Performance (1970)

I recently watched my 1985 Warner video of Performance as well as the new Warner DVD so I thought I’d share my first impressions and compare the new DVD to my old VHS tape. My 1985 video is the same “Rated R” print I saw playing in theaters in the early ’80s and I’m going to assume that it’s probably the same version of the film that most people have seen.

First of all, the new DVD looks great and the widescreen print is beautiful. The image quality is definitely a huge improvement! Most scenes in the film look a lot brighter so you can make them out better. My video is really dark and the film always looked incredibly dark when I saw it in theaters. I was also happy to see that the voices of the mob boss Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon) and the little girl Lorraine (Laraine Wickens) are no longer dubbed and sound much better now. On the other hand, it seems that Warner must have decided to remix the music or at least a song or two into the film since it doesn’t seem to flow as well as it does in the VHS version, but it does sound good. Tim Lucas pointed out one particularly glaring moment when Mick is singing “Memo From Turner” where there is now no audio for Mick saying “Here’s to Old England!” even though you can clearly see him mouthing the words in the film.

I was really disappointed to see that the Warner DVD was only one minute longer then my 1985 video. Supposedly – depending on what information you read – 15 to 20 minutes of footage is missing from the film. Where is it? From most rumors or accounts I’ve read or heard, this extra footage may contain scenes between Turner (Mick Jagger) and Chas (James Fox) which may have showed them being more intimate including sharing an on screen kiss, as well as a more explicit sex scene between Turner, Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michèle Breton). Of course this is all speculation on my part. Performance has so many myths & legends surrounding it that it’s a bit hard to separate fact from fiction. I guess we’ll never know unless Warner plans on digging up the old footage and releasing the DVD again in the future. I don’t think anyone knows for certain what footage has gone missing except the cast and crew of the film since I don’t believe a longer version of the movie with an additional 15-20 minutes of footage has ever been released to the general public.

Performance (1970)

Performance (1970)

As for the extra minute of footage that is on the DVD, you’ll find that it’s most obvious in the violent scene where Chas (James Fox) is beaten and then kills his childhood friend Joey (Anthony Valenti). The beating Chas gets from Joey and his band of thugs goes on much longer then it had previously and in turn we get to see more of his destroyed apartment as well as various torn photos on the ground and the word “POOF” (written on the wall in red paint) is shown more often. There is also a bit more dialogue between Joey, Chas and the other two thugs.

Joey’s death is also longer and in turn seems a bit more brutal. Chas even has a brief “flashback” (created with spliced footage from another film) to a childhood scene of little boys beating on one another, which is obviously supposed to represent Chas remembering his childhood relationship with Joey. The most interesting addition to the new print of the film available the DVD is the quick flash of Mick Jagger’s back in place of James Fox’s back as seen by one of Joey’s thugs when he’s is in the bathroom. This quick cut, which replaces Turner with Chas for only a brief moment early in the film, is so important to the narrative and flow of the movie that it seems like the worst omission from previous releases of Performance that I’ve seen. Last but not least, there are also brief flashes of various things throughout the whole first half of the movie that make it more clear that Harry Flowers and some of his gang seem to prefer boys over girls. * (please see additional comments below)

Performance (1970)

Performance (1970)

The extras on the DVD include a nice featurette called Influence and Controversy which has some of the cast and crew talking about making the film, but it’s a shame that Nicolas Roeg, Mick Jagger and James Fox didn’t participate. It also has an old short called Memo from Turner about Mick Jagger and the music of Performance which is really light on content, but a nice inclusion all the same. It’s a shame that Warner didn’t (or was not able to) include the 1998 documentary film about Donald Cammall called Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance. I haven’t seen it myself, but by all accounts it seems to have been really interesting and informative and it probably would have shed a lot of light on the movie. The latest DVD is a nice effort by Warner but I hope we might see a more complete edition of the film released in the future.

* Flickhead was kind enough to let me know that these scenes were in the American theatrical print he saw and they were also in the version released to cable TV in America in the mid-1980s. This must mean that Warner released at least 2 different theatrical versions of the film in the US since the version I saw in the early 1980s (pre-1985) was the same one on my VHS tape (both were rated “R”). He also let me know that the black and white scene of the kids playing is from Carol Reed’s film Odd Man Out (1947).

There’s been a lot of great articles written about Performance over the years. Here’s some links to ones that I found especially interesting:

Cinema Obscura: Ruminations on Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg and Performance by Ray Young

Donald Cammell: Shoot To Kill by Tom Dewe Matthews

Cast Into Darkness by Michael Holden

Cinema Sex Magick: The Films of Donald Cammell by Chris Chang

The Acid House by Rebekah Wood

Performance (Review) by Mike Sutton

The original trailer for Performance

3 thoughts on “Performance VHS VS DVD

  1. Nice write-up, K. You’re right: the DVD looks wonderful. And the missing “Here’s to old England” sticks out terribly — I’m sure it had something to do with the song being remastered (it never sounded so good before) and a mistake at the control board.

    You write: “Chas even has a brief “flashback” to a childhood scene of little boys beating on one another which is obviously supposed to be Chas remembering his childhood friendship with Joey, but the most interesting addition to the new DVD is the quick flash of what I assume to be Mick Jagger’s back in place of James Fox’s back as seen by one of Joey’s thugs when he’s is in the bathroom. This quick cut, which replaces Turner with Chas for only a brief moment early in the film, is so important to the narrative and flow of the movie that it seems like the worst omission from previous releases of Performance. I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone else mention it in any other reviews of the DVD yet.”

    These scenes may have been cut from Warners VHS version — which I’ve never seen. I’ve been making due with a pan-and-scan copy taped off of Showtime in 1985, and the scenes in question are there. The black and white flashback is a clip from Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out.

    Recommended reading:

    Performance by Colin MacCabe


    Mick Brown on Performance

    Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance used to be available on bootleg DVD, but I can no longer find it for sale. If you’d like me to run you off a copy (of fair visual quality) in exchange for a couple of DVD+Rs, send me an e-mail!

  2. Many thanks for the feedback Flickhead! I would love to read the books you mentioned.

    It really bugs me that Warner chopped up the movie and distributed it in so many different versions over the years. I hope someday we’ll get to see an uncut version of the movie.

  3. I saw Performance around 1980 in a theater in Maryland and although the print was pretty worn out it didn’t seem to be missing any of the sex and violence from the version shown on Showtime a few years later. I’ve never seen the US R-rated VHS tape but I did see the US laserdisc and the UK wide-screen PAL tape that came out a few years back and they all seemed the same to me as far as the footage is concerned, that is, the “unrated” or “x-rated” version. The PAL tape was remastered and looked the best up until this US DVD release. I agree that the sound on “Memo From Turner” (Mick Jagger’s song in the film)really doesn’t mesh although it does sound good. But personally I’d rather’ve had it sounding more “lo-fi” and wish they’d left it alone. And the end of the song right before Jagger smashes the mirror with his gun you can here the bottom end drop out as it crossfades back into the original soundtrack. In fact if you listen to the way that same song sounds on the “making of” extra short on the DVD you can get an idea of how it originally sounded. Overall I am pleased with the DVD but I really wish that they hadn’t tried to “improve” the sound. Sometimes just because these studios have the ability to “enhance” things doesn’t mean they actually should. And if you can see that BBC documentary on Donald Cammell you really should because it is AMAZING!

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