17 November 2004 | benoit-3
Where is the rest of this film?
The short subject "La Rivière du Hibou" is only one part of a three-story anthology film by Robert Enrico called "Au coeur de la vie" ("In the Midst of Life", 1962) (please see "La Rivière du Hibou" elsewhere in IMDb). All three stories are inspired by Ambrose Bierce short stories about the American Civil War.
Something very strange happened to this particular episode of 'Au coeur de la vie'. First of all, it was proposed as Best Short Subject at the Oscars in 1962 and won, even though it had probably never been shown commercially that way in the US or anywhere else. Second, it was chosen as the very last episode of Rod Serling's TV series 'The Twilight Zone', in a cost-cutting gesture.
It is this truncated version that is generally available on VHS and DVD today. It is unfortunately not the way its director wanted it and the two other episodes of that film ('L'oiseau moqueur' and 'Chickamauga') have totally disappeared from everyone's consciousness.
That is really sad as I remember seeing the whole film in a cine-club in 1963 and going through a thoroughly gut-wrenching emotional experience because of the cumulative effect of these three stories which really bring home the profound tragedy of the American Civil War. Some producer somewhere probably decided that this film would be too intense to be shown in its entirety to an American audience and it has since sunk under the waters of forgetfulness, except for that maimed 'Twilight Zone' episode. For the record, "L'Oiseau moqueur" ("The Mockingbird") tells of the terrifying confrontation of two brothers on a battlefield and "Chickamauga" relates the famous battle from the point of view of a six-year-old deaf and mute child living on a plantation.
Let us all pray that somebody, somewhere will rescue it from the ravages of time before it is too late and make the whole thing available on DVD, in its original, uncut, uncompromised form, very, very soon
Note of interest: The flashback scenes of Maximus in "Gladiator" are directly, shall we say, "inspired" by the same scenes in "La Rivière du Hibou". As much as I despise "Gladiator", I have to admire its director's good taste in borrowing from the best. Also note that the sad twist-ending of the Director's Cut of "Brazil" is also diredtly inspired by the ending of the famous "La Rivière au Hibou/Occurrence at Owl's Creek" episode.