I don’t agree personally. Here’s a comparison between the UK DVD and the first UK VHS:
There are official composites on DVD where the quality of the footage is even worse (for example, the Shameless release of The Designated Victim) but most fans would rather have that than nothing at all. If it really was important, a composite between two VHS tapes could be made to ensure that the quality was more or less the same but I still don’t think fans would care. I remember the quality on the last UK VHS release in the 90s is also clearer than these screen-shots, which are taken from the 1980s CIC release.
The fact that the composite was used for TV screenings is more justification for a proper release. TV cuts are being offered as bonus features quite often. The Repo Man Blu-rays included both the theatrical and the TV cuts and the Death Wish 2 Blu-Ray from Australia included the TV cut on DVD. Such bonus features usually boost sales out of film fans’ curiosity.
As Stanton said, it’s more critical in its presentation of the army. The additional scene with the Captain and the Major is sorely missed from Aldrich’s cut and offers better character development:
The scene with Ulzana messing around with his son makes the Apaches less one-dimensional, showing us a more human side to Ulzana:
And the scene showing us the death of Miller helps to fill in some plot holes:
There are certainly more flaws in Lancaster’s version. I would disagree with Stanton and argue that the pace is better in Aldrich’s cut. Lancaster shortens too many good scenes and prolongs others to ensure he always has the last say. It does come across as a bit of an ego trip at times but I think some scenes were better when prolonged. The additional dialogue from Lancaster about the mission ahead works better for me:
The only scene I would cut is the additional dialogue between DeBuin and MacIntosh right after Mrs. Riordan attempts suicide:
The scene works better when it cuts right after DeBuin says, “I want him.” In Lancaster’s version, it ends with MacIntosh saying “just sayin’ my say” and it feels like Lancaster only included the additional dialogue for that very reason, to ensure he had the last say.
Both versions have advantages and disadvantages. A composite can only make it a better film since the material is all very good and helps to fill in the gaps. Even still, Lancaster’s cut should be restored since it was the version released on European cinemas. It’s also the first version of the film I remember watching on UK television.