Which Of These Horror Movies Had A Theater Ending That Is Considered “Lost”?
Answer: The Shining
If you pay close attention to interviews with directors, special commentary on movie releases, and other behind the scenes chatter regarding movie production, you’ll often come across directors who note that they might have done things differently. Sometimes they note they’d have ended a movie differently if special effects technology had been more advanced, sometimes they note they’d end it differently if the budget was bigger, but rarely does the movie ending actually change. Even more rare than that, in turn, does the ending of a movie change with no explanation as to why.
In the case of horror movie masterpiece The Shining, theatrical audiences saw a movie that you and I will never see when watching it today. For the first week The Shining was in theaters, it had an additional two minutes of footage at the end of the film. By the end of that first week, director Stanley Kubrick dispatched assistants to all the theaters in Los Angeles and New York City with copies of the film and had them remove the last two minutes of the film and bring the cut footage back to him. To this day no complete copy of the film (or even the removed footage) has ever been recovered.
What was in those missing two minutes? While we’ll likely never see it projected on the silver screen, we can at least sneak a peek into the missing piece of the screenplay via a copy of the original script unearthed by fans of the film. Instead of ending the film with Jack Torrance (the antagonist of the film brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson) frozen in the hedge maze behind the hotel, we instead see Wendy Torrance (Shelly Duvall) in the hospital recovering from the events of the film. The manager of the Overlook Hotel is with her and explaining that police investigating the hotel found nothing out of the ordinary and that she must have hallucinated the experiences she reported to them. The manager tosses a yellow ball to Danny (the same yellow ball, which fans of the movie will recall, Danny chased down the hall before being exposed to the horrors of the hotel) before leaving and then the film fades to black with on-screen text explaining the Overlook Hotel survived the tragedy and would reopen for business as it always had.
While Kubrick never commented on the change, we can piece together a little bit of the story behind the scene. Diane Johnson, a screenwriter who helped co-author the adaptation of the Stephen King book with Kubrick, once explained in an interview that Kubrick originally included the scene because Kubrick had a soft spot for Wendy and Danny Torrance and wanted the audience to see that they made it out all right. Although critics were mixed in their reflections on Kubrick slicing the last two minutes of the film, famed critic Roger Ebert supported the removal of the epilogue as he felt it was damaging to the story arc and delivery of the film.
Image, a continuity Polaroid from the filming process of the cut hospital scene, courtesy of Warner Brothers.