The Viewer’s Cut

There’s an unwritten rule that I stick to, and I hope and believe most other critics do as well, that basically says “Review the movie that’s in front of you, not the one you wanted to see.”   In other words, even if you really wanted this movie or that movie to go in this or that direction, stick to where the movie went and discuss whether it worked or not.  Now, it’s perfectly valid when doing so to say, “Well, it may have worked better if” or “I think the better choice would have been” and so on.  After all, offering a counterpoint to the film is a part of the process.  What the rule is all about is not saying, “This film didn’t do what I wanted it to do, therefore it’s bad.”  It may not have done what you wanted it to do but still be excellent and that’s kind of the point.  But today, for one day only, I’m throwing that rule out the window and presenting my Viewer’s Cut guide to a wishlist of movie changes throughout the decades.


This goes without saying, and yet I’m going to say it anyway, all of the original choices are better than these (well, maybe not all) but sometimes, don’t you just want…

Fredo to kick Michael’s butt in The Godfather, Part II?  Or at least have some sense of impending doom?  I mean, I’ve seen the movie, what, twenty times by now, and every time Fredo gets into the boat with Al Neri I think, “Fredo, come on!  You’re going fishing with Al Neri?! You believe he’s there to protect you? How stupid are you?  At least offer to drive the boat so Neri can be in front of you.  Something, just don’t happily speedboat out to your death.”  My Viewer’s Cut: Fredo pulls a fast one and drives the boat out, shoots Neri which Michael thinks is just the opposite.  Fredo drives the boat back, walks into the study where Michael is, who turns white upon seeing him, and says, “Hey, Mikey, I forgot to give you this before I left,” and then he plugs him right in the gut.

King Kong is another favorite, an all-time favorite, that I’ve seen dozens of times in part or all the way through and every time, even though I know it has to be the way it is for the story to work, I wish Kong would knock every one of those airplanes down, descend the Empire State Building, use a barge for a raft, and head back to Skull Island, safe and free.  My Viewer’s Cut: After the planes fail, the authorities have a change of heart and decide the best thing for all concerned is to get Kong back to his home as fast and safely as possible.  Then Carl Denham says, “That was close. It was beauty almost killed the beast but then it didn’t.  Who wants a beer?  My treat.”

It’s a Wonderful Life is one that has an ending that a lot of people already would like to change, or I should say, add on to.  After the final shot, most people would love to see Potter get what’s coming to him and, years ago, Saturday Night Live obliged by doing just that (seen here).  But the Viewer’s Cut I’d really like to make?  I’d like George Bailey to punch Tom right in the mouth, close his account and tell him to hit the road. Who’s Tom?  Maybe this will jog your memory:


Hey! I got two thousand dollars! Here’s two thousand dollars.
This’ll tide us over until the bank reopen.
(to Tom)
All right, Tom, how much do you need?

Two hundred and forty-two dollars!

Aw, Tom, just enough to tide you over till the bank reopens.

I’ll take two hundred and forty-two dollars.


God, I hate that guy! George just said – he just said! – he’s only got two thousand to tide everyone over until the bank reopens and Tom demands more than 10 percent of the stockpile. What. A. Jerk.  Here’s what I’d like to see instead:


Aw, Tom, just enough to tide you over till the bank reopens.

I’ll take two hundred and forty-two dollars.

Okay, Tom, I’ll give you your money but first I want to tell you something. You’re an awful man. An awful, wretched man. There’s several dozen people in this room, Tom, not just you. And these people, Tom? They’re all in a bind, all hoping to make it through together, and here you are, self-serving and oblivious to the needs of others. Here’s your two hundred and forty-two dollars. Take it but don’t ever expect help or kindness or friendship from anyone in this room again. I hope it’s enough money to make you happy, Tom, because it’s the only happiness you’re ever going to have. Take it. Take it and choke on it. Now get out. Doggone it, get out!

[crowd cheers, catcalls, snippets of dialogue can be heard - "Don't ever come by my shop again, Tom", "Remember I said you could borrow my tools anytime? Well you can forget that now!", "You should be ashamed of yourself! Don't bother showing up at the Founder's Picnic next summer!" and so on]


Does that go against the spirit of George Bailey and the movie itself? Of course it does. Do I care? No, I hate Tom more than you can know.


Okay, too many more to go, not enough time.  Let’s start listing:

Casablanca: Don’t you want Rick to just get on that plane sometimes?

Citizen Kane:  Okay, this one’s major, but sometimes, I kind of want the Susan Alexander affair to go undiscovered and have Kane elected Governor.  A part of me has always been curious about Kane as a politician beyond the campaign, when he suddenly has to deal with the fact that he isn’t the overlord of everything and no matter what his plans, bureaucracy keeps stopping them from coming to fruition.

The French Connection:  Yes, it goes against the whole perfectly pitched and sustained nihilistic atmosphere of the movie, but dammit, sometimes I really want the movie to end with Doyle walking Charnier away in handcuffs.

Midnight Cowboy: I swear, I just want Rico to get to Florida and get better.  Is that too much to ask?

It Happened One Night: Sometimes, I wish those walls of Jericho would come down before they get married?

The Crowd: Every time I watch it, I think, don’t tell the kids about the presents!  Just don’t tell them.  When they come home after being out, they’ll find out and everyone gets to live.  But that never happens.

The Birth of a Nation:  Without fail, I think, end the movie after the Civil War.  Just make the story about the two families on opposite sides, then end it.  But they never do.

The Bride of Frankenstein:  Don’t scream.  He loves you.  Don’t scream.

The Magnificent Ambersons: After the camera pulls back from George praying at the side of the bed, end the damn thing!

Suspicion: Can we just make Cary Grant a killer? Please.

Well, that’s it for now.  I realize, of course, that many of these come from my desire to not see good characters suffer but, for some of these, I also want some bad characters to get their due.  The strange thing is, sometimes, when I’m watching a movie I’ve seen several times, like Midnight Cowboy, I kind of think, “Maybe this time he’ll make it,” as if the film is alive and changing and not locked into what it is forever and ever.  But it is.  And at times, that feels like the unkindest cut of all.


23 Responses The Viewer’s Cut
Posted By Jenni : January 22, 2014 1:17 pm

I never thought about a different ending for King Kong, but I really do like yours much better than the actual ending. My change would be Now, Voyager. Jerry’s awful wife would get killed in a freak car accident, which would free him to marry Charlotte. And they’d live happily ever after.

Posted By LD : January 22, 2014 2:07 pm

Whenever I watch THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY I keep hoping Sybil Vane will not reenter the room after her initial rejection of Dorian’s proposition. Of course the result of that event is what starts Dorian on his dissipated lifestyle.

Posted By Andrew : January 22, 2014 2:54 pm

In Heat, I want Neil McCauley to turn around and get back in the car when he sees the gun behind the front desk of the hotel.

And in the completely change the movie category, Casino. Just give the damn brother-in-law another job and why didn’t you send the goons to to make Lester Diamond disappear the first time you caught your wife talking to him.

Posted By Doug : January 22, 2014 4:54 pm

My greatest “If only” to date has to be “If only someone other than Frank Miller had done ‘The Spirit’, an actual filmmaker who knows how to put a film together, it could have been great.”
Somewhere in my archives-I wrote a ‘sequel’ to “Casablanca” where, after Ilsa and Victor are captured during another mission, Victor is killed and Rick comes and rescues Ilsa. They move to Arizona after the war and live happily ever after.
One more-If only Marilyn Monroe hadn’t died during the making of
“Something’s Got to Give”…it could have been her transition from sex symbol to respected actor. On the DVD of the Doris Day remake, “Move Over, Darling” they show a few of Marilyn’s scenes, including her meeting the kids after being rescued. It’s very touching and sweet/sad.

Posted By Kathy Shaidle : January 22, 2014 5:15 pm

I need a version of Easy Rider which consists only of the beautiful picturesque POV shots of the American landscape as seen from the protagonists on their bikes.

Except leave in the ending because that’s the best part.

Posted By gregferrara : January 22, 2014 6:32 pm

Excellent choices, all.

I’ll have to think of some “if only” choices myself.

Kathy – Come on, Jack Nicholson, too? He’s hilarious in that movie.

Posted By Marjorie Birch : January 22, 2014 9:45 pm

I always want Claude Rains to escape his horrible fate at the end of “Notorious.” (They can assassinate his dreadful mommy, though — fine with me.)

“Deception” is another kill-the-villain, punish-the-heroine movie I’d like to rewrite in almost its entirety.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : January 23, 2014 1:28 am

every time i watch Out Of The Past,i hope Jeff makes it through the road block,and Kathie gets snagged,..but then we wouldn’t have all the great flicks labeled “noir” would we?,,,probably one thing the Hays Code overlooked in their zeal…the ability of creative people to get around sanctimonious dimwits ;)

Posted By terje rypdal : January 23, 2014 4:02 am

“Judy, even though you were complicit in a terrible murder; it’s nevertheless clear to me that you’re essentially a good person who was manipulated by a controlling man who deceived me also …

Although I was so depressed by having become obsessed with your false persona — that I even had to go to a mental home for a while — ultimately what was happening was that my life-long detective instincts were rebelling — because I knew somehow that something here was “wrong” or “off” about the intesne guilt that I felt — but I wasn’t sure just what …

Naturally, finally realizing the truth about the whole thing has caused me some anger at being so bitterly deceived on so many levels … Nevertheless we need to transcend all of these past sorrows … You are the love of my life & I know that you feel the same way towards me as well …

It’s NOT too late for us! Let’s relax, regroup, calm down from our respective hysterias … Let’s be slow and sure of our footing literally and metaphorically as well now as we descend this church staircase together & head out into a brilliant future together …

By the way, I hope someday soon you’ll get to meet my dear friend Midge … Maybe we can do dinner this weekend if she’s free … She’s been long-suffering & really deserves a guy a whole lot better than I am for her — one who can deservedly worship her wonderful sharp intellect, charm and wit … Anyways, something for us to brainstorm on once we get settled!

Posted By swac44 : January 23, 2014 4:52 pm

That’s something Gene Siskel used to do constantly, review a movie by saying, “What they *shoulda* done…” and it used to drive me batty. But there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing for your own sake.

I always wonder how things might have transpired in Taxi Driver if Travis had just taken Betsy to a regular movie that was playing in Times Square, like The Man With the Golden Gun or The Eiger Sanction. Heck, even Detroit 9000.

Posted By Pamela Porter : January 23, 2014 7:44 pm

I wanted Karl Childers to kill Doyle Hargraves at least another 43,789 times in “Sling Blade”

Posted By george : January 24, 2014 12:45 am

I wanted Mel Gibson to die at the end of LETHAL WEAPON 2. After being riddled with machine-gun bullets, shouldn’t he have been dead?

Best of all, that would have spared us parts 3 and 4!

Posted By robbushblog : January 24, 2014 3:35 pm

Every time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life, I just know that SOMEBODY is going to recognize George after he’s not been born. Surely Mary knows George baily, who she’ll love until the day she dies. Surely Ma Bailey knows her own son. “Mr. Gower, it’s George. George Bailey. Don’t you know him?”

No Country for Old men ends with Ed Tom Bell charging into the hotel room to take on Anton Sigurh. A gunfight ensues, and Sigurh is killed by Ed Tom Bell’s cold, blue steel.

Ace in the Hole- Leo Minosa is saved from the caved in cave and reunites with his loving wife. Chuck Tatum, due to Leo living through the ordeal, wins a Pulitzer Prize and is there, alive and well, to accept it in person.

Francesca Johnson throws caution and her responsibilities to the wind, leaving her kids and husband behind. She gets in that truck with Robert Kincaid and they drove across The Bridges of Madison County, and beyond, together. That one is still kind of sad though.

Posted By robbushblog : January 24, 2014 3:37 pm

Please pardon my typo in the first paragraph of my previous post. “baily” is totally wrong.

Posted By george : January 24, 2014 8:51 pm

I sometimes wish movies had gone with the tragic endings the story had been building to, instead of tacking on an unbelievable happy ending.

This became a real plague in the ’80s, as studios relied more and more on preview audiences that wanted “feel-good” endings. FATAL ATTRACTION is only the most famous example.

Of course, studios could go back to shooting happy and unhappy endings (as with the Garbo-Gilbert LOVE), and let theater managers decide which one to show.

Posted By robbushblog : January 24, 2014 9:04 pm

My desired ending for L.A. Confidential would correct the only problem with that movie: That damned, happy ending. In my cut, Edmund Exley has just shot Dudley Smith and emerges from the Victory Motel with his badge raised above his head. THE END. It then ends with a short, dark orchestral riff and a black screen.

Posted By robbushblog : January 24, 2014 9:06 pm

Continued from above—- Does Bud White live? Who cares? Does Exley go to jail for murdering his superior officer? Who cares? That’s noir.

Posted By LD : January 24, 2014 11:16 pm

george – When I read your comment the movie that came to mind was SUSPICION. I think it would have been so much better if Grant had been allowed to be a murderer and the posting of the letter in the mailbox a great twist.

Posted By Robert White : January 25, 2014 12:52 am

(1) Agree 1,000% on THE SPIRIT- it would have made a great Republic Serial!
(2) BILL AND TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY- how could Death LOSE a game of CLUE??????????

Posted By Emgee : January 25, 2014 9:25 pm

This post reminds me of a friend after seeing Rebecca who said: “Why didn’t she just fire that housekeeper?”
Yeah, why did she marry Maxim anyway? Should have gone home with
Mrs. Van Hopper
It’s a Wonderful Life ? George, leave Dullsville and go to Europe

Casablanca: Ditch the guy, kid , and let’s fly home

The Bride of Frankenstein? OK, so i’m not your type; plenty of corpses left in the morgue

Posted By Garry Watson : January 26, 2014 12:53 pm

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. McMurphy! Don’t fall asleep!
But he does…every time.

Posted By Auntie Slim : February 18, 2014 1:39 pm

Surprised nobody mentioned this, but really, don’t you think Dorothy should have stayed in OZ?

Posted By swac44 : February 18, 2014 3:46 pm

At least in the OZ books by Frank L. Baum, she does go back, and eventually brings Auntie Em and Uncle Henry to live there permanently. Screw you, dustbowl Kansas!

Too bad MGM never got around to sequels…

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