Monday, September 27, 2010
What's Your Favorite Classic Movie Plot Twist?
Ending a film with a surprising twist isn't as surprisingly as it was once was. In the last 20 years, there have a plethora of movies with twisty conclusions, to include: The Game, The Usual Suspects, The Others, Fight Club, Primal Fear, The Prestige, High Tension, and most of M. Night Shyamalan's pictures.
It wasn't always that way, though. In the classic movie era (silents through the early 1980s), twist endings were far less frequent and perhaps more potent. Why? With today's mass coverage of the film industry, it's hard to go see a movie without knowing it contains a twist. As hard I tried to avoid it, I already knew the plot revelations in The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense before I saw the movies. Contrast that to moviegoers who saw William Castle's Homicidal in 1961 with no knowledge of what was in store for them (other than a "Fright Break", a typical Castle gimmick).
So what are some of your favorite classic movie twist endings? To get the discussion rolling, I'll include a few of the most famous ones plus some personal faves:
Planet of the Apes - What Charlton Heston finds in the sand in the closing shot turns this sci fi adventure on its simian head.
Soylent Green - Chuck Heston again. This time, he discovers the real composition of the "highly nutritious" food of the title.
Between Two Worlds - Passengers aboard an ocean liner make a startling discovery about themselves. Based on Sutton Vane's play Outward Bound and filmed earlier under that title with Lesie Howard--though I prefer to this Warner Bros. remake with John Garfield, Eleaner Parker, and Sidney Greenstreet.
And Then There Were None and Witness for the Prosecution - Two clever twists from the pen of Agatha Christie. The latter depends on the acting ability of a single performer--who pulls it off convincingly.
Psycho - Hitchcock's personally helped market the twist in this classic (his trailer is almost as much fun as the movie). But actually, there are two twists--the first one happening about 1/3 of the way through the film's running time. For those who know what I'm referring to, the same twist was used the same year in Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead).
Les Diaboliques - This 1955 French classic is the quintessential mystery in which nothing is as it seems. Remade (somewhat) in the U.S. as Games.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt - Fritz Lang's low-budget flick starts out as an indictment of capital punishment, but the twist puts it in a new light. Not Lang's best, but always interesting and the ending has been copied more than a few times.
The Sting - In a film created to capitalize on the charisma of its two stars, the twist is just icing on the cake...but still tasty icing.
There are just a few twisty samples, so what are your favorites? And would you call the climax to Hitchcock's Suspicion a twist or a just a case of a director changing his mind on how to end his movie?