I am a huge fan of the film, 54. I saw it in the theater when it first premiered in 1998 and I thought it captured the hedonistic-lifestyle of late-seventies New York with accuracy and decorum. When “disco-fever” swept the nation, I read vehemently any (and all) articles about the famed NY nightclub, Studio 54, and was obsessed with it for many years. The portrayal of Steve Rubell by actor, Mike Meyers is uncannily accurate and is, perhaps, the best performance of his career. The other actors do a fine job and you, as the film goer, get a chance to go back in time and take a peek behind the closed doors of a world cut off from the rest of humanity.
Most directors’ cuts are films that are already established and the alterations are minimal, creating more of an “extended cut” made up of parts that were trimmed by the censors (MPAA). With 54, it is truly a different film made up of unique shots, lost footage and occasionally, VHS dailies. The film takes a much darker turn as we discover how drugs affect much more of the characters’ lives than the original. We also see how the Ryan Phillippe’s character, Shane O’Shea is not only used as a gigolo by women, but many men, as well.
There is an informative “making of” featurette with the film’s director, Mark Christopher and producer, Jonathan King where they talk about how the original film was wrestled out of their hands by the studio after a test screening, “The audience who was responsive to the movie was not the audience who we made the film for.” And, the laborious and daunting task of tracking down the original film elements by Nancy Valle.
If you are a fan of 54, you will be in for a real treat. If you didn’t like the original version of 54, you may want to take a peek at what the director originally intended. If you are a film student, you will be fascinated by how editing can completely alter a film’s narrative. There is something for everyone in this new director’s cut.
A small warning: Though most of the original elements were discovered, the editor had to resort to using the original VHS dailies to make up some missing scenes. This is a bit of a distraction as the film suddenly changes from crystal- clear Blu-ray quality to grainy VHS on multiple occasions. I was surprised this was not noted anywhere on the Blu-ray’s cover. For the casual film watcher, this may be a deterrent. For the fanatic, seeing these missing scenes, in any quality, will only add to the experience. I just wanted to mention it so you will know exactly what to expect.