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Peter Bogdanovich’s Very Strange Netflix Experience

For the first time since the Burt Reynolds-Cybill Shepherd musical comedy At Long Last Love was released in 1975, there exists a proper version on DVD. A reconstituted Blu-ray edition was released this month by 20th Century Fox and to mark the occasion, writer-director Peter Bogdanovich retraces on his Indiewire blog this unlikely miracle of modern film restoration.

The original version opened to very mixed reviews, although Woody Allen later told Bogdanovich he had seen it three-four times at Radio City Music Hall and loved it. The director cut a new “TV version” of the film shortly thereafter, but despite that effort, the movie quickly faded away. Cut to a few years ago:

A friend called to tell me that Netflix was streaming At Long Last Love. I decided to take a look at it that way; I hadn’t seen the movie in 35 years.

This led to an astonishing discovery: Watching the movie as it streamed by, I quickly began to realize that it was quite a different version than either the theatrical or the TV editions. Scenes and sequences that I had removed were back in; scenes I had left in were out; some of the song numbers were shortened, and some were lengthened. It was an edit that, if anything, was much closer to the very first preview cut which we had discarded in dismay. But it was sharper, better. In fact, it was the best version of the movie I had ever seen. And I loved it!

We’re not going to ruin the surprise of how this alternate version existed. You can read the rest of the “Blogdanovich” item here. But it’s great to hear that at a screening on the lot, Shepherd said the Blu-ray Director’s Definitive Edition was “like having a mutilated child miraculously returned to us whole again,” while Reynolds deemed the 2013 DVD version “an entirely new picture.” Hooray for Netflix!

[Image courtesy 20th Century Fox]

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