CLOSE
Original image

How 10 Iconic Movies Almost Ended

Original image

It's hard to imagine that some of our favorite movies could have turned out entirely differently. Sometimes the directors simply changed their minds, and sometimes the test audience hated the original ending so much there was really no choice but to change it so theater-goers wouldn't leave the movie feeling ripped off. Here's the way 10 movies could have turned out.

1. Clerks originally ended with Dante getting shot and killed by a robber. Kevin Smith said he ended it that way because he didn't know how to end it otherwise, but when his two mentors informed him that the ending was ridiculously depressing, he decided to end the movie just before the scene where Dante is killed. You can see the death scene on the DVD extras, though.

2. Dr. Strangelove. The ending to this one is so iconic it's almost impossible to fathom it ending any other way. The ending that was used, of course, was Major T.J. "King" Kong riding a nuclear bomb like it's a bucking bronco, followed by Dr. Strangelove miraculously walking just as the Doomsday Machine activates and detonates nuclear bombs across the world. But all of this could have been replaced with a massive fight at the Pentagon"¦ a pie fight. Everyone in the war room, including the POTUS and the Russian Ambassador, cream each other in the face with pies like they're slapstick vaudevillians. Stanley Kubrick ended up cutting the scene because he "decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film." No kidding.

3. Thelma and Louise. Only a tiny tweak here, but a fairly significant one - the first ending showed Thelma and Louise's car tumbling all the way to the canyon floor, no doubt getting pulverized in the process. As you probably know, the updated ending is a wee bit more hopeful - we see their car drive off the cliff, but we don't actually know what happens. I suppose there's the chance that there's an awning halfway down the canyon that they bounce off of, cartoon-style. No?

4. I Am Legend. Also another hopeful ending here. At the end of the version that was released, Dr. Neville heroically blows himself and a bunch of Darkseekers up, saving Anna and Ethan, but giving them the cure before he goes. Critics didn't care for the ending, but perhaps they would have preferred the one where the Darkseekers break into Neville's lab because they're looking for the female Darkseeker he has been experimenting on. Once Neville realizes this and gives the female back, the rest of the mob backs off and Neville realizes that the infected just see him as a murderer of their kind.

5. The Princess Diaries. Would you have been disappointed if you hadn't' seen the fabulous castle the new Princess Mia was headed off to live in? Garry Marshall's granddaughter was. When he showed his five-year-old granddaughter the film, she was upset that it just ended with Mia agreeing to become a princess. The little girl really wanted to see the castle and the start of Mia's fabulous new life, so Marshall convinced Disney to buy some footage of a European castle, which they digitally added the Genovian flag to. Marshall said it made his granddaughter much happier.

6. Fatal Attraction. Audiences were bored to tears with this original ending - Dan is charged with murder while an Alex voice-over confesses suicide. Bad audience reaction prompted a change to the ending we know now - the famous bathtub shooting. But Glenn Close hated this ending and fought hard against it, arguing that her character was more likely to self-destruct and commit suicide. She even had psychiatrists analyze Alex; they agreed. After three weeks of resisting, she gave in and filmed the ending that was released. The original ending was kept for the Japanese release of the film, however.

7. Terminator 2. The year is 2029, Sarah Connor is a happy grandmother, and her son John is a senator. Everyone lives happily ever after. That's great and all, but it didn't leave much room for sequels. The studio preferred dollar signs to happy endings. No surprise there, huh?

8. Little Shop of Horrors. The 1986 version of this movie-musical was supposed to end with Audrey II killing Audrey and Seymour and taking over New York City. That's in keeping with the off-Broadway ending, which is what the movie was based on. It's said that Frank Oz and most of the actors, including Rick Moranis, much prefer this ending.


9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This one got the Thelma and Louise treatment. Or rather, I suppose, Thelma got the Butch Cassidy treatment. The way it ends now is with Butch and Sundance leaving the house with guns a'blazing, and we hear return fire. But we don't actually see anyone die, leaving the ending slightly more ambiguous than the original where Paul Newman and Robert Redford got to test their acting chops on a gruesome death scene.

10. Clue. It had three alternate endings, but unlike these other movies, you could actually see all three of them when the movie was released as long as you were willing to pay to see the movie three times. Originally you didn't know what ending you were going to get until you got to that dividing point at the end of the movie, but eventually, theaters started advertising if ending A, B, or C was playing so patrons could see the endings they hadn't seen yet. Rumor has it there was actually a fourth ending as well, but they decided enough was enough.

Do you like any of these alternative endings better, or are you happy with the choices directors ended up making? Do you know of any other drastically different outcomes?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
arrow
science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
Original image
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
SECTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES