Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was an alternate ending filmed for Raiders of the Lost Ark that was cut from all U.S. prints of the film for fear it would be offensive to U.S. film-goers.
One of the most fun aspects of living in the DVD/Blu-Ray/YouTube generation is that so many never-before-seen pieces of pop culture history are now available to us, whether as extras on DVD/Blu-Ray collections or just as clips that pop up on YouTube out of nowhere. The recent Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures box set, for instance, has a partial alternate version of the classic fight between Indiana Jones and the Sworsdman.
While in the released film, Indy famously just pulls out his gun and shoots the guy, that shortened version of the scene resulted from Harrison Ford being physically unable to continue to film the original, much more elaborate scene where Indy fights him off only using his bullwhip (it appears likely that some intestinal issues on Ford’s part played a major role in him being unable to film the scene). The box set shows what little they filmed of the original version. There are other notable deleted scenes in the film, of course, including one that explained how Indy was able to survive being on the Nazi submarine towards the end of the film (he ties himself to the periscope with his bullwhip). However, one of the most famous deleted scenes in the film is most famous for the fact that it doesn’t actually exist!
Raiders of the Lost Ark tells the tale of archaeological Indiana Jones racing around the world to find the Lost Ark of the Covenant, said to be the container where the pieces of the original Ten Commandments now reside. The Nazis want the Ark because they believe it will make their army unbeatable (the movie is set in 1936). The United States government wants it because they don’t want the Nazis to get it and Jones goes along with the U.S. government because he knows it is a priceless historical artifact. Eventually, the Nazis capture the Ark, although things do not end up well for them in the end.
Earlier in the film, the Ark is being transported in a crate labeled (in German, of course) “Property of the German Army,” along with the emblem of the German Army (not a Swastika, as many remember the scene having).
While in the crate, though, the Ark burns off the German Army emblem. It is debatable as to why the Ark does this, exactly (the most popular theory is that it is evidence that the Ark belongs only to God and is responding to attempts to claim ownership over it via the statement “Property of the German Army”).
Anyhow, at the end of the film, when Indiana Jones has delivered the Ark back to the United States government, Indy is assured that the government has “top men” working on examining the Ark. The film then reveals, though, that in reality, the United States government have simply placed the Ark into a crate labeled
ARMY INTEL 9906753
DO NOT OPEN!
and the film ends with the crate being carted into a warehouse to be stored and as the shot pulls back, you see that the warehouse is gigantic, indicating that the United States government is keeping a whole lot of things secret.
It is a great ending, but it is also one that many fans believe was not the original ending of the film. Reader Hector G. specifically asked me about a common urban legend about an “Australian version” of the film’s ending which shows the Army logo being burned off, just like the German Army emblem was.
However, first off, as noted above, the crate has the above stenciled on it but besides a stamp, that is it. There is no U.S. logo to burn off of the crate.
Secondly, and much more importantly, the scene does not exist. It is not in the film’s final continuity guide and it is not in the film’s final dialogue script. It appears in no versions of the script. And, obviously, no one has ever actually shown it to exist. The legend has been repeated for years now (including “It is on the Region 4 DVD version of the film!”) without anyone ever showing a screen cap or a clip of the scene.
It is certainly true that occasionally movies are slightly altered for release outside of the United States, but this is not one of those occasions.
The legend is…
Thanks to the amazing Indiana Jones website, TheRaider.net, for their valuable help in debunking this legend. If you have even the slightest interest in Indiana Jones, you’ll love their wonderful web site. Also, thanks to Hector for suggesting this legend!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.