The turkey was buttered and cleaned, the pecan pies devoured, and the parade watched, but for many movie fans, it’s not Thanksgiving without a rewatch of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
In the UK, John Hughes’ 1987 comedy classic – about two unlikely friends who appear to be opposites but are actually very similar – is considered something of a Christmas movie (one of the most recent DVD and Blu-ray releases is Christmas-themed ) and with the season upon us, it will soon be our turn to once again join Neal Page and Del Griffith in the raid.
And, thanks to a recent discovery, it’s now even better. A new 4K re-release includes over 75 minutes of never-before-seen deleted and extended footage that, until this year, was thought to be lost.
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Seen as something of a risk for Hughes after making a name for himself with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful – more teenage stuff – Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was not as big a departure as many had anticipated and he was, and always will be, classic Hughes.
Released in 1987, the film was based on an actual flight the writer/director took from New York to Chicago, which in turn was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, and reportedly took him five days to get back to home with various delays.
The experience left such a deep impression on him that he wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days and immediately wanted to make the film, both as a comedy and as a chance to skew his target audience from young to slightly older.
The roles of Del Griffith and Neal Page, the unlikely duo who stayed together for days with no end in sight, were played by the late, great John Candy and Steve Martin, both eager to work with Hughes. In fact, Martin was immediately convinced of the film when he read the “car seat adjustment” and his now infamous “F-bomb” tirade at the Marathon car rental desk.
Flying into theaters, the film was a hit, grossing $49 million in the US alone, as well as topping the UK box office, and not only became a Thanksgiving staple, but also established itself as both one of the cinema comedies that like an odd couple / best friends movies.
Candy and Martin gave arguably their best performances of their fruitful careers, reprized by both calling it the best film they ever worked on. But, for all its charm, laughter, and subtle foundation, one question has long remained unanswered in the thirty-five years since its debut.
What happened to the unedited version of the film teased in the theatrical trailer?
There has been much speculation over the years that the footage would never see the light of day, due to the passage of time.
But the footage survived and was recently rediscovered as part of the director’s archives. While the quality is only of VHS standard – and one that has worn down over the years – it gives us an idea of the original film version, how much Hughes had filmed, and how good Martin’s rapport and improvisational skills were. and Candy were together, so much so that the first cut assembled would take 3 1/2 hours.
Much of the cut footage has been found and much of it is very entertaining, although it was probably smart of Hughes to have much of it cut because, like the stuffed bird at the center of Thanksgiving, it would have been perhaps a little too much. with such an epic runtime similar to Avatar.
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A video made by Hats Off Entertainment about the original ‘lost’ version that appeared on YouTube in 2020 is worth watching which explores the story and delves into the deleted scenes, alternate takes, extended cutscenes and trailers which contained a lot of the footage and is a fantastic complement of the 4K version.
What you can find on the disk is this:
Waiting to board (extended)
Airplane food (deleted)
Dooby’s Taxiola (extended)
Edelen’s Braidwood Inn – Part 1 (Extended)
Edelen’s Braidwood Inn – Part 2 (Extended)
Broken for Breakfast (extended)
99 bottles of beer on the bus (canceled)
The El Rancho Motel (extended)
Oshkonoggin’s Cheese Truck (extended)
Much of the footage comes from pre-existing scenes that were either recut or alternate versions used in the final film, but all of the scenes provide a fascinating window into the enjoyment everyone had on set and having Martin and Candy so in sync with their performances and characters which they recorded so much.
Martin told Scene by Scene with Mark Cousins: “We were going to improvise longer than the reel, so he (Hughes) would let it run for 11 minutes without cutting… the original cut of the film was 4 1/2 hours. There would be a director’s cut to see!
There is an abundance of extra scenes and laughs to be had in the plethora of scenes, with the Braidwood Inn and Breakfast scenes arguably the funniest of the bunch but as with the film itself, there’s nothing better than spending some time with Neal and Del, whether by land, sky or rail.
4K Ultra HD planes, trains and cars are on sale now. Watch a trailer below.