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Cut From The Same Cloth: How Directors’ Cuts Compare To Theatrically Released Edits

Clockwise from top left: Terry Gilliam, David Lean, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola.
Clockwise from top left: Terry Gilliam, David Lean, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola.

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Just like in the story of Goldilocks, it took director Francis Ford Coppola three tries to find the edit of “Apocalypse Now” that was just right. 

Coppola felt that the 1979 theatrically released version of the film cut out too much, prompting him to add in nearly  50 minutes of extra footage for the 2001’s “Apocalypse Now: Redux”. Earlier this week at the premiere of yet another version - “Apocalypse Now: Final Cut” - Coppola said the three-hour runtime of this latest edition (right in between the length of the first two) was finally “a version that I like”. (Coppola’s nearly 40 year journey to find the perfect version of Apocalypse Now has made him so synonymous with the term “directors’ cut” that he has a line of wine named after it). 

For some movie lovers, there’s often a sense that directors’ cuts are essential viewing, as the extended edits of films like Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” and Zach Snyder’s “Watchmen” are widely regarded as better than the theatrical versions; other times, the label of “directors’ cut” and “special edition” and “extended version” can be marketing gimmicks to help sell the film on-demand and on home video - and sometimes it’s both, as with the popular, well-regarded “Lord Of The Rings” extended editions.

Today on FilmWeek, our critics discuss their favorite directors’ cuts and the notable stories behind them.


Amy Nicholson, film critic for KPCC, film writer for The Guardian and host of the podcasts ‘Unspooled’ and the podcast miniseries “Zoom”; she tweets @TheAmyNicholson

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

Wade Major, film critic for KPCC and