Finally, after 38 years, audiences have been able to see the recently found original ending for the 1974 movie Phase IV. A screening of the original movie in Los Angeles by Cinefamily to celebrate the works of the director Saul Bass lead into the viewing of the never before seen footage. This was Bass’s only film, but he was well-known in the industry as been a master title designer. On release the film was a flop, but has been well received by fans rediscovering it on TV and through parody shows like Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
Later adapted to a novel by Barry. N .Malzberg, the movie focuses on ants gaining a hive mind through a massive evolutionary step up, which was due to some unexplained cosmic event. Shortly after this evolution the ants start to build pillars and strange shapes in the desert. This brings them to the attention of a group of scientists who while investigating these strange events end up messing it up which leads into ants vs. people. Unfortunately for us, ants are pretty awesome at war! One of the most famous aspects of this film is the poster which showed some poor geezer with a bloody hole in his ant with an ant popping out!
If you have not seen the movie, this next bit is a spoiler for the original ending.
In the end we just give up and join them and we become part of there hive mind and start work on phase IV the next step in there evolution. Spoiler over.
Thou its a fun film, the problem arises that the stars are the ants. Ants don’t portray emotion or feeling very well on camera and as the rest of the cast don’t either, there is no one to really root for here. Ants’ dying is not as effective as they are so blooming tiny! At least with giant ants you can see them fall down and pity them King Kong style.
So the new ending goes something like this.
“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 this ending seems to be a lot more interesting. Here instead of us just giving up there’s a species merging going on. Sci-Fi movies do like this theme of mind or body modification (hell David Cronenberg’s first few movies were just about this alone!) so it does not seem a strange ending to have. In a way it seems more poetic that we embrace this change rather than try and destroy it or just give up. Here’s hoping that a new DVD or Blu Ray release will have this new piece of cinematic history on it so we can all relive this interesting piece of Sci-fi evolution.
Or you can actually watch the whole movie HERE