Executioner's Song [VHS]
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Product Description

Although Gary Gilmore had a pitiful life, it was enough of an American story gone bad to give Normal Mailer a platform for a grand, strange, utterly compelling book: The Executioner's Song, published in 1979. Mailer's literary collaborator, Lawrence Schiller, made the book into a TV-movie (with Mailer scripting), a landmark for its frankness and the general excellence of its acting. Gilmore is brought to vivid life by Tommy Lee Jones, who electrified audiences with his insightful work (this, coming shortly after Coal Miner's Daughter, was one of the roles that really put Jones on the map). Even more revelatory was Rosanna Arquette, virtually unknown at the time, whose role as Gilmore's girlfriend and "guardian angel" instantly put her on the A-list. The heat the two actors generate goes a long way toward establishing their unholy bond, credibility the film absolutely needs in order to work; watch them in an early scene where Gilmore describes the mystical nature of their connection, and you see two actors working at an uncanny level. The approach overall is plain, but that might be why the movie is so effective. This version, advertised as the "Director's Cut," is a curious amalgam of the movie's other versions; the original U.S. TV cut, which stretched out over two nights, and a European cut that included nudity and unexpurgated language. This one is 135 minutes long, has the language, but not the nudity--a swifter-moving entity than either of the previous films. It can't really be called a definitive issue, although the power of the material still comes through. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews:

  • Not bad
    It's okay but they left out all the good stuff. the original is alot better in my opionion. When she's having Sex with Gary they cut out most of the nudity if not all!!...more info
  • Tommy Lee Jones is Fantastic
    Tommy Lee Jones really did an exceptional job in this film, he really had me feeling sorry for Gary Gilmore. This is an excellent film, I highly recommend it....more info
  • Director's Cut? More like Butcher's Cut!
    This once great movie has been severely edited, leaving out many scenes. I've been anticipating the release of this movie for a long time, so this is a disappointment. There is none of the chemistry between the main actors. The movie jumps around and seems disconnected and hard to follow. I would not recommend this. Try to find a copy of the original VHS release and buy that, preferably digital. This movie needs to be released with all the original scenes, in the expanded version, otherwise it is a waste of time....more info
  • Why cut it ? Why ?
    People listen to me save your hard earned money and buy the first VHS tape of this, not the Euro one but the first one include 50 more min of the movie not shown on this DVD. I waited a long time for this to come out on DVD ,then you only see half of it . ...more info
  • A skillful telling of an ugly tale
    Tommy Lee Jones excels in this seedy, depressing biopic about Gary Gilmore, a violence-prone petty criminal who found infamy as the first person executed in the United States after a federal ban on the death penalty was lifted in 1976. Gilmore was a classic American grotesque -- a high school dropout who fell into an life of crime and was repeatedly arrested and jailed, he became a hardened criminal and a sociopath who lashed out thoughtlessly time and time again, culminating in two senseless murders, just months after his release in 1976 from a twelve-year stint in prison. Yet he was also utterly unremarkable, one of countless thousands of losers who think nothing of violence and aggression, a creepy guy who just happened to be sent to death row when the tides were changing on the issue of capital punishment.

    First broadcast in 1982, five years after Gilmore was executed, this film is skillfully rendered and quite depressing, showing Gilmore's fitful attempts to reintegrate into society, his failures, and his mounting anger as his life grinds to a halt despite his newfound freedom. Jones is all twitchiness and hot-headed reaction, a restless bundle of nervous, blind, stupid anger -- his performance deservedly won an Emmy award, having created one of the most repellent, queasy characters to ever hit the small screen. The middle section of the film follows Gilmore's romance with a single-mother local biker chick (played by Rosanna Arquette), a haphazard relationship that swiftly descends into domestic violence and triggers a cycle of blind aggression, ending with two cold-blooded murders, and Gilmore's inevitable arrest.

    The question of course is whether this film glamorizes murder, or if it provides any useful insights or social commentary. The answer to both of these questions is a little bit yes, and a little bit no. It is a very well-crafted, compelling production. The ensemble cast is strong, and Jones's depiction of a bumbling, semi-catatonic sociopath is impressive. The rawness of the sexual content and the realistic use of curse words (I watched the "Director's Cut" version) is a bit shocking, even at this late date in our violence-saturated media culture. But the film doesn't really glamorize Gary Gilmore, or his actions, and doesn't build a cult of personality around him the way that, say, films about the Zodiac Killer or Ed Gein might do. Gilmore is about as un-sexy and unattractive a man as possible, a loser adrift in an unappealing white trash subculture who can think of nothing better to do than pick up a gun and exorcise his own frustrations by carelessly killing two complete strangers. Likewise, the murders he commits are casual and thoughtless, and occupy little time onscreen. If anything, this film could be seen as a comment on the banality of evil, writ small, showing just how dull and just how common murder and violence can really be... A thought that, in its way, is even more chilling than the more amped-up murderers-are-cool imagery that dominates contemporary American popular culture. I wouldn't say that this is a particularly enriching movie -- there are better things to spend you time on -- but it is not sensationalistic and it does have some heft to it. Worth checking out, although it will probably mostly appeal to crime story aficianados and serial-killer buffs....more info
  • This "Director's Cut" Is An Outrage
    For many years, I'd been hoping to see "The Executioner's Song" released on DVD. But now that it's finally available, the result is extremely disappointing.

    A "director's cut" usually indicates that a movie has had footage ADDED to it. But Lawrence Schiller has done the unimaginable and ripped 50 minutes from his three-hour film! I mean, WHY? Did Schiller actually believe that anyone would be happy to see nearly one-third of "Executioner's Song" hacked away?!

    For anyone who is familiar with this movie (either from the VHS version or broadcast viewings), watching Schiller's "director's cut" is a very frustrating experience since none of the many deleted scenes were superfluous to the film!

    In addition, the total lack of any extras on this DVD is another big disappointment. I'd have gladly paid more to see a "making of" documentary or interviews with the principal actors (who are all still living 26 years after the production of this movie).

    "The Executioner's Song" was one of the very best made-for-TV films of the 1980s and deserved far better than the cheap, hack-job of a DVD release it's gotten. I would advise a search for the VHS version--and then enjoy "The Executioner's Song" as is was meant to be seen.

    ...more info
  • two versions
    A well-acted film, with one of Tommy Lee Jones' most compelling performances. There are two versions of the film, though: a censored U.S. tv print, and an uncensored, edgier rest-of-the-planet version. The one shown recently on Universal's HD channel is the censored version, which probably doesn't bode well for us getting the complete print.
    MUCH LATER: as you can probably tell from the other reviews, this release, allegedly the director's cut, is the US tv version. On the plus side, the transfer is very good - better than any version I've seen....more info
  • The Raging Tornado's Demise
    I remember hearing the news reports of Gary Gilmore when I lived for a while in Utah. Those in the Utah Valley and the Spanish Fork valley had little, if any sympathy for that monster.

    The Executioner's Song vividly shows the dichotomy between one heartless product of deserved incarceration and the squeaky-clean Osmond image of "Happy Valley," Provo, Utah.

    This movie shows that there are those who need to be kept locked up, that even trying to rehabilitate them is a terrible risk to society. That raging tornado played exquisitly by Tommy Lee Jones executed two totally innocent BYU students just because he was mad at his girlfriend and he had a lust for an old white truck!

    There were many who worked to rehabilitate him, yet it was his nature to burn all bridges.

    I can't postulate if it was manly of him to take his sentence so literally. All I know is that the Utah Valley breathed a collective sigh of relief when that monster was shot.

    Although Norman Mailer tried in his book to capture all sides of the nightmare, he later was shot down when another convict he supported ans wrote about (In the Belly of the Beast) got paroled and murdered immediately after he was paroled!

    This film gives you something to think about!...more info
  • Please, Please Please bring it to DVD
    I absoulutley love this movie and recently went searching to buy a copy only to be faced with having to a pay a minimum of $55.00 for a used copy. Please, Please, Please bring this movie to DVD. Its a classic and stars Tommy Lee Jones any other better reason ????...more info
  • mis-representation
    This is a good movie but labled as directors cut you would exspect more in the movie not less. movie companys are re-relising movies under director cut and unrated just for sales. i remember seeing this on the movie networks years ago and it was shocking and controversial. this edition is substansialy shorter than the vhs version. if you have never seen this movie i do recomend it but if you can get the vhs edition.

    also it would be nice too have reveiws that are specifically for the product in question and not for every edition they produce it in....more info
  • Excellant movie
    What can you say about Tommy Lee Jones and Rosanna Arquette.
    THey are always great.
    ...more info
  • I Want My Two Hours Back
    I want my two hours back, the two hours of my life I wasted watching this abomination of a recut classic. How a director could savage and homogenize his greatest accomplishment is totally beyond me.

    Put simply, the original was white hot in it's display of the sexual magnetism between the two exceedingly pitiful main characters - hot enough to be the work Tommy Lee Jones and Roseanne Arquette's future performances would forever be judged against.

    But it isn't just the fleeting but heavenly sights of Ms. Arquette skirting in and out of the sheets that we're missing here. It's giant chunks of storytelling and character development.

    Dumbed down and made safe as milk, a daring film made dull as dishwater.

    Avoid at all costs. I mean it... if you see it at a yard sale for 49 cents, leave it on the pile with the broken 8 track player and the baby sneakers. Total rubbish....more info
  • Jones, Arquette Play Interesting-But-Sick 'Characters'
    For a long "television film," I thought this story moved along well, even with the main characters being so sleazy the story gets a little unappealing at times. Of course, when has Rosanna Arquette ever played anything else in her younger days? Also, when did she not show off her big breasts? (not that I'm complaining).

    As for Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the main character "Gary Gilmore," I've always found him interesting, too. In this, Jones plays the famous real-life killer while Arquette is "Nicole Baker," his teenage girlfriend. Jones does a nice job showing how mentally messed up Gilmore was back then.

    I was surprised at the language in here for a television movie, but then again, I saw the "European version" of this movie on a VHS. The American version, I assume, cut out some that language and perhaps some of Arquette's "skin."
    ...more info