2001's Pre- and Post-Premiere Edits

by Thomas E. Brown

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was released on April 2, 1968 after a period of production lasting the better part of four years. As originally released the film was 161 minutes long, not including the overture, entr'acte (intermission music), and walkout music at the end of the film. Kubrick did not want advanced publicity giving away details of his film, and, did not allow previews, the last minute completion of a number of special effects made this impossible anyway.

Kubrick noted that the early audiences disliked the film (and most of the reviews were extremely negative). The director commented: "I have never seen an audience so restless." He later realized that the premiere audiences were between 35 and 60, as were most of the reviewers. The audiences who later embraced the movie were much younger, and better able to accept the film's radical departure from the then established conventions of moviemaking and storytelling. Kubrick, did not realize this until later and decided to tighten the film, cutting 19 minutes of film, explaining "it does take a few runnings to decide finally how long things should be, especially scenes which do not have narrative advancement as their guideline." In reference to the edited version, the director stated. "I didn't believe that the trims made a critical difference. I think it just affected some marginal people. The people who like it, like it no matter what its length, and the same holds true for the people who hate it."

The film was edited by Kubrick and editor Ray Lovejoy between April 5 and 9, 1968 and detailed instructions were sent to theater owners already showing the film, in order that they might put the trims into effect. Of course this meant that some of the cut scenes may have been poorly done in a particular theater and, so the initial version seen by viewers early in the film's run may have varied from theater to theater.

Sadly, today, none of the trims are known to exist. I have spoken with 2001 expert Piers Bizony and have corresponded with film restorationist Robert Harris in reference to the location of these trims, or exactly what they consisted of, but, other than general information, I have not been successful in getting a shot by shot description. Mr. Harris indicated that he determined the film's status at Kubrick's request during the restoration of Spartacus. Harris found that the film is well protected by the Turner company which currently owns the MGM library, with two sets of black and white protection separations, but Turner apparently does not have the trims, themselves. Harris told me that Kubrick told him he might have the trims in his garage. Whether this material will ever surface, or the state of this film (which may well have faded after this amount of time) is unknown. Today the official running time of 2001 is 139 minutes and, if presented in roadshow form, with overture, entr'acte and walk out music is about 10 minutes longer (but the roadshow did not contain any additional footage from the general release version, except for the "Intermission" title card).

There are any number of stills available showing moments which may have been from the trims, or may have been alternate versions, or shots cut before the April 2 premiere. Exact details of the trims are not clear and I have never been able to find a shot by shot summary of them. In the following comments I refer to 3 sources of stills, although there are many others, these are 2001: Filming the Future by Piers Bizony, Aurum Press, London 1994 [referred to as Bizony below]; Kubrick by Michel Ciment, Collins, London 1983 [referred to as Ciment]; and the illustrated foldout in the 25th Anniversary MGM Laser Disc Box set, MGM/UA Home Video ML103104 [referred to as MGM]

The material edited before the April 2 premiere appears to be: Black and white interviews with leading scientists about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, the text of which appears in Agel's book The Making of Kubrick's 2001. Floyd's use of the picturephone to buy a bushbaby from Macy's for Squirt; a shot of the picturephone with the Macy's attendant on it has been frequently published (Squirt herself was played by Kubrick's 6 year old daughter Vivian); scenes showing life in the moonbase including a children's painting class featuring Kubrick's two daughters (see Bizony p. 70); and various technical details of life aboard Discovery: stills from these scenes appear in various publications, as do shots of Poole wearing a helmet on Discovery's bridge (see Bizony, p. 51, Ciment p. 23, and back of MGM laser disc box, for example). The latter were shot as alternative versions of the helmetless scenes which appear in the film, and were never part of the cut. At one time Kubrick was concerned that the helmetless Emergency Airlock entry sequence was scientifically impossible, until scientific experiments published during the filming revealed that a person might maintain consciousness for a few seconds in a vacuum, at which point the helmetless versions were used.

Although exact details of the trims are not clear, and there is no published shot by shot description of these [most published descriptions are, either general in the extreme, or are filled with highly questionable material] I have been able to piece together a description of the cut scenes, from the generally published material, together with two first hand accounts: one, a letter by Jon F. Davison to "Movie Mailbag" of The New York Times, April 28, 1968 and published more recently in Video Watchdog #20 (Nov/Dec 1993) page 74 and a recent very detailed personal correspondence from Art Haupt, who saw the film on April 3, 1968. Although both of these writers base their comments on one time viewings of the uncut version, their recollections seem convincing, in their detail, and are consistant with the available stills and uncut music score, and in the way the current version plays. Based on these recollections and the available published material, the trims and other changes at the time of cutting appear to be:

1. A scene or scenes from The Dawn of Man. Although some people have claimed that these show the death of the leopard this appears to be based on a reading of the novel rather than any authentic recollection of the film itself. Mr. Haupt recalls a deletion from the second attack of the water hole (with Moonwatcher's tribe carrying their bone weapons). This scene originally started as did the first attack with the man apes sneaking up behind the ridge. Today the scene starts in mid attack, with Moonwatcher advancing on the other tribe, weapon in hand. Mr. Haupt's recollection is supported by the sudden nature of the cut, which is unlike most other transitions in The Dawn of Man sequence.

2. Earlier in The Dawn of Man, a brief shot of the monolith was inserted, right before Moonwatcher discovers the use of the bone tool/weapon in order to make the connection between the monolith and the discovery clear.

3. Title cards: "Jupiter Mission-18 months later" and later, "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" added to orient the audience. The only title in the body of the original cut, other than the Intermission, was "The Dawn of Man". Davison and certain other writers have criticized the addition of titles, but, as well as helping orient the audience to time and place, these titles give the film a classic three act structure (and ironically, but appropriately make the Earth to Moon sequence part of the Dawn of Man, which is consistent with Clarke's view of spaceflight as "leaving the cradle").

4. After Poole's exercise session in the centrifuge, the Gayane ballet music continued over a montage showing life aboard Discovery. Mr. Haupt recalls a shot of Bowman playing a piano with blue keys, possibly a shot of Dave being awakened by HAL and asked for a breakfast order (a still from this scene appears in the book The Cutting Room Floor by Laurent Bouzereau, Citadel Press, NY, 1994), and (possibly) a shot of one of the astronauts "flipping" through virtual blue "pages" on his flat screen newspad. Today the film jumps from the end of the Poole exercise to a shot of Bowman entering the hub of the centrifuge reflected in HAL's eye [see Bizony p. 126] just before the beginning of the "World Tonight" TV show. An audible jump in the Khachaturian score omitting a few minutes of music clearly shows where the montage was deleted.

5. The beginning of Bowman's EVA (extra-vehicular activity) in which he extracts the spare AE-35 unit from the storage locker was deleted [see Bizony p. 46 and Ciment p. 98 for stills from this deleted footage]. In the cut version, the folded back door to the storage locker can be seen to the upper right of the screen, just as the scene begins. I had originally believed this to be a pre-premiere edit, but Mr. Haupt recalls it from the full version, and Davison comments on a shortening of Bowman's EVA which is consistent with this. Note on page 76 of Ciment, is a tantalizing picture which appears to show Bowman's pod entering Discovery after the EVA (it is on its track, facing inwards through the open door). Whether this was ever part of the film and, if so, when it was deleted, is not clear: a cropped still of the same shot is visible on page 2 of the MGM laser disc foldout with Bowman in his suit more clearly visible through the window than in the Ciment still.

6. Davison states that after Mission Control reports HAL's apparent mistake in diagnosing the AE-35 unit failure a shot in which the computer asks for permission to repeat the message was deleted. I have not seen this deletion confirmed in any other source. Mr. Haupt has a recollection of Bowman and Poole walking side by side in the centrifuge on their way to conspire in the pod. I have seen a still of this shot in the 2001 program.

7. After the Intermission, the entire preparation for Poole's EVA, which was an exact repeat of the preparation for Bowman's EVA, was deleted. Today the scene begins with Discovery gliding by, followed by a shot of Poole's pod coming up over Discovery's spherical "Command Module". This is the single longest scene deleted from the film. Kubrick had come to feel it was redundant, but at least one critic commented that Poole's murder was more shocking after the repetition of the detailed preparations. Stills from this appear in 25th MGM laser fold out p. 4 [Poole in Spacesuit in Discovery's storage locker, if I recall correctly this was also in the theatrical program]; Bizony, p. 2 [Poole, AE-35 in hand approaching the pod]; also Laser fold out p. 3 for a different view of the same shot.

8. Davison suggests that the Poole murder may have been re-cut, he mentions: "the computer turning off the pod's radio before killing Gary Lockwood (thus puzzling the audience when Dullea asks HAL if he has been able to establish radio contact yet)". There are rumors that other cut scenes involved a more violent death for Poole, with the astronaut crushed and bleeding to death in the pod's arms, but these do not seem convincing. The dramatic cutting short of Poole's breathing, together with clear shots of his air hose disconnected, further support the conclusion that the scene was always as it is currently shown. Another rumor suggests that the scenes in which Bowman chases down Poole's floating body were extensively recut, but the mechanics of a detailed re-editing and re-pacing of a scene such as this does not seem credible [remember theater projectionists were doing the cutting on written instructions, in the theaters already showing the film].

9. For the last cut, I will quote Art Haupt's letter directly: "The slipper. This is probably the most lamentable "little" trim. When Bowman is wandering around the "Room at the End" in his space suit, he picks up a velvet slipper at the foot of the bed. I distinctly remember a big closeup of the slipper in his hand. It was (as was intended) a shock to see something so familiar and real after the visual barrage of the preceding light show. (in the present cut, the slipper is visible behind Bowman when he walks toward the bathroom, I believe)." I have never before read of any cuts from the "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" sequence, but Mr. Haupt's recollection seems authentic, and, if you look to the right of Bowman, just as he enters the bathroom, you can see what appears to be a black, or dark, slipper on the floor at the foot of the bed. You can also glimpse what appears to be Dave's "smoking jacket" outfit for the dinner sequence laid out on the bed at this point (presumably he is wearing the slippers during the dinner sequence). Possibly Kubrick thought that this was overkill after the already surprising view through the pod window, perhaps he was worried that an image of a Cinerama-size slipper would cause laughter, but it is a scene I would love to have seen.

Needless to say, thanks to the limitations of people's recollections, the previous listing may not be comprehensive, and there may be some errors in it. Absent Kubrick himself releasing details, or his personal materials, or faded theatrical trims being discovered in the basement of an old theater -- as happened with the trims from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, World -- it is unlikely that we'll have a definitive answer to this question. I would value any comments or corrections from anyone who saw the uncut version.

Although it can be argued that the deleted scenes "didn't mean anything" (as the enraged Mr. Davison quotes a callous projectionist as saying) and perhaps Kubrick is right that the scenes did not make a critical difference and their deletion tightened the overall impact of the film. But with so many "special editions" and "director's cuts" of lesser films, these days, it is a shame that this material has never re-surfaced.

so many "special editions" and "director's cuts" of lesser films, these days, it is a shame that this material has never re-surfaced. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Image]