An Extended Super Mario Bros. Movie Cut Has Been Unearthed, 28 Years After Release
Filmmaker Garrett Gilchrist talks to GameSpot about restoring a new version of the classic video game movie.
It's been nearly three decades since the Super Mario Bros. movie arrived in theaters, with a tagline boldly proclaiming "This ain't no game." Now, after all of this time, an extended version of the film has been unearthed, restored, and released online for all to see.
This version of the film--dubbed after co-directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel--has been released by The Super Mario Brothers Archive, a group of fans who celebrate the movie and have been involved in the special features on previous home releases of the film. They've teamed with film restorationist and filmmaker Garrett Gilchrist to present a version of the movie that has never been seen by anyone outside of the production team. Their hope is that this cut will resonate more with fans than the theatrical cut of the film, which was panned critically and flopped at the box office. You can watch it for yourself at the link above
For years, Super Mario Bros. has been looked down on because it doesn't resemble the game it's based on. Now, with the new cut, Gilchrist and the Super Mario Bros. Archive team hopes people will see why that's the case. "It's always going to be a controversial film," Gilchrist told GameSpot. "The directors, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, thought they were making Max Headroom again. They wanted this cyberpunk dystopia. And I think they were pitching the movie more for teenagers, like a Star Wars film. Or even Roger Rabbit, which is a little bit adult in many ways and was obviously an inspiration for this film in some respects."
He continued, "Which, if you think about it, your average adult back then didn't give a damn about the Nintendo NES or Super Mario Bros. So of course, whoever was writing that film, or was directing that film, was going to come in and bring their own sensibility to it, beyond the film being about Mario and Luigi, who fight Koopa. That's a given."
That movie didn't make it to theaters, though. Thankfully, however, an extended version of the film still existed in the form of an old VHS tape that belonged to producer Roland Joffé. Ryan Hoss and Steven Applebaum from The Super Mario Bros. Archive tried locating an extended version of the movie for years, before fellow fan and Super Mario Bros. Archive community member Ryan Parente got his hands on it.
Beyond a number of extended scenes that make up the new 20 minutes of footage that was previously unreleased, there are also some new scenes--including one in particular that reframes two characters in the film. "Iggy and Spike rap! They do a whole rap, which Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson wrote, about how they want to overthrow King Koopa," Gilchrist said. "It's stupid, and it's great. They turn from these unthinking comic relief henchmen into anti-fascists in a couple of scenes. And then they rap about it. Iggy and Spike are introduced as very broad comic characters, which doesn't always work. But there's a lot more of them in this cut and you get to understand them a lot more. They grow and change as characters and I liked them a lot more than I thought I would."
With the footage in hand, Gilchrist and the Super Mario Bros. Archive team started a two-year journey to get this new cut into the state it's in now--which the filmmaker points out isn't as polished as he'd like. To achieve this new version of the movie, Gilchrist got digitized transfers from that original VHS and the mass market VHS of the film sold in the '90s, thanks to Skip Elsheimer from A/V Geeks. He also looked to the Blu-ray release and material from trailers and other rare VHS tapes. Interestingly enough, according to Gilchrist, the movie was released onto VHS in open matte 4:3 aspect ratio. The subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases are in widescreen and lose some of the picture, compared to the VHS. Gilchrist thought the film worked in either version and stuck with the 4:3 ratio for this extended cut.
After a long time spent restoring the footage from the extended cut--along with the mass market VHS to make the two sources match--they arrived at this version of the film. "I think if you get on its wavelength there's a lot to like there," he said of the new cut. "I do think the workprint is a better film, and that this extended cut is a better film."
Don't go into this new version expecting a more faithful adaptation of the games, though. "It's not the Mario movie that fans and kids were asking for, and it is kind of broad and dumbed-down, but as this bonkers cyberpunk fantasy aimed at thirteen-year-olds? It's kind of cool and crazy that this film even exists," Gilchrist said.
As for what happens next, that remains a mystery. Those involved would certainly still love to see this extended version of the movie released officially. What's more, Gilchrist has learned of an international DVD release of the film in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, which means he may not be done with Super Mario Bros. just yet.
"I'll probably try again," he said. "But this might be the best way to experience the film, honestly. An all VHS cut that's a little rough around the edges. Much like the film itself, it has a lot to offer if you're in the right mood for it. Or maybe even if you're not."
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