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John Hughes: The Director’s Cut

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The_Breakfast_Club_430By any meaningful standard, being an American teenager sucks pond water. (It’s probably worse in Beirut, I know, but let’s save that discussion for another time, friend.) Nothing interesting is happening—all the real-life conflicts and adventures are thrice-told clichés, and most of the excitement exists only in fantasy and potential. Every popped zit feels like the explosion of Krakatoa. Everything goes on your permanent record. And you’re not even allowed to commiserate with most of your potential allies; tribal cliques set every teenager at odds with every other, and it’s death to traitors.

Thus, by any meaningful standard, “The Breakfast Club” is an Important American Film. It was the first humanistic teen comedy, dragging the genre above the cynical jerkoff fodder of “Porky’s” forcing a serious examination of high-school scene politics, and concluding with profound optimism. Every “American Pie” or “Juno” owes an impossible debt to John Hughes and the kids from Shermer.

But, here’s the thing: “The Breakfast Club” could have been even “better.” According to a Premiere magazine profile of Hughes, his original cut was two-and-a-half hours long. Smelling a blockbuster, Universal convinced Hughes to trim the film significantly, facilitating a broadly influential hit but depriving the world of the teen-angst “Citizen Kane,” a sprawling, skull-cracking epic.

What did we miss? We miss Alison’s dream sequence, which looks weirder than anything in Terry Gilliam’s vision of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” We miss Paul Gleason (Principal Vernon)’s voyeurism, and a much sexier seven minutes in heaven with Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) and John Bender (Judd Nelson). (Ringwald says so herself.) We miss a much more graphic illustration of Bender’s physical and psychological abuse, in which he’s dubbed “a waste of lunchmeat.” We miss Alison smoking a cigarette and writing with her feet. We miss Carl’s (John Kapelos) agonizingly misanthropic predictions for the quintet as adults. We miss psychedelia, black comedy and a lot of rich character-building. We miss a lot of the American teenager’s pathos.

Hughes alleged that he owned the only existing copy of the film’s director’s cut. Now that he’s joined the choir invisible, what will become of it? If it still exists and his estate can find it, I propose that it be released immediately, with all its imperfections intact. I propose that any profits it generates be used to create a crisis hotline for teenagers, staffed by smart, funny, three-dimensional human beings with a compassion that leaps off of their scripts. (Emerson Dameron)

One Response to “John Hughes: The Director’s Cut”

  1. daschneider Says:

    Some time during the early ’90s, some of the local stations in South Florida (on the upper end of the dial, Channel 32, Channel 28, etc) broadcast an “extended cut” of “The Breakfast Club” — it’s not the full-length director’s cut of which you speak, but I do remember Alison writing with her feet. There was a much longer hallway chase scene (I thought it worked better in the theatrical version) and I do recall a fuller explication of Bender’s character (but, once again, given the version I was shown, I thought the theatrical cut tighter and the additional material a drain on the pacing.) Still, thanks for reminding me of this, which I had embedded in my backbrain.

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