The Punisher 1989 Work-Print (Arrow Recommends)

The Punisher 1989 Work-Print (Arrow Recommends)
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"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: Since the death of his family at the hands of the Italian mob, Frank Castle (Lundgren) spends the bulk on his time meditating butt naked in the city sewers and violently whacking out criminal scum. But when the Yakusa (Japanese mafia) hits town to start a war with the Italians, he finds himself doubling up on his scum extermination quota. Rock and roll!

"Come! Do it! Do it! Blow my head off!" – Frank Castle

LOWDOWN: Having just gunned out my thoughts om the uncut version of Mark Goldblatt's criminally underrated take on THE PUNISHER (and here are my old 2 cents on the theatrical version), still on a thirst for 1989 Castle-Loving, I opted to give the Work-Print of the picture a gander (also included on this Blu-Ray which works on most players and works on my PS3. Of course if you have an all region player - you're good to go). It's basically Goldbaltt’s initial cut before it got retooled in the editing room to become the theatrical cut we all know.  Now if you've never seen any versions of the 1989 PUNISHER - skip this drivel cause it will be SPOILER FILLED. Just circle back once you've done your Castle 1989 home work. ;)

The key differences between the final cut (and the uncut version - from now on I'll just call them both "final cut" for simplicity's sake) and this Work-Print was the film's opening and it’s ending (the Dolph monologues were not edited in at this stage BTW). In the final cut, Castle is already The Punisher and what led him there (the murder of his family by the mob) is lightly addressed via flashbacks.

The Work-Print on the other stab introduces us to Frank before the fact. He's a regular cop on a stake out with his partner Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Junior). Rookie Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard) is also in the house off the bat, undercover as a prostitute (what else). We then get some scenes of Frank's "they're so in love" interaction with his wife and kids and how Berkowitz's fit in that picture as best pal (think the Riggs and Murtaugh dynamic in Lethal Weapon with Berkowitz being the damaged one and Castle trying to help him out) .

Granted, this lengthy opening humanized Frank, so you feel more for him when he's in the dumps down the road. It also completely set up Berkowitz as being a very important part of Frank's family (again think the Lethal Weapon dynamic) and that made the drama that ensued between the two later on hit harder. Moreover, here Leary is introduced to Berkowitz early on, hence justifying why he accepts her as his partner 5 years later when Frank IS The Punisher.

Alas, that extra 17 minutes before the real juice kicked in made the core of the story start later.So although it gave the whole more meat and gapped some minor subplot inconsistencies that are found in the final cut; I preferred the latter's way of going about it. I was more interested in action than relationships with this film and being that I already knew why Frank Castle became The Punisher beforehand, I didn't crave or need that exposition (the flashbacks in the final cut sufficed). It might be a totally different story to somebody who is totally virgin to the material though. The f*ck I know.

Director Mark Goldbaltt had this to say about removing the prologue: “We figured out that the origin sequence would have taken up the film's first 17 minutes, and we felt it was important to get into the Punisher's world right away. So we decided to create the origin in a flashback sequence and integrate it totally into the Punisher's world and make this a true Punisher film from beginning to end."   And I agree with him.

This Work-Print also sported the uncensored violence of the uncut take on the movie and it filled in the blanks that the final cut had in terms of the investigation angle on Frank. Here, Sam Leary brings up the sewer system on her computer, hence justifying why they go under to look for Frankie Boy and I appreciated that little tidbit, it made the subplot make more sense. Throughout the film, other small add-ons had to do with alternate takes, difference of order in terms of scenes .but those didn't affect the whole much when compared to the final cut. I did get whooped during one crucial instance though...

The ending. It changed the way Gianni Franco (played by the great Jeroen Krabbe) expired but more importantly it went "all the way" with Castle's interaction with Franco's son. It made for quite the intense scene for Dolph, gut wrenching to be honest, and I'm not sure why they changed it that moment for the final cut. Maybe it was too intense? Either way. It should have stayed in.

Overall, I gotta say it, my preferred cut of THE PUNISHER 1989 is still the uncut version. Sometimes less is more and although I loved devouring all of the additional footage; it didn’t make for a better film. I’ll take a quicker pace and jumping into the action ASAP in a Punisher movie over lingering on exposition and drama for too long any day. On that, it's definitely a must watch for fans of the film though. A groovy curiosity item! So check it out if you ever get the chance. If you've seen all of the cuts, which one did you prefer and why? Talk to me via the comments below.

PS: There was a comic book adaption of the 1989 The Punisher movie. You can get it here! Just ordered mine.



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