MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was an alternate ending filmed for Raiders of the Lost Ark that was cut from all U.S. prints of the film for fear it would be offensive to U.S. film-goers.
One of the most fun aspects of living in the DVD/Blu-Ray/YouTube generation is that so many never-before-seen pieces of pop-culture history are now available to us, whether as extras on DVD/Blu-Ray collections or just as clips that pop up out of nowhere on YouTube. The recent Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures box set, for instance, has a partial alternate version of the classic fight between Indiana Jones and the Sworsdman. While in the released film Indy famously just pulls out his gun and shoots the guy, that shortened version resulted from Harrison Ford being physically unable to continue the original, much more elaborate scene in which Indy fights him off only using his bullwhip (it appears likely some intestinal issues played a major role in Ford’s inability to complete the sequence as written). The box set shows what little they filmed of the original version. There are other notable deleted scenes, of course, including one that explained how Indy was able to survive atop the Nazi submarine toward the end of the film (he ties himself to the periscope with his bullwhip). However, one is most famous for the fact that it doesn't actually exist!
Raiders of the Lost Ark tells the tale of archaeologist Indiana Jones racing around the world to find the lost Ark of the Covenant, the ancient chest said to have contained the Ten Commandments. The Nazis want the Ark because they believe it will make their army unbeatable (the movie is set in 1936). The United States wants to prevent the Nazis from obtaining the relic, and Jones goes along with the government because he knows it’s a priceless artifact. Eventually, the Nazis capture the Ark, although things do not end well for them.
Earlier in the film, the Ark is being transported in a crate labeled (in German, of course) "Property of the German Army," along with the emblem of the German Army (not a Swastika, as many remember the scene having). While in the crate, though, the Ark burns off that emblem. It’s debatable as to why the Ark does this, exactly (the most popular theory is that it is evidence that the Ark belongs only to God and is responding to attempts to claim ownership over it).
At the end of the film, when Indiana Jones has delivered the Ark to the U.S. government, he’s assured that the government has "top men" examining the Ark. The film then reveals, though, that the government has simply placed the artifact in a crate labeled
TOP SECRETARMY INTEL 9906753
DO NOT OPEN!
and the film ends with the crate being carted into a warehouse. As the camera pulls back, you see the warehouse is gigantic, indicating the government is keeping a whole lot of things secret.
It is a great ending, but many fans believe it was not the original. Reader Hector G. specifically asked about a common urban legend regarding an "Australian version" of the film's ending that shows the U.S. Army logo being burned off, just like the German Army emblem was.
However, first off, as noted above, the crate has the above stenciled on it, but besides a stamp, that is it. There is no U.S. logo to burn off of the crate.
Secondly, and much more importantly, the scene does not exist. It is not in the film's final continuity guide, and it is not in the film's final dialogue script. It appears in no versions of the script. And, obviously, the most important aspect of it all, no one has ever actually shown it to exist. The legend has been repeated for years now (including "It is on the Region 4 DVD version of the film!") without anyone ever showing a screen cap or a clip of the scene. As noted in the beginning, we live in an era where it is relatively simple to share information, and if such a clip actually existed, someone would have shared it by now.
It is certainly true that occasionally movies are slightly altered for release outside of the United States, but this is not one of those occasions.
The legend is...
Thanks to the amazing Indiana Jones website, TheRaider.net, for valuable help in debunking this legend. If you have even the slightest interest in Indiana Jones, you'll love their wonderful web site. Also, thanks to Hector for suggesting this legend!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!