie that contributed to the collapse of a major studio but also shows what happens when a director is given too much freedom and money to make a movie he thinks will be his masterpiece.

The plot shows a terrible piece of American history, when a Wyoming sheriff, James Averill, attempt to stave off a bloody clash between immigrant farmers and wealthy cattle interests. All the while he is involved in his personal drama with gunman Nathan Champion, as they both love the same woman.

There is no getting away from it, Heavens Gate is a mess. While the set and costume design are outstanding in this pre-CGI era it all goes to waste on a story that while interesting, gets bogged down by plodding direction and a far too long 210 minute running time. Director Michael Cimino, fresh from the triumphant success of The Deer Hunter, ran completely out of control and although it has a great cast including Kris Kristofferson, John Hurt, Jeff Bridges and Brad Dourif who all are very good in their roles, the dialogue is sometimes creaky and at times hard to hear.  It amazes me sometimes that a film which was a total failure and damned by critics and the public alike can after a few years become a “masterpiece”. Don’t be fooled, Heavens Gate is a tedious overblown epic.

The Blu ray released by Second Sight contains Michael Cimino’s restoration of the film which appeared on the 2012 Criterion release. Apparently Cimino’s version has very different colours to previously released editions of the film since the “flashing” performed on the negative by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond has been removed and the colours are much bolder. Detail is very good on this release, a lot of the film has a very soft look which also has some grain but not in a bad way. Audio is has two options a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track and a LPCM 2.0 track, both excellent making the soundtrack especially stand out.

Extras included are the fabulous documentary Final Cut – The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate, here making its first home viewing appearance in the UK. Much more interesting than the film itself, the documentary covers the making of the film, the directors ego, where it all went wrong, all told in no nonsense fashion. Also included on the 2nd disc of extras are revealing new interviews with star Jeff Bridges and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Fans of the film should note that this is the BBFC certified version rated 15 and cut by 59 seconds for horse falls.

A failed masterpiece or a boring tedious mess? People are divided but Second Sight have released a great version with interesting extra features. LOCKED TO REGION B.

FILM: 3  PICTURE: 7.5  SOUND: 7.5  EXTRAS: 8