Forty years after its release, the director’s cut of Sam Peckinpah’s last film is finally available.
Imprint Films is a sub-label from Australia’s ViaVision, and they release finely curated Blu-rays of beloved films from decades past. Their latest release is a special edition of Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend (1983) complete with a never-before-seen debut of the filmmaker’s director’s cut.
John Tanner (Rutger Hauer) is a popular television host known for asking the tough questions and confronting his guests with challenging banter, but he’s looking forward to taking a break for a relaxing weekend with family and friends. That changes when a CIA agent named Fassett (John Hurt) informs him that his three lifelong friends — Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson), Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper), and Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon) — are actually KGB spies. Fassett wants Tanner to help turn one of the men into a double agent, but as the weekend unfolds it quickly becomes clear that very little is as it seems.
The Osterman Weekend was Peckinpah’s final film, and it is fairly reviled. (To be fair, Robert Ludlum’s novel is also far from revered.) It’s his lowest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes, and you’d be hard-pressed finding film critics willing to defend it. That said, I’m your huckleberry — The Osterman Weekend is a messy spy film that’s ultimately not even a spy film, and instead it’s an entertaining look at the disintegration of personal relationships in the face of technology, surveillance, and our addiction to screens. Think Peckinpah’s The Big Chill. It’s ultimately fairly prescient on that front ending with an effective statement made directly to the viewers regarding their (our) inability to turn the damn thing off.
There are undeniable plot holes and missteps here as pieces fit together messily (if they fit at all), most notably in the logic regarding Fassett’s manipulation of the CIA director (Burt Lancaster) and certain events that transpire in the third act. Take a step back, though, and the messiness feels in line with the paranoia running through it all, both from Fassett and the friends gathering for the weekend. The themes are effective, but the highlight here is arguably the interactions of cast and characters.
Hauer makes for an interesting lead, and the supporting players (including Hopper, Sarandon, and Meg Foster, Helen Shaver, and Cassie Yates as the unlucky wives) all do solid work. Hurt and Nelson are the standouts, though, as both bring charisma and a dark sense of humor to their characters. Hurt channels Fassett’s pain into some mean-spirited banter while having fun at other times including a beat where he has to pretend to be a weatherman on the TV. Nelson, meanwhile, is set up as a ringleader of sorts only to be revealed to be far less in control resulting in some entertaining asides and observations.
The director’s cut was made by Peckinpah’s archivist, Don Hyde, in 1983 from the director’s own negative, and is the only 35mm print of this cut in existence. No restoration has been attempted as of yet (beyond cleaning and slight color grading), so this 2K HD master of the film represents the best it can possibly look for now. To be clear, this director’s cut is not the same as the rough VHS cut that was previously available on earlier DVD releases — that was a preview cut that Peckinpah made available for a screening in 1983, and it differs from the director’s preferred cut which is now available here for the first time. This also differs from the preview cut in that the image is dramatically better and looks good (even if it would still benefit greatly from an actual restoration).
Hyde and Peckinpah knew this cut wouldn’t officially see the light of day, so an opening crawl was added at the time — again, this is the only print and was mainly intended for showing friends and such — stating the following:
“What you are about to see is the one and only version of a picture by Sam Peckinpah and David Rawlins. The producers took the film on July 18th, 1983. We are responsible for this version and no other version of The Osterman Weekend.”
Specific detail differences can be found in a featurette on the director’s cut Blu-ray, and there are a lot of little changes throughout, but the general feel of the film remains the same. Basically, if you’re a fan already then you’ll appreciate seeing Peckinpah’s actual preferred cut, and if you’re not? Well, this cut won’t change your mind. The film remains something of a narrative mess as the story never quite reaches as far as it should, but you can see Peckinpah’s intentions more clearly in regard to his (attempted) focus on characters. What can I say, it works for me thanks to those character beats and small instances of humor that were removed for the theatrical cut.
Imprint’s slick new box-set of The Osterman Weekend features both the theatrical and director’s cuts (both presented region-free and playable in the U.S.), and each Blu-ray comes in its own case (both of which fit snugly into a die-cut box). The contents of each disc are below.
Director’s Cut [1:44:56]
- *NEW* Commentary by Peckinpah expert Mike Siegel
- *NEW* Passion & Poetry: Sam’s Final Cut [38:26] – A documentary recounting Mike Siegel’s acquisition of the 35mm print after years of unprotected storage, he walks viewers through the process of cleaning and scanning the film detailing the hurdles they faced along the way. The doc also includes snippets of deleted scenes, comparisons, and interviews with those familiar with the cut.
- *NEW* The Two Cuts [1:06:41] – As stated at the start of this featurette, the two cuts differ in numerous ways including “alternative takes, additional/deleted footage, edited and censored dialogue, as well as different chronology/order of appearance of certain scenes.” This offers up a comparison highlighting all of the differences.
- Filming The Osterman Weekend [9:46] – An animated gallery featuring behind-the-scenes photos from the film’s production.
- The Osterman Weekend in 100 Pictures [9:45] – An animated gallery “telling” the story via chronological photos.
- Promoting The Osterman Weekend [9:40] – An animated gallery showcasing the film’s marketing from around the world.
Theatrical Cut [1:42:28]
- 1.66:1 aspect unrestored 35mm print from the German theatrical release scanned in 2K
- Commentary by film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle, and Nick Redman
- Alpha to Omega: Exposing The Osterman Weekend [1:18:05] – A feature-length documentary produced in 2004 on the film’s troubled production, it starts with the producers bringing the option to Peckinpah and ends with them taking the movie away from him. Producers, cast, and crew discuss the film’s production, the highs and lows of working with Peckinpah, and the film’s ultimate legacy.
- US theatrical trailer
The region-free box-set of The Osterman Weekend can be ordered directly from Imprint Films or from Diabolik DVD.
Related Topics: Home Video, The Osterman Weekend