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'Stingers' signal sequels

For Hicksflicks.com, June 7, 2013

As "Furious 6" concludes, the end credits begin to roll, but then are interrupted by a brief teaser, a moment that signals not only that "Fast & Furious 7" is on the way but which also offers a hint as to what the story will be about. Then the end credits start up again in earnest.

In the movie business this little scene is known as a "stinger," something shown during or after the end credits, the most famous of which are the scenes tagged onto the end of a string of Marvel movies: "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger." Each of these teasers led up to "The Avengers," which pulled these superheroes and a couple more together for one of the biggest film successes of all time.

But it's actually not all that new an idea. To use a stinger for one more jokey punchline — as happens after the credits of "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3," or going back way back, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off' and even earlier, "The Muppet Movie" — is more common.

And showing footage from the next film in a series goes back further yet.

The first time I recall seeing this device was at the end of "The Three Musketeers," the hilarious 1974 version by filmmaker Richard Lester (director of the Beatles' films and "Superman II") with an all-star cast that includes Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway and Charlton Heston, among others.

As the film winds down and "The End" shows up on the screen, beneath it is "Soon: The Four Musketeers (The Revenge of Milady)," followed by a montage of clips from "The Four Musketeers," which was indeed released the next year with the same cast.

The kicker to this one is that the two movies were shot at the same time, initially intended as a three- or four-hour film that adapted the entire "Three Musketeers" book by Alexandre Dumas. And as such, the cast and crew were paid for making one movie. But when this stinger showed up at the end, they made a stink, demanding to be paid for two movies, leading to what is now a common contract clause that stipulates how many films are being made.

Perhaps better remembered today is a similar ending on "Back to the Future, Part II," which had clips from "Back to the Future, Part III" at the end, both films having been shot back to back (a shooting schedule later used for the "Lord of the Rings" and "Matrix" films, among others).

People my age may also remember the James Bond movies of the 1960s that had kickers at the end of the credits reading: "James Bond will return in … " with the name of whatever movie was scheduled next: "Goldfinger" or "Thunderball," etc. Since nothing had been filmed yet, there were, of course, no clips, just the tease.