DVD Savant finds a lost conclusion to a classic Film Noir
Available again after 42 years, the true original Robert Aldrich
ending to Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer thriller. (5/12/'97)
KISS ME DEADLY's long-missing ending has been restored by MGM Archivist John Kirk. After its official premiere at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in May of 1997, the restored DEADLY played a number of exclusive engagements around the country, filling museum auditoriums at the Pacific Film Archive and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Always a revival-house favorite, the New Beverly Theater in Los Angeles sold out for three day's running in August, after a pair of articles lauding the discovery ran in the LA Times and the LA Weekly.
Author and producer Alain Silver, himself a biographer of Robert Aldrich, was perhaps the first to detect the missing ending, and it was he who suggested looking at Aldrich's personal original print of the film which the director had willed to the Director's Guild of America. Silver and 'Savant' Glenn Erickson had discussed the better-known, truncated conclusion of KISS ME DEADLY several times, especially after a 1992 laser release included a trailer, which itself included a shot from them missing ending! Only in 1997 was Savant in a position to push the investigation through MGM and see the restoration to its finish.
Even MGM was impressed by media interest in the discovery. What began as a press release to the video departments of major newspapers and video industry magazines soon became a steady stream of inquiries by film journalists from across the country. Before the announcement, reaction was solicited from directors/film historians Martin Scorsese and Bertrand Tavernier, and a lucky coincidence led to an interview with DEADLY screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides, still going strong at 89 years of age. Publicity surrounding the video release prompted DEADLY assistant director Robert Justman to call in with some friendly memories of shooting the film with Robert Aldrich. Unfortunately, none of them could shed any further light on exactly what happened to change the ending of DEADLY.
For Savant's part, I now believe that purposeful censorship, and not a simple film-handling mishap, was responsible for the mangling of DEADLY's conclusion. This possibility is best discussed in Paul Malcomb's LA Weekly article of August 15, 1997.
You can link to the KISS ME DEADLY restoration story in two separate articles in the Web Journal that 'broke the story', Gary Johnson's IMAGES:
Alain Silver's original 1996 speculation about the then 'still missing' ending.