« on: December 02, 2013, 04:30:31 pm »
Hi Stanley. As far as I know, the longest version of the film that's ever made it to dvd is a sub-four hour version (the version promoted by Francis Ford Coppola and scored by Carmine Coppola (badly, frankly!)). And I think that dvd was only ever released in Australia - though there are some dodgy bootlegs out there in internet-land of the five hour version that Channel 4 put out in the late 80s, if memory serves.
One of the problems around the film is the shadow of Francis Ford Coppola - he invested a lot of his own money in the restoration of the sub-four hour version, and naturally he's had a real attachment to his father's score. But, the most complete version of the film is the "final" reconstruction in 2000 under Kevin Brownlow. That version runs 5h32m - trouble is, though, Coppola Snr's score doesn't fit (and it's not very good anyway), and yet Coppola Jnr has, until relatively recently, been overly litigious around attempts to show the "full length" version (with or without Davis' score); indeed, when the film was last shown in London in 2004, Coppola's lawyers tried to stop it, but Brownlow/Davis/RFH just ignored him and proceeded with impunity! Davis finally did in in the USA last year, which suggests that Coppola has at last seen the light. But owing to those complicated conflicts over who owns what Rights, the film has not been widely seen, nor committed to video with a decent distribution.
I did hear a rumour a few years ago that the BFI had ring-fenced some money for a blu-ray of "Napoleon" with Davis' score as and when Coppola gave in, so fingers are well and truly crossed that that particular rumour has some truth about it. I'd happily make time for an annual screening. Indeed, I'd gladly pay concert-ticket money to see it again; I'd ummed-and-ahhed about whether to attend at the weekend, as I'd already seen it live once before, but it didn't take long into the screening to know I'd made the right choice. If it ever comes round again, there'll be no hesitation in booking a ticket next time!
In the mean-time, there's always Brownlow's book on the film - a wonderful book detailing the history of the film and its making, its subsequent disappearance, and Brownlow's long-suffering efforts to track down missing sequences and restore the film. I trust you've read it, Stanley, but if you haven't, I'd heartily recommend it. And, actually, if you have read it, I'd presume you've read the original edition, in which case it might be worth investing in the 2004 reprint which was updated to include some coverage of the battles with Coppola over the recent fate of the film. Fascinating stuff.