Here’s one where a film was altered not due to the demands of the studio or a government, but the times. Stanley Kubrick’s scathing political/military satire originally concluded with an 11-minute pie fight sequence in the war room, which was filmed and edited. And then John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Kubrick and screenwriter Terry Southern would later insist that the sequence was too long and too out of tone with the rest of the movie, but George C. Scott said in a Playboy interview that the scene was cut because of the JFK assassination, pure and simple — since its inciting incident, a pie from the Russian ambassador to the face of Peter Sellers’ US president, was followed with his line, “Gentlemen, our gallant young president has been struck down in the prime of life, by pie! We demand merciful retaliation.”
Live Free or Die Hard
From the beginning, the Die Hard movies were rated R: they featured intense violence and gunplay, plenty of blood, and a hero whose catchphrase included the word “motherfucker.” But when 20th Century Fox reignited the 12-years-dormant franchise in 2007 under director Len Wiseman (Underworld), they decided they could squeeze a few more bucks out of the movie by transforming it, in post-production, from the R-rated movie Wiseman had shot into a teen-friendly PG-13 summer movie, even though that meant their hero couldn’t even say the catchphrase everyone was waiting to hear him say. (The “fucker” portion of “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker” was covered with a loud gunshot.) Wiseman and star Bruce Willis begrudgingly went along with it, but made sure to put out an “unrated” version of the movie on DVD. Yet the PG-13 version is the only one available on Blu-ray, which is a kick in the face to action movie fans on their preferred format. (The series went back to R-rated territory for this year’s fifth installment, but that didn’t help much.)
Sorry, but this one’s just for those of you in the UK and Germany. It seems that when The Avengers was released on Blu-ray there (under the international title Avengers Assemble, to avoid confusion with the British TV series), it included a subtle change to a key moment (spoiler warning): when Agent Coulson is killed, the blade sticking out of his chest has been erased (see above). Some wondered if it was censorship, but the film still had the same rating as the unaltered theatrical version. So a theory surfaced: that Marvel was softening the death of Coulson as a “retcon,” allowing him to live on elsewhere (which he eventually did, in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series). Why this was only done for the benefit of audiences in the UK and Germany remains a mystery, so S.H.I.E.L.D. better get on that.