Hollywood test audiences are always giving low ratings to movies with depressing endings, sending them back to the editing room for a little “cheering up.” But it’s not just the grainy independent films about forbidden romances and snooty aristocracies that get recalled. Some of Tinseltown’s biggest blockbusters got a heavy dose of Paxil.
Sam Raimi had free reign with the final chapter of the Evil Dead trilogy until Universal became the distributor and ordered him to include a more upbeat ending. After our hero Ash defeats the Deadite Army and rescues the lovely princess from a life of undead living and hair bigger than most southern states, the sorcerer allows him to return to his own time by drinking a magic sleeping potion. Unfortunately, Ash takes too much of it and wakes up either in a post-Apocalyptic world destroyed by global war or downtown Detroit.
A 6-disc special edition box-set released in 2008 of the original Rambo film featured an alternate ending that could have changed the entire course of Sylvester Stallone’s rise to fame, then fall from it, then rise and fall and rise again. The original cut ended with Col. Trautman tracking down a blubbering Rambo who begs for death so he won’t have to be arrested. The Colonel refuses, but Rambo thrusts the gun into his belly. The Colonel fires. Rambo dies in slow motion.
The alternate ending to Kevin Smith’s breakthrough film turned a lighthearted vulgar comedy into a dark tragedy of Ingmar Bergman-ish proportions. Dante begins to close up shop when one final customer walks in, whips out a gun, and shoots him point blank in the chest. The man loots the cash register and leaves Dante to bleed to death on the store’s cold, unforgiving floor. Fans of the film have analyzed this new ending to its furthest end, speculating that it mirrors Dante’s view of life based on his love of The Empire Strikes Back because it has a better, downer ending. Randall unplugging the store’s security camera earlier in the film also implies that the killer will never be caught, furthering Dante’s belief that life is meaningless and “a
series of down endings.” Smith admitted that he killed off Dante in the original script because he didn’t know how to end a film.
This Frank Oz classic took a complete 180-degree turn from its counterpart on the cutting room floor. In fact, the film ends on a higher note than one of Mariah Carey’s hit singles. The theatrical release saw Seymour defeating the monster plant by electrocuting it and marrying his sweetheart Audrey. But in the alternate ending, Audrey dies and Seymour feeds her body to the hungry plant. Then when Seymour learns that little Audrey IIs are going global on the retail market, he realizes the plant’s plan for world domination and tries to stop him, only to become plant food as well.
The plants go on sale and slowly start to take over the world to the tune of a show-stopping musical number. The plants crash through buildings, tromp down the streets of New York, and even climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty with their vines slithering over her crown and down her face. Then the plant busts through the screen in a fit of maniacal laughter, mimicking the end of the original off-Broadway show, where the plant would extend its vines into the aisles and drop from the ceiling while the head hovered over the first few rows and lunge at members of the audience as if it were hunting for food. Some of its plants even featured the dead cast members’ faces as an homage to the Roger Corman film on which it was based.
The alternate ending was included as an extra on a special edition DVD release in 1998, but Warner Bros. issued a recall of all the discs when producer David Geffen objected to its release. Geffen told Entertainment Weekly that the black and white version of the footage “looked like s#*$.” It became the first DVD to be recalled due to content.
These days, news of alternate endings to big mainstream movies are treated with the same fervor and excitement as the release of a new Uwe Boll movie. But back in the 80s and 90s, they actually became
news. The ending to 1987’s Oscar nominated Fatal Attraction had audiences screaming in their seats, as evidenced by tape recordings that director Adrian Lyne made of real audiences watching the film after its initial release. But the original script called for something less shocking. Alex Forest, played by Glenn Close, kills herself instead of trying to kill Dan Gallagher, played by Michael Douglas (and not based on my life although Alex does come close to a girl I once dated who liked knives), and sets it up to make it look as though Dan had killed her. The ending got horrible reviews from test audiences and the principal cast was reunited to film the new scarier scene. Japan was the only country that saw the original ending in
public release before a special edition released in 1992 included the old ending.
Seth Rogen’s stoner shoot-em-up ended on a “high” note (yes, I get paid to write jokes for a living) with the principal characters in an all-night diner appreciating being alive after their long ordeal. This supposed alternate ending leaked by Empire Magazine shortly before the film’s DVD release sparks a wave of debate on the Internet over whether the footage was meant to be the film’s actual ending or just a jokey DVD Easter egg.
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