Friday, March 27, 2009

Studio sanitizer

This post has nothing to do with Seven, but I find this picture enormously entertaining and slightly relevant.

In keeping with yesterday's post about getting acquainted with the classics, last night, very late, I decided to watch the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Okay so spoiler warnings, but I'm probably the only person in America who hadn't seen this yet so I'm not too concerned.

And I'm sure I'm not the first person to make the observation that follows, but it's my blog so I'm gonna observe.

In the little post film recap from the old movies expert guy, he mentioned that originally the film was supposed to end on Miles standing in the middle of the street, unable to get anyone to believe him. And the studio decided it was too gloomy and ambiguous so they added the frame of Miles talking to some people about what happened, complete with the last minute warning that may have saved the human race.

Way to go, studio.

First of all, opening with Miles alone after he escaped lets us all know right from the start that his girlfriend didn't make it, so when we spend this whole movie watching them run from the aliens, we already know what happens to her. It takes out a lot of the tension, like when the commercials for Lost are like "Somebody will die in this episode!"

God dammit. Don't tell me someone will die. Then I spend the whole episode sitting around waiting for somebody to kick the bucket, and I'd really just rather let the story unfold. So I didn't want to know that Miles ended up alone. I wanted to think his girlfriend might stand a chance.

And that scene of him in front of the cars is so haunting. He's so helpless. But by changing it so that yay! maybe people will be saved, kinda! It takes all the bite out of the ending. It deflates what was a powerful scene. Hell, the film analysis guy said that the scene with the cars is so iconic that Kevin McArthy was asked to repeat it all through his career. The most powerful moment of the film, and it was sanitized by the studio's underestimation of its audience.

I've been reading Down and Dirty Pictures and this morning I read about Reservoir Dogs. Apparently Harvey Weinstein was adamant about removing the ear cutting scene. He thought the ladies of the world would never tolerate that level of violence.

(Slight spoiler warnings but if you haven't seen it I'm not sure we can be friends.)

But Quentin Tarantino, to his great credit, held his ground. Can you imagine that film without that scene? Sure, it would be a slightly less violent film, maybe easier to watch without that extra moment of discomfort, but doesn't it just make you glad when the cop shoots Michael Madsen? Without that scene you don't get that extra glimpse of his evil. You kind of like his crazy quirkiness, but the second he does that he's gone too far. It's just powerful. And removing it could have been the difference between a good film and the fucking brilliant picture it is.

I guess the lesson there is that sometimes you have to fight the power.


  1. I cannot, CANNOT stand those assholes who think that women can't handle violence in movies. Give me a fucking break. I was pissed off when Ann Thompson said on her blog the other day that The Watchmen was too violent for women and my first thought was, WTF????????

    I also can't stand those studio exec cocksuckers who think that the audience will NOT accept a sad or upsetting ending. I just read a story (dont remember which website) that Spike Jonze had to FIGHT the studio over the ending for Where the Wild Things Are. they wanted a happy ending, but he wanted a realistic, gloomier ending.

    I just read today about a really popular Korean filmmaker (who did The Host and Memories of Murder) who got a lot of Hollywood offers, but he turned them all down cos he said that there's not much creative control for American filmmakers in Hollywood, due to the studio system. HAH. SO TRUE.

  2. If you like DOWN AND DIRTY PICTURES, you'll probably dig the book REBELS ON THE BACKLOT, it's pretty awesome.

    I heard an interesting story about SEVEN, when it was sold (SPOILERS) it had the ending it does now, with her head in the box.

    Studio made the scribe rewrite the ending not once, not twice but multiple times, with many different endings, one of which was a huge shoot-out in an old church, typical hollywood ending ...

    When the studio was looking for a director, they thought of Fincher and sent him the script ... he read it and loved it, called up the studio and said he'd love to do it.

    He asked, though, "Are they really gonna let me end it with her head in the box?"

    Turns out he got sent an early draft of the script, and he loved it. He got Pitt on board, and they all used their muscle to keep the original ending ...

    But it might not have happened had Fincher not been sent an old draft of the script.


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