The Beginning or the End?

No, not the movie with Hume Cronyn, but an actual question about the beginnings and endings of movies.   Probably the majority of all movies ever made could be accurately described as having serviceable beginnings and serviceable endings.   The movies might be great but the beginning or the ending or both are just, you know, serviceable.  Like Casablanca.  It has a great ending, one of the best ever.  The beginning, however, is simply good, sturdy and, well, serviceable.  There’s the narration, the fish-out-of-water couple being taken for a ride and our introduction to Rick’s Cafe Americain.  It’s all quite good and necessary but not particularly over the moon.  Other movies open with a bold stroke and sometimes even end with one too at which point you have to ask, which is better, the beginning or the end?  To be clear, I’m not talking about grand finales, that’s a completely different animal (and one I’d like to post on soon).  I’m not talking about the endings to big epics with special effects and explosions and the whole budget up their on the screen.  I’m talking about comedies and dramas, horror and sci-fi and westerns and maybe a musical or two that really do a great job starting and finishing their stories.

beginning end Godfather 01

Case in point: The Godfather.  This movie has one of the greatest openings of any movie ever made.  In fact, “I believe in America…” is such a great line to lead into a story about the Mafia and how they made the American system work for them that I would think it was great even if it wasn’t delivered by an actor who is not, in any way, a major player in the movie.  That’s the second bold stroke.  The entire opening shot, slowly pulling back from close-up to medium shot, is of actor Salvatore Corsitto, playing mortician Bonasera, and not of any major actor in the movie.  I could probably go on about a few other things that make the opening so great but let’s leave it at that for now and focus on the genius of the ending.  Now, I’m  not talking about the lead-in to the ending – the amazing baptism sequence – I’m talking about the ending, where Michael lies to Kay and then, as she watches men kiss Michael’s ring, the door closes on her, shutting her out.

It’s not as bold in an obvious way as the opening shot but perhaps that’s what makes it better.   The idea of a door shutting out a character as the movie goes to credits has its most famous representative in John Ford’s The Searchers but for different reasons.  In that one, Ethan (John Wayne) is walking off into history, so to speak.  He walks away because he cannot remain, because his world is going away and retreating fast.  Kay, on the other hand, is being disconnected, against her will and at the hands of men who do not have anyone’s interest in their minds except Michael’s.  The message is clear:  You are not welcome here.  It’s a chilling ending and the perfect bookend to an immigrant’s profession of faith in America.   The beginning is great but the ending is unsurpassed.

Sticking with the seventies for a moment I can’t help but mention Jaws.  There’s a beginning that shoots adrenaline into the viewer’s heart from the moment the swimmer lets out her first gasp and doesn’t let up until she submerges for the last time.   The ending, on the other hand, of Brody and Hooper paddling back on a flotation piece, is good and satisfying but cannot match that opening.

Before we get too hung up on one decade, let’s swing back to the twenties and work our way forward.  Sunrise has an opening that is simply magnificent.  I describe it in detail here but to take it down to its most basic elements, director F. W. Murnau sets up shots of the city, a train station in particular, and through an exhilarating series of optical overlays takes everything from one step to the next until we are in the country, with each step along the way changing the pace until the slow countryside pace has been arrived at without a noticeable change in the action.  The closing shot, no matter how moving, cannot match the opening for sheer story-telling genius.

Moving into the thirties we arrive at one of the greatest movies of the decade, I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, and a clear winner for the ending over the beginning.   If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it.  Also, if you haven’t seen it, it would take too long to describe the ending’s impact.  The scene is quick and simple and ends with two words by Paul Muni that are only meaningful if you’ve seen the whole movie.  For those who have seen it, you know what I mean.  For those who haven’t seen it, check it out as soon as you can.

beginnings Sunrise 01

Another great ending from the thirties goes by the name of King Kong.  Again, we’re talking about the very end here, not the spectacular lead-ins (spectacular finales can be and probably soon will be its own post) but the part where Kong lays dead at the foot of the Empire State Building and the policeman says, “Well, Denham, the airplanes got him,” to which Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) replies, “Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes.  It was beauty killed the beast.”   Unbeatable.

Or how about The Bride of Frankenstein?  The opening is a rather clever way of stitching the first film directly to the second but the end is simply amazing.  One of best, from Pretorious anointing his co-creation “the Bride of Frankenstein” and the bride hissing at the monster to the monster giving Dr. Frankenstein a pass while declaring to Pretorious and the bride, “We belong dead.”  Poetry.

Moving to the forties we find the movie used as a benchmark for all other films (well, except now Vertigo, I guess), Citizen Kane.  And it’s got both a great beginning and a great ending but I’ve got to give it to the beginning on this one.  The ending is justly praised as the camera moves in ever closer on the colossal pile of Kane’s physical memory until someone grabs a sled and walks it over to the incinerator.  And we all know what happens next.  But that opening is magnificent.  The ever changing fences, the forbidding sign, the lit window always staying center screen until we finally go inside and see the dying man whisper his final word before dropping the snow globe that moments before was in focus, full screen.

To the fifties and we meet up with On the Waterfront, a movie with as powerful an opening and a closing as I can think of (whatever you may think of its politics and motives).  The ending, with Terry walking beaten and injured to the cargo hold to do a day’s work and inspire his fellow dockworkers is a great one but I go with the opening for sheer power.  It’s not often that a movie opens with the protagonist coaxing someone to their death.

The sixties brings us West Side Story and it’s a musical that ends with a mournful scene as the climax to the doomed love that anchors the story.   But nothing, in my opinion, ever beats that opening, an opening so iconic upon arrival that director Robert Wise used it again in The Sound of Music though it didn’t really make much sense there.  In West Side Story, it makes perfect sense.   In fact, even though I’m not the biggest fan of the movie, I think the opening is one of the best there is.  It begins from high above New York as we see the the buildings and streets in miniature, well below and anonymous.  It could be anyone’s generic view from a window seat on an airplane.  The camera moves and we go further back, away from Manhattan and the corporate skyscrapers and down to the neighborhoods, the personal buildings, the parks, the basketball courts until, finally, we focus our gaze on particular set of young men, snapping their fingers.  It’s a brilliant way of saying, “Here is the city, always viewed from afar, its tourist sections populated, its poorer sections never viewed up close but now, we’re going to force you in to that view and start our story.”  That’s why it doesn’t really make sense for The Sound of Music.  The shot is all about forcing the viewer into an area of the city that the average person knows nothing about and generally avoids.

beginning end West Side Story 01

And that brings us back to the seventies which we covered at the top of the post.   I suppose I could go on and list examples from the eighties, nineties, tens and today but I like to keep my posts here at the Morlocks firmly rooted in the pre-eighties time zone (not a hard-and-fast rule, just a personal preference) so I’ll leave it there.  And I suppose I could come up with a really clever way to end this piece so you’d have to decide if the opening was better than the closing but I like the opening so much that I don’t even think I’m going to bother finishi

86 Responses The Beginning or the End?
Posted By CitizenKing : January 23, 2013 10:52 am

I can go along with your assessments, some great beginnings and endings. But the mention of The Bride of Frankenstein makes me chuckle. Not because I don’t like the ending, but because of the bit of hokum it takes to set it up. As The Monster grabs the switch, someone (perhaps Pretorius) yells, “don’t touch that lever, you’ll blow us to atoms!” I always wonder how such a lever came to be installed in the lab. Seems like an odd design feature. I am sure OSHA would not approve.

Posted By CitizenKing : January 23, 2013 10:52 am

I can go along with your assessments, some great beginnings and endings. But the mention of The Bride of Frankenstein makes me chuckle. Not because I don’t like the ending, but because of the bit of hokum it takes to set it up. As The Monster grabs the switch, someone (perhaps Pretorius) yells, “don’t touch that lever, you’ll blow us to atoms!” I always wonder how such a lever came to be installed in the lab. Seems like an odd design feature. I am sure OSHA would not approve.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : January 23, 2013 10:52 am

Not quite openings of the first scenes of dialogue, but the opening credits for Gone With the Wind, accompanied by that glorious music by Max Steiner, I find it very moving. Another credits opening that I find very clever is for The Music Man. I do own the dvd, and one of the extras is the explanation of how that opening was made with all of those toy soldiers, manipulated bit by bit and filmed over a series of days just to get the effect of toy soldiers, aka toy band members, marching out to introduce a movie.

Back to your point, the ending of To Kill A Mockingbird always moves me to tears, when Boo is revealed, that he has saved the children, and how Scout tells her Dad that Boo is like a mockingbird. Oh I need a tissue just thinking about it!

Posted By jennifromrollamo : January 23, 2013 10:52 am

Not quite openings of the first scenes of dialogue, but the opening credits for Gone With the Wind, accompanied by that glorious music by Max Steiner, I find it very moving. Another credits opening that I find very clever is for The Music Man. I do own the dvd, and one of the extras is the explanation of how that opening was made with all of those toy soldiers, manipulated bit by bit and filmed over a series of days just to get the effect of toy soldiers, aka toy band members, marching out to introduce a movie.

Back to your point, the ending of To Kill A Mockingbird always moves me to tears, when Boo is revealed, that he has saved the children, and how Scout tells her Dad that Boo is like a mockingbird. Oh I need a tissue just thinking about it!

Posted By tdraicer : January 23, 2013 12:22 pm

Since you mentioned Vertigo, it both begins and ends brilliantly. The start (even ignoring the wonderful opening credits and music) with Stewart’s disastrous chase over the rooftops of San Francisco is stunning, but it is the end, with a broken Stewart probably seconds away from joining Kim Novak that lingers in the mind.

Posted By tdraicer : January 23, 2013 12:22 pm

Since you mentioned Vertigo, it both begins and ends brilliantly. The start (even ignoring the wonderful opening credits and music) with Stewart’s disastrous chase over the rooftops of San Francisco is stunning, but it is the end, with a broken Stewart probably seconds away from joining Kim Novak that lingers in the mind.

Posted By 8HZUI : January 23, 2013 12:28 pm

Sorry, this one’s from 2000. My Dog Skip. The opening is just so-so until you get to the ending, which wallops you one good by explaining the point-of-view of the beginning. I’m 51 years old and I still cannot describe the beginning of that movie (with hindsight installed) without choking-up. Simple and brilliant.

Posted By 8HZUI : January 23, 2013 12:28 pm

Sorry, this one’s from 2000. My Dog Skip. The opening is just so-so until you get to the ending, which wallops you one good by explaining the point-of-view of the beginning. I’m 51 years old and I still cannot describe the beginning of that movie (with hindsight installed) without choking-up. Simple and brilliant.

Posted By Cary Watson : January 23, 2013 12:30 pm

Good post. Easy to think of films with a great opening or ending, but both? The one that jumps out for me is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which has an opening that stretches on for almost ten minutes as it introduces each of the three title characters. And then there’s the finale with Tuco left, literally, hanging. The James Bond films made a point of having a great/ridiculous opening sequence and then a jokey ending, as in Thunderball which starts with Bond in a jet pack and ends with him snatched out of a raft via a cable and a rescue plane. Godfather III is a lousy film, but the ending, with Michael dropping dead in the courtyard of a Sicilian palazzo, his passing only noticed by a dog, is brilliant as a finale to the trilogy. Michael’s father fled Sicily to escape men like Michael and died on his own land while playing with his grandchild. Michael dies as an exile from America, unloved and alone. That final image shows us that the life of the Corleone family has gone full circle in the most horrible way possible.

Posted By Cary Watson : January 23, 2013 12:30 pm

Good post. Easy to think of films with a great opening or ending, but both? The one that jumps out for me is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which has an opening that stretches on for almost ten minutes as it introduces each of the three title characters. And then there’s the finale with Tuco left, literally, hanging. The James Bond films made a point of having a great/ridiculous opening sequence and then a jokey ending, as in Thunderball which starts with Bond in a jet pack and ends with him snatched out of a raft via a cable and a rescue plane. Godfather III is a lousy film, but the ending, with Michael dropping dead in the courtyard of a Sicilian palazzo, his passing only noticed by a dog, is brilliant as a finale to the trilogy. Michael’s father fled Sicily to escape men like Michael and died on his own land while playing with his grandchild. Michael dies as an exile from America, unloved and alone. That final image shows us that the life of the Corleone family has gone full circle in the most horrible way possible.

Posted By Andrew : January 23, 2013 3:52 pm

First one that jumps to my mind is Patton. The beginning is just well … the “beginning of Patton” and the end isn’t much by itself but taken in context just seems perfect to me.

Posted By Andrew : January 23, 2013 3:52 pm

First one that jumps to my mind is Patton. The beginning is just well … the “beginning of Patton” and the end isn’t much by itself but taken in context just seems perfect to me.

Posted By chris : January 23, 2013 4:36 pm

Cary, nice mention of the end of Godfather III. However, I think that I’m only one of a handful who thought that Godfather III was okay; not nearly as great as I or II but watchable. Whenever I mention that I liked it, most people talked about how much they hated it. But, funny thing is that when I ask why they all have the same answer: Sofia Coppola and nothing else.

Posted By chris : January 23, 2013 4:36 pm

Cary, nice mention of the end of Godfather III. However, I think that I’m only one of a handful who thought that Godfather III was okay; not nearly as great as I or II but watchable. Whenever I mention that I liked it, most people talked about how much they hated it. But, funny thing is that when I ask why they all have the same answer: Sofia Coppola and nothing else.

Posted By Emgee : January 23, 2013 4:44 pm

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; good call, but for me Leone surpassed it with his next movie. The opening scene at the station and the final shootout are highlights of pure cinema.

@tdraicer: the ending of Vertigo always makes me cringe slightly; that nun coming up the stairs and scaring Kim Novak to the point of her going over the edge…..doesn’t work for me.
Brilliant beginning though.

Posted By Emgee : January 23, 2013 4:44 pm

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; good call, but for me Leone surpassed it with his next movie. The opening scene at the station and the final shootout are highlights of pure cinema.

@tdraicer: the ending of Vertigo always makes me cringe slightly; that nun coming up the stairs and scaring Kim Novak to the point of her going over the edge…..doesn’t work for me.
Brilliant beginning though.

Posted By Cary Watson : January 23, 2013 4:59 pm

Chris: In addition to Sofia spoiling things I’d add in an opaque and dull plot. Banking skullduggery at the Vatican? It’s based loosely on actual events, but it’s a rather esoteric plot device.
Emgee: Once Upon A Time is good, but the opening sequence borders on self-parody.

Posted By Cary Watson : January 23, 2013 4:59 pm

Chris: In addition to Sofia spoiling things I’d add in an opaque and dull plot. Banking skullduggery at the Vatican? It’s based loosely on actual events, but it’s a rather esoteric plot device.
Emgee: Once Upon A Time is good, but the opening sequence borders on self-parody.

Posted By kingrat : January 23, 2013 5:00 pm

Greg, there are few better openings than William Wyler’s THE LETTER. Two quick establishing shots–the moon going under a cloud, a signpost–then two complex shots which give us a look at the social structure in which the story will take place, then the white cockatoo flying away and Bette Davis shooting her lover. This is the gold standard of openings. Check it out.

Posted By kingrat : January 23, 2013 5:00 pm

Greg, there are few better openings than William Wyler’s THE LETTER. Two quick establishing shots–the moon going under a cloud, a signpost–then two complex shots which give us a look at the social structure in which the story will take place, then the white cockatoo flying away and Bette Davis shooting her lover. This is the gold standard of openings. Check it out.

Posted By Gene : January 23, 2013 6:29 pm

As to this subject I would nominate Sunset Boulevard. Great opening and close as far as I’m concerned. Other favorite endings, for me, would be: Hitchcock’s The Birds (and Vertigo as well), Kurosawa’s Ran, and Ashby’s Being There.

Posted By Gene : January 23, 2013 6:29 pm

As to this subject I would nominate Sunset Boulevard. Great opening and close as far as I’m concerned. Other favorite endings, for me, would be: Hitchcock’s The Birds (and Vertigo as well), Kurosawa’s Ran, and Ashby’s Being There.

Posted By Arthur : January 23, 2013 7:50 pm

Greg, you have some imagine to have thought up this topic. And you did a great job with it. Considering both beginning and ending which film would you say was best? I would say Citizen Kane.

Greg and tdracier, looking at the beginning at the end of Vertigo, it seems to me that Scottie fell off the roof, and the entire film is a wild imagining before he falls to his death in his reverie and in reality.

Posted By Arthur : January 23, 2013 7:50 pm

Greg, you have some imagine to have thought up this topic. And you did a great job with it. Considering both beginning and ending which film would you say was best? I would say Citizen Kane.

Greg and tdracier, looking at the beginning at the end of Vertigo, it seems to me that Scottie fell off the roof, and the entire film is a wild imagining before he falls to his death in his reverie and in reality.

Posted By David : January 23, 2013 8:02 pm

Great post Greg.
Even staying in pre-eighties cinema, where to start?
For being low-key in terms of action, but having a single, telling image; the final scene depicting Lady Liberty sticking out of the sand in the original PLANET OF THE APES, and the last shot in THX-1138, with THX silhouetted against the rising sun when a bird unexpectedly flys by, telling him (and us) that there is life on the surface.

Too special effects driven?
How about the final scene in THE SEVENTH SEAL, with Death leading Antonius Block and his household by the hand, up the hill to whatever lies beyond Life?

Better finish with these next ones or I might be here half the day.

Great opening and maybe even betting ending – THE WILD BUNCH; with the ride into town and the hold-up, and the bitter, ironic laughter of men who cannot cry, Robert Ryan and Edmund O’Brien, as they ride off, echoed by the laughter of the now dead Bunch.
Unexpected opening and knockout ending – CHINATOWN; the close-up of photos showing a couple having sex being examined by a disappointed husband, and the devasting, “Jake . . it’s Chinatown” to a helpless and shattered Jake Gittes.

I sure I could go on and on but its probably better to stop.

Posted By David : January 23, 2013 8:02 pm

Great post Greg.
Even staying in pre-eighties cinema, where to start?
For being low-key in terms of action, but having a single, telling image; the final scene depicting Lady Liberty sticking out of the sand in the original PLANET OF THE APES, and the last shot in THX-1138, with THX silhouetted against the rising sun when a bird unexpectedly flys by, telling him (and us) that there is life on the surface.

Too special effects driven?
How about the final scene in THE SEVENTH SEAL, with Death leading Antonius Block and his household by the hand, up the hill to whatever lies beyond Life?

Better finish with these next ones or I might be here half the day.

Great opening and maybe even betting ending – THE WILD BUNCH; with the ride into town and the hold-up, and the bitter, ironic laughter of men who cannot cry, Robert Ryan and Edmund O’Brien, as they ride off, echoed by the laughter of the now dead Bunch.
Unexpected opening and knockout ending – CHINATOWN; the close-up of photos showing a couple having sex being examined by a disappointed husband, and the devasting, “Jake . . it’s Chinatown” to a helpless and shattered Jake Gittes.

I sure I could go on and on but its probably better to stop.

Posted By thomasfhering : January 23, 2013 8:09 pm

Young Frankenstein. Great, funny beginning. Great, funny ending.

Posted By thomasfhering : January 23, 2013 8:09 pm

Young Frankenstein. Great, funny beginning. Great, funny ending.

Posted By Doug : January 23, 2013 9:33 pm

Sure, it was light comedy, but the opening of “Monkey Business” (1952) when Cary Grant opens his front door only to be told by Howard Hawks in a voiceover, “Not yet, Cary” sets the tone for a show which doesn’t take anything seriously. It’s just fun, and has one of my favorite Ginger Rogers performances.

Posted By Doug : January 23, 2013 9:33 pm

Sure, it was light comedy, but the opening of “Monkey Business” (1952) when Cary Grant opens his front door only to be told by Howard Hawks in a voiceover, “Not yet, Cary” sets the tone for a show which doesn’t take anything seriously. It’s just fun, and has one of my favorite Ginger Rogers performances.

Posted By chris : January 23, 2013 11:13 pm

The ending of “Some Like It Hot” was also great. “Noboby’s perfect”.

Posted By chris : January 23, 2013 11:13 pm

The ending of “Some Like It Hot” was also great. “Noboby’s perfect”.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:24 pm

The comments here have so many great choices I don’t know where to begin, or if I even should. Two of the ones that are great in my mind but I left out were mentioned here by Andrew and Kingrat with PATTON and THE LETTER respectively. Two cases of the openings simply outdoing the closing by laps and laps.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:24 pm

The comments here have so many great choices I don’t know where to begin, or if I even should. Two of the ones that are great in my mind but I left out were mentioned here by Andrew and Kingrat with PATTON and THE LETTER respectively. Two cases of the openings simply outdoing the closing by laps and laps.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:26 pm

Also, I don’t hate THE GODFATHER, PART III, I just find it a bit of overkill. I think the first movie told us everything we need to know about Michael and the second one elaborated on the subject, expanded it. The third simply feels like too much of what we already know mixed in with some ridiculous plotting.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:26 pm

Also, I don’t hate THE GODFATHER, PART III, I just find it a bit of overkill. I think the first movie told us everything we need to know about Michael and the second one elaborated on the subject, expanded it. The third simply feels like too much of what we already know mixed in with some ridiculous plotting.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:27 pm

Arthur, that’s quite a theory. From now on, I’ll pretend Scottie’s dead when I watch it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:27 pm

Arthur, that’s quite a theory. From now on, I’ll pretend Scottie’s dead when I watch it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:28 pm

Yes, THE WILD BUNCH! A favorite of mine (I wrote it up for The Essentials this season). Great, great opening.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 23, 2013 11:28 pm

Yes, THE WILD BUNCH! A favorite of mine (I wrote it up for The Essentials this season). Great, great opening.

Posted By Pat Turman : January 23, 2013 11:43 pm

The last bowl-me-over, truly great ending I’ve seen was the ending to THE SOCIAL NETWORK when Jesse Eisenberg is trying to “friend” Mara Rooney on Facebook. (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t continue reading if haven’t seen it) It’s just brilliant on so many levels: For starters, it’s a perfect bookend to the beginning in which Eisenberg is trying to “friend” Rooney (only in person) but now at the end, his “friend” has become pixels instead of flesh & blood. Which is poetic justice since more than any other individual, he is responsible for the social networking revolution. And the fact that after all his success, he’s still after the same thing he was at the beginning. And how is all this storytelling conveyed? No dialogue, only images. Brilliant.

Posted By Pat Turman : January 23, 2013 11:43 pm

The last bowl-me-over, truly great ending I’ve seen was the ending to THE SOCIAL NETWORK when Jesse Eisenberg is trying to “friend” Mara Rooney on Facebook. (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t continue reading if haven’t seen it) It’s just brilliant on so many levels: For starters, it’s a perfect bookend to the beginning in which Eisenberg is trying to “friend” Rooney (only in person) but now at the end, his “friend” has become pixels instead of flesh & blood. Which is poetic justice since more than any other individual, he is responsible for the social networking revolution. And the fact that after all his success, he’s still after the same thing he was at the beginning. And how is all this storytelling conveyed? No dialogue, only images. Brilliant.

Posted By Arthur : January 24, 2013 3:16 am

Thanks, Greg. But are you acquainted with Lee Marvin’s POINT BLANK? At the beginning Lee Marvin is shot twice at Point Blank range by his “friend.” Somehow he survives and swims across San Francisco Bay and gets his vengeance. When I first saw it as a youth, I glossed over the improbability. Many years later I read that the film, on a deeper level, can be taken as a “dream before dying.” After repeated viewings of the classic film,
Vertigo, I came to see it in the same light.

Posted By Arthur : January 24, 2013 3:16 am

Thanks, Greg. But are you acquainted with Lee Marvin’s POINT BLANK? At the beginning Lee Marvin is shot twice at Point Blank range by his “friend.” Somehow he survives and swims across San Francisco Bay and gets his vengeance. When I first saw it as a youth, I glossed over the improbability. Many years later I read that the film, on a deeper level, can be taken as a “dream before dying.” After repeated viewings of the classic film,
Vertigo, I came to see it in the same light.

Posted By Nim Kovak : January 24, 2013 8:03 am

* First off, I’d like to second “The Letter” and “Sunset Boulevard” — both really excellent choices here …

* And next to suggest to Emgee to try viewing the nun’s approach as symbolic of Judy’s full realization of her own guilt at that moment catching up to her — then it really makes a lot of sense!

* (Of course that doesn’t necessarily imply that Scottie was “right” to badger her so much all the way up the stairs, etc. … But ultimately, would we the audience be able to forgive Scottie if he went the OTHER route, i.e. forgave her completely, loved her sincerely, stopped making her dress up as Madeleine etc. — as she stated she wanted in the letter she drafted and discarded — or would it just make us feel disgusted with Scottie as well for blithe complicity … This is something I’ve always wondered about quite a fair bit…)

* And one more thing — another great example of a movie that at least debatably has both beginning & end EXTREMELY memorable would be dePalma’s “Carrie” … No one who’s ever seen the film can easily forget either the opening shot of athletic activity leading swiftly to the locker room sequence with nudity clearly establishing the contrast between healthy adolescence as opposed to the darkness and evil represented by Piper Laurie’s unfortunate influence in her daughter’s life etc. … OR the legendary ending shot filmed backwards in which one of Carrie’s “mean girl” peers is trying to recover from the trauma and get on with her life — but continues to be plagued by violent nightmares stemming from her guilt …

Posted By Nim Kovak : January 24, 2013 8:03 am

* First off, I’d like to second “The Letter” and “Sunset Boulevard” — both really excellent choices here …

* And next to suggest to Emgee to try viewing the nun’s approach as symbolic of Judy’s full realization of her own guilt at that moment catching up to her — then it really makes a lot of sense!

* (Of course that doesn’t necessarily imply that Scottie was “right” to badger her so much all the way up the stairs, etc. … But ultimately, would we the audience be able to forgive Scottie if he went the OTHER route, i.e. forgave her completely, loved her sincerely, stopped making her dress up as Madeleine etc. — as she stated she wanted in the letter she drafted and discarded — or would it just make us feel disgusted with Scottie as well for blithe complicity … This is something I’ve always wondered about quite a fair bit…)

* And one more thing — another great example of a movie that at least debatably has both beginning & end EXTREMELY memorable would be dePalma’s “Carrie” … No one who’s ever seen the film can easily forget either the opening shot of athletic activity leading swiftly to the locker room sequence with nudity clearly establishing the contrast between healthy adolescence as opposed to the darkness and evil represented by Piper Laurie’s unfortunate influence in her daughter’s life etc. … OR the legendary ending shot filmed backwards in which one of Carrie’s “mean girl” peers is trying to recover from the trauma and get on with her life — but continues to be plagued by violent nightmares stemming from her guilt …

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 24, 2013 9:46 am

Arthur, I love POINT BLANK too. In my opinion, as long as the writer or director doesn’t outright say, “This is exactly what I mean” it’s up to the viewer. Hell, even if the director does do that it can still be interpreted other ways. And with VERTIGO, there’s no denying you have to ask the question, “How long can Scottie hold on to that ledge before falling?” Most people can’t hold themselves up for more than a few seconds (try it from a playground bar or door frame and you’ll see how hard it is) and Scottie would have to be up there for at least several minutes before anyone got to the roof.

Now, personally, I think he lives and the story is presented as is but I have no problem seeing it the other way, none at all.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 24, 2013 9:46 am

Arthur, I love POINT BLANK too. In my opinion, as long as the writer or director doesn’t outright say, “This is exactly what I mean” it’s up to the viewer. Hell, even if the director does do that it can still be interpreted other ways. And with VERTIGO, there’s no denying you have to ask the question, “How long can Scottie hold on to that ledge before falling?” Most people can’t hold themselves up for more than a few seconds (try it from a playground bar or door frame and you’ll see how hard it is) and Scottie would have to be up there for at least several minutes before anyone got to the roof.

Now, personally, I think he lives and the story is presented as is but I have no problem seeing it the other way, none at all.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 24, 2013 9:50 am

CARRIE’s a great example. The ending shot of Amy Irving’s nightmare is the best jump scare in the movie and that opening is something. A completely natural, normal event made disturbing and creepy by Carrie’s ignorance of what’s happening to her.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 24, 2013 9:50 am

CARRIE’s a great example. The ending shot of Amy Irving’s nightmare is the best jump scare in the movie and that opening is something. A completely natural, normal event made disturbing and creepy by Carrie’s ignorance of what’s happening to her.

Posted By Doug : January 24, 2013 10:00 am

Another great film opening:”The Philadelphia Story” which shows the final moments of the marriage of C.K. Dexter Haven and Tracy Lords. Brilliant ending also. Everything in between also.

Posted By Doug : January 24, 2013 10:00 am

Another great film opening:”The Philadelphia Story” which shows the final moments of the marriage of C.K. Dexter Haven and Tracy Lords. Brilliant ending also. Everything in between also.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : January 24, 2013 10:25 am

Another ending I just thought of, from The Bridge on the River Kwai, when Colonel Nicholson(Alec Guinness)realizes what he has done by building that bridge for the Japanese, and then mortally wounded falls on the detonator.

My kids have been on a Seven Bride for Seven Brothers kick lately, watching it over and over. The ending is cute, as the minister asks the seven brothers if they will take these seven women to be their brides, and the grooms look over their shoulders to see their future fathers-in-laws, rifles in their hands, take a step towards them, and then the grooms all quickly gulp and say, I do!

Posted By jennifromrollamo : January 24, 2013 10:25 am

Another ending I just thought of, from The Bridge on the River Kwai, when Colonel Nicholson(Alec Guinness)realizes what he has done by building that bridge for the Japanese, and then mortally wounded falls on the detonator.

My kids have been on a Seven Bride for Seven Brothers kick lately, watching it over and over. The ending is cute, as the minister asks the seven brothers if they will take these seven women to be their brides, and the grooms look over their shoulders to see their future fathers-in-laws, rifles in their hands, take a step towards them, and then the grooms all quickly gulp and say, I do!

Posted By swac44 : January 24, 2013 11:09 am

My favourite beginning has to be Pinocchio, watching Disney’s multiplane camera swoop into that Bavarian (well, German anyway) village, and into the window of Geppetto’s workshop (through the eyes of our narrator, Jiminy Cricket) was one of my earliest big screen experiences, and of course that shot takes us right into one of the things a child loves most, a toy shop! Now I appreciate the artistry of the Disney animators and the technological feat the multiplane camera represented, but as a kid it really felt like I was being drawn into something special and magical, and in a lot of ways it still holds that power.

Posted By swac44 : January 24, 2013 11:09 am

My favourite beginning has to be Pinocchio, watching Disney’s multiplane camera swoop into that Bavarian (well, German anyway) village, and into the window of Geppetto’s workshop (through the eyes of our narrator, Jiminy Cricket) was one of my earliest big screen experiences, and of course that shot takes us right into one of the things a child loves most, a toy shop! Now I appreciate the artistry of the Disney animators and the technological feat the multiplane camera represented, but as a kid it really felt like I was being drawn into something special and magical, and in a lot of ways it still holds that power.

Posted By Arthur : January 24, 2013 2:25 pm

Thanks, Greg! Jennifromrollamo, yes, that is a great ending in Bridge on the River Kwai. But for me, part of what makes it great, is that the viewer has to think. Did he fall on the detonator on purpose, or did he just happen to fall on it as he literally dropped dead. Yes, he was pondering the enormity of what he had done, but had he reached the conclusion that he should try to undo his accomplishment? Hmmmmmm…

Posted By Arthur : January 24, 2013 2:25 pm

Thanks, Greg! Jennifromrollamo, yes, that is a great ending in Bridge on the River Kwai. But for me, part of what makes it great, is that the viewer has to think. Did he fall on the detonator on purpose, or did he just happen to fall on it as he literally dropped dead. Yes, he was pondering the enormity of what he had done, but had he reached the conclusion that he should try to undo his accomplishment? Hmmmmmm…

Posted By Anita : January 24, 2013 2:42 pm

Touch of Evil, directed by Orson Welles, has the greatest beginning and ending of any film in or out of the ’50s. The uninterrupted, nearly 3-and-a-half-minute tracking shot, following Heston and Leigh but also the car bomb, that opens the film is widely acknowledged as the godfather of all tracking shots. The end is pure Welles–Dietrich, commenting on Welles’ character, Hank Quinlan, whose has just been shot to death by his best friend: “He was some kind of a man…what does it matter what you say about people?” What happens between those scenes ain’t too shabby either! In some ways, a greater film than Kane, even with the unbelievability of Heston as a Mexican.

Posted By Anita : January 24, 2013 2:42 pm

Touch of Evil, directed by Orson Welles, has the greatest beginning and ending of any film in or out of the ’50s. The uninterrupted, nearly 3-and-a-half-minute tracking shot, following Heston and Leigh but also the car bomb, that opens the film is widely acknowledged as the godfather of all tracking shots. The end is pure Welles–Dietrich, commenting on Welles’ character, Hank Quinlan, whose has just been shot to death by his best friend: “He was some kind of a man…what does it matter what you say about people?” What happens between those scenes ain’t too shabby either! In some ways, a greater film than Kane, even with the unbelievability of Heston as a Mexican.

Posted By whynot47 : January 24, 2013 6:43 pm

I always thought ‘the Stuntman’ with Peter O’Toole and Steve Railsback was exactly how I wanted a movie to begin AND end! It gets a little muddled near the climax… but I remember the actual ending as being very satisfying

Posted By whynot47 : January 24, 2013 6:43 pm

I always thought ‘the Stuntman’ with Peter O’Toole and Steve Railsback was exactly how I wanted a movie to begin AND end! It gets a little muddled near the climax… but I remember the actual ending as being very satisfying

Posted By whynot47 : January 24, 2013 7:45 pm

additionally. ‘Double Indemnity’ might have done the best job of starting a movie WITH the ending and never letting the foot off the gas until you get to the resolution you’ve known is coming the whole time

Posted By whynot47 : January 24, 2013 7:45 pm

additionally. ‘Double Indemnity’ might have done the best job of starting a movie WITH the ending and never letting the foot off the gas until you get to the resolution you’ve known is coming the whole time

Posted By Richard B : January 25, 2013 12:23 am

Great calls on ‘Patton’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ Hey, notice how many times Wilder and Welles show up in these comments? ‘The Apartment’ has a pretty good ending too (the actual last line of the screenplay is “And that’s about it, story-wise”) even if it lifts the opening from ‘The Crowd.’

The opening of ‘Citizen Kane’ is so great that Joe Dante stole it for ‘Piranha’!

Two of the most perfect endings, thanks to two of the most perfect closing lines in all cinema: ‘Memento’ and ‘Motel Hell.’

Of course, one is a more perfect movie than the other.

Posted By Richard B : January 25, 2013 12:23 am

Great calls on ‘Patton’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ Hey, notice how many times Wilder and Welles show up in these comments? ‘The Apartment’ has a pretty good ending too (the actual last line of the screenplay is “And that’s about it, story-wise”) even if it lifts the opening from ‘The Crowd.’

The opening of ‘Citizen Kane’ is so great that Joe Dante stole it for ‘Piranha’!

Two of the most perfect endings, thanks to two of the most perfect closing lines in all cinema: ‘Memento’ and ‘Motel Hell.’

Of course, one is a more perfect movie than the other.

Posted By Gene : January 25, 2013 11:26 am

Thanks Anita for bringing up Touch of Evil. Both beginning and end are incredible. Definitely one of my favorites as well.

Posted By Gene : January 25, 2013 11:26 am

Thanks Anita for bringing up Touch of Evil. Both beginning and end are incredible. Definitely one of my favorites as well.

Posted By kevinwrotethis : January 26, 2013 4:45 am

Very, very nice work here. So many films tend to sputter and stop towards the end (this year’s example for me is Lincoln). Buster Keaton said that as soon as you have your beginning, all there is to work for is the end. I think we need to remember that.

Posted By kevinwrotethis : January 26, 2013 4:45 am

Very, very nice work here. So many films tend to sputter and stop towards the end (this year’s example for me is Lincoln). Buster Keaton said that as soon as you have your beginning, all there is to work for is the end. I think we need to remember that.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:17 pm

Yes, TOUCH OF EVIL is perhaps THE example of this kind of thing. That opening is extraordinary as well as Marlene’s quiet surrender to the cosmos at the end, “He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:17 pm

Yes, TOUCH OF EVIL is perhaps THE example of this kind of thing. That opening is extraordinary as well as Marlene’s quiet surrender to the cosmos at the end, “He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:18 pm

Jennie, I bring up BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI in my Sunday post today here at the Morlocks. Hope you enjoy it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:18 pm

Jennie, I bring up BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI in my Sunday post today here at the Morlocks. Hope you enjoy it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:19 pm

swac44, funny you mention that because I just got a good copy of PINOCCHIO and plan on watching it in the next couple of weeks. Look forward to it even more now.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:19 pm

swac44, funny you mention that because I just got a good copy of PINOCCHIO and plan on watching it in the next couple of weeks. Look forward to it even more now.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:20 pm

Richard, I’m going to check out the end of MOTEL HELL for that line now. Saw it years ago but can’t remember it at all now.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 27, 2013 12:20 pm

Richard, I’m going to check out the end of MOTEL HELL for that line now. Saw it years ago but can’t remember it at all now.

Posted By robbushblog : January 29, 2013 1:24 pm

From more modern times,……remind me that I said that….from 1995: The Usual Suspects. The opening with the parties being killed, the boat exploding and the zoom in on…what exactly…? The end, with Chaz palminteri’s realization that he’s been had and “Just like that…he’s gone.” Fade to black. Great.

Modern Times has a pretty great beginning and end. The beginning takes place in that big factory, with Charlie’s Tramp getting caught in the machinery. The end is the Tramp walking away from the camera with girl in tow, finally achieving the happiness that has eluded him for so many years and so many films.

Posted By robbushblog : January 29, 2013 1:24 pm

From more modern times,……remind me that I said that….from 1995: The Usual Suspects. The opening with the parties being killed, the boat exploding and the zoom in on…what exactly…? The end, with Chaz palminteri’s realization that he’s been had and “Just like that…he’s gone.” Fade to black. Great.

Modern Times has a pretty great beginning and end. The beginning takes place in that big factory, with Charlie’s Tramp getting caught in the machinery. The end is the Tramp walking away from the camera with girl in tow, finally achieving the happiness that has eluded him for so many years and so many films.

Posted By hecubot : February 3, 2013 4:10 pm

French Connection II is the movie I always think of that’s saved by a great ending. The sequel isn’t nearly as dynamic or exhilirating as the original, but the last twenty minutes are riveting and it’s strayed so far from genre expectations that you have no idea how it’s going to end. And when it does end it’s perfect.

Posted By hecubot : February 3, 2013 4:10 pm

French Connection II is the movie I always think of that’s saved by a great ending. The sequel isn’t nearly as dynamic or exhilirating as the original, but the last twenty minutes are riveting and it’s strayed so far from genre expectations that you have no idea how it’s going to end. And when it does end it’s perfect.

Posted By robbushblog : February 5, 2013 2:07 am

I just done thought of another’n.

Kiss Me Deadly: You start out with Hammer almost running over Cloris Leachman. She climbs in the car and the great Nat King Cole tune plays, but with the discordant noise of Cloris moaning throughout the backwards scrolling credits. It’s crazy and fantastic at the same time. And at the end, the beach house burns and hisses prior to its explosion caused by “The Great Whatsit”. It’s great, that’s whatsit.

Posted By robbushblog : February 5, 2013 2:07 am

I just done thought of another’n.

Kiss Me Deadly: You start out with Hammer almost running over Cloris Leachman. She climbs in the car and the great Nat King Cole tune plays, but with the discordant noise of Cloris moaning throughout the backwards scrolling credits. It’s crazy and fantastic at the same time. And at the end, the beach house burns and hisses prior to its explosion caused by “The Great Whatsit”. It’s great, that’s whatsit.

Posted By Benzadmiral : April 2, 2013 2:50 pm

There’s a little-known film called “Heart Beat” (two words), with John Heard, Nick Nolte, and Sissy Spacek, focusing on the lives and relationships of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and the woman (Spacek) they both loved and lived with. At the end, we hear Spacek’s voice-over: “Jack’s weakness was that he thought life was made by compromises. Neal’s, that life was broken by them. And me? I think compromises are like dental appointments. You’re damned if you make ‘em, and damned if you don’t.” Classic.

Posted By Benzadmiral : April 2, 2013 2:50 pm

There’s a little-known film called “Heart Beat” (two words), with John Heard, Nick Nolte, and Sissy Spacek, focusing on the lives and relationships of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and the woman (Spacek) they both loved and lived with. At the end, we hear Spacek’s voice-over: “Jack’s weakness was that he thought life was made by compromises. Neal’s, that life was broken by them. And me? I think compromises are like dental appointments. You’re damned if you make ‘em, and damned if you don’t.” Classic.

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