Lawrence O'Toole
December 04, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

Why wait for the exclusive director’s cut of your favorite movie on video? Edit it yourself — at home, trimming overlong scenes, even deleting entire sequences or whole characters, just by pressing a few buttons on your VCR’s remote control. Here are some movies on cassette that approach perfection, save for one nagging — now electronically fixable-flaw.

RIO BRAVO (1959)
*Offending Element: A sore-thumb musical number. Howard Hawks’ leisurely horse opera, featuring John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance and Dean Martin as the drunken Dude, can do without teen idol Ricky Nelson accompanying himself on guitar to ”Cindy.” *Solution: Excise the segment, which only serves to stop this atmospheric Western dead in its tracks.

(1964) *Offending Element: Its insane length. Trashy treat though the movie is, 134 minutes is too much for this tale of the titular accused murderer-turned-recluse (Bette Davis) who’s being pushed over the edge by people close to her. *Solution: Cut out two sequences — a soft-focus flashback as Charlotte is about to turn the last bend to complete battiness and Charlotte’s discovery of her lover’s severed hand — which throw the suspense out of whack and scream to be chopped out.

*Offending Element: The terrible ending. Carroll Ballard’s languorous, blindingly beautiful narrative of a biologist (Charles Martin Smith) sent to the Arctic to study wolves deserves better. *Solution: Remove the avalanche of heavy-handedness toward the finish when hunters arrive and destroy most of the researcher’s beloved lupine family. While you’re at it, try trimming most of an unbelievably lengthy sequence involving a herd of caribou.

*Offending Element: Nicolas Cage’s performance as the husband. His acting in his uncle Francis Coppola’s comic fantasy, about a 43-year-old woman (Kathleen Turner) who travels back in time to relive her teenage years, is wildly overblown and self-indulgent. *Solution: Cut out the scene in which he chats with Peggy Sue’s father (Don Murray). As a matter of fact, hack away at the rest of Cage’s screen time.

*Offending Element: A criminally boring grandfather character played by Ian Bannen. Director John Boorman’s marvelous memoir of a 7-year-old boy (Sebastian Rice Edwards) growing up in England during World War II is marred by too much action centered on his irascible granddad, with whom the family goes to live. *Solution: Seven deadly minutes eminently lend themselves to editing, including a protracted breakfast sequence in which the mean old coot tries to shoot a rat, most of a veddy dull cricket game, and some extremely nasty comments about women.

*Offending Element: Dumb, wrongheaded scenes scripted in rhyming couplets. Director Gus Van Sant pushes the connection to Shakespeare’s Henry IV past the max in this oddball road movie about a pair of Portland street hustlers (River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves). *Solution: Delete the scenes between Reeves and his Falstaff-like surrogate father (William Richert).

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