Director James Mangold’s 2005 telling of the Johnny Cash/June Carter romance is so deservedly popular that a cut that runs 18 minutes longer (bringing the total running time to 153 minutes) has undeniable appeal. But if you already bought the two-disc deluxe edition a couple of years ago, you can walk, not run, to this new Walk the Line: Extended Cut. That’s because you’ll have already seen most of the additional footage that’s been integrated into the feature; the padding largely consists of stuff that showed up in the ”deleted scenes” supplement of the older edition.
At first, I felt sure that the only thing that had been done to the movie was to add those deleted scenes. But a check with the studio turned up three examples of very brief scenes that haven’t been seen before on DVD at all: Johnny sees a newspaper saying Hank Williams has died; Johnny does Morse code for the Air Force and gets the idea for the rhythm to a song; Johnny pops pills in an airport bathroom. Not exactly the basis for an upgrade. But the scenes that have been imported from the previous special edition include some nice bits — the best one is a comic bit involving Johnny’s visit to a radio station to promote his first Sun single; when the record accidentally breaks, he panics, imagining it’s the only copy in existence. (The DJ there, by the way, is played by Johnny and June’s son, John Carter Cash.) Another has Johnny writing ”Cry, Cry, Cry” in solitude, only to be interrupted in the creative process by his first wife, Vivian, who says, ”That’s a mean song!” And if that ain’t the story of rock & roll, what is?
Truth be told, there are dozens of shots that now run a few seconds longer than they did in theaters and on previous DVDs — or, in some cases, involve an alternate shot, or even run a moment shorter. You’d have to be the world’s most obsessive fan of this film to catch any of these. (Fortunately, I found that fan, and he catalogued every difference between the two cuts, in both English and German. As an additional aside, I did spot a deleted-scene moment from the last DVD that hasn’t been incorporated in the extended cut. It’s in a scene where Johnny goes to bed and imagines his dead brother is next to him, before we see it’s really Vivian. When the scene was presented as an outtake last time, it went on a bit longer, and there was a creepy effect where Vivian’s face morphed into June’s. Fortunately, Mangold remembered that this isn’t a horror picture and here the scene cuts off before that happens.)
The supplementary section also has a few new-to-disc bonuses, including full run-throughs of some of the musical numbers that are only partially glimpsed even in the extended cut, and some additional featurettes produced at the time of the film’s release. Some of this is illuminating and some is annoying. It’s nice to have a few minutes of folks who knew Johnny talking about his faith, but irritating when it’s illustrated mostly by photos and clips of Joaquin Phoenix instead of the real guy.
Back to the extended cut: I kept looking for a part of the movie I distinctly remember, but couldn’t find this time — you know, the part where the dad keeps saying ”The wrong kid died.” Oh yeah — that would be Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, of course. And even if you’re a Walk the Line admirer, it’s hard to watch two and a half years later without constantly thinking of the spoof that so effectively skewered everything this earnest bio holds dear. I wish the very articulate Mangold had recorded a new commentary track instead of just transferring the old one over from the last disc, so he could talk about not just the Oscar race (which found Reese Witherspoon winning and Phoenix not quite) but also whether he found Walk Hard’s satire the sincerest form of flattery. B