All known copies in circulation of "Kiss Me Deadly" end rather abruptly: we see the wounded Mike Hammer stumbling through the beach house looking for his partner Velda, and then there's a couple of brief shots of the house exploding and burning, with "The End" superimposed on the final shot. The music is cut off instead of fading out and the screen turns black: it looks like Mike and Velda died in the blaze.
The original studio synopsis for the film however stated that Mike and Velda manage to survive; this is confirmed by the screenplay, which includes two additional scenes at the end. Moreover, the original trailer, included as a bonus both in the US laserdisc edition and in the UK "Elite Collection" video version, featured a brief shot showing Mike and Velda in the water on the beach, apparently after escaping their doom. This led critics and film historians to believe that the film originally included a longer ending that was cut for unknown reasons (for censorship purposes, to make viewers believe that Mike died too as retribution for his violent behaviour, or even simply because of a mistake in the editing room) and prompted a search for the missing footage.
The complete ending footage from Robert Aldrich's version has finally been recovered from the director's own personal print, donated to the Director's Guild of America after his death. This version shows quite clearly that Mike and Velda do not die in the fire.
In the truncated version only four shots of the exploding beach house can still be seen, while the original ending had sixteen shots (totaling over 80 seconds of additional screen time), showing the explosion from new different angles intercut with shots of: Mike and Velda dragging themselves on the beach towards the camera with the burning house behind them; Mike and Velda seen from behind, walking from the camera towards the surf, lightened by the flames projecting long shadows on the sand; and finally Mike and Velda huddled together, kneeling in the water and watching the house burn down as "The End" is superimposed on the screen.
The restored ending has been included in a new video edition of Kiss Me Deadly, released in the USA in August 1997. The original ending was recovered by editor Glenn Erickson with help from author Alain Silver.
The original ending was shown overseas in various countries (eg. Germany and the UK) when the film was orignially released. It appears that the film was actually released in two different versions worldwide and the shortened ending was done specifically for the domestic USA theatrical release. In the UK, although there was a longer ending, the theatrical release was heavily cut for violence by the BBFC with the result that the film became nonsensical. For example, the entire scene of Cloris Leachman being tortured was excised and the film cuts from Hammer being knocked out to him waking up again doused with petrol so that you never know what happened to Leachman or the significance of the shoes worn by Albert Dekker. UK TV prints are uncut.
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