SOMEONE IS snipping choice scenes out of movies.
Last month I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for the second time, at the Inner Circle. I was looking forward to the best single sequence, the bit where Harrison Ford, desperately racing to rescue the girl in crowded Cairo streets, is blocked by an awesome black-clad figure who threatens him with a two-handled sword, waving it, swishing it, slashing it, swooping it like a kung fu master. Ford simply shoots him.
Well, the scene was gone when I saw the picture again.
"You wouldn't believe the complaints we've had," said Theodore Pedas, owner of the Circle theater chain. "We've had to cancel showings because the prints were so chewed up. We complain to the distributors, and they don't know what to say. The film could have been ruined in the projector, or someone up the line could have cut it out for some purpose of his own."
At a revival of "Psycho," the Hitchcock horror masterpiece, at another theater, the great shower scene, perhaps the most famous quick-cut montage sequence in cinema, was mostly missing. So was Martin Balsam's bloody death on the stairs.
I lured some friends to see "Frankenstein" by raving about this terrific bit where the murdered girl's father walks through a village festival carrying her body, and the singing and dancing stop as people see him. Horrified silence passes visibly like a wave over the crowd. Very effective indeed. But the print we saw didn't have it.
Then there was the print of "Jules and Jim" with the last five minutes cut off, turning it into a whole different movie.
How can this mutilation be stopped? It seems to be out of the hands of the local theater people -- though they appreciate hearing about it. The trouble is, you don't miss the scene unless you've already seen the picture. And you hate to ask for your money back because of a lousy 10 or 20 seconds.