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The Last Emperor - Director's Cut [VHS]

4.1 out of 5 stars 387 customer reviews


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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: Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, Special Edition, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Number of tapes: 2
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • VHS Release Date: February 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 163 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (387 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0784012164
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,686 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

The story of the final Emperor of China.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: DVD
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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Format: Blu-ray
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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