Killing a Chinese Bookie
My intention with this edit was to trim or cut out as much of the extraneous scenes as possible. I wanted to make the pace faster. I also wanted to try to mold it into more a traditional gangster film. Interestingly, Martin Scorcese collaborated with Cassavetes on the plot of the movie.
L8wrtr, thank you for your infinite patience with me. Had I not started talking to you and asking for input and feedback I’m not sure if I would have made it this far! Thank you for providing feedback, input and suggestions. Thank you for your willingness to look over small details that I had questions about. And thanks for teaching me some new editing tricks which I’m sure I will make use of on future edits.
Thank you to ThrowgnCpr for feedback on my menu design.
Thanks to Captain Khajiit for answering my many questions about Womble.
Finally, a big thanks to the entire fanedit.org community!
I used Womble MPEG Video Wizard 5.0 for editing and DVD Lab Pro 2.0 for compiling my edit. Photoshop was used for menu design.
Rogue-theX helped me with a lot of things on this edit. He made a custom logo for the production company of the original film, custom title cards, a title card for my main menu and some fantastic cover art.
New Logo for Faces Distribution Company
New Title Cards (in the same font style as the original)
Cut almost all of the strip club performance scenes (dances and songs)
Cut Cosmo’s celebration at the bar.
Cut the limo picking up Rachel.
Changed the casino scenes. The first half is from the 1976 edition and the scenes of the doctor and wife talking to the gangsters is inserted from the 1978 edition.
Cut Cosmo auditioning the waitress and Rachel attacking the waitress.
Cut the waitress at the restaurant making small talk with Cosmo.
Cut Cosmo wincing from the gunshot wound.
Cut Cosmo at Rachel’s house talking with Rachel’s mother.
Cut Flo’s conversation with Cosmo in the warehouse (“you’re an amateur, take a walk”)
Cut out Flo saying “that man is my friend”
Shortened the scene where the gangster is hunting Cosmo.
Cut out some of Cosmo’s dialogue addressing the crowd (“how many mothers do we have in the audience”)
Cut out Cosmo’s explanation for Rachel leaving and toasting Rachel.
Cut out Cosmo jumping off the stage and grabbing his side and blood on his hands.
New Ending: Gunshot wound reveal with Cosmo standing on the sidewalk and freeze frame.
Cut out Mr. Sophistication singing “I can’t give you anything but love”
Edited the original credits/shortened the credits run time.
Replaced the song playing over the end credits.
Overview - Overlooked, difficult Cassavetes film about seedy nightclub owner who owes the mob large. Slate will be wiped if he performs a small service. Reference title.
Film plays like homage to French new wave of Truffaut, Godard, Resnais. Gazzara very much in the Delon mold.
Gatos chopped much from this - quite a bit, actually - but retained the integrity of the story.
Video - No artifacts or problems. Source material was never glossy or crisp, but the blacks are solid and the afternoon scenes never washed out. There was an awkward transition around the 19 minute mark. Fade to black ought to have been smoother, followed by an abrupt arrival of the mob. Felt grindhouse, perhaps by design.
Audio - Sound as good as it gets, which doesn’t say a lot. Plenty of mumbled, garbled dialogue, a shooting that sounds like a backfire, and a poorly miked Gazzarri’s. Can’t fault Gatos for this, and there was nothing worsened by his edit.
Narrative - This edit skews a little more grindhouse, much less arthouse. The pace remains slow, but if you doze you realize you missed a lot. This version is more straight ahead, less contemplative. No nitpicking here, but it seems like a lighter version. Had this been the released film, I suspect it would have done more business, but .eventually, Cassavetes fans would have flocked to the longer, director’s cut.
Enjoyment - I did enjoy this. More than I thought I would. Over the years, I have viewed The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie numerous times. Watched it at the Nuart every time it screened, later rented the VHS, then bought a copy. This was very much the LA of my late teens and Cassavetes did a haunting job capturing the late, late night.
Note - Gazzarri’s (where the Gazzara character runs his nightclub) was a hugely popular rock club, so every time I watch this I look for street rats I used to see nightly outside Gazzarri’s, the Strip, or on the Boulevard near the Pussy Cat.
Well recommended, with the warning that Gazzara behaves like a normal man caught in a vise. Modern, epic heroics do not apply. Wonderful little film, and Gatos’s edit is a nice way to introduce Cassavetes work to the uninitiated.
I watched the director’s cut once many years ago, never saw the theatrical. I really enjoyed Gatos’ take on the material, much better pacing and held my attention better. Editing was pretty smooth.
A/V Quality - 10
Editing - 10 visual, 9 audio
Narrative - 8
Enjoyment - 8 (original 7)
Recommended drink: Dirty Martini
Ever since he joined the fanediting community, Gatos has been known for thinking outside the box for his projects. And I'm very glad he does! I love when people edit stuff other than the usual blockbuster candidates. And I love it more when they do such a good job as in this case.
Gatos' firstling took an arthouse character piece and turned it into a lean, mean, to the point gangster film. Which is more than okay for me, as I love both arthouse character pieces and lean, mean, to the point gangster films. Contrary to Gatos' opinion I think the original '76 cut of this, the one I watched, is a fine film, if a bit slow. However, the edit is equally fine for different reasons. Gone are a lot of amazing acting moments from Gazzara and others, but there's not a dull moment in this cut and moves at a great flow. It doesn't replace the original for me but it's a welcome alternate.
However, I must point out a few things I didn't think worked that well. One is the fadeout-fadein at 0:19:02 (from Cosmo thanking the chauffeur to the gangsters arriving to the club at night) that others have mentioned, and which clashes with the overall style of the film. What prevented a simple straight cut? Other is, I think at least a little bit of one of the earlier club performances should have been preserved, as now the very first one we see is "After the Ball is Over", and having no earlier reference we don't get why Cosmo says "What the hell kind of number is this?" And the third is the quite puzzling (to me) decision to eliminate all references to Cosmo's wound until literally the last shot. Is it supposed to have been inflicted by the warehouse gunman in this cut? Or is it just an attempt to a surprise twist ending? Comes kind of out of nowhere. But overall, I enjoyed the whole thing a lot, and even some stuff I loved in the original and was cut from here, such as a lot of Tim Carey's most eccentric bits, wasn't really needed so I wasn't too sad to see go.
Audio and video quality? Top notch, as top notch was the editing job itself (well, aside from that fade...) I hope more viewers decide to check this one out, not everything has to be a strict diet of Star Wars prequels, right? If you like gangster movies and 1970s filmmaking, give this one a go.
May 19, 2011
One of the greatest things about fanediting, or at least “watching” a fanedit, is that occasionally you uncover a movie which you’ve never even heard of before. Such was the case when I started to keep track of the progress for Gatos’ first fanedit, entitled Killing a Chinese Bookie.
To my shame I don’t really know Nick Cassavetes’ work. Sure I had heard of him as an actor (and remember with great fondness the image of him being blown to pieces by Amy Irving in Brian De Palma’s The Fury), but as director? Nope, sorry, that bus must have passed me by. However, the first trailer which I saw from Gatos immediately got me interested and I eventually made the effort to buy the Criterion DVD to watch the original 1978 version.
I had been warned that Cassavetes is not the most conventional of film makers, but if anything this just heightened my interest and sure enough having sat through 108 minutes following a few days in the life of strip-club owner Cosmo Vitelli, a self possessing but well meaning man who gets involved in owing a rather large sum of money to some not so friendly gangster types, I smiled the kind of smile which you get after watching those rarest of cinematic gems – a truly unique movie. I loved Cassavetes style – from his long takes and restrained editing style to his quite superb use of the handheld camera – it just drew me into Cosmo’s world effortlessly. I then worried about what Gatos could do as a fanedit, such was the personal feeling which Cassavetes had given the movie. Well, a mixture of worry and excitement at any rate :)
Reading Gatos’ reasons for this fanedit, to make this a faster moving and more traditional gangster movie, it did initially take me some convincing that this would work. The fact I watched it on the same day as Cassavetes original version also meant I would be scrutinizing the changes perhaps more than I would normally. However, as some of the changes began to take shape in the first half of Gatos’ 78 minute edit, I relaxed and realised this was going to work just fine.
First things first, the technical stuff….
PICTURE: The quality was excellent, basically the same as the Criterion DVD. It has that lovely 1970′s film stock look (how I wish we could go backwards sometimes) and I never really noticed any glaring differences. There’s certainly no interlacing or anything like that. 9/10
AUDIO: Nice work again. No harsh cuts, drop outs or varying volume levels. 10/10
EDITING: This is the crux of the piece of course. For a firstling Gatos handles his choices superbly well. They all work in the context of the story he wants the movie to convey and the only slight gripe would be, as Rouge-theX pointed out, the somewhat ill-fitting and abrupt fade out/in during one scene. As there are no other fade outs in the movie (I think!), it just doesn’t seem to work and the fact that it is quite abrupt doesn’t help. However, that aside, the editing choices and execution of them were excellent. Well done Gatos. 9/10
ENTERTAINMENT: Big kudos here, as against the odds Gatos’ edit manages to maintain the personality of Cassavetes’ original version, despite the fact that 30 minutes is cut from the movie. It’s quite extraordinary that despite all the cutting of the strip club routines (most of them at any rate), scenes which helped shape Cosmo’s world I might add, the sense of character and realism within the piece is still retained at a pretty high level. True, it is certainly more of a traditional style gangster movie, but Gatos manages to leave enough to allow Ben Gazzara’s charismatic, yet naturalistic performance, to shine through in almost the same way it did in the original.
All in all this is a hugely impressive fanedit. It certainly won’t replace Cassavetes’ original for me, but as a more accessible version it works wonderfully well and certainly deserves to be seen. On the proof of this, I look forward to “OZ”, Gatos next project, with eager anticipation. Overall, I would score this 9/10.
Right, I’m off to watch Cassavetes’ 135 minute version from 1976… or maybe I might leave it a few days ;) Well done Gatos.
April 19, 2011
This review is based on my opinions and my own personal viewing experience, nothing is meant as an attack. Spoiler warning.
VIDEO: I watched this on my laptop monitor and the quality looked perfect to me, I never noticed any artifacting or anything like that.
AUDIO: Audio quality was just fine to me, i listened to this on my headphones even and nothing stood out. Well done!
EDITING: The story is told quite well, the plot is coherent, I did not feel that anything was missing. The only thing i didnt like was a slightly abrupt fade out/in scene transition, i know why it was done but i wouldn’t have made that move if it was my edit, this is a very minor gripe however.
ENTERTAINMENT: I found this to be very enjoyable, i like how the story seems to focus on the main charachter, and we follow the story with him, this makes things more engaging.
Very well done Gatos! 9/10