One of those mythical Hollywood disasters, spoken of in the same hushed tones as Ishtar, Waterworld* and any of Mel Gibson's recent utterances, back in 1980 Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate was talked about much more than it was seen. But its restoration and impending re-release gives film fans the chance to judge whether posterity has been kinder to the epic Western than critics were at the time.
Momentarily sidelining cast members Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert and Jeff Bridges, the new poster zones in on the noise and fury of the old West. One of the Cimino's greatest assets, the photography of Vilmos Zsigmond, captures the dust of the wagon trail. It's all authentic too, as Cimino insisted that his cast learnt all the tasks demanded by the West.
Two years after The Deer Hunter collected five Oscars and plenty of critical cachet, the fallout dealt a killer blow to Cimino's career. The stories from set - the 165 days of retakes, 1.5m feet of film shot, a complete reconstruction of entire town fronts, injured animals and United Artists' collective migraine back in Hollywood - have an element of Blazing Saddles farce about them, but the final film is still proclaimed by Kristofferson and Bridges as among the best they've made.
Set in 1890, the Cimino-penned story centres on the Johnson County War and finds its tension in the clash of interests between disparate groups (beef barons vs downtrodden immigrants) and its texture in a long, languid exploration of Wyoming's small communities.
See it for yourself when Heaven's Gate gets a UK re-release on August 2.
* The umblically-connected lore of Hollywood flops, of course, scored Waterworld the nickname 'Kevin's Gate'.