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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Unpacking the 3-hour Planes, Trains And Automobiles cut that could've been

Illustration for article titled Unpacking the 3-hour Planes, Trains And Automobiles cut that could've been
Photo: Paramount Pictures (Getty Images)

It’s well-known amongst Hughes Heads by this point that Thanksgiving staple Planes, Trains And Automobiles originally ran well over three hours in its first cut. The script was said to be 145 pages. The deleted scenes, only one of which is readily available, run longer than the finished cut of the film. For most, this would render a movie unwatchable, its runtime littered with incongruous references and huge story lapses. But the final cut of Planes remains swift, funny, and cogent, a beloved bit of feel-good holiday hijinks.


But if you’re the sort who longs for more of Steve Martin and John Candy’s mismatched road trip comedy, then feel free to immerse yourselves in a new video essay from Hats Off Entertainment. Across roughly 17 minutes, the narrator unpacks the lore of this lost cut while highlighting what was lost along the way.

According to the original script and what has been said in various interviews over the years, entire characters and subplots are lost. One involves Laila Robins’ Susan, who suspects the “Del” he’s trapped with is actually a woman with whom he’s having an affair. Knowing this, the video posits, gives an extra bit of heft to the relief she feels when Neal and Del show up at the end. Another explains why Del has a black eye in the film’s latter half, and another still reveals the true identity of the thief that empties Neal’s wallet. Most revealingly, though, is a melancholy scene near the end wherein Del opens up about the death of his wife, his desire for community, and what it was about Neal that made his attachment so special.

Before he died, Hughes had little hopes of his extended cut seeing the light of day, with Hats Off reporting him as saying he believes it deteriorated in a vault somewhere. That hasn’t stopped them from introducing a #ReleaseTheHughesCut hashtag that could perhaps nudge some executive into trying to restore that lost footage. (Sadly, it’s very likely the Planes crowd isn’t nearly as online as the Snyder cult.)

As such, the original film will have to suffice. Unless, of course, that Will Smith and Kevin Hart remake sticks to Hughes’ original script. We’re not holding our breath.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.