Best of SOTSOGM: EXCLUSIVE: The "lost" seventeen minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey!

>> Friday, November 09, 2012

I was astonished to get an inordinate number of hits from this bit of satire after someone linked to it in an io9 comment--and pleased the thing had gotten any traction or attention.  It remains one of my biggest hits to date.

Even more astonishing was that there were people who didn't seem to get the joke.  I'm not saying they believed Stanley Kubrick originally had an offensive racist caricature in 2001 and ended it with an epic space battle that wound up on the cutting-room floor; no, they just seemed to think I was serious and crazy, as opposed to satiric and fibbing. 
You have to hand it to Kubrick: while he was a relentless--by some accounts, horrible, even--perfectionist, his perfectionism extended to getting it right the first time and he didn't go back and revisit a film countless times, tweaking and cutting and moving things around.  The "Director's Cut" was the first and final cut.  And in the case of 2001, he went and destroyed the props and models so that nobody could make a sequel or recycle any of his creations.  (Obviously, a sequel happened anyway--well-acted, with beautiful special effects, and it had a more accessible (and much less-interesting) storyline.  But everyone had to start from scratch to get it made, so at least Kubrick had that satisfaction.)  Unlike some people we could name.

"EXCLUSIVE: The 'lost' seventeen minutes of  2001: A Space Odyssey!  Was originally published on December 17th, 2010.

It would seem seventeen "lost" minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey have been discovered in a vault in Kansas. Kubrick being the perfectionist he was, one would assume he cut these minutes for a very good reason, although it's interesting that these minutes may have been cut shortly after the initial release.

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets is pleased to announce that we've obtained a copy of the footage in question.

What we discovered was remarkable. As those familiar with 2001 may recall, the bulk of the movie is a static and staid affair involving three characters on the ill-fated spaceship, Discovery: two astronauts, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole, and the sedate voice of the ship's computer, HAL-9000. However, audiences of the very first cut of the film were introduced to two additional characters, the Discovery's alien janitor, Roscoe, and a Russian spy stowing away on the vessel, Tatiana.

Roscoe's origin or exact species is not offered nor explained in the footage Giant Midgets was provided with. He mostly appears human, aside from enormous prosthetic ears, a pair of antennae jutting from his eyebrows, a prosthetic forehead (that anticipates the makeup designs of '80s-and-subsequent Star Trek), and a shiny silver uniform that's apparently meant to indicate his exotic origins. It's hard to determine what role he's meant to play in advancing the story, although it does appear he is intended to offer comic relief by way of comments like, "Me's afrait of dem Monoliffs, dey's blacker den I am!"

As for Tatiana, she apparently was conceived of to provide a romantic interest for astronaut Frank Poole, at least based on what Giant Midgets has been provided with. The longest clip of footage featuring Tatiana is a scene between her and Poole in the Discovery's sauna room (unseen in any other footage!) in which Poole grabs Tatiana by the towel as she's attempting to leave and tells her, "It may be hot in here, but you're as cold as space, baby," and then plants a heavy kiss on her while her bosom heaves beneath the wrapped towel.

The newly-discovered Tatiana and Roscoe scenes comprise about nine minutes of the seventeen-minutes that have been discovered, and suggest that there's quite a bit more footage that may still be in a vault somewhere. But the most shocking revelations come in the remaining eight minutes: it appears that Kubrick actually shot a completely different ending, and these eight minutes comprise a significant chunk of the intended alternate ending and suggest that the original plot of 2001 was something much different than what SF fans think they know so well.

We see the familiar title card: "Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite," and a pod leaving Discovery much as in the familiar version of the film. But from here, things almost immediately take a sudden, surprising turn: the extending claws of the space pod produce a pair of what appear to be some sort of enormous pistols! And indeed, we quickly see that this is what they are: Bowman's space pod (for indeed, we quickly cut to Bowman inside, working the controls) swoops towards the enigmatic Monolith with guns blazing!

More surprises follow: Bowman radios back to the Discovery and asks how many "bogeys" are approaching--and HAL, apparently not deactivated after all, responds. A dogfight in space ensues, Bowman's pod against a half dozen "mini-Monoliths" which dart about firing some sort of electrical-blast at Bowman's pod. Just as it looks like Bowman's goose is cooked, there's a massive discharge of energy--Roscoe has repaired the AE-35 antenna unit, which apparently doubles as some sort of laser weapon, and the Discovery is diving into the fray now, as well! We cut to a painful scene in which Roscoe is bouncing around the command center of Discovery and HAL is telling him not to touch anything.

Bowman says he's about to make his run on the Monolith, and positions his ship accordingly. But two of the "mini-Monoliths" have moved to intercept. Bowman blasts one to pieces but the other one shoots the weapon out of the pod's left hand and we learn that Bowman only has one shot left in the right-claw weapon, a "meta-atomic-nucleoblast that will send the Monolith to Hell where it belongs." If Bowman wastes the shot on the other mini-Monolith, he tells HAL, "The Monolith will make it back to Earth and command the Tycho Monolith to crash the moon into the Earth! Thousands of people will die!" This, then, is the dire purpose for which Discovery has been sent to Jupiter.

At just that moment, the last remaining "mini-Monolith" explodes.

Bowman looks around the cockpit of his pod and demands to know where that shot came from; instead of hearing HAL, as expected, we hear Frank Poole's voice over the speaker: "I've got your back, hotshot, now let's send that ugly block back to The Dawn Of Man!" Poole, it seems, isn't actually dead, though we're given no explanation for this and must assume that if it's addressed at all, it's yet another piece of missing footage. In any case, Poole and Bowman make a strafing run over the surface of the Jupiter Monolith, and at the end of it, Bowman shoots the "meta-atomic-nucleoblast"; the discerning viewer will quickly realize that the psychedelic "through the Monolith" sequence clearly recycled footage from the abandoned alternate ending, since the "nucleoblast" and resulting explosion are almost identical.

The last moment before the footage abruptly ends features our heroes gathered in the docking bay: Bowman, Poole, Tatiana and "mobile HAL," a cute anthropomorphic robot with only one eye that seems clearly designed with toy sales in mind. The are embracing on the deck when mobile HAL announces a radio transmission from Earth which Poole tells the robot to patch through: "Congratulations," Dr. Floyd says, "but I have some bad news... sensors have detected Monolith activity at Saturn--and there are two of them this time!" And that's where everything suddenly cuts--is this where the credits were to go? Was there a last line of dialogue? Was that it?

One can only wonder why Kubrick cut these moments out of the film, or how much better-regarded 2001 would be today if he left them in. Hopefully, a restored Blu-Ray edition will bring back 2001 as it was clearly meant to be.


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