Home > Dangerous Universe > What a way to go
What a way to go
six ways Hollywood teaches us that it really is best to die in bed.
By Bert Ehrmann
Check out The Dangerous Universe Website!
Fort Wayne Reader
People always seem to remember the "good deaths" featured in Hollywood movies. Whether it's Darth Vader turning back to “The Force” before dying of his wounds in Return of the Jedi or Valeria succumbing to the venom of a snake in Conan's arms in Conan the Barbarian. But for ever "good death" Hollywood also present us with very "bad deaths"; like Private Mellish being stabbed to death by a German soldier in Saving Private Ryan or the legless Kermit the Frog in All Frogs Must Die begging for his life to Miss Piggy. But this begs the question, what are the absolute worst "ways to go" in a Hollywood movie?
The (New) Twilight Zone (1985): In the episode entitled "The Cold Equations", a shuttle pilot is racing against the clock to deliver medicine to a plague-infested colony on another world. His ship has exactly enough fuel to get him to the planet in one piece. During the flight he discovers a stowaway abroad his ship, a girl wanting free passage to the planet in order to visit her brother. Unfortunately for her, with the additional weight she brings the ship doesn't have enough fuel to make a safe landing. The two then proceed to throw every piece of the ship that isn't bolted down out of the airlock to try and decrease the weight of the ship. But no matter what they do nothing works, the ships still too heavy and consuming fuel too quickly to make a safe landing.
So, after the girl calls her brother one last time to explain the situation, she steps into the airlock and has the pilot blast her off into space; one life for thousands.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): I remember seeing the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a young child and being disturbed by how the alien invaders identify a human intruder in their midst. (See the movie and tell me that the sound the aliens make doesn't send a shudder up your spine.) In the remake, much as in the original, alien "pods" from outer-space duplicate you in your sleep while at the same time destroy the original copy – you. You literally cease to exist after duplication, your body turned into a pile of unrecognizable sludge.
The Blob (1988): The remake of The Blob follows the original in most respects – a piece of space debris crash lands on the Earth containing an featureless "blob like" organism from outer-space which grows in mass every time it consumes an unsuspecting person, but the remake adds a bit of 1980's style twists to the story. This time, the piece of debris is a secret military satellite while government officials are more concerned with capturing the creature for their own ends rather than saving the town's populous.
Early in the movie, the blob attacks waitress Fran Hewitt (Candy Clark), forcing her to take refuge in a small old-style phone booth. She's able to keep the booth door closed with her feet and the blob at bay as she calls the sheriff's office for help. Almost immediately the creature totally envelops the booth with its ever-growing mass. She screams for help into the receiver asking for the sheriff only to be told that he's already gone down to the diner to meet her. Then the sheriff's partially digested body goes floating past Fran, his eyes turning to meet hers. There is a pause as Fran has a moment to ponder her fate before the blob's massive weight bursts open and comes pouring in on her.
Lifepod (1993): Lifepod was a remake of Hitchcock's classic Lifeboat (1944). Whereas Lifeboat takes place on the high seas during World War II Lifepod takes place in space on a ship in between Venus and Earth. Shortly after jettisoning from a luxury ship, the survivors are desperate to raise shields that will protect them from the radioactive blast of the ship's engines. Lifepod pilot Mayvene (CCH Pounder) is able to raise the shields around the surviving passengers but is unable to fully raise her own, and receives a massive dose of radiation. Mayvene spends the rest of the movie suffering the effects of radiation sickness until finally succumbing to it in the third act.
The Thing (1982): In The Thing, an alien creature is able to duplicate whatever it has come in contact with, be it the people manning an ice station in Antarctica or previous other alien species in its trek across the galaxy. Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) learns that his friend has been taken over a duplicated by The Thing as he tries to resuscitate him after a heart attack. (The Thing makes exact copies – heart defects and all.) As the doctor goes to shock the heart of this man, his chest bursts open revealing a distorted mouth and jagged teeth of The Thing. On momentum, Copper thrusts his arms into the mouth only to have them bitten off in the process.
Jaws (1975): The absolute worst way to go has to be suffered by the character Quint (Robert Shaw - or "that German soldier from a million World War II movies) in the movie Jaws. During the final attack on Quint's boat "The Orca" by the massive shark, Jaws is able to swim abroad the damaged and slightly submerged stern of the boat. The added weight of the shark swamps the deck even more causing Quint to fall and slide towards the massive fish. Quint struggles down the slippery deck yet he finds himself kicking at the jaws of the massive beast literally trying to consume him alive. Which it does. As Quint screams for help, the shark slowly eats him piece by piece. When finished it slips back into the water and swims away.