I passed on the chance of seeing 54 when it was first released in theaters in August of ‘98. Have no idea why. The theme and its star were surely a big attraction but for some strange reason I decided to wait for the DVD. When I did catch the film, however, I became an instant fan. How could I not be? The glam, the music, the shirtless guys… Did I say shirtless guys? Kidding aside, I really enjoyed the film. It brought back many memories. No, before you even ask yourself, I never visited the club. I was a bit too young then, and when I was old enough to even go the fad was over and done with. But the memory of the disco era still lingers with me after all these years.
I was aware that the film was heavily cut due to its explicit gay content, yet this hardly made a dent in my appreciation of it despite the nasty reviews. Mike Myers came out of it unscathed as club owner Steve Rubell, and I quite agree with the critics: he is very good at what he does in this. But what interested me more at the time was the presence of sexy Ryan Phillippe as the newbie who quickly moves up the ladder from busboy to waiter. Suffice to say he was—and still is—quite delectable in his very states of undress. But even more than that, the guy can act, with or without clothes. So do the rest of the cast, especially Breckin Myer who plays down-on-his-luck Greg. His character’s desperate need to make something of himself gives us some fine movie moments. And even though the producers tried their hardest to erase the homoerotic tension between those two boys, it was still there, ready for the pluckin’.
So imagine the joy I felt finding out that an uncut version of 54 was heading to DVD and Blu-ray. I already knew about the man-on-man action footage that existed between Phillippe and Breckin. I had even seen a rough cut of it on YouTube, and what was there was more than two guys just getting it on. It turned out to be very emotional as well. Of course this made me want to see the film even more. To make a long story short, I finally sat down and saw the finished product and let me tell you, the film is far different from what we’ve come to know.
First and foremost, the added 44 minute footage focuses furthermore on Philippe’s character’s rise to “fame”. Through him you see a better view of what’s really going on behind closed doors which, of course, ends up being rather explicit (hetero sex, gay-sex, drug-intake…), but also adds a certain reality to what the club and its patrons are all about. To make room for this, director Mark Christopher made some cuts here and there and he also took out all of the reshoots the studio insisted he make at the time, which include the bowling lovey-dovey scene between Ryan Phillippe and Neve Campbell and their climactic exchange in the cold. In return you get an ending that has a complete new twist. Quite abrupt in its handling, I must say, but satisfactory nonetheless. Gone also is the grand finale scene involving the cast as they all gather for one last night of disco dancing. Of course this means that the performance of the song IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND by Stars on 54 is MIA, alas—though we do hear the catchy tune during the end credits.
If you are a super fan like I am you’ll even enjoy the few minute supplements which explain how this new version came to be. All in all I completely dig this reboot, but I’d be lying if I said that I’ll never need to watch the cut version again. I like that last scene too much. Still, check out this new 54. It is all what it’s cracked up to be and more.
Until next post—Martin