The European Cut of Boys Don't Cry Is a Myth!

When I first started this site, before I decided how formal of a blog it would be, I wrote a little bit about Boys Don't Cry in the introduction of my Velvet Goldmine post, specifically the work I put in debunking the myth of an uncut European version. Well, now I've got more of a regular format and standards, so I'm cutting that and giving Boys Don't Cry a full, proper post, with a DVD/ blu-ray comparison and everything. The reason why I talked about Boys there is because that's a story about a film that has a little known, extended cut available only in the UK. And there was a similar rumor about such a thing existing for Boys Don't Cry, except in that case, the rumor is completely incorrect.

And I use the word "rumor," but there's quite a bit of credibility behind it. The film's IMDB page talks about it under Alternate Versions, which says, "The USA version originally garnered an NC-17 from the MPAA. The film was cut and re-rated R. The European version reportedly is uncut." It even goes so far as to specify, "The double rape caused some big problems with the MPAA and had to be trimmed to avoid an NC-17 rating. The European version is more explicit (especially with the first rapist.)." God knows where they got the detail about the one rapist's scenes being worse than the others, because - as I will detail in a bit - there are no differences. And sure, the IMDB is known for being as unreliable as any wiki, but dvdcompare also explicitly states that the UK DVD is longer and uncut. And here's a thread about it on thedigitalfix (though, to be fair, the people confirming it there seem to only be sourcing the imdb and dvdcompare pages); and note that dvdaf.com lists the UK DVD and blu-ray as being "uncut."
Well, being a longtime fan of this film, all this online info was all I needed to replace my US DVD with an uncut UK one. The idea of a longer version of the film doesn't come from nowhere. The director Kimberly Peirce has been public about how the she had to trim her original cut of the film for the MPAA to get an R-rating. She talks about it, for instance, in the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. So the first part of the rumors are actually true: we are watching a censored, abbreviated cut of the film. But once I got the UK DVD, I checked and they are frame-for-frame identical. I watched the rape scene way more closely and often than anybody should, and they are 100% identical. I also synced the PAL DVD to NTSC speed so I could watch the entirety of both versions in sync, and they are exactly the same in every other scene as well. Zero difference. And the reports of the BBFC passing the film uncut? I presume that's because they were only given the already trimmed version made for the MPAA. I guess there's a small chance the uncut version played theatrically, and Fox just decided to use the same cut version for the UK and US DVDs, but at this point I'm pretty friggin' skeptical.

And wait, dvdaf also listed the blu-ray as uncut, right? Maybe THIS time they've released the longer, uncut version. Nope. I bought that, too, and it's the same version again. If someone can comment here and point me to this elusive European cut on any sort of disc anywhere, I'd love to see it. But I can confidently report that the rumors of a longer, European cut on the UK DVD and blu-ray are false.
And I'd be thrilled for an uncut restoration, because A) the director was against the cuts, and B) it's just a really good film. Hillary Swank, who'd previously just starred in The Karate Kid 4 and Beverly Hills 90210, actually proved to be a terrific actress, starring as Teena Brandon/ Brandon Teena, the real life transsexual who was the victim of a fatal hate crime in Nebraska. The film's very sincere portrayal of all the characters humanizes the situation and shows how a seemingly unbelievable case really could have gone down like it did. When it's done right, true crime can be uniquely powerful in film, and it certainly is here: moody, romantic and brutal at the same time.

So, since this myth of a European cut lead me to upgrade to blu, I can at least give us a nice, DVD/ blu-ray comparison. Unfortunately, I sold off my UK DVD long before I started this site, but I can tell you it was pretty identical to the US in transfer and features except for being PAL. But the blu, being HD, is naturally going to look different, unless Twentieth Century Fox has really done something wrong.
2011 blu-ray on top; 2000 DVD on bottom.
2011 blu-ray left; 2000 DVD right.
So here you go, a pretty standard catalog title upgraded from DVD to blu. The same basic transfer, taken from the same master, but presented in HD. The lack of over-compression does help, and the blu undeniably looks better, especially if you've got a large enough television to appreciate it. The DVD has a digital blotchiness and some ugly artifacting, making the film look especially grainy when it's not the actual film grain that's dancing around. You certainly notice it in the close-up, and it's like that all through-out the film. I feel like detail could be better, but the blu's actually a pretty nice upgrade. I had been content not replacing my DVD on this title; but now that I've got it, I'm glad I do. Unquestionably it's the superior version, and not by such a narrow margin as I would've guessed.

Also, the 1.85:1 framing is slightly different, with a bit more headroom on the blu and a bit more bottom image on the DVD. It's pretty much an immaterial sliver in both cases, but it's there. And, of course, the blu has a nice, clear DTS-HD 5.1 audio track, and a heaping ton of language dubs and subs.
Extras are the same, too. Everything from the DVD has been ported over, with no additions or subtractions. The main feature is the audio commentary with the director. But there's also a very brief (4 minutes), clip-heavy featurette, which isn't much more revealing than the trailer, except we do get to see Swank out of character, which makes her performance all the more impressive by comparison. Then there's a pretty long theatrical trailer and three TV spots. That's it. Could be better; could be worse.

So, sure, I'd quadruple-dip if an uncut version came out. Hopefully it would have a couple new extras along with it. But honestly, the rape scene doesn't need to be any more explicit to be effective. I'll always support a director's vision to have their films seen uncut, but there's no reason to hold off on this version waiting for one that'll likely never come. It's a quality release of a quality film, and while there's always room for improvement in all things, there's like a bajillion films in much more desperate need of a reissue than this one. What we've got is good enough without any obscure, foreign mythological editions.

2 comments:

  1. I love Boys Don't Cry. I wonder if the Uncut version is sitting on a hard drive somewhere in director Kimberly Peirce's possession.

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    1. It would be a great justification for Criterion giving it a new 4k scan and being an uncut debut, wouldn't it? We know Peirce never wanted it cut and still gives talks about the film, so I'm sure she'd cooperate with a release like that.

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