Heavenly Creatures on DVD: A warning

So, much to my delight, my “Heavenly Creatures” DVD, one of my all-time favorite movies, arrived today; unfortunately, it’s not the version I wanted.

I’ve had the VHS tape for eight years or so and after a recent viewing with a movie buddy (Hi Jim!), I decided that yes, it is time to upgrade. But what a minefield I’ve stepped in to; the theatrical version was released on DVD in May 2002, followed up with the uncut “New Zealand” theatrical version released in September 2002. The latter restored 10 minutes of cut scenes, along with a modified ending.

Being me, the movie purist, I want both DVDs, but first I want the version that I’ve loved since I was teenager. But since that one is hard to find at the moment, I decided to give the ‘upgraded’ version a shot, judging it solely on the ‘new and improved’ ending sequence.

It’s not bad. Essentially, the new ending amounts to an extra final shot of Pauline’s blood-soaked face (along with her haunting scream) before the epilogue text appears. It doesn’t diminish the ending’s power like I initially thought it would, but I don’t think it’s entirely necessary. Jackson was right to end the film with a fadeout from the fantasy sequence to her scream over a black screen, a subtle and devastating ending versus a bloody, over-the-top ending. I’m not sure is this is totally accurate, but I read somewhere that he preferred the shorter, U.S. release to the uncut version.

Smart man, that one.

So, as I continue to scour the Internet for the ‘cut’ version, I now know this hunt is worth it. Just a warning to fans out there; be sure of which version you’re getting BEFORE you press the ‘buy’ button.