Gush! Goop! Splash! Whoosh! Chippity-chop!
The seven-ish movie murder scenes I chose are all pretty tasteful. No wars. No cannibalism. No chain saws. No unseemly power drills. Just good ol’ fashioned stabbin’, stranglin’, shootin’, fallin’ off a tightrope and gettin’ mauled by animals, and one drownin’.
1) Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. Hmm. Almost skipped this one for being I dunno– TOO OBVIOUS– but then was afraid the gods of best movie murderdom might disapprove. Shower scene, of course, or as I like to call it “Marion Crane’s fatal birdbath”. She takes the bait– or is it the Norman Bates? Yep, this movie’s rife with bird and worm symbolism. (For a red alligator symbol, see Swamplandia post. Be linking to it if I knew how.)
Magical Murder Elements
A) Black blood eddying down drain.
B) Marion lying on porcelain, mouth open. “Like a codfish,” as Mary Poppins would say. Actually, Marion Crane’s last name could have been “Trout” or “Minnow” or “Fillet-of-Sole” and all the “baits” symbolism stuff would’ve worked equally well.
C) Herrmann’s screech, screech, screech score.
D) Glinting knife.
In her convoluted terror, did Marion Crane recognize it was Norman in a gray wig? Or did she just think old querulous pain-in-the-ass Mrs. Bates was not a girly-girl? If Norman had worn Vegas showgirl feathers would this have made the situation clearer? Less clear?
a) Norman Bates as an anagram translates to “ONE MAN STAB” or “ONE MAN BATS.” (leftover r)
b) Marion Crane translates to “O CARMINE RAN” or “I RACE NORMAN” or “I CARE, NORMAN.”
c) Mrs. Bates translates to “STABS ME” or “ME’S BATS.” (again, leftover r)
Anthony Perkins was a bedwetter. Needs citation
2) PSYCHO again. Psyche! Martin Balsam’s detective ascending the stairs as the door above opens a crack, a sliver of light, a little bit more– then Martin’s staggering backwards down the Bates hotel staircase while salty black blood pours down his face.
3) Javier Bardem offing just about anybody in the Coen Brothers’ NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN since he sports an adorable bowl haircut sure to melt any mother’s heart.
4) Speaking of symbolism. Isn’t Faye Dunaway crunching on an apple before she and Warren Beatty bite the slo-mo ballet bullets (exiting Paradise the hard way) in Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE?
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow both have the word “ROB” in their names. Additionally, BP has “BANK” and CB has “WORLD”. Not in the movie but in real life, a police officer viewed their dead bodies and said “Look at ’em now. They’re just a coupla rags.” Needs citation
5) Five-way tie!
a) Raymond Burr wrapping something in newspaper in Rear Window.
b) United Nations scene in North by Northwest.
c) Sylvia Sidney’s nervous knifing of her husband, Oscar Homolka, in Sabotage.
d) Robert Walker’s likable strangler reflected in his unlikable victim’s unattractive eyeglasses in Strangers on a Train.
e) That awful Topaz but the scene where the bad guy has to kill the woman he loves and as she falls her dress puffs up like a big yellow parachute.
But c’mon. What am I– some shallow Hitchcock fangirl? Enough already!
6) CIRCUS OF HORRORS. Oho! Bet you thought I’d mention this schlocky morsel a lot sooner. (For plot/movie details please see Forgiveness post.) This is movie murder at its most magical and child-like wonder-minty. As Gunther Gebel-Williams, the tiger trainer, famously said, “May all your days be circus days.” What a horrible thought!
All in all, this is a very nice movie for seeing gorgeous women in sparse spangly leotards fall to their deaths. If you like that kind of thing.
Why this particular movie? Why not Three Ring Circus with Peter Lorre? Or Berserk! with Joan Crawford?
Because I do not enjoy just any old “uh-oh somebody loosened the tightrope”, “somebody moved the pan of water he jumps into”, “hey, isn’t that a different tiger?” etc.
Yes, Todd Browning’s Freaks— wriggling through the mud with knives in their mouths, eager to turn the pretty acrobat into a feathered hen (“One of us! One of us!”)– is far superior. But I have a soft spot for demented plastic surgeons; deep down they’re all just insecure little boys craving affection.
7ish) The Rowboat Scene from John M. Stahl’s LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. (Stahl would be better known if Otto Preminger hadn’t grabbed the directorial reins from him on Forever Amber.) Alfred Newman’s pulsating rhythms add suspense to the movie’s earlier nighttime horse romps. But the Rowboat Scene– after all the giggles and sun tan lotion gets squirted on– is quiet. The backdrop of sky, water, and greenery looks stunning. But nature can’t compete with Gene Tierney’s implacable face. She plays an expert swimmer who watches a young disabled boy, her husband’s brother, drown.
His “stomach cramp” lines don’t really help the scene.
Reportedly, Tierney argued with the director about wearing those big brown sunglasses. “They can’t see my eyes!” After seeing the rushes, she agreed Stahl was correct.
Which best movie murders did I omit? I’m sure I missed a bunch because I don’t get out much. Peter Lorre’s blind girlfriend blowing up in a car? Samuel Jackson’s bible verses? Robert Mitchum’s tattooed knuckles? Barbara Stanwyk’s ankle bracelet? Richard Widmark’s giggle?
Let me know. Wishing you a peaceful day.