Spoiler Alert: As a warning to the reader, I’ll give you the name of each movie before describing the alternative ending. For those who are worried that I might give the real ending away, I won’t tell you what actually happens, but through the process of elimination, you’ll have an easier time guessing the outcome, so if you haven’t seen the movie in question and plan to at some point, just skip the description and move on to the next one, or else you can get your revenge by posting a comment that gives away the ending to a movie I may not have seen yet.
In the interest of economy, I won’t mention the names of all the actors who play minor characters, unless it seems especially relevant. If you’d like to know, Wikipedia is a bastion of such trivial treasures.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
After Billy Bibbitt (Brad Dourif) kills himself by slitting his wrists with a piece of broken glass, McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) pounces on Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and strangles her. Instead of helping her by hitting McMurphy in the back of the head with a knuckle-duster, as in the film, her orderlies let him finish her off. Since they like McMurphy but are not enlightened enough to be above racism towards the land’s original inhabitants, they pin the murder on Chief Broom (Will Sampson), who tries to escape, but they subdue him with difficulty. McMurphy tries to save him, but they lobotomize the chief as a punishment for their scapegoat. Since the chief had already been so impassive and phlegmatic before, none of the other inmates even notice the change. Pissed off, McMurphy burns the hospital down and has another wild party in the process. After it’s rebuilt, Harding (William Redfield), McMurphy’s other nemesis and foil, becomes the new predominant authority figure, enforcing the rule of bland mediocrity in homage to his idol, the late, great Nurse Mildred Ratchet, whose statue stands in front of the hospital, increasingly adorned with well-aimed pigeon droppings and graffiti spray-painted by troubled teenagers in unfamiliar alphabets.
The Poseidon Adventure
While he’s hanging from the wheel that shuts off the valve from which emanates a hissing wave of scalding steam, the priest portrayed by Gene Hackman is startled when the ship suddenly rights itself from having turned turtle during the New Year’s bash, when it got rolled and capsized by a cinemagenic tidal wave. The priest does a triple gainer and lands on his feet, saying, “Ta-da! See what kinds of cool things God can do?” Ernest Borgnine’s police chief Rogo claps and says, “Now I can get that face lift I’ve always wanted!” Ship captain Leslie Nielsen re-appears on the bridge, intact and unscathed. He turns to his first mate and says, “Any other tricks you’d like to share with us, Mr. Christian?”
Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) goes on a rampage, hacking to death everyone in sight with a nimbly wielded machete. Martin Sheen as the captain who’s come to apprehend him has a heart attack and is medevaced to a hospital in Saigon. Dennis Hopper, the hyperactive, eternally-tripping photographer, is spared his life by the magnanimous and indifferent Kurtz, who even allows him to cultivate his own marijuana plantation, maintained by the brainwashed natives. Kurtz himself freely partakes of the bounty, leading him to eat even more bananas and ritually-slaughtered ox meat and become what appears to be the reincarnation of Sydney Greenstreet.
The Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland’s Dorothy decides that Kansas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, what with everything being in black and white and all, instead of lovingly hand-painted celluloid technicolor. She leaves a goodbye note for Auntie Em, lets Toto take a leak on (future instant coffee spokesperson Elizabeth Hamilton) Miss Gulch’s poison ivy patch, and hitches a ride back to Oz on a lucky tornado.
Arriving at the airport, Nazi Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) catches Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) about to board the plane. Instead of pausing to make the phone call to the control tower, Strasser shoots and kills both Victor and Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), sparing police chief (Claude Rains) Louis Renault’s life in exchange for a cravenly proffered pack of Vichy brand cigarettes. Impressed by his quick reflexes and sinister good looks, Ilsa rides off with him in his swastika-bedecked Studebaker into the moonset.
(Please excuse any typos in the above synopses. It’s always humbling to find out how many words you don’t know how to spell; the number grows every day.)