It will take you a million light years from home … But will it bring you back?
Since Stargate the movie hit the home video market back in the mid 1990s, fans have had many choices and many chances to add it to their library. The film has been repackaged and released every few years in the past decade and a half. But what’s so special about each one, and how do you tell them apart?
To go along with this week’s lead-up to the Stargate Rewatch, we present GateWorld’s guide to the different editions of the film, which first hit theaters in October of 1994. We’re looking at U.S. releases here, though fans in other countries will certainly recognize the same (or similar) packaging and features.
Stargate (1995, DVD 1997)
Originally released on VHS (and 12-inch LaserDisc — there’s a copy in my collection), the basic release of the movie included the original theatrical cut and — before the advent of DVD, of course — no bonus material. But we loved it just the same, because we could watch death gliders strafe the desert city and Daniel rescue the princess on our own TV sets!
A digitally remastered version was released on VHS in letterbox format in 1997, which was also the first edition on DVD.
Stargate: Special Edition (1999)
The arrival of the DVD market gave studios and fans an incredible opportunity. For studios, they could re-release movies already out on VHS and get customers to snatch up the new copies, even if they already owned the movie on video tape. For fans it was a no-brainer: in addition to the vastly improved picture and audio quality, Stargate‘s Special Edition release included an audio commentary from filmmakers Roland Emmerich (director) and Dean Devlin (writer and producer) (who told us — among other things — that they had nothing whatsoever to do with that SG-1 TV show that had just begun).
To make things even better, the Special Edition sported a brand new director’s cut of the film. Devlin and Emmerich restored approximately nine minutes of footage from the cutting room floor, including some of these favorites:
- Instead of opening up on the discovery of the Stargate in 1928, the film begins with Ra’s abduction of his human host thousands of years ago. A little bit of this is later revisited in the flashback sequence as Daniel narrates the story he’s read on the cave wall, but the original opening was much longer.
- The Stargate isn’t the only thing dug up in Egypt in 1928. Archeologists working for Dr. Langford also found a pair of petrified alien warriors (Horus guards), who were either buried with the Stargate or tried to come through after it was buried.
- Later, inside the military research facility, General West and Colonel O’Neill look at the Horus remains in storage there, and have a clandestine conversation about the dangerous mission ahead. They know, but aren’t telling anyone else, that there are likely to be hostile aliens on the other side.
- Daniel Jackson convinces the General to let him go through the Stargate because he guarantees he’ll be able to find the address back to Earth on the other side and dial the team home. In the theatrical version, O’Neill turns to the General and says, “It’s your call …” In the director’s cut, his line about Jackson is: “He’s full of shit.”
- When the sandstorm approaches the alien city of Nagada, the team loses contact with those soldiers they left back at the pyramid and try to leave. Skaara and the others stop them and shut the city doors, causing a hostile reaction from the soldiers that nearly gets the kids shot. Only when Skaara shows O’Neil the approaching storm do they figure out that they aren’t being held against their will.
Fan consensus (if there is such a thing) is generally that the director’s cut is preferred, since it adds a few elements to the mythology (like the discovery of the fossilized Jaffa warriors in 1928) that shed light on the rest of the film, such as the military’s attitude and the reason why Jack was given a suicide mission — apparently even before the gate was successfully dialed.
Stargate: Ultimate Edition (2003)
Lions Gate (note that it’s not MGM that owns the distribution rights to the film) released the Ultimate Edition largely as a repackaging effort to boost flagging sales of back catalog titles like Stargate. It included both the theatrical version and the director’s cut of the film, and the same producers’ commentary from the Special Edition. What’s new here was the addition of a couple of bonus featurettes, the most notable of which is a 20-minute piece that gave fans a look behind-the-scenes at the making of the film — including some memorable shots of the crew on location in under the hot desert sun in Yuma, Arizona.
Stargate: Extended Cut (2006)
This was Stargate‘s first arrival on the new Blu-ray high definition format. Though the cover art is the same as the Ultimate Edition, the film’s first 1080 transfer includes only the longer cut of the film and the audio commentary — no other bonus features. But hey, it’s a first try on a new format that, at the time, was expensive to produce.
Stargate: 15th Anniversary Edition (2009)
Marking the movie’s 15th anniversary, this latest edition is by far the most comprehensive. It includes both cuts of the film, the producers’ commentary, the making-of featurette, and several newly-produced featurettes, including recent interviews with members of the film’s cast and crew looking back on the production — 4 hours of bonus material (including the 2-hour commentary), the studio boasts. There’s also a never before seen gag reel, and an interactive game. The audio track has also been upgraded to a lossless 7.1 DTS-HD master track.
(To mark the film’s twentieth anniversary in 2014, Stargate was re-released on Blu-ray with slightly altered packaging, with the “15th Anniversary Edition” removed from the top. This edition includes both the Blu-ray and a digital HD download code. The contents of the disc are the same, including both the original and director’s cuts of the movie.)
For a bit of nostalgia, check out a 10-minute promo reel for the film (looks like it was cut before the movie hit theaters) on YouTube. It includes several of those cut scenes described above, as well as alternate takes and edits on familiar scenes!