Saturday, April 30, 2011

Great death scenes slow and low

         Great death scenes are really hard to come by. Lots of death scenes in film.  I'm talking about the really good ones. 

        Loud and explosive or slow and low? Slow and low are best, most suspenseful and shocking. Scare your hairs on end. 
        Take an early film noir death scene that has cinephiles still in awe today: Double Indemnity, the 1944 film Billy Wilder directed. Film noir was then called a "B" movie until the French took a fancy, noticing the great contrasts of shadow and light and the peppie story lines and anti-heros. Big in those days, like Indy flicks today. This one has Barbara Stanwyck in a lip-lock with lover Fred MacMurray when he pokes his pistol in her ribs and bye bye Barb. Double Indemnity Double Indemnity is an entertaining tale of greed, sex and betrayal in LA. And you thought Fred MacMurray did nothing exciting before he raised those three boys.

       Another slow and low is the fast shot the heart scene in LA Confidential,  leaving Kevin Spacey a few gasping moments, enough enough to breathe the movie's greatest clue: Rollo Tomasi.

       The best slow, and scary and creepy is the cross-bow through the gut in Deliverance .That scene let actor Bill McKinney all but almost steal the movie. John Boorman directed the 1972 film and was nominated for an Oscar. A tale of four city dwellers who were hoping to take an adventuresome but safe canoe trip down a beautiful Georgia river that soon would be a big lake due to construction. The four men had no idea what lawlessness lurked within. The movie is based on James Dickey's best-selling novel, Deliverance. The film propelled Burt Reynolds to stardom, fueled  Jon Voight's rising star, put Ned Beatty on the map and showed off Ronny Cox's beautiful guitar playing. 

     McKinney, a terrorizing, murderous hillbilly, is impaled by Reynold's cross-bow. He inches forward, slowly, back arched, pointing up at something. The camera swings around and around, character to character, showing their bulging eye shock, terror, curiosity, revulsion. Until the man finally plops on a tree limb, staring up, mouth agape. Everyone is paralyzed, even watching his hand twitch. "Is he dead?" 

     I saw Deliverance again a few days ago after many, many years. When it came out, a friend and I snuck in the local theatre because we were young teens and heard it was a wild movie and Reynolds and Voight were mega hunks. It was and they were.

     I never followed either Reynolds' or Voights' careers.  Deliverance, though, still is a riveting, excellent movie. Directing, acting, cinematography, Dickey's terrifying tale. Anyway, John Boorman is one of my favorite directors. I love Point Blank.  People think Lee Marvin's best role was in The Dirty Dozen but Point Blank really was his film. 

    For a great Blu-Ray version of Deliverance on DVD see The HD and Blu-Ray versions have running commentary by John Boorman, the Blu-Ray also has a vintage feature called "The Dangerous World of Deliverance." The movie was made for $2 million and grossed something like $46 million. Well. Squeal like a pig.

  See scenes from Point Blank and other great flicks in my store here gmt's youtube channel