The Cotton Club Encore Blu Ray Review (Lionsgate)
The Cotton Club is a 1984 crime film co-written & directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders, & Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Coppola originally just signed on to the project as the writer but agreed to direct it after putting all his money into “One from the Heart”. Mario Puzo was the original co-writer for the production but got replaced by William Kennedy (Ironweed). 12 different scripts were finished for this & around 20 scrapped during the pre-production. It was produced by the legendary Robert Evans (The Godfather, Chinatown, The Two Jakes, Marathon Man, & Black Sunday). He was banned from the set at one point during the shoot. Richard Pryor was originally cast as Sandman Williams. It went over budget & it took 5 years to make. The budget was $58 million & it grossed $25.9 million worldwide at the box office. In 2017, Coppola spent $500,000 of his own money to restore this film with his own director’s cut that’s now known as “Encore” after finding an old Betamax video copy of his original cut that ran 27 minutes longer from his early edit of the production!!!!
Struggling Jazz musician Dixie Dwyer (played by: Richard Gere from Pretty Woman, American Gigolo, Internal Affairs, & Primal Fear) gets a job at the Cotton Club owned by mobster Owney Madden (played by: Bob Hoskins from The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, & Super Mario Bros.) with the help of his enforcer Frenchy Demange (played by: Fred Gwynne from The Munsters, Pet Sematary, Car 54, Where Are You?, & Fatal Attraction). Sandman Williams (played by: Gregory Hines from Running Scared, A Rage in Harlem, Wolfen, & Eve of Destruction) is a performer there with Dixie. Most of the artists at the club are black & the customers are white. Dixie’s brother Vincent (played by: Nicolas Cage from Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Leaving Las Vegas, & The Rock) starts working for gangster Dutch Schultz. Schultz brings Dixie in his circle after saving him plus being a fan of his music. This dangerous relationship has the musician interacting with the New York underworld including the infamous Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano (played by: Joe Dallesandro from The Limey, Sugar Hill, Wiseguy, & Killer Nun). This leads to him making a choice that will change his life forever. Dixie meets & ends up having an affair with Schultz’s girlfriend Vera Cicero (played by: Diane Lane from Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Streets of Fire, & The Outsiders) who is also in business with the jealous kingpin. Sandman’s love interest Lila Rose Oliver (played by: Lonette McKee from Brewster’s Millions, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, & He Got Game) is having problems with the Cotton Club management so Harlem’s own crime lord Bumpy Rhodes (played by: Laurence Fishburne from Hoodlum, The Matrix franchise, CSI, & John Wick 2/3) steps in to fix the issue. A brutal war between Owney Madden & Dutch Schultz is happening, who will be stuck in the crossfire????
This “Encore” version is like a completely different movie compared to the original. It features 27 minutes of unreleased footage from the early edit & it takes away 15 minutes from the theatrical cut. All the musical scenes are restored to their full version now. It adds more character development so the story is more complete in this “Encore” revisit. I’ve always loved this film but it’s even better now. The Cotton Club is probably Francis Ford Coppola’s most under-rated film. Ask anyone when they think Coppola & the crime sub genre, The Godfather franchise comes to mind right away. Most were expecting another Godfather when this was released but it’s completely different from that world. It mixed the criminal underworld with music. The soundtrack & score for The Cotton Club is one of the true highlights from the production. As you know, Francis Ford Coppola recently went back & did a new version of Apocalypse Now for it’s 4K release. Coppola also came back & revisited The Cotton Club for this brand new blu ray & it actually had some limited screenings around the world for this new “Encore” director’s cut edition of the feature. It was actually restored in 4K but the demand for this one isn’t as big compared to the highly regarded Apocalypse Now so it only got a blu ray release for now but the 4K version is available on streaming if you are curious about it. After all these years, it still holds up really good thanks to the great performances & excellent casting. Richard Gere & Gregory Hines delivered some of their best work here. The supporting cast is amazing, look at the all the talent it includes James Remar, Bob Hoskins, Fred Gwynne, Nicolas Cage, Lonette McKee, Laurence Fishburne, John P. Ryan, Tom Waits, & Joe Dallesandro. Plus lots of familiar character actors show up in smaller roles & cameos like James Russo, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Cobbs, Mark Margolis, Woody Strode, Ed O’Ross, & Julian Beck. Diane Lane is beautiful & she was top notch eye candy back then but I can see why she got nominated for a Razzie in this. The Cotton Club has one of the most legit characterizations & best portrayals of known mobster Dutch Schultz. It has a great balance of drama & flat out violence, it’s very entertaining. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Lionsgate! This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is from a brand new 4K restoration from director Francis Ford Coppola & it’s a massive improvement over every home video release. I reviewed the theatrical version on blu ray from Umbrella Entertainment awhile back & I thought it looked really good on there but this “Encore” release blows it away. It’s like watching a completely different film. Coppola added so much with his additional footage & it just shows how studio interference can really mess with the final production. When you compare this cut to the last U.S. release which was the DVD from 2001, it’s crazy on how much a format can improve something. It’s like night & day with this one. It’s definitely the best it’s ever looked! The director was so passionate about this project that he invested his own money to restore this. The English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is a huge upgrade & The Cotton Club really shines on it. The dialogue is crystal clear, all the madness is elevated, & the music here is the best thing about it. It also has English, English SDH, & Spanish subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features from Lionsgate! “Introduction to The Cotton Club Encore by Francis Ford Coppola” is a little over 2 minutes. It’s a quick intro from the director about this new reconstruction & restoration of the film. He mentions & pays tribute to several of the cast that’s no longer with us. He says it keeps their memory alive with this “Encore” cut. He chats about the struggles of originally putting it together & getting footage removed because they felt it was too long back then. “The Cotton Club Encore Q & A” is a little over 19 minutes. It features director Francis Ford Coppola, actors James Remar, & Maurice Hines. They bring up the talented cast that was put together for the production. Coppola mentions that’s why it was so hard to cut material from the final edit. He tells a funny story about actor Julian Beck & his long hair. Maurice brings up his late brother Gregory. He says his grandmother was an original Cotton Club showgirl & she said the set looked exactly like the real thing. He goes over his experience working with director Francis Ford Coppola. James Remar talks about this being the real premier that it always deserved. They mention the new cut improving the pace & flow dramatically. Coppola brings up the struggles of the production & what he had to go through for it. They answer questions from the crowd including about the music, cast, & producer Robert Evans. It also includes a slipcover, a digital code, & a DVD copy of the release. The 4K version is only available on streaming if interested. If you a fan of the original, this is a must own & it needs to be added to your collection. If you have never seen this before, now is the perfect time with this brand new director’s cut. I hope other older & forgotten films get this treatment in the future. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!