If you’re a director, there’s one formerly difficult task that’s become a lot easier during the last two decades: deleting a scene from your movie. There was once a time when a director would feel very conflicted about cutting a scene they liked out of their movie because it might never get to see the light of day. These days, a director will just say: “Eh. It’ll show up on the DVD”. As a prime example of this, let’s look at the death of Saruman in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Peter Jackson’s film was already running nearly three-and-a-half hours long and something had to be cut out before it was released into theaters. Surely he wouldn’t cut out the scene that revealed the ultimate fate of his villain from the previous film? However, Jackson knew that Return of the King was eventually going to be released on DVD in an extended director’s cut, so he was able to eliminate Saruman’s death from the theatrical cut with a clear conscience, knowing that it would not be lost forever.
It goes without saying that the majority of deleted scenes that you find on DVDs and Blu-rays are completely useless and forgettable and it’s obvious the directors had no qualms about sending them to the cutting room floor. However, this column is going to showcase ten deleted scenes that, for better or worse, are at least interesting and memorable. I’m not saying that all of these scenes deserved to be left in the finished film. There are various reasons why these scenes were cut out, whether it be pacing issues, the film running too long, or because (in at least one case) they were just plain bad! However, while they might not have meshed well with the rest of the film they belonged to, they are definitely fascinating to watch as standalone scenes. I should note that I am not including any scenes that were restored as part of a director’s cut (such as the previous Saruman scene). These deleted scenes have never been included in any finished cut of their film and chances are they never will. But God bless the invention of DVD for making the viewing of these scenes possible…
Back to the Future Part III (1990) – Buford Tannen Shoots Marshal Strickland:
We start with a prime example of a scene that deserved to be left on the cutting room floor and probably never should have been shot in the first place. In Back to the Future Part III, it’s revealed that the feud between the Tannen and Strickland families dates back for generations when Marshal James Strickland has a conflict with Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen. I always found it weird that Marshal Strickland never reappeared for the scene where Buford got arrested and after watching the deleted scenes on the DVD, I learned that was because… well, Buford shot him in the back on the way into town! I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that watching Strickland die in his young son’s arms is horribly sad and depressing and why it didn’t mesh well with the rest of the film. To quote Doc Brown, this scene is better off being “erased… from existence!”.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Dr. Satan Kills Rosario Dawson:
One loose end from Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses that never got addressed in its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, was the fate of the evil Dr. Satan. In actuality, Zombie originally intended for The Devil’s Rejects to have an entire subplot revolving around Dr. Satan, but realized that it didn’t mesh well with the rest of the film and decided to remove the character entirely. In this gory deleted scene, it’s revealed that Dr. Satan was wounded during the opening shootout with the police and taken to the hospital, but that doesn’t prevent him from ripping out the throat of a nurse played by… Rosario Dawson?! Yes, in a film where the cast is made up primarily of B-movie actors, a genuine A-list star was willing to make a cameo where she got killed off within forty seconds. Apparently, she was willing to take such a small role simply because she is a huge fan of Rob Zombie and the horror genre in general and has always said that her greatest career regret is being cut out of The Devil’s Rejects. If that doesn’t make you fall in love with Rosario Dawson, I don’t know what will!
The Goonies (1985) – The Octopus:
During my childhood, I watched The Goonies more times than I could count, but one thing about it always bugged the crap out of me. Just what the hell was Data talking about at the end when he told the reporters, “The octopus was very scary”? Well, at that young age, I knew nothing about the concept of deleted scenes, but when The Goonies was finally released on DVD many years later, it did not surprise me that it featured a deleted scene involving octopus. And, oh my God, if there was ever a scene that deserved to hit the cutting room floor, it’s this one! While swimming to One Eyed Willie’s pirate ship, the Goonies are attacked by a giant octopus and are saved when Data… uh, shoves a walkman in its mouth. Incidentally, the song playing on the walkman is called “Eight Arms to Hold You”… get it? I know this is still a rough cut of the scene, but the octopus here looks about as convincing as the one that attacked Bela Lugosi at the end of Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster. As a die-hard Goonies fan, I was glad to finally get the chance to see this, but I am very grateful it did not make it into the film.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) – Bill Fights Michael Jai White:
If you read Quentin Tarantino’s original script for Kill Bill, you’ll find quite a few interesting scenes from the midsection that had to be scrapped when the story was split up into two different movies. Most of these scenes just would not have fit properly into the end of Volume 1 or the beginning of Volume 2, so they had to be cut out. Anyway, the only one of these scenes that’s shown up on DVD thus far is this terrific fight sequence in a marketplace between David Carradine’s Bill and Michael Jai White of Spawn and Black Dynamite fame. As good as this scene is, it would have been difficult to find a proper place to insert this into the narrative of Kill Bill Vol. 2, so this begs the obvious question: “When the fuck is Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair going to be released on DVD?!”. On numerous occasions, they have hyped the DVD release of a four-hour-plus cut of Kill Bill entitled Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, which would combine both volumes into one long movie and feature a lot of extra scenes. But for whatever reason, this release always seems to get cancelled and has yet to see the light of day. Until then, this deleted fight sequence is all we have.
Magnolia (1999) – Frank T.J. Mackey Reveals How to “Form a Tragedy”:
The greatest role of Tom Cruise’s career is arguably his performance in Magnolia as Frank T.J. Mackey, a bombastic self-help guru who provides advice about how to tame chicks. In this deleted section from his seminar, Frank reveals a scheme where he will make a date with a woman and deliberately show up three hours later. She is initially pissed off, but her anger quickly dissipates when Frank shows up at the door in tears and decides to “form a tragedy”, claiming that he’s late because he was busy running a neighbour’s cat to the vet and failed to save its life. After that charade, your date will be putty in your hands. This scene is notable for providing a “Before They Were Stars” moment as Frank’s date is played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, who would go on to great fame as Chloe O’Brian on 24. In the finished film, Rajskub does not appear onscreen and her entire role consists of being a voice on the phone. This sequence is undeniably hilarious, but like most good deleted scenes, it affected the film’s pacing and just could not be properly inserted into the narrative. Considering that Magnolia was already over three hours long, it was destined for the cutting room floor.
Natural Born Killers (1994) – Mickey Kills Ashley Judd:
Quentin Tarantino’s original script for Natural Born Killers is a very interesting read and quite different than Oliver Stone’s finished film. In typical Tarantino fashion, the narrative is presented in a non-linear style and much of the back story about Mickey and Mallory Knox is told within the confines of a television segment about them. Many of Tarantino’s scenes involving the capture and trial of Mickey and Mallory never made it into the film, but Oliver Stone still shot them anyway. The most interesting deleted scene features Ashley Judd as a young girl who survived an attack where Mickey wiped out all her friends at a slumber party. At his trial, Mickey acts as his own counsel and cross-examines Judd on the witness stand before stabbing her in the heart with a pencil! You also get to see Rachel Ticotin of Total Recall fame playing the prosecuting attorney. It’s a pretty cool scene, but was left on the cutting room floor for length reasons. As a bonus, here’s another interesting deleted scene from Natural Born Killers featuring Denis Leary!
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Dick Miller as Monster Joe:
It was a strong indication of how much we here at The Back Row love Dick Miller when we recorded a Shouts From the Back Row podcast about our favourite character actors/”That Guys” and both Gill and I simultaneously chose Dick Miller as our #2 selection. Known mainly for his numerous roles in the films of Roger Corman and Joe Dante, Dick Miller is just one of those character actors who automatically makes a film better whenever he’s onscreen, no matter how bad said film may be. He seems like the exact type of cult actor that Quentin Tarantino would use in his one of his films… and, as a matter of act, he did! In Pulp Fiction, Harvey Keitel’s Wolf character disposes of a corpse by putting him in the trunk of a car and having it destroyed at a junkyard called “Monster Joe’s Truck and Tow”. In the finished film, we never see Monster Joe, but this deleted scene shows that he was played by none other than Dick Miller. Sadly, since Pulp Fiction was already running long, the scene was cut, but considered that Miller’s appearance only lasts about thirty seconds, this is the one selection on my list that most deserved to be left in the film. Come on, Quentin, you could have spared an extra thirty seconds for Dick friggin’ Miller!
Star Wars (1977) – Biggs Darklighter:
Well, this is the granddaddy of all deleted scenes and has inspired intense debate amongst Star Wars fans for many decades. In the original cut of Star Wars, you constantly hear Luke Skywalker referring to someone named “Biggs” and while you do see the character during the climactic assault on the Death Star, the movie never really explains who he is. It turns out that Biggs Darklighter was a friend of Luke’s from Tatooine who originally had a full scene where he told Luke he was leaving to go join the Rebel Alliance, but it was cut from the finished film. Stills from this scene were included in an old book-and-record set called “The Story of Star Wars”, and as a result, some Star Wars fans have wound up misremembering things and are convinced they saw the Biggs Darklighter scene on the big screen during the film’s original theatrical release. However, this scene has NEVER been included in any finished cut of film and was not seen by the public until it was shown on a CD-ROM called Star Wars: Behind the Magic. While a scene between Luke and Biggs in the hangar at the Rebel base was restored for the Special Edition release, Biggs’ scene on Tatooine has never been featured on any home video release of the film. Knowing George Lucas’ notoriety for milking his cash cow for all its worth, I’m sure the Biggs scene will FINALLY be included on an “Ultimate Definitive Final I-Swear-to-God-This-is-the-Last-Time Special Edition” of Star Wars sometime in the year 2020.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) – Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sgt. Candy:
Ever wondered why Cyber Research Systems decided to model the Terminator after a large muscular guy with an Austrian accent? Well, this deleted scene from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines actually provides the answer. Arnold Schwarzenegger stretches his acting muscles here by taking on the brief secondary role of Chief Master Sergeant William Candy, who has the honour of being chosen to be the model for the Terminator project. In this scene, Arnold speaks with an hilarious dubbed Southern accent and when the military expresses concern about using Sgt. Candy’s voice for the Terminator model, a scientist speaking in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s overdubbed voice says: “We can fix it”. This sequence is quite clever and funny and it is cool that they finally answered the age-old question of why the Terminator speaks with an accent. However, the whole thing is a bit cutesy and probably wouldn’t have meshed well with the rest of the film. And it’s not like Terminator 3 would ever make the mistake of doing anything cutesy…
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Eddie Valiant Gets a Cartoon Pig Head:
I include this one because this was my first exposure to the concept of deleted scenes. I vividly remember the network TV premiere of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and how the ads were hyping up the fact that it was going to contain a brand new extra scene. Even though I already owned my own copy of the film, I just had to tune in to see this new footage. The scene in question involves Eddie Valiant breaking into Jessica Rabbit’s dressing room and being caught by Judge Doom, the weasels and the large gorilla. As punishment, the weasels take Eddie to Toontown and paint a cartoon pig head on top of his cranium! Eddie removes the pig head by washing it off with turpentine and paint remover in the shower, which explains why he is coming out of the bathroom with his shirt off during the scene where Jessica visits his office. Anyway, other than the TV version, this sequence was never featured in any official cut of the film, but it is included as a separate deleted scene on the DVD release. It’s a fun scene, but it doesn’t really add anything to the story, so its absence doesn’t really make much difference. However, at the time I originally saw this, the idea of seeing new footage that had been cut out of a film was incredibly fresh and exciting.