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The Last Emperor - Director's Cut (1987)

John Lone , Joan Chen , Bernardo Bertolucci  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)

Price: $39.99
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Product Details

  • Actors: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole, Ruocheng Ying, Victor Wong
  • Directors: Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci, Enzo Ungari, Henry Pu-yi, Mark Peploe
  • Producers: Franco Giovale, Jeremy Thomas, John Daly
  • Format: Color, Subtitled, Dolby, Letterboxed
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Live / Artisan
  • DVD Release Date: February 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 219 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305261032
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,848 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Last Emperor - Director's Cut" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Everything that was good about the 163-minute theatrical release of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor in 1987 is even better in this new 218-minute director's cut. By contrast, much that was peculiarly distant and lifeless the first time around isn't really better or worse in this edition. Conclusion: the net gains are considerable if you invest time to appreciate Bertolucci's full feeling for the odd story of Pu Yi, China's final monarch. You remember the saga: taken from his mother at the age of three, Pu Yi is brought into the enclosed walls of the Forbidden City to replace the real emperor. There he becomes a pampered prisoner and hollow symbol of an older monarchy that has since given way to a ruthless, 20th century republic. With his pining loyalists beheaded or kept at bay by armed soldiers outside the City's walls, Pu Yi is tutored by an English gentleman (Peter O'Toole) and wed to a kindred spirit (Joan Chen). Eventually cast from his gated paradise, Pu Yi (wonderfully portrayed in adulthood by John Lone) becomes, by turns, a playboy, a dupe to the Japanese, and a victim of China's cultural reforms and re-education programs. This longer cut largely top-loads the film with greater reason to feel compassion for the emperor, with his often wordless sense-adventure in the mysteries that could only be known to one little boy plunged into indecipherable alien decorum, robbed of self-determination and common sense by his infinite privilege. Added scenes (including some in the political rehabilitation camp where Pu Yi is held for a decade) fill out not so much added facts as density of experience. This improved The Last Emperor is richer in soul and a pronounced sense of Bertolucci actually directing this film in the most personal and profound sense. --Tom Keogh

Product Description

Everything that was good about the 163-minute theatrical release of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor in 1987 is even better in this new 218-minute director's cut. By contrast, much that was peculiarly distant and lifeless the first time aroun

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
206 of 218 people found the following review helpful
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
When I was informed that the Blu-ray of the deluxe 4 disc Criterion edition would be missing the extended cut of 218 minutes, I sent an e-mail to Criterion to confirm this information. I have included my e-mail and the response I received from Jon Mulvany at Criterion. I hope this helps in your decision if you are planning to upgrade to the Blu-ray.

Dear Jon,
I have long been a fan of your company and the fine treatment it gives to movies. I originally purchased one of my all time favorite movies, The Last Emperor earlier this year when it was given the deluxe 4 disc treatment, I was thrilled with all of the extras that were included. I was most impressed that both versions of the movie were included for me to chose from. When it was announced that it was coming to Blu-ray, I sold my copy and was waiting to upgrade. I was! I have learned that the 165 min. version is the only one that will be included on the Blu-ray and not the 218 min (my preferred version) cut. WHY, WHY WHY? I am sad to say, that if this is indeed really true, I will not be upgrading to the Blu-ray version since this would in fact be considered a step down from the standard DVD edition. Why give us a great product initially, but then short change us on the Blu-ray upgrade, How sad!!!

Michael Ruiz

Jon's reply is as follows:

Hi Michael,

When we made the special edition dvd of The Last Emperor, we pulled out the stops. The film won nine Academy Awards - from best picture and director to production design and editing. On top of that, it was the first international film of this scale produced in China, and that story in and of itself was extraordinary. In short, all aspects of the film merited attention and discussion.
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113 of 119 people found the following review helpful
By dooby
I won't go into the movie itself. It is already well known. It swept the Oscars winning all 9 for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director. A first for an independent foreign film. It is an historical epic about a culture which until then was little known in the West. It tells the story of China's Last Emperor, a weak and ineffectual man who came to the throne hailed as The Son of Heaven and The Lord of 10,000 Years. His misfortune was to be born at the twilight of Imperial Rule in China. Enthroned as a God, he is cast out by Chinese Republicans, used as a puppet by the invading Japanese, humiliated by the Communists and then "re-educated" to finally become a "useful" member of society - a common gardener. It is the story of one man's tragedy and of an ancient civilisation's painful march into the modern era. A film not to be missed.

This is a truly magnificent set. Criterion at its best. Spread over 4 discs, it includes both versions of the film, fully restored and remastered, plus an additional 6 hours worth of Extras; about everything you could possibly want to know about the film, the director or the central character, Pu Yi.

The roaring controversy however is over the decision to crop the film from its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio down to a narrower 2:1. Vittorio Storaro who was responsible for this has defended his action and Criterion has taken the line that they follow the wishes of the creator. However after having seen the new cropped versions, my preference is still for the older 2.35:1 widescreen.

The newer versions by and large look fine and you won't notice the cropping unless you do a 1 to 1 comparison. However in more than a few scenes, the new visual composition looks askew - awkward and ugly.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Director's Cut" versus "Theatrical Cut" October 31, 2008
By S. Yen
This review is not so much a review of the movie or this release in particular. It would seem that there will be no shortage of glorious reviews of this movie and I would just be adding my voice to the gale winds of appraise. I write this to clear up the common mis-perception that the longer cut of this movie is a director's cut.

The previously released longer cut of The Last Emperor which was released on DVD and subsequently labeled as a "Director's Cut" is in fact a longer, made for television mini-series version that was made to satisfy a particular distribution/production deal. Bertolucci himself has gone on record to say that the actual version of the film that he envisioned is the one that went out to theaters, thereby making the shorter "Theatrical Cut" the actual director's cut.

Being the huge fan of this movie that I am, I can't help but want more of this movie, but I'd be lying if I said that the shorter version isn't great just as it is. The movie does not lose any of its magic without the added content. I've given this review a 4 star rating because of the completist in me. If there are two versions of a movie out there. I would enjoy the option of playing the version that I want. Criterion did so with their DVD release, but failed to do it with their Blu-ray release. Welcome to double-dip country. As of this writing, I still have not determined if I shall fall prey to their marketing ploy since I have been waiting so long for a good transfer of this film.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Widescreen image cropped! August 21, 2010
By Byron
This is not a rating of the film, which is excellent, but of this particular edition.

Unfortunately Criterion fell into the same trap that the producers of the previous "Apocalypse Now" DVDs did. They allowed Vittorio Storaro, the original cinematographer, to tamper with the widescreen image. Storaro has been on a crusade for the last few years to advocate 2.00:1 as the most desirable widescreen aspect ratio. This is fine if applied to new productions but, disastrously, he wants to demonstrate his passion for this by going back and chopping up movies he worked on in years past. Despite whatever care he may have taken in this project, it is painfully obvious in many scenes that some of the screen image has been cropped from the sides. I compared this to the scenes in their original ratio of 2.35 and there is significant information missing. In tight scenes inside cars you often lose portions of people seated on either side of the picture. The worst for me, though, was what happened to a couple of the breathtaking scenes where the child emperor is viewing the large assembled crowd of his subjects. In the original framing you can see the complete perfectly symmetrical formations filling the screen and perfectly tapering off right at the edges of the picture. In this version chunks of that image are chopped off on either side and a lot of the power and beauty of the scene is diminished.

I had been eagerly anticipating this release but the butchering of the image took all of the joy out of it for me. Even though other aspects of the package such as the extras are very nice and well done, I ended up selling off my copy
I'm surprised and disappointed that Criterion let something like this happen.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful epic Story.
A true classic epic. Beautiful Movie.
Published 1 day ago by dazy Larue
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very happy
Published 3 days ago by leosrule
1.0 out of 5 stars I recieved a bad DVD -- missing the last chapter.
The DVD was missing the last chapter. I tried it on two players; so I had to return it. Too much out of the way waste of time. I am very disappointed. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Max Epstein
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 9 days ago by hacktress
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great movie taught me about japans terrible involvement in China
Published 15 days ago by Edward R. Peters
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent historical perspective
A well done movie with nice effects and a great educational value. I learnt a not too distant history of China.
Published 1 month ago by buscomkg
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie but a little long
This is a dramaticized documentary of the last emperor in China. True and interesting story. But it is long, which the producers heard about when originally released.
Published 1 month ago by John Mercer
5.0 out of 5 stars Oscar Worthy
Acting, directing, etc., all very well done. Worthy of the many Oscar's the movie received. Thought provoking movie with insight into a different culture and its people.
Published 1 month ago by Yvonne K.
2.0 out of 5 stars The Last Emperor--thankfully
The movie was very very slow to build the storyline. It truly put me to sleep. And I really have always
wanted to watch it as Peter O'Toole is one of my favorite old actors. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robyn Farber
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Exceptional Movie!
The Last Emperor had an awesome plot and story line detailing the life of the last Chinese Emperor and tying it into modern history and current events in China. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tom G
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