Within the past couple years I finally saw the original ending of Little Shop of Horrors directed by Frank Oz. This movie made a big impact on the culture when it came out. It wasn't super important to me personally, so it was years after the release of the dvd with the original ending that I heard about it. Actually I think I just saw the dvd with the new/original ending and found out that way.
It's got some fantastic footage of giant plants running amok and destroying the planet - I believe this was the ending for the play or so I've heard, but it was deemed a depressing ending by either test audiences, producers or film execs. So a new ending was filmed which is the only one I ever knew until recently.
It was nice to have the work out there to be appreciated at last, after decades. The puppets and miniatures are pretty spectacular for those of us who enjoy these things. Personally I prefer the original ending. I'm not sure if it's because I saw it that way first, or if it's because it's a less despressing/downer sort of thing.
There are many famous/infamous cases of alternate endings in movies.
A big one, still debated by fans, is the Army of Darkness ending, which was reshot to be more ‘up’. The creators still prefer the bleaker original ending. It's always creators/artists who like these bleaker endings. Either because of theories about what the slobbering masses will prefer, or because actual test screenings TELL them that's what people prefer.
I guess I'm a slobbering mass, because personally I almost always like a more positive ending.
Besides Little Shop and Army of Darkness, here are some interesting ones I know of:
The scifi The Butterfly Effect had 4(!) different endings. The creators like the bleak one from the original script. Then there are three variations on the more optimistic ending. Interesting to see!
The Descent had a bleaker, more likely ending. The reshot theatrical version wasn't exactly positive, but had some relief and cartharsis to it.
Clerks, the indie comedy made one big change when it was picked up for distribution: the original ending where the main character is shot was cut out, allowing Dante to return for multiple future movies.
Friday the 13th Part 3 ends on a shot of the disembodied head of Mrs. Voorhees. In the original ending, the eyes open and she smiles, or winks, or something. I don't think this footage has ever been released; the filmmakers thought it looked silly and cut it.
Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None has a diabolical, sinister ending. The various versions of the play change the ending completely, to be more doable in that medium I guess. Similarly, the multiple movie versions use something like the play's ending - except the Russian version, my research tells me. I have that dvd, and it's faithful to the book, and I prefer that darker ending.
Maybe the way people experience movies is just different? The creators of Little Shop believe that the original ending (from the Little Shop play) didn't work in the movie because in a play, the actors come out and bow after the show, which helps audiences not be depressed. Maybe that's it, I don't know. That doesn't really make sense to me.
Anyway, enough of me for now; let's end this!
See you next time
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Alternate EndingsBanes at 12:00AM, Nov. 3, 2022
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hushicho at 2:45AM, Nov. 4, 2022
It's a common, and in my opinion very childish, mistake that bleak or downer endings are somehow all unique and artistic when compared to happier or uplifting ones. This has led to a lot of confusion between happy endings and satisfying ones, which are not the same thing, and led consequently to people who aren't exactly talented writers trying to borrow gravitas by trying for a downbeat end to the story, whether or not it is satisfying to the reader/viewer or even appropriate. It's become a cringe stereotype to shoehorn tragedy into youth literature because it always seems to win awards, even when the actual audience hates it, so that says a lot.
plymayer at 10:25PM, Nov. 3, 2022
Well, with my not-so-green thumb Audrey won't have lasted long.
sleeping_gorilla at 12:58PM, Nov. 3, 2022
@Essaybee That is the plan for Evil Dead 4. The story from Ash vs Evil dead is going to merge with the remake. Bruce's own words. One alternate ending that was filmed was Will Smith's version of "I am Legend". This is REAL ending where the Vampire reclaims his mate and it is implied that Neville was actually the last man alive and was killing and torturing pack members. In the book, and in Vincent Price's "Last Man on Earth" they executed him as a monsterous serial killer.
PaulEberhardt at 12:24PM, Nov. 3, 2022
@bravo: Interesting. It seems there really was a fad for that kind of thing. :)
PaulEberhardt at 12:19PM, Nov. 3, 2022
Fun fact: In the late 18th century, an Austrian emperor whose name I forgot decreed that all plays staged in Vienna had to end on an uplifting note, presumably proper baroque style had no room for depressing displays. So all kinds of classic plays and operas got an alternate ending, which came to be called the "Vienna conclusion" - Hamlet with everyone living happily ever after or being miraculously restored to life and so on. When the emperor died, all of the plays were immediately restored to their original version, because there was a pretty unanimous agreement that the new versions sucked. Guess that kind of goes to show that alternate endings have always been a thing and that people don't always prefer the happy ones. I personally like conclusions that round off things nicely, and the ominous, bleak ones do sometimes tend to leave unresolved plot lines dangling. Unless literally everyone dies, of course, but you can use that only so often.
bravo1102 at 12:11PM, Nov. 3, 2022
@pauleberhardt around the same time a noted British Shakespeareian actor had happy endings written for some of the Bard's tragedies. Some actually worked better dramatically like Romeo and Juliet because the tragic ending there is very contrived and a bit unbelievable.
EssayBee at 11:28AM, Nov. 3, 2022
Speaking of favorites, Army of Darkness is another of my favorites. Sam Raimi was originally thinking of an Evil Dead 4 where Ashes from two different timelines (i.e., from the two different endings) came together to reconcile the two endings. Personally, I love the U.S. theatrical ending, although the original ending was more in line with the ending of the first two Evil Deads (especially the second). Who knows, the way Ash vs Evil Dead ended could be the link between the two timelines. (Such a great TV series.)
EssayBee at 11:27AM, Nov. 3, 2022
marcorossi--Clue is one of my all-time favorites! The endings are all fun, but the "real" ending doesn't make sense when you think about it. (Case in point, how was Mrs. White screaming upstairs at the same time she was supposed to be downstairs in the billiard room murdering Yvette?) But it's all ridiculous fun, so it doesn't bother me at all.
marcorossi at 4:43AM, Nov. 3, 2022
The movie "Clue" (1985), that was based on the game Cluedo (and a bit of a parody), had 3 different finals inside the same movie, plus a fourth one that didn't make it to the final cut because the director didn't like it.
bravo1102 at 3:07AM, Nov. 3, 2022
When it came to movies Stalin was sentimental and liked saccharine endings. Otherwise he was every bit a horror with a cruel sense of humor as usually portrayed and that drove his second wife to suicide.
bravo1102 at 3:02AM, Nov. 3, 2022
@that was a bit of fatalistic black humor from the dark days of Stalin. Stalin was actually a sentimental sap who loved saccharine happy endings as well as Laurel and Hardy. ;) There's a lot of classic Soviet cinema on YouTube. Russians may be very fatalistic but we are a decidedly sentimental people.;)
MOrgan at 2:21AM, Nov. 3, 2022
Reminds me of something I've heard about, but never seen, the Hollywood Russian Ending. Russians apparently liked endings where everyone died, so Hollywood productions would film a grim ending for selling the film to Russia. Even comedians like Laurel and Hardy had to have Russian endings.
bravo1102 at 12:14AM, Nov. 3, 2022
The original ending of Army of Darkness was supposed to lead to a series of post apocalyptic Ash movies. Instead the "happy" ending led eventually to the Ash vs. Evil Dead series. Somehow I kind of prefer Ash vs. Evil Dead to Ash does Mad Max with an android with a hollow stomach.
bravo1102 at 12:11AM, Nov. 3, 2022
Little Shop of Horrors was originally a Roger Corman movie and as an independent producer he didn't have to bow to test audiences and his movies often have bleak endings. And the happy endings are often ironic. Those old American International horror movies can often be very inspiring even with a bleak ending.