Director Peter Bogdanovich, forced to trim The Last Picture Show to less than two hours in 1971, has restored seven minutes to this laser-only edition of his masterwork about life in a blighted Texas town. While you won’t go wrong with the original, released in April on both tape and laserdisc, this recut is unquestionably an improvement. At a dozen or so points, brief additions yield smoother transitions, a clearer plot line, and characterizations a hair richer. Seeing Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) seduced by one of her father’s employees on a pool table, for instance, helps explain why she sees sex as a weapon.
On an audio track that can be switched on in place of the dialogue, Bogdanovich’s own articulate commentary on each scene ranges from inspired analysis to anecdotal gossip. Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, and Randy Quaid also interject surprisingly confessional remarks, and after the film come script excerpts and a montage of supporting-player screen tests. With so many extras appended to a letterboxed transfer that preserves the film’s wide-screen imagery, Criterion’s Picture Show translates a great movie into a sublime home video experience. A+