From: Mary S. Roberts via email
Since Blue Underground has released MACHINE GUN MCCAIN in a version that William Lustig claims is the official edit, and that a longer cut never existed - per director Montaldo himself - why don't you offer a detailed account of the cut you viewed all those years ago.
It was probably in 1970 that I saw GLI INTOCABILI (aka THE UNTOUCHABLES) at the Kokuwaikan movie theater on Kokusai Street in Naha, Okinawa. The soundtrack was in Italian, the print had Japanese subtitles and it was about two hours long. I didn't speak Italian and couldn't read Japanese, but the plotting of the film wasn't too complicated and it was pretty easy to figure things out. The camerawork by Erico Menczer, the staging by director Giuliano Montaldo, an attractive cast which included some Italian Western veterans and an exciting music score by Ennio Morricone combined to make this movie a favorite of mine. During its run on the off-base theatrical circuit, I saw the film five or six times.
A while later, I came across a paperback book at the Fort Buckner PX (Post Exchange; a kind of on-base department store) called CANDYLEG, which had been made into the movie MACHINE GUN MCCAIN. With artwork resembling John Cassavetes, I knew that this was the original source of GLI INTOCCABILI so I bought it. This was the first I knew that one of my favorite films had been picked up for U.S. release.
Some time after that, MACHINE GUN MCCAIN was listed to play the on-base theatrical circuit, and a while after that I rushed to the Fort Buckner Theater to see it.
From the start, I knew I was in trouble. The opening scene of a New York meeing of "The Organization" was shortened. I couldn't say precisely what was cut - because I had only seen it before in a language I didn't speak, but the fact that we didn't get Gabriele Ferzetti standing up and walking about the room was obvious. In the U.S. version, the scene opened with Ferzetti sitting, there was a cut-away to another man, and when we next saw Ferzetti he was on his feet. The original scene probably featured expository dialogue that the U.S. distributor wanted shortened inorder to get quickly to the first murder scene which followed. But if that dialogue had been kept, perhaps no one would have thought it necessary to insert the awful narration over the shot of Peter Falk arriving at the Las Vegas casino. I cringed in my seat when I first heard it, not only because it was corny, but also because it was completely unnecessary.
Even in the original version, the HIGH NOON-like "Ballad of Hank McCain" was corny, especially as it was first heard during a long hand-held shot showing our hero's POV as he walked out of his cell, down a long prison tier, and finally up to a guard who turned over his belongings. ("No man ever was nor ever will be like the man called Hank McCain.") Well, the English language version of the movie softened the corniness of the song by dropping it completely and shortening the entire "release from prison" sequence. In fact, the English language version only used the song at the end of the movie.
As the film approached the meeting of Cassavetes' and Britt Ekland's characters, I got nervous. I knew the U.S. version had been given a "GP" rating. What did they do to this sequence to avoid an "R"? In the original film, John and Britt went to Britt's apartment. They stared at each other for a moment, and then John forced himself upon her. She tried to fight him off, but he picked her up, rushed into the bedroom, threw her down on the bed and raped her, with her struggling all the while. So, in the English version, they entered her apartment and close the door. "Cut to" the "morning after" scene with John and Britt not talking over the breakfast table. "What the hell?" I thought. "How was that supposed to make sense?"
Having been raped, Britt obviously was waiting for John to leave. Instead, he took her to the bedroom again. This time she decided to not fight, but to not cooperate either. However, in the midst of the act, she was surprised to find herself responding and she eventually fell in love with John. This was a big part of the original novel with McCain's sexual prowess and its effect on Irene being the reason the book is called CANDYLEG.
Later on, when John must dispose of his son's body, the sequence was originally much longer, with the second version of "The Ballad of Hank McCain" ("No one knows better than McCain, life's a very dirty game; very, very hard to win.") playing over it. Cassavetes puts the body in his car, drives over to get Britt and the two of them drive off. I don't remember what they did with the body, but in the English version, the shot of John driving up to the Golden Gate bridge - which follows the shot of John putting the body in his car - originally came later in the film while John and Britt were on the run.
As you may have already guessed, in the original film there was no narration explaining that the Organization was out to "block every means of escape" for our fugitive heroes. That was, after all, what the film was showing us.
In the 1980s, as home video gained in popularity, it became possible to find the original European versions of movies that were released altered for U.S. audiences. The European version of HERCULES starring Steve Reeves appeared on U.S. home video seemingly by accident with Embassy not noting that what they had was different in content from the version previously put out by Magnetic Video. And as delicatessens that catered to Italian-speaking communities started carrying VHS tapes, it was only a matter of time before GLI INTOCCABILI would appear. When it did, I quickly rented it with the conviction that I would finally get to see the long version again. Imagine the sense of crushed expectations when I put on the tape and found that the picture used for the VHS was the U.S. version - with the credits in English. The Italian language soundtrack had been crudely cut to match the U.S. picture. They hadn't bothered to remix the soundtrack; they cut it so that when the first ballad came on during the hand-held POV of McCain walking in prison, you could hear every deletion from the picture. (It was something like, "No one ever Hank that a free.") I was so disappointed that I didn't make an illegal copy of the tape figuring that the recording that I made off KCOP-TV would suffice until the long version finally showed up.
I'm still waiting.
Director Sergio Sollima's CITTA VIOLENTA was another film I saw many times on the Japanese theatrical circuit and was crushed to find it shortened for its U.S. release as THE FAMILY. But when Blue Underground brought that out on DVD, they had found a longer version than the one that I originally saw in the theater. (The opening sequence of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland on the yacht featured on the Blue Underground DVD was about two minutes longer than the Japanese theatrical.) I hoped that they would be able to do the same thing with GLI INTOCCABILI, but it didn't happen. Perhaps the long version is now gone; existing only in the memoires of those that saw it forty years ago.