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Heaven's Gate (1980)

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A dramatization of the real-life Johnson County War in 1890 Wyoming, in which a Sheriff born into wealth, attempts to protect immigrant farmers from rich cattle interests.

Director:

Michael Cimino

Writer:

Michael Cimino
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kris Kristofferson ... James Averill
Christopher Walken ... Nathan D. Champion (as Chris Walken)
John Hurt ... William C. Irvine
Sam Waterston ... Frank Canton
Brad Dourif ... Mr. Eggleston
Isabelle Huppert ... Ella Watson
Joseph Cotten ... The Reverend Doctor
Jeff Bridges ... John L. Bridges
Ronnie Hawkins ... Maj. Wolcott
Paul Koslo ... Mayor Charlie Lezak
Geoffrey Lewis ... Trapper Fred
Richard Masur ... Cully
Rosie Vela Rosie Vela ... Beautiful Girl (as Roseanne Vela)
Mary Catherine Wright Mary Catherine Wright ... Nell (as Mary C. Wright)
Nicholas Woodeson ... Small Man
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Storyline

Wyoming, 1890. James Averill is the Sherriff of Johnson County, a county largely inhabited by foreign immigrants. The wealthy cattle owners view the immigrant farmers as a nuisance and hindrance to them enlarging their own land. The cattlemen's association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, effectively declares war on the immigrant farmers, and gets the state government's blessing. They assemble an army of guns-for-hire, and, backed by US cavalry, set out to rid the state of the immigrants. James Averill's heart is with the immigrants but he is not sure they have a chance of winning the inevitable war. Written by grantss

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

What one loves about life are the things that fade. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian | French | Polish | German

Release Date:

19 November 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$44,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,032, 19 November 1980, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,484,331, 31 December 1981
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Partisan Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(1981 re-cut) | (original cut) | (2012 director's recut) | (rough cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

in 1983, the original theatrical 228 minute version was released for a limited screening at the NFT (national film theatre) in london. this was the first UK theatrical release of the original, critically mauled theatrical cut as opposed to the heavily edited 149 minute version which was previously released theatrically in the UK in 1981. after a favourable & positive response from film critics, the 228 minute version was then shown exclusively at THE PLAZA cinema (now a TESCOS store) in london's west end. after moderate ticket sales which resulted in a profit of about £3,000; further planned theatrical releases of the 228 minute version in the UK were shelved. See more »

Goofs

The period steam engine is a coal fired engine, with black smoke. In the West, steam engines had wide, open smokestacks for burning cheap, plentiful wood, producing white smoke and live cinders. In fact, piles of logs are stacked on the accompanying tender. See more »

Quotes

James Averill: You're not my class, Canton, and you never will be. You'd have to die first and be born again.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
(uncredited)
Music by William Steffe
Played by the marching band
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
If Cecil B. DeMille made art films...
19 April 2007 | by porbeagle_zenSee all my reviews

...they'd probably be better than this.

Towards the end of "Heaven's Gate", it dawned upon me that Michael Ciminio has no idea what his movie is about. Is it an epic adventure, a revisionist western, a character study, a snapshot of a historical period, a love story, a dramatic expose of corruption, an artful meditation on humanity? Cimino has no idea. He tries to make "Heaven's Gate" into all of these things, more or less failing.

It's not as if he was concerned about the damage this incoherence would do to the plot, characters, pacing, etc. The bottom line is SPECTACLE. The audience is supposed to be overwhelmed; by the epic subtext, cast of thousands, artistic lighting, the sheer money apparent on the screen. But any self-respecting viewer will tell you that being overwhelmed is not the same as being entertained.

Every scene presents a bare minimum of information to tell the story: There's a guy. We saw him before, I think. Now he's on a train. Now he's talking to somebody. Now he's mad. And so on. We get the gist of what's going on, with little clue why or how. Not that we care anyway, the characters are all constructed as supporting players to spectacle.

To make matters worse, every shot, scene, sequence, and subplot is about four times too long. There is one exception: the roller skating scene, filled with such energy and cinematic prowess that it seems tacked on from another picture. That alone was worth the price of admission. Almost.

Cimino has a relatively unimaginative style of direction, which appears standard on prime time TV. Yet Ciminio constantly gets lost in "fetishes", which apparently are dust, trains and horses. Dust is everywhere. Everywhere. Indoors, outdoors, in the middle of grassy fields. Sometimes there's so much dust you can't even see what's going on. Whenever a train appears, we are treated to beautiful, laborious shots that clog up the storyline. There are apparently less people in Johnson County than horses, who repeatedly hog the foreground. Even in the battle sequences. In fact, the dramatic scene at the end of Part I consists of horses riding off a train, obscured by dust. I'm serious.

This would be a film forgotten by time if it weren't for the titanic production misadventure that bankrupted an established movie studio, bringing the New Hollywood era down with it. Of course, "JAWS" and "Star Wars" are guilty too, but only in the best possible ways.

But "Heaven's Gate" is a sheer mess. Not a disaster, or an ostracized masterpiece. An unguided, absolute, sheer mess. Like T.S. Elliot, "This is the way the world ends/not with a bang but a whimper." It would feel a lot better if the age of the auteur that included "The Graduate", "Bonnie and Clyde", "2001", "The Godfather", "Taxi Driver", and "Apocalypse Now" had ended with a spectacular bomb.

But no. "Heaven's Gate" is Hollywood's whimper.


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