AND 1976 SUPER 8 HOME MOVIE FOOTAGE OF SPIELBERG CALLING DE PALMA FROM CAR PHONE
Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images, posted at Yahoo News
Following last night's screening of De Palma, New York Film Festival director Kent Jones moderated a discussion on stage with Brian De Palma, Jake Paltrow, and Noah Baumbach, all pictured above. We'll watch for video of that discussion to show up on YouTube in the next few days.
Meanwhile, the Principal Archivist at The Swan Archives attended last night's screening of the documentary, and reports on that site's news page that the Baumbach/Paltrow film includes "the original deus ex machina tidal wave ending from Snake Eyes, which, so far as we know, hasn't been seen publicly since the movie's ill-fated preview screening that resulted in the ending being removed and replaced with a far more conventional finale." The Archivist is right-- it is hard to believe no one seems to have even mentioned this. Earlier this year, screenwriter David Koepp had trouble even remembering what the original ending was.
Four years ago, Carla Gugino recalled the original ending rather clearly: "I feel like that came about just before they started doing (much more often) alternate endings on DVDs, etc. Because I saw that ending, and it was awesome! I prefer that ending to the ending that’s in the movie now. But I know that there was a thing at the moment with Snake Eyes where they felt like it was a bit of, like a ‘70s conspiracy thriller, and then all of a sudden it became an action movie with that tidal wave sequence. But in fact, I kind of loved that about it. We shot it on VistaVision, so it looked, you know, phenomenal. I actually did get pneumonia while shooting that sequence, and I was like, ‘It’s okay, suffer for your art, it’ll be great.’ And then they cut the sequence out of the movie!"
THE ORIGINAL ENDING
Back in 2001, "BWL," a member of the forum at Bill Fentum's currently defunct "Directed By Brian De Palma" website, was able to view an alternate version of the Snake Eyes ending on VHS, but with no sound effects or music soundtrack. Here is how BWL described that ending:
It starts off the same as we have all seen. Rick Santoro stumbles into the tunnel, bloodied and beaten up, with Kevin Dunne following from behind him, waiting to see where Julia Costello is hiding. Anthea and her cameraman are outside getting shots of the storm and Anthea says "I'd sure like to know what I did wrong to get all the shit assignments!" The cameraman yells "Just roll so we can get out of here!" Then Anthea goes into her countdown and says, "Well, it looks like tropical storm Jezebel just may be a hurricane after all!" Meanwhile, as Rick and Kevin approach the door to the area where Julia is locked inside, Rick sees the shadow of Kevin holding a gun. We cut to a shot from high atop the room where Julia is hiding and see rain seeping in (this is the first shot I recognized as different). Rick turns around and faces Kevin. With his face all beaten up Rick says, "Kevin, am I still pretty?" Kevin tells him calmly to unlock the door and have Julia come outside. Rick says, "No I won't tell her. I won't let you kill her" and covers the door with his body and his arms. Kevin loses his patience and says "TELL HER TO OPEN THE DOOR!"
We cut to Anthea and her cameraman outside on the boardwalk as the cameraman pans his camera off the boardwalk towards the water(not a POV shot) and then it cuts to a huge wave that is gathering steam and headed straight for the boardwalk. We cut back to Rick, who finally agrees to ask Julia to let him in since Kevin is seriously threatening him and yelling "OPEN THE DOOR!" Meanwhile, we cut back out to the boardwalk as the camera zooms in closely on Anthea who says "HOLY SHIT!" as the tidal wave smashes through a ferris wheel and amusement park on its way towards them. The cameraman grabs Anthea and pulls her inside the van. Rick tells Julia that it's him and she should open the door. Inside Julia says "Rick is that you?" and grabs the handle to the door. She fumbles with the door handle for a few moments but the door is not opening- it's stuck. Kevin loses his patience and fires off 6 or 7 shots right through the doorway. Julia recoils in fear and lets out a scream. Similar to the version we've seen, the shots manage to cause the outer doors that lead to the boardwalk to open up. Rick and Kevin rush inside the room where Julia is hiding. Rick covers Julia with his body to protect her from Kevin and she stands behind Rick scared out of her mind. Kevin says, "All right, Rick. I'll give you one more chance. Get out of the way or I'll shoot right through you." Rick looks outside and sees the gathering wave. He says to Julia, seemingly out of capitulation, "Sorry baby, I tried."
Then we cut to Kevin's henchmen driving in their van to "pick up the package on the boardwalk" (a scene referenced in the regular version when Kevin radios them and they respond while they're in the middle of putting the dead bodies into the concrete). The henchmen see the large globe detached from The Millennium rolling down the boardwalk by Anthea's news van. One of the henchmen says, "What the hell is that?" (which in the regular version was said verbatim by the emergency rescue personnel). The wave hits the boardwalk and washes over the news van and into the globe (this shot is also in the regular version). We cut back inside as Kevin is standing in the middle of the room about to shoot Rick, who is still covering Julia off on the side of the room. We see a wideshot of these three in the tunnel when all of a sudden the globe comes SMASHING through the tunnel wall and in an instant it rolls right over Dunne. The globe is followed from behind by a huge blast of water that rushes over Julia and Rick as they cling to each other and struggle to keep their footing. The water continues to rush in over them, filling up the tunnel, but after a few moments it recedes. Once it is safe the cameraman from the boardwalk comes running into the tunnel with his camera. As we pan down over the scene we see the large globe stopped dead in its tracks in the middle of tunnel with Kevin's crushed body and dangling from it, apparently impaled by a jagged piece of metal. Rick is lying on the ground coughing up water and still badly hurt from his beating. Julia comforts him by her side as the cameraman rushes over to them yelling to Anthea, "there's people in here!" But he says it less out of concern than out of opportunity. We then see from the POV of the cameraman's camera (as we similarly do in the regular version) a shot of Julia and Rick. Julia says with disgust "Would you just get away!" The cameraman zooms in on Rick's bloodied face and he stares blankly into the camera, and then the scene dissolves to the Mayor's awards ceremony (which is back the movie we all know).
SUPER 8 FOOTAGE OF SPIELBERG USING CAR PHONE TO CALL DE PALMA IN 1976
Another aspect of the De Palma documentary that I hadn't seen mentioned before is that it contains Super 8 footage of Steven Spielberg from 1976. Vadim Rizov does mention it, though, in an NYFF Critics' Notebook piece for Filmmaker Magazine:
"Film writers (I’ve been guilty of this) often leap to conclusions about why directors take on assignments or make aesthetic choices; this practical, peer-to-peer chat is a useful reminder that keeping up with business movie journalism and thinking about production logistics is as useful a tool to understanding a body of work as any. The movie also helps slightly revise the now-beyond-ossified canon of the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls who either changed the world or crashed and burned, reminding us that extremes (the Lucas vs. Cimino binary) are overstating the case, that middle ground existed, and that past failures and successes only count for so many years. De Palma and George Lucas were both legitimately part of the underground before channelling their ambitions into more financable form. Another close friend was Steven Spielberg (seen calling De Palma from his early-adopter car phone in a Super 8 home movie from in 1976, a nice get); given different proclivities, it could’ve been an equally lucrative career.
"De Palma largely sticks to the numbers and production hassles, which is smart: really, what could he contribute to yet another formulation of Voyeurism And You, The Implicated Viewer? The film is edited at a lucid gallop, which makes it easier to connect the dots between De Palma’s recurring visual motifs as expressed and developed over time. E.g., you can see his aesthetic in early motion at MoMA in his 1965 op-art exhibition doc The Responsive Eye, in elegant but comparatively shaky handheld, and how he revisited his approach to the space with gliding Steadicam in Dressed To Kill. The doc is implicitly a work of critical advocacy for a currently somewhat unfashionable director, though it’s realistically for the already converted. It’s illuminating and edifying, if not precisely revelatory: the big Rosebud anecdote/thematic decoder key (about De Palma filming his cheating father’s partner entering his office from across the street, then charging in confront dad) has been told many times before. But it’s useful to be reminded how directors can think of themselves and their work: as conscious artists, of course, but also as endlessly badgered managers and worker drones, depending on where they are in their career."