The alternative ending of Saul Bass’s Phase IV is now available

Phase IV

A long time ago, I nominated Saul Bass’s Phase IV (1974) as one of the scariest movies ever made. Sure, it’s about little tiny ants, but you only have to watch the first nine minutes of it to be totally creeped out by Bass’s micro-photography, and real-life teeny tiny ants (and wasps pretending to be ants) setting their mind to destroying and/or enslaving the human race.

The movie’s ending is reasonably bizarre as it stands.

However, that wasn’t Bass’s original ending. As you might expect of the graphic designer who worked most with Stanley Kubrick, that was a completely different beast.

In the book Future Tense by John Brosnan, an alternate ending to the film was described: “Bass originally filmed a spectacular, surreal montage lasting four minutes, showing what life would be like in the ‘new’ Earth, but this was cut by the distributor.”

A preview version with this ending intact was shown to some audiences in 1973-4, and clips of it showed up in the film’s theatrical trailer, and in Saul Bass’ title sequence to Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991).

Unfortunately, though, it was lost to the mists of time until 2012, when the alternate ending and preview version resurfaced. The 35mm original footage of the ending was then scanned and colour-corrected (it had faded to magenta) by the Academy Film Archive.

Until now, Paramount has refused to license the additional footage, so releases of the movie since 2012 have failed to include it. But guess what. The movie’s 45 years old this year and has been released in 4K on Apple’s iTunes service – and the alternative ending is available as an iTunes Extra.

You can view a nice polished clip of this here, but if you don’t mind blurry vision, here’s the full thing, in all its oddness.

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