Edits in Movies

A selection of late or unusual changes to scenes in movies.

The Birds

The Birds (1963)

After a couple of establishing shots showing Tippi Hedren walking through San Francisco’s Union Square in The Birds, the actress walks behind a large poster advertising the city (and clueing in anybody who still doesn’t know where the scene is set). The poster serves another purpose, however: it hides a cut.

Before Tippi Hedren walks behind the poster (above), we’re there in San Francisco. By the time she emerges (below), we’ve moved to a studio set, including the exterior of the pet shop.

It’s nicely done, but the lighting is a dead giveaway. You can’t really see it in these stills, but when you watch the scene, look at the shadows on the ground: they’re hardly visible in the location shooting in natural light, but on set, the actors cast multiple, well defined shadows.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Alice in Wonderland was first filmed in 1903. Only one, partial print of this early version is known to survive, and this has recently been restored by the British Film Institute.

There are around eight minutes left now of the original twelve-minute film. One of the missing scenes featured Alice’s encounter with a giant puppy (or rather, an average-sized puppy: it’s Alice who’s shrunk at this point). The dog was played by Blair, who was a pet of one of the directors, Cecil Hepworth. All that’s left of this scene are a couple of frames, including the one above. (You can see more of Blair in Hepworth’s 1905 film Rescued by Rover.)

As for the restored Alice in Wonderland, you can watch it below, or at the BFI site, which also has notes on the history and restoration of the film.


If.... (1968)

People have often wondered why Lindsay Anderson’s iconic film If… is partly shot in black and white. Was there some kind of symbolism at play? The film already contains moments of fantasy, so do the changes between black & white and colour signify something to do with those multiple layers of reality?

Well, no. The actual reason is rather more prosaic. When they were filming the chapel scenes at Cheltenham College, they were working on a tight schedule and a limited budget. Lighting the chapel for colour would have taken much longer than lighting for black and white, so they plumped for the latter. Anderson decided he liked it so much that he decided to shoot other scenes in monochrome too, as Malcolm McDowell recounts on the DVD commentary:

I was sitting next to Lindsay watching the rushes (the dailies) of the chapel sequence, and he said, “I do love black and white”, and I said, “I love it too.”

He said, “What are we shooting tomorrow? Well, let’s do it in black and white.”

It was arbitrary. He was an absolute anarchist.

Anderson may have wanted do film the entire film in black and white, but this wouldn’t have been possible: by this point, the film studios had an eye on TV sales, and that meant colour.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

There’s a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana and his father are trying to escape from Nazi Germany. Indiana buys tickets on the first flight out of the country, and we see that it’s an airship.

I saw the film in the cinema on its release in 1989, and I distinctly remember that when the airship is revealed, it’s identified as the Hindenburg. (Either you saw a mooring post with the name, or it was painted on the airship itself.) There was also a dramatic, doom-laden music cue that played at that moment.

On all subsequent releases, the name of the airship has been removed, although the music is still there (and now seems a little OTT without the visual “uh-oh!” gag).

Perhaps they cut the name because the Hindenburg crashed in 1937 and the film is set in 1938, or perhaps the filmmakers wanted to remove the potentially insensitive joke. (This is actually plausible: after the initial theatrical distribution, they also removed the word “Jewish” from the line “donated by the finest *Jewish* families in all of Germany”, so there was clearly a point where they were removing some of the film’s politically rougher edges.)

Or perhaps I’m misremembering it, and the name was never there. Perhaps somebody in the cinema said “It’s the Hindenburg,” when the airship is revealed, and my memory recorded that visually instead of aurally. But it’s listed in the alternative versions section of IMDb, and now the Wikipedia entry for the Hindenburg cites the mention on IMDb… so if it wasn’t true to start with, it is now.

The Shining

The Shining (1980)

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” must be one of the best known lines in horror cinema. Not bad, given that it’s only ever shown on screen, and not spoken.

When Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining was first distributed to cinemas, the prints varied slightly by country: the close-ups of the manuscript had been filmed several times, substituting manuscripts in different languages.

The Italians got “Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca.” (The morning has gold in its mouth)

The Germans got “Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.” (Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today)

The Spanish got “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.” (No matter how early you get up, you can’t make the sun rise any sooner).

The French got “Un Tiens vaut mieux que deux Tu l’auras.” (What you have is worth much more than what you’ll have).

All the current DVD releases seem to feature the English language manuscript, and only the English language manuscript. It’s a shame really, as it’s a moment made for the “alternate angle” feature on DVDs: press the angle key now to select the language in which Jack Torrance goes crazy…