Friday, August 29, 2014

Growing Up Nerdy

by Adam Thas and Mike Pomaro
It's a very special DEATH installment of Growing Up Nerdy!

Dearest Growing Up Nerdy,
I'm a girl who's obsessed with death. Not in a weird way. More like a Lydia-in-Beetlejuice way. What are your favorite death scenes from movies? Also, can you send me a picture of you both? Asking for a friend.

- Tina Yothers

Mike: Most of my favorite death scenes come from horror movies, because most of those are designed to wind up on a list of favorite death scenes. But since I don’t want to blow my Scary Movie Month load just yet, I’m going to move away from the horror genre when answering this question.

If I have to pick one movie with the most memorable death scenes, I’ll go with The Godfather. Granted, that entire movie is memorable, but the death scenes are something to behold. Let’s make a checklist:

1) Luca Brasi: As I’ve mentioned time and time again on F This Movie!, I saw The Godfather and other rated R movies at a very young age. And while there were other death scenes that stuck out for me (we’ll discuss those in a second), Luca Brasi may have been the most memorable to a young kid. Hell, it’s brutal even now. Luca is choked to death from behind after having his hand stabbed into the counter of a bar to help keep him in place. Luca struggles and gurgles, all while his face turns more and more reddish/purple. It’s a brutal scene, and one that feels so REAL.

2) Sonny: This was the one scene, along with Sonny having sex with the bridesmaid against the door, that I wasn’t allowed to watch when I was little. Sonny, a character we’ve grown to love (or at least enjoy watching) was not only killed – he was destroyed. The over-the-top character was killed in the most over-the-top way, being gunned down at an empty tollbooth. 110 squibs were used to help blow Sonny up.

3) The Horse: Movie producer Jack Woltz announces to Tom Hagen that he won’t give Vito Corleone’s nephew, the Frank Sinatra-like Johnny Fontane, a part in his new movie, but not before showing off his prized possession, his heavily guarded horse. The morning after Hagen left to give Mr. Corleone the bad news, Woltz woke up to discover a red sticky substance in his bed. Pulling back the sheets, as Nino Rota’s score begins to swell, Woltz screams as he uncovers his horse’s head at the foot of the bed – an offer he couldn’t refuse. Needless to say, Fontane got the part.
4) Captain McCluskey and Sollozzo: The killing of Police Captain McCluskey and Sollozzo is when Michael Corleone crosses over from war hero to member of the family business. Michael was forced to move to Sicily to live in exile while his family was left to pick up the pieces. The murders of Sollozzo and McCluskey were an answer to the attempt of Vito Corleone's life. Their murders eventually lead to Sonny Corleone’s murder. So much was set into motion with these murders, not the least of which is Michael’s transformation.

5) Paulie: “Leave the gun. Take the canoli.”

6) Vito Corleone: I can’t help but sound a little douchey when I say that this may be one of the most beautiful death scenes ever committed to film: a simple improvised scene where we see Vito Corleone, now an old man, as he plays with his grandson in his garden. Vito suffers a heart attack before collapsing to his death. His grandson doesn’t know that his grandfather isn’t playing, and he continues to horse around for a few seconds before running off when Vito never responds. It’s such a quiet death for someone so large.

7) The Baptism: While Michael and Kay baptize their baby boy (played by infant Sofia Coppola), Michael flexes his muscles by having his rivals knocked off one by one. We see this juxtaposition by cutting from the church where the priest is asking Michael questions like, “Do you reject Satan?” then cutting to his foot soldiers murdering their rivals. Confession: my wife and I were asked to be the godparents to my sister-in-law's daughter. As we sat in church last week for the ceremony, the priest asked us these same questions, including if we reject Satan. Like a fucking lunatic, I couldn’t help but smile as I responded, “yes.” I would worry that the priest thought I was a creep not taking this vow seriously, but I have to assume he thinks of The Godfather, too.
Adam: If we are talking about our favorite death scenes, as an action movie fan I have a 400-page essay.

Whenever I think of movie death scenes, one in particular always comes to mind: Marvin’s death in Pulp Fiction. I remember going to see the movie for the first time in the theater and being so into it.  I absolutely loved how the movie just gets through that tension-filled scene in the apartment where Marvin is the lone survivor. Until that point, movies had taught me that Marvin is going to survive. It makes sense -- at that point in the movie, Marvin is one of the main characters. Then all at once, in mid sentence, BLAM! Watching it for the first time, it took me a second to realize what was going on. I literally had the exact same reaction as Travolta on screen. Not only did I see this character’s head explode, but it was like watching everything that I thought I knew about movies wind up on the back seat of a car. That movie -- and that scene in particular-- changed movies for me, which is why it will always be my favorite death scene.

If we are talking about our favorite death scenes in general, you can’t beat the death of Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash) in Crisis on Infinite Earths. If you haven't read Crisis on Infinite Earths, you need to. In my humble opinion, it is the single greatest event in the history of comics. It is epic, the art is amazing and it really transformed an entire universe of comics. In 1986, a newly-retired Barry Allen saves the Earth by sacrificing himself. Those final panels of him exiting the DC universe is a testament to what he meant to comics.

If you are not aware of comic history, the first appearance of Silver Age Flash is considered the re-birth of the super hero and the first Silver Age Comic (Showcase #4). It is a pinnacle issue for serious collectors and the price reflects it (sale at auction $180,000). The 1956 cover shows Barry Allen running full speed, so fast he is outrunning the film strip behind him. On the film we see several images of Barry Allen running in slightly different poses. It’s a great cover.
In 1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths is released and we see Barry Allen, 30 years later, absorbing the power from the Anti-Monitor’s cannon. Barry Allen’s body can’t take the energy and he slowly begins to vanish. The beauty of this moment comes through in the genius of artist George Perez. As Allen is slowly fading away, Perez illustrates it as a film strip, like a movie coming to an end. Barry Allen was introduced to the world leading the film strip and goes out at the end of it. DC comics extinguishes the very first Silver Age hero, and with him, the majority of the DC Universe. I’ve read those issues so many times and I get chills just thinking about that ending. It’s perfect, and shows the creative beauty that comics can display.


  1. If you are talking crazy comic deaths, how about "The Infinity Gauntlet #4". Thanos wipes out practically all the star characters of the marvel universe in glorious fashion.

    1. I love that one too. For some reason Cloak losing dagger and being completely lost was awesome to me.

    2. Additionally I'd like to point out Infinity Gauntlet--- George Perez.

  2. Ive watched too many horror movies so the list is far to long. Usually any film with Savini or KNB at the helm works for me

    But none horror films, how's about Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black. I did not see that one coming!

  3. Great choices guys - Godfather delivers the kills right up there with any of the classic slasher franchises (and priests MUST think about that movie when they're doing baptisms right?!) and Marvin - oh man, back when I watched Pulp Fiction with anyone I could find that hadn't seen it, that was one of the scenes I looked forward to them seeing.most.

    I wish I could retcon this one out of my past but the most memorable and impactful comic book death for me was...sigh...Superman, back in '92. I was 12 and hadn't yet developed a thick layer of cynicism and it really got me - probably the first and last time a comic book made me cry. It also got me collecting the 100lbs of worthless treasure I'm still hanging on to and can't wait to pass on to my kid (I know I would have loved that!). But yeah, back then I actually believed the Big Blue Boyscout might really be dead for good.

    As for movie deaths, sometimes it's what you don't really see that haunts you most, and I blame a sadistic, child-hating Nazi for the one that first made me question everything I knew about cinema: Bambi's mom. Still not over it.

  4. Got me too Sol. The weird thing if I remember correctly about Bambi's mom dying is even though it is heartbreaking. Guttwrenching. And unforgettable. The interesting thing is that its all in your head. You never actually see anything at all on the screen. Though in my memory I have this awful scene in detail engraved in my mind forever. I never actually saw it happen on screen

  5. Shit if we are talking about movie deaths I still haven't recovered from!! When Artax the horse drowns in the swamp in "Never Ending Story"! Holy shit, to this day I can't watch that scene. I almost get mad at the script and director for putting that in a movie it traumatized me so much.

  6. I just remembered the worst scene of all time for me.
    The final death scene in The Champ is still a scene I can't watch without crying. When 9 year old Richard Bartlett "Ricky" Schroder is crying as Jon voight dies. "Spolier for The Champ 1979" in the final scene. This has to be the best heart breaking scene of all time. Damn it just kills me everytime