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Alternate ending to Phase IV

PhaseIV.jpgIt seems that the 1974 Saul Bass film called Phase IV has an alternate ending, and the most surprising thing about the story is that it has just turned up now, almost thirty years after the film was first released.

If you haven't seen Phase IV then you should. It's a very good film about scientists studying ants who realise that the collective intelligence of the colony has increased dramatically with terrifying effect. It's not giant ants and unsubtle creature attacks, after all it's directed by Saul Bass and adapted from the Barry N. Malzberg novel by Mayo Simon, rather it's a clever film and one I remember with good memories.

I was very surprised to read that there was a previously undiscovered alternate ending over at Quiet Earth from The Hollywood Reporter. According to the story programmers for the Los Angeles' The Cinefamily have just shown the previously unseen ending and there's a full description to go with it.

I would suggest that if you haven't seen the 1974 film then you should really turn away now, in fact go and see the film first and then come back to read about the new ending otherwise you will find the film spoiled.

Before you head there though, why not take a quick refresher with the trailer for Phase IV. Strange is not the word.

Here's the description of that new ending for Phase IV that Quiet Earth carry:

"Starting with the same shots as in the theatrical version, Michael Murphy's character James descends into the ants' hive expecting to blow it up, ending the war with humankind's insect adversaries. Instead, he enters a room where Kendra (Lynne Fredrick), the girl he and his partner rescued from insecticide poisoning earlier in the film, is lying in a pool of sand. She rises and approaches him, as he realizes that the ants want to join - or merge - with humanity, prompting a new evolutionary development in both species. James and Kendra find themselves running through a gauntlet of geometric structures, eventually ending up in a maze where they are tested and observed in the same way that mankind tested the insects.

In a dizzying and often disturbing montage of imagery, James and Kendra become an embodiment of all mankind as a new species is created. Emerging from their transformation, the pair gazes out onto a sunset-stained landscape, realizing that humanity has reached a new level in its evolution: "Phase IV.""

Now that does sound interesting. I have to admit that I can barely remember the exact details of the original ending, I just have vague recollections of the images and what the story told us, but I do remember how long that film stayed with me.

What I remember most is how the sentient intelligence of the ants came across as incredibly creepy and powerful, not as some low rate horror film idea that just didn't wash, and that's what I remember Phase IV as being, more of a thriller than anything else.

I'm not sure though if that new ending gives us a hugely different feeling from the original but I do find it fascinating comparing versions of scripts, different cuts of films and different endings. It's always interesting to see what other options the film-makers had available to them, and with the aide of an audio commentary why they made them, shame we won't have that here.



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