In 1992, I watched this movie in a local theater in Southern California. I was enthralled and loved the movie, and watched it a second time. And that was the last time I ever saw this version of this movie.
In 2000, I got the Director's Cut version of the DVD. I was appalled by how different the Director's Cut was from the version that I remembered from 1992 (I hadn't seen the movie in the interval eight years). I posted my comments at the time on Amazon.com as to what I remembered to be the differences between the two versions on March 23, 2000. That post is still on this website, if you can manage to slog through the hundreds of posts ahead of it.
If you read that post, you will notice that I am describing a really different movie - at that time I really thought that the movie that I saw in 1992 was what everybody else saw in the theaters.
Recently, I discovered, to my chagrin, that the version that I saw in the theater in 1992, was most likely a "preview" version, not the Main Theatrical version that was released later, which probably most everybody else saw in 1992. I don't have the foggiest idea how I ended up watching a "preview" version of this movie, but that's what must have happened, based on a lot of researching around.
And so, I only recently discovered that this Main Theatrical version was the one that was put into all of the VHS tape versions of this movie. The VHS tapes have not changed versions. DVDs in Region 4 (Australia) and Region 2 encoding have been released recently that also contain this Main Theatrical version.
Having finally figured out that there were really three versions of this movie, I can say now that the differences between the Director's Cut version and the Main Theatrical version are actually relatively minor, compared to the differences between the "preview" version that I saw. In the Director's Cut, Hawkeye has some of his snappy one-liners cut out, Cora has a line at the waterfall cut, the Clannad song is cut, Duncan has an extra scene fighting with his men at the fort, and Chingachgook has some more words to say at end. That's pretty much it.
In my Amazon.com review of March 23, 2000, I went into a good amount of detail as to what the major differences were between the "preview" theatrical version that I saw and the Director's Cut. I won't repeat all of these details. There were so many scenes changed or removed that the preview version was practically a different movie.
The preview version was a significantly longer movie - it had more scenes of Hawkeye and Cora together at the fort, with a greater buildup to their romance; it had a true Uncas- Alice love story, and makes clear in their final scene at the cliff that they died for each other, and died together (in the preview version, there was a clear-cut shot of their bodies together at the bottom of the cliff, which was changed to a wide-angled shot of the bottom of the cliff where their bodies are just tiny indistinguishable specks).
The preview version also had more of an anachronistic, hip, Miami Vice sort of stylishness. Miami Vice, had been, after all, Michael Mann's previous gig. My guess is that it was mainly to get away from this previous style and to give it more of a gritty, historical feel that the movie was heavily re-edited for the Main Theatrical release; it seems to have been re-edited again in even more of this same make-it more-historical vein in 1999 for the Director's Cut.
To the best of my knowledge, this "preview" version of "The Last of the Mohicans" has never seen the light of day again since 1992.
Which is truly a pity, because the newer fans of this movie ought to know that there were indeed THREE versions of this movie. The preview version was a much more romantic, visually powerful film. Fox should release it again - so many "Special Edition" DVDs are being released now with deleted scenes, "making of" stories and so forth. If Fox were to release this preview version, packaged together with the Main Theatrical version, as well as deleted scenes (there was apparently more of the Uncas-Alice love story at the waterfall), they would have a real winner for the Region 1 market. Currently, in Region 1 (US/Canada) the DVD of this movie is available only in the Director's Cut version. What a shame.
I'd be the first in line to buy this preview version of this movie.