I was one of the few people who actually saw this in a cinema when it was originally released - or rather escaped - in 1998.
And I kinda liked it. Even though it was obvious the studio, in a blind panic, had butchered it beyond any semblance of coherence to get it down to under 90 mins. Presumably to cut their losses by squeezing as many screenings out the poor thing before the expected bad word-of-mouth killed it - a self-fulfilling prophecy if there was one. They never learn, do they?
That pretty much everything in the uber-cool, Primal Scream-scored UK trailer (including an expensive-looking pre-credits action set-piece) was absent from the release version kinda gave this away a bit.
Sure, Thurman and Fiennes are horribly miscast and have precisely zero onscreen chemistry (she looks terrible and he looks like he's about to burst into tears at any moment) but that kinda adds to the frankly bizarre surreality of the whole thing. And as for Connery - playing a "Bond villain," no less - would sir like eggs with that ham?
Even this cruelly mutilated version isn't anything as bad as the critics (in one of their periodic feeding frenzies) made out at the time - see also the not-half-as-bad-as-you-think Heaven's Gate and Hudson Hawk. Which is why I've always wanted to see a Director's Cut (anything from 115 to 150 mins depending on which rumours you believe or which test screening is cited - shades of Blade Runner).
At least the refreshingly quirky Avengers was something a bit different in what proved to be a headache-inducing summer. Time may yet prove kinder to this than the irredeemable likes of Godzilla or Armageddon. Better a noble failure than a great, big CGI turd.
I think The Avengers caught the semi-surreal spirit the archly self-conscious original better than it was credited for at the time. (Especially the much-maligned teddy bears' conference scene which was pure Avengers whimsy and, once seen, never forgotten!) Certainly better than, say, the Mission: Impossible franchise does. No wonder American test audiences hated it.
Almost 15 years later and on the original's 50th Anniversary, I think a re-assessment is long-overdue. And I'm pleasantly surprised to discover I am not alone in this sentiment. Belated cult status surely beckons. A process which would be helped no end by a timely release of the Director's Cut.
While we're on the subject, I'd also like to see a Director's Cut of the Stallone Judge Dredd which was similarly butchered by a panicking studio. Unlikely, I know. But if a Director's Cut of Highlander 2 (still not a good film by any means, but a vastly improved one) could see the light of day eventually, then anything is indeed possible. A fanboy can dream...