Critics aren’t allowed to like Jeannot Szwarc‘s Somewhere In Time (1980), in part because it’s been a huge sentimental hit with the wrong crowd for so many years. I’m not much of a fan, but I am a huge admirer of the final out-of-body and into-the-light sequence that ends the film. No, not the version shown in this YouTube clip, but a version that I saw at a critics’ screening nearly 30 years ago…but which hasn’t been seen since.
I asked about this when I happened to run into Somewhere in Time‘s cinematographer Isidore Mankofsky at the 2004 Newport Beach Film Festival. I told him that I’d always admired the finale as originally composed — a longish, ambitiously choreographed tracking shot meant to show what Christopher Reeve‘s character is experiencing as he passes from life into death.
My recollection is that it was assembled without edits with the camera adopting Reeve’s POV — leaving his body, slowly rising up to the ceiling and then slowly gliding toward a window and into a white light cloudscape, and eventually into the arms of Reeve’s lover Jane Seymour, who’s waiting at the end of a longish tunnel. It sounds a bit sappy, but it was quite moving and technically very cool. But then I’ve always been a sucker for any extended sequence pulled off without cuts or visual trickery of any kind.
Mankofsky told me that as the film was about to be released some executive at Universal decided that the shot went on a bit too long and had it trimmed with a couple of fade-edits. What resulted is the version you see above. This was vandalism, pure and simple. Mankofsky said that as far as he knew the original cut of this closing sequence no longer exists…but he wasn’t entirely sure.