Rajinikanth fans have been up in arms for the past week or so because of cuts to his latest film, Kabali, and also for a tacked-on caption at the end that left no doubt about its previously open-ended, er, ending. But this isn’t new. Movies – and Malaysian moviegoers – have been subjected to this for years.
A lot of it stems from the censorship requirements that there must be “police action”, there must be “retribution”, and that vigilantism cannot go unpunished.
It’s not our place to judge, merely to present (mostly from the dusty archives of this writer’s memory) some other films that have had their endings altered in Malaysian cinemas over the years.
The years given are the films’ original release dates, not necessarily their Malaysian releases. Please note: Spoilers ahead. Because endings, duh.
Know of any more? Let us know in the comment box.
The Getaway (1972)
Sam Peckinpah’s heist/chase flick with Steven McQueen and Ali McGraw as a newly released ex-convict and his wife who go on the run after taking part in a bank robbery that goes horribly wrong (because their fellow robbers are a bunch of violent psychos). Pursued by their fellow robbers and the police, they eventually deal with the bad guys, buy a truck from an old cowboy, and head into Mexico – and freedom.
Documentos, por favor: A locally-inserted “caption” informs us that Doc McCoy (obviously not the spacefaring one) and Carol were arrested at the border and faced justice for their crimes.
Death Wish (1974)
The original vigilante gunman flick saw Charles Bronson as peaceful architect Paul Kersey whose world is turned upside down when his wife and daughter are attacked and sexually assaulted by a gang of punks (including a young Jeff Goldblum as “Freak #1”). His wife dies and his daughter is left in a state of shock. Paul turns vigilante, guns down muggers left, right and centre, and a police detective agrees to look the other way while he leaves New York for good.
Not so fast there: At the end, we see Bronson gun down the muggers and get wounded in the process. And then some oversized subtitles appear informing us that he is arrested and made to pay the price for his crimes against society.
Of course, that price seemed to have been paid rather quickly when Death Wish 2, 3, etc hit theatres over the following years.
Race With The Devil (1975)
Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit (of M*A*S*H) and Lara Parker (Dark Shadows) play vacationing city folk driving a recreational vehicle cross-country. They witness a group of devil worshippers committing a ritual murder and are then pursued by the cultists. Just when they think they’ve escaped, they are surrounded and burned alive in their RV – at which point it is revealed that the head cultist is the local sheriff his’self.
One damn minute: After the pre-climactic chase, our brave couples pull off the road against a setting sun and … the movie just ends. No ritual immolation. Everybody go home happy now.
Yes, our very own Malaysian movie directed by Othman Hafsham. After finding lots of money in a car that is brought into his shop, mechanic Shamyl (Azmil Mustapha) becomes the target of gangsters and goes through all kinds of misadventures before things eventually get sorted out. And our hero is free to go his merry way with his lady love after dropping off the money at a bank with a ticking clock inside the bag, to make folks think it’s a bomb and call the cops.
Tunggu dulu, sabar: A caption over a freeze-frame right at the end informs us that “Enam bulan kemudian, Shamyl telah didakwa …” (Six months later, Shamyl was prosecuted.)
Was this tacked on at the insistence of the censorship board? Finas? Was the director taking a stab at tacked-on endings? And prosecuted for what – a bomb scare? Making off with stolen money? Being in an inclusive film? So the bafflings one!
Sudden Impact (1983)
Ah, a good year for altered endings. The fourth Dirty Harry movie sees Magnum-toting Harry Callahan sympathising with Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke), a vigilante. She is bent on killing the scumbags who raped her and her sister so brutally that her sibling was left in a vegetative state. She gets them all, with Harry’s help.
He even lies at the end, telling his fellow law enforcers that the final scumbag (who grabbed Jennifer’s gun at one point) was behind all the killings, leaving her to walk away free.
Go ahead … make my day shorter: Our local prints ended before Harry could dirty himself by lying, leaving us to assume that those approaching sirens mean Jennifer is going to be wearing black and white stripes (a.k.a. the old orange).
Young & Dangerous IV (1997)
This instalment of the series revolving around triad youth leaders ended with main character Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng) and his buddy Chicken (Jordan Chan) surviving some gangland election jiggery-pokery, thwarting their ambitious rivals and finishing up as equal branch leaders. Onward to the next sequel, a boyz II men tale with the dangerous youngsters maturing into greater gangland roles during the 1997 handover.
How … infernal: The Malaysian video release reveals at the end that Chan is actually an undercover cop, and he laments that the people he turned in have become his friends. An actor meant to resemble Jordan Chan is seen being led into a police van.
Infernal Affairs (2002)
Two moles confront each other … not at a beautician’s, but on a rooftop. Lau (Andy Lau) is a triad member undercover with the cops, Chen (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is a cop undercover in the triads. The cop wants his life back. Alas, it is not to be, because – holy guacamole! – another triad mole in the cops shows up and shoots Chen in the head.
Lau then shoots the third mole, and goes on to eradicate all traces of his criminal connections in order to continue as a “good cop”.
Why should a bad man have a good ending: The Malaysian and mainland China ending differed somewhat from the Hong Kong original, with Lau being arrested as soon as he comes out of the elevator from the rooftop. The cops apparently found evidence that he is a triad plant (maybe they found the tai kor’s Moleskine?) and drag him off to jail.
Oddly enough, Infernal Affairs III came along shortly after and continued Lau’s story from the original ending, indicating that Asian films and censorship boards pioneered branching timelines and alternate universes well before JJ Abrams.