April 16, 2014

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Strange Endings to Movies We Know by Heart

Ever discover that movie you thought you knew ends differently than you thought it did? What a shock!

We were having a discussion about our early TV viewing experiences in the newsroom the other day.

Many of us had an experience that shook our world...when we discovered one of our favorite movies ended wildly differently than we remembered it in our childhood.

One of us related how they watched "West Side Story" over and over until they knew all the words and dances by heart....up through the song "Tonight, Tonight".  It wasn't until high school that the co-ed saw the rest of the movie and realized that Tony dies in the end .  BIG SHOCK!

I, myself, was not allowed to watch the Wizard of Oz beyond the munchkins big scene for years as a kid.  With each passing year, I could stay up a little later, and eventually met the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and even the cowardly Lion.  But for years, my sister could only watch up to the flying monkeys, and then it was bedtime.

You can imagine that we had a big surprise coming when we found out that Dorthy missed her ride home! (And even more when you watch the Tin Woodsman untie the balloon so that it leaves!  Check it out!)

But my big surprise came when I walked past the common room in college where the color TV was playing the annual Wizard of Oz showing, and I discovered that the whole movie was not in black and white. Imaging my shock when Dorthy walks out of her Gray house into the color of Oz!  What a stunner of a surprise!   For years, my family only had a black and white family TV on which we watched EVERYTHING until the early 1970s.

Others shared their experiences, including more than a few that have only seen selected parts of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" because of all the spiders on the back of Indiana Jones and guide  Alfred Molina at the start of the golden idol sequence.  Others had similar experiences where family members would tell them to "Look Away! Don't look at the screen until we tell you to."  But that's not quite the same thing.

As a kid, I had come in and gone out of  major motion pictures being shown on TV in the 1960s, so that many times I have watched a movie only to discover that I knew the plot or the movie from prior viewings.  This also was common with the advent of movies on cable TV in the 1980s, when you'd come home and join a movie in progress.

Nowadays, with variant editions of movie being released...the director's cut...the broadcast TV version...the DVD collector's edition, with scenes switched around, edited for content or additional lines or special effects added or subtracted, it's not so surprising when you discover there was more to Star Trek II in the argument between Spock and Dr. McCoy in "The Wrath of Khan".

But my latest surprise was viewing the recent remake of "The Stepford Wives" and finding that the director, Frank Oz, wisely removed some of the biggest special effects minutes of the remake, so that Bette Midler's character "Bobbie" DOES NOT behave like inspector Gadget after all.  I'm convinced that the movie works better without the revelation that she's a complete robot, but only hints at it until the ending. 
My point with this movie is that there's an additional scene or two tacked onto the ending, that really changes the feel of the ending.

The same was true in the Parkersburg-related Sci -Fi classic "Blade Runner", which has an entire voice-over narration removed from the movie, and a cheery upbeat ending to the movie removed in the Directors' Cut special edition.  Talk about changing the meaning of a movie.  The entire interpretation of the movie changes without that additional scene that clarifies who knew what and when.

Do you have any similar life-changing experiences at the movies?  I'd love to hear about them.

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