In the early 1990s, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (the creators of Max Headroom) got to work on a live-action adaptation of Super Mario, reimagined as a more adult-oriented satire set in a gritty sci-fi dystopia. Then Disney purchased the distribution rights to the movie and tried to turn it into a more kid-friendly story about a shroom addict murdering turtles. But since a lot of work had already been done on Morton's and Jankel's idea, the House of Mouse ultimately tried to sort of do both versions ... Succeeding at neither, pleasing no one, and ending up with everyone mentioning Super Mario Bros. (1993) in every Worst Video Game Movie article ever written.

Besides hiring script doctors without consulting with Morton and Jankel, Disney also locked them out of the movie's final edit, removing well over 20 minutes from the finished product. However, that missing footage was discovered on an old VHS tape in 2019, which was one lucky goddamn break. Usually, when you find hidden-away VHS tapes, the best-case scenario is you being disappointed that someone recorded over footage of your birthday party. The worst-case scenario is discovering footage of your conception. The worst-case scenario is the surprise cameo by Uncle Randy in the latter.

Anyway, since then, the cut scenes have been restored, spliced into the theatrical release of Super Mario Bros., and released via the Internet Archive as "The Morton Jankel Cut." Is it like the Director's Cut of Daredevil that actually makes the original pile of Koopa Poop-a sort of good? Not really. We get a bit more info about the Mario brothers' rival Scapelli company, and also learn much sooner that the main characters' surname is "Mario." In case you blocked this memory: Yeah, in the movie, Bob Hoskins' character is literally called "Mario Mario," like in some twisted crossover between The Sopranos and Pokémon. There is also a rap scene featuring such inspired lyrics as "Koopa, the party poopah." Wondrous.

The Morton Jankel Cut was the passion project of Ryan Parente, Steven Applebaum, and Ryan Hoss, but it was only made possible thanks to Garrett Gilchrist, who also helped restore the infamous The Thief and the Cobbler. Besides adding in the "pipe noise" from the original game into the movie when Mario and Luigi go down a pipe (BECAUSE GARRETT GILCHRIST IS A GODDAMN HERO), the man spent an insane amount of time restoring the terrible VHS footage into DVD-like quality.

Gilchrist started by taking two VHS transfers of the missing footage and putting them together to make one of the most hated video game movies longer. He went frame by frame, removing damage, dirt, and noise from the scenes … while using AI. Gilchrist relied heavily on "artificial intelligence" to get, say, the Remini photo enhancer app to fix out-of-focus faces or improperly colored scenes. This gets really technical at times, especially for those of us who still think Paint is the greatest artistic software ever, but if you have the time, listen to Gilchrist explain it all

It's impossible to listen to someone talk passionately about something they know a lot about and not really get into it.

The Morton Jankel Cut doesn't really "fix" the original movie (though if that's what you're after, then I already did that), but it is fascinating because it shows true passion for the preservation of filmmaking. Anyone can care about saving a movie that's widely recognized as a classic and a masterpiece, like Gone with Citizen Casablanca, but it takes a bunch of true believers to spend a significant amount of their short time here on Earth saving the story of plumbers battling Donald Trump if he was a T-rex.

Buena Vista Pictures

 

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