Heaven's Gate


D: Michael Cimino

United Artists (Joann Carelli)

US 1980 (released 1981)

216 mins (325 mins - original version / 219 mins - theatrical version / 149 mins - edited version)


W: Michael Cimino 

DP: Vilmos Zsigmond

Ed: William Reynolds, Lisa Fruchtman, Gerald Greenberg & Tom Rolf

Mus: David Mansfield

PD: Tambi Larsen

Kris Kristofferson (James Averill), Christopher Walken (Nathan D. Champion), John Hurt (William C. Irvine), Sam Waterston (Frank Canton), Brad Dourif (Mr. Eggleston), Isabella Huppert (Ella Watson), Jeff Bridges (John L. Bridges), Joseph Cotten (The Reverend Doctor)

Notoriously known as the film which nearly bankrupted United Artists, the production of Heaven's Gate has since become a cautionary tale of Hollywood folklore when it comes to studio profligacy and writer-director ego projects.

I've only viewed the 216 minute version, it was as it comes on the DVD release and I really don't think I could take the longer edits, but it has to be said that this film is an incoherent mess. This western opus centres around a small town in 1890's Wyoming, where tensions build between land barons and European immigrants.

In truth, the story behind the making of the film is more interesting than the film itself, plagued by expensive reshoots, animal cruelty, cast member unrest and Michael Cimino's dictatorial stranglehold on all aspects of the production, including the order that an entire set be demolished and rebuilt.

Aesthetically beautiful it may be, but the storyline is ridiculously boring. It's little wonder that Heaven's Gate has become one of Hollywood's biggest jokes.


Kris Kristofferson in Heaven's Gate
Kris Kristofferson in Heaven's Gate