The DVD special features that were supposed to have been deleted – but weren’t

Back To The Future
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We look into two memorable instances of studios deleting deleted scenes before a film’s physical release – yet they didn’t stay deleted for long.

The primary reason for us to buy physical media is to enjoy the films we know and love, even sometimes taking them out of the shrink wrap so we can watch them multiple times. In days gone by, there also used to be a plethora of bonus features that included ‘making ofs’, deleted scenes and more. Some releases still have these, but those are very much the exception rather than the rule.

But back in the glory days of DVD, occasionally, for whatever reason, a studio would change their mind very late in the day about the content of the disc. An extra feature announced in the press notes is nowhere to be found on the disc upon release.

For example, the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set was to feature footage of James Remar, who was originally cast as Hicks in Aliens, but was fired two weeks into production. James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment put in a request before the Blu-ray was released and the subsequent footage was never included.

In the following two stories, the studio removed a DVD extra, but for reasons only known to themselves didn’t do it properly. They certainly weren’t DVD Easter Eggs, a hidden special feature, as these were never meant to be found. Instead, someone somewhere perhaps didn’t press the delete key firmly enough.

Let’s start in 1994. Starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton, Ed Wood, was a biographical comedy drama about an American filmmaker. Edward D Wood Jr was probably most famous for his 1959 film, Plan 9 From Outer Space, once considered the worst film ever made. The film involves Wood’s love of cross dressing, something that started early in his life as his mother would dress him in girls’ clothing when he was a little boy.

As a part of the special features, a short ten-minute documentary about cross dressing, When Carol Met Larry, was originally included on the DVD – but it didn’t stay there long. Ed Wood on DVD was supposed to be available in stores in August 2002, but was postponed to February 2003. The film never made that date as it was recalled and finally released on the format in October 2004.

Back in the day, several online DVD retailers (one called Movietyme was notorious for this practice) would ship out DVD orders as soon as they had the stock in their warehouse. This could happen anytime up to two weeks before the official release date. As it turns out, Ed Wood was one of those films that would slip out before the studio recall notice could come into effect. Copies of the movie with the aforementioned cross-dressing documentary included became the target of many an eBay auction.

When the DVD was finally (officially) released in 2004, the Special Features menu no longer referenced the documentary. For whatever reason, Buena Vista Home Video, owned by Disney, was not happy and pulled the feature. However, those with a DVD-enabled PC could use a few software tools and directly access file VTS_12_01.VOB. When Carol Met Larry was still on the disc, albeit hidden.

Perhaps Buena Vista Home Video thought that by removing just the menu button, there was no need to delete the actual video file? Maybe the featurette was never intended to be on the disc at all – because one DVD review mentions it’s not listed on the original DVD’s packaging.

Was all this effort worth the trouble? You can make up your own mind as When Carol Met Larry is now readily available on YouTube.

It’s not the only example.

The Back To The Future trilogy was originally released onto DVD for the first time in December 2002 and amongst other special features were a selection of deleted scenes. But one of the deleted scenes from Back To The Future, simply entitled ‘Cigarette Commercial’, was not listed on the DVD menu despite allegedly being mentioned in the original press release.

In the novelisation of the film, which is based on an earlier version of the script, Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) was to have seen a cigarette commercial on the television at the Baines family residence in 1955. Here’s what it included:

“Sam fiddled with the rabbit ears of the new set, finally managing to bring in a rather muddy image of a cigarette commercial.

Marty watched, fascinated, as a surgeon stepped out of an operating room, lit up a cigarette, and began speaking to the audience. “After facing the tension of doing three lung operations in a row, I like to relax by lighting up a Sir Walter Randolph. I know its fine tobacco taste will soothe my nerves and improve my circulation…”

“That’s incredible!” Marty said, in spite of himself. He had never seen a television commercial advertising cigarettes and couldn’t quite comprehend the brazenness of it.”

Back To The Future producer Bob Gale revealed that this scene was planned as part of production and even went as far as the filming of the commercial. However, both he and director Robert Zemeckis realised the flow of the film’s story came to a stop just to watch this humorous homage to a different time and it no longer had a place in the film.

How do we know this? Once again, someone snooping around on the DVD contents via their PC discovered the deleted scene. You can watch it below..

Just like the other deleted scenes on the disc, this one also had a commentary from producer Bob Gale which would have been accessed by switching the audio track on your DVD player. That audio commentary is also (unsurprisingly) available on YouTube.

As far as we know, there has never been an
official explanation as to why this one deleted scene was ‘removed’ from the DVD. It’s certainly never appeared on any other DVD or Blu-ray re-release since.

My view? That Universal was possibly concerned over a cigarette commercial, despite it being fake, being so readily available on a family friendly DVD. For context, smoking commercials on US television had been banned since 1971. 

These two DVD special features from Back To The Future and Ed Wood were probably only discovered because they were announced before their ultimate removal. Hunting around for special features on DVDs using a PC wasn’t really a thing back then and these are two exceptional cases. That said, who knows what else is out there hiding on DVDs, waiting to be uncovered…?

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