I agree. This is a great movie with what would seem to be a major flaw. Murdoch is 'killed' in the ring and it's at this moment when Jordan exchanges Joe Pendleton's soul for Murdoch's. Then, shortly after the fight, Mr. Jordan inexplicably 'reinserts' Murdoch's soul back into his own body while Pendleton/Murdoch is taking a shower.
So, the question remains, what happened to Joe Pendleton's soul? Since it's still Robert Montgomery on the screen, it 'looks' like Pendleton is still within Murdoch's body, but it's actually Murdoch's soul back in his own body.
The biggest problem is Mr. Jordan's remark to Pendleton/Murdoch that "Murdoch was told of the fight and was pleased". This means that Murdoch's soul had been lifted and went to heaven.
Frankly, one wonders if Murdoch's soul had been complaining about the entire situation after Pendleton had gotten his body, so Jordan, having tired of the whole mess, simply reinserted Murdoch into his own body, erased any memory he had of going to heaven, kept Pendleton's memory of the fight, and simply eliminated Pendleton's soul in its entirety. In fact, there might even be a subtle allusion to cremation as an improper means for which to maintain the departed's remains. Since Pendleton had been cremated, does this mean that his soul no longer gets to exist?
OTOH, Jordan was in a situation where he probably couldn't let Pendleton run around with memory and knowledge of the afterlife. So, Jordan did the best he could in eliminating as much of Pendleton's memory by merging it with Murdoch's. The question then becomes what happened to the real Murdoch's soul?
Even more curious would be what happens when this merged Pendleton/Murdoch dies and presumably goes to heaven. Maybe it would be at this point when Pendleton gets his memory back and becomes a separate, whole entity again. This could have been explained by Jordan as he's talking to himself when he makes the 'merge' when Pendleton/Murdoch in the shower. Jordan's final line could have been "You won't completely become Joe Pendleton again until after you die at your proper time."
Regardless, it was a superb way to draw the audience into the sadness of the final scene with Murdoch (looking like Pendleton) talking to Evelyn Keyes. For it to have been as Jordan had promised to Pendleton early in the movie, Pendleton/Murdoch would have retained his entire personality and memory intact, but I guess that just wasn't possible.
I just saw this movie and I thought it was perfectly fine.
Murdoch's soul wasn't placed back in his body. It was Pendleton's soul, he just didn't have the memories from his old life. Murdoch's soul remained in heaven. Just because a soul doesn't have his memories make it incomplete.
I agree with krabbypattie. I just watched it too and other than being reminded that this movie was outstanding on so many levels, thought about the very thing this thread is about.
If you recall, Murdoch's body, so to speak, recognized Max, his Sax and of course Bette, but consciously could not put it all together. His "soul" recognized that these three were vital to his eternal life and put them into Murdoch's earthly one. It fits in well with the concept of reincarnation, where one's past lives are revealed through meditation or some other means.
My only criticism was leaving Max hanging! Why couldn't Mr Jordan give him a sign that he wasn't going bonkers??
> Murdoch's soul wasn't placed back in his body. It was Pendleton's soul, he just didn't have the memories from his old life. Murdoch's soul remained in heaven. Just because a soul doesn't have his memories make it incomplete.
...and it is precisely at this point that believers diverge from nonbelievers, as foreshadowed in cineaste1939's original post. Because I don't believe in an immortal soul, I cannot separate "memories" from "personal identity" in my head, so I still have a problem with the concept. To me, you ARE your life experiences. No point discussing the validity of either of our philosophies (we know where THAT will lead - just look at the Golden Compass forum!) but I just wanted to point out why some people have more trouble with this plot element than others.
You are exactly right. If you have no memories of "you" and memories of Murdock, then what of you remains. Nothing. An interchangeable soul? Does who any good? And the Invisible Man beaming down on the sides showing all's well. Nuts. If Murdock has all his memories, what's he doing up in heaven? Are there two of him and no Joe? Fantasies must have some sort of logic. And it seems very Calvinistic that everything is destined ahead of time, so all's well.
Joe wanted a career as a great boxer and he also wanted Bette. But the only way to achieve both wishes was to get a body. Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains) erased Joe's memory (but not completely), because he can only achieve all of his wishes in the identity of someone else. So Mr. Jordan picked Murdock's body and erased most of Joe's memories. But he didn't erase the "illusion" of Joe, few parts of his memories, and Joe's soul. That's why he remembers Saxophone and slightly remembers Bette.
People may ask why Mr. Jordan erased Joe's most of memory. This is because Mr. Jordan wanted Joe to get what he wanted the most - Bette. If Joe had his complete memory, then people including Bette will think that Joe (in Murdock's body) is gone mad. This will prevent Joe from getting Bette. Look how people reacted to Max Corkle (James Gleason) when he said it was Joe in Farnsworth's body. They thought Max was mad.
In the end, we still see Joe with a "partial memory." Joe still has the same soul and same illusion. Only most of his memories were erased. And Joe was given the identity of Murdock and Murdock's memories to survive in this world and live happily with Bette and have a wonderful career with Max. But the soul belongs to Joe. Not Murdock. That's what I think.
i'm an atheist, but I'm willing to play along with the assumptions of the movie.
I do think, however, that this ending is an unsatisfactory compromise ... we get our sense of identity from our memories ... that's why Alzheimers is such a devastating disease,
Joe seems to be left only with Murdoch's memories, which means Joe has been effectively erased, except for some sort of vague feeling of a memory lost.
The movie is great, but the ending doesn't really gel.
But you ARE Blanche ... and I AM.