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2001: A Space Odyssey - The Missing Pieces

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Ken Kunkel Date: 29.03.2014
It is strange how the mind works. The older one gets, one can forget what happened yesterday but can remember details from decades ago. Now, I love movies. Growing up, I virtually spent my weekends in movie theaters. I even went to see some films multiple times, even in the same day. When I was a senior in high school, I took my two younger sisters to the Warner Cinerama Theatre in downtown Pittsburgh to see "2001: A Space Odyssey." It was the first week in town. (I always tried to get tickets for the first week of a roadshow. I knew how they would sometimes cut these films a few weeks after release.)

The three of us were extremely impressed with Kubrick's vision and spent the bus ride home in a spirited discussion. Now, based on our watches, we noticed that the film ran for 2 hours and 40 minutes plus a 15 minute intermission. Why? Because we missed the first dinner bus. Therefore, we were there almost 3 hours. I do not know how Pittsburgh got this version. Supposedly, it was already cut.

We saw the movie again a few more times in the neighborhood theaters and we were were shocked by the cut 2 hour 19 minute version. We found the rhythm jarring because the original version we saw was very smooth. It was hard for me to believe that Kubrick actually approved this mess.

Ever since then, I have managed to bore everyone to death telling everyone what the missing pieces are. My wife, patient saint that she is, continually asks how I can remember such details. (Did I tell you how much I love movies? That I grew up with them? That I could remember the nitty gritty details of most of them?)

Here are some of the basic cuts. Some of the major ones are very easy to remember aince Kubrick employed a certain technique in 2001: he liked to repeat or reproduce shots. Let's review the edits:

1) There is the scene where the "bad" apes slowly crawl up the rocks to the watering hole to sneak up on the "good" apes. You see most of that scene today. It started with empty rocks and then the "bad" apes begin to appear. Now, when the "good" apes return with their weapons to attack, that scene is exactly reproduced. It starts with the empty rocks and they slowly clmb. You notice that these apes are carrying bones as weapons and the suspense builds. You don't see that today. It suddenly jumps from the apes being on the ascent to jarringly jumping up and down on the rocks. What was lost? Smoothness.

2) Other lost ape shots had more to do with showing the family interactions between the apes who were pushed out of the watering hole.
More in 70mm reading:

Stanley Kubrick's "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70

The Original Reserved Seat Engagements Of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

2001: a space odyssey Campaign

2001: A Space Odyssey Essential Presentation Procedure

"2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" Production Information

Zero Gravity Toilet

Internet link:

2001 cut footage

Type setting in the future

3) The Orion spacecraft approaching the space station with the Blue Danube waltzing in the background is an iconic sequence in film history. Perhaps to emphasize the Cinerama aspect of the film, the camera glides through the spokes into the space beyond. In the original, it was repeated twice with a couple extra angles of the space ship approaching. I can still remember thinking "Why are we doing this again?" But, it was nice to continue hearing the Blue Danube. But I also remember more goosebumps.

4) Now, this sequence really "gets my goat" and destroys the goosebumps. It convinces me that Kubrick must not have been involved. The sequence is the landing of the sphere ship on the moon. Here's the original: a shot looking down at the closed landing dome as it slowly opens, the shot looking up from the floor of the dome as the ship approaches (now you know what you're looking at), the shot of the dome looking down from the outside as it opens even wider. The shot of the ship landing on the surface. The new sequence rearranges the shots making no continuity sense. Suddenly you are looking up as the dome opens but you don't know where you are since you did not see the dome open. It jerks your mind and, in my opinion, destroys the rising emotions.

5) The next is another repeat segment. After the "Jupiter Mission" title card, there is a long sequence of the Discovery ship passing by the camera. First at an angle and then directly on from the side. (Lovingly recreated by George Lucas in "Star Wars.") Well, this is completely repeated as the film returns after intermission. The new version cuts it after a few seconds. Again, jarring. Something lost? Maybe, maybe not. Does suspense need to build again since we know that HAL can lip read and something is about to happen?

6) A famous sequence of David Bowman removing the AE-35 unit from a storage compartment in that famous white and black corridor was removed.

7) Another repeat shot. The first time Bowman leaves the ship in his pod to retrieve the "faulty" communication device is a slow sequence. The pod slowly is extended into space, it rises, turns around, shining its' lights onto Poole, and rises above it the sphere. From behind the spherical portion of the ship, We see his pod slowly rising above it. Well, this sequence is exactly repeated when Poole leaves the ship to put the device back. Something lost? Suspense perhaps?

I do not how it happened but my sisters and I managed to see the original "2001: A Space Odyssey" in Pittsburgh. When we see it today, the memory of those missing pieces still linger. I wish we could find an original copy somewhere. I also wish I could remember where I put my car keys.
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Updated 07-01-21