There’s a common statistic thrown around car insurance sites that most accidents occur within three miles of a person’s house. They don’t mention that almost ninety percent of these are caused by your alcoholic son doing doughnuts around the house in his shitty Voltswagen Golf. Now, if he wants his flagged YouTube videos of him blaring his Cascada CD played at his funeral, he might certainly qualify to make this list.
Death caught on film, it’s not just for market corner VHS trades. Cast and crew have passed on while on production and the only honourable thing to do is dedicate their last work in their memory. Sometimes, however, they may well have only been there for a paycheck, and their name so prominently attached is perhaps the opposite of their last wishes.
1. Joe Ranft, Cars 2
Major creative force in the Pixar house, Joe has been involved in all your beloved classics like that Lion King, that Toy Story, and that Bug’s Life. Oh, he also did that one with the brave, little toaster but that seems to more an American thing, we Brits just lay our toast in the sun to bake like the lord intended. If Pixar was a bakery, he stuck his digit in every pie; animating, story-boarding, voice-acting, they should’ve called him Jim with all that American Pie fucking. He really went dick deep into crafting amazing, individual worlds for each story that both toddlers and adults could engage in.
One of the more criticized worlds crafted was the Cars universe. Unlike the instantly transportable concepts of toys come to life, or bugs come to life, there was a little more than just cars coming to life. With not a human in sight, audiences were distracted from Larry the Cable Guy’s affable charm to ponder whether there was a Transformers Cybertron self-creation of generational machines or there had been a Planet of the Apes style uprising but if you replaced the titular apes with now intelligent cars. What concerns me more is if this consistent evolution of Larry the Cable Guy’s conscious is evidence of arbitrary biological nature or intelligent design.
If he was the creator of this world and these animals, then I suppose they must all be made in his image. Less biblical and more Terminator 3 where Joe is the goofy Texan soldier in that deleted scene. That would make cars soulless killing machines, and future Larry is coming back to kill my embryonic ass.
2. Donald Pleasence, Halloween 6
Mike Myers. Before Love Guru, before Shrek, he was keeping people awake at night fearing the true form of the boogeyman with Halloween. If only we had an elderly man with the theatrical presence to elevate what could easily be another B-movie, it’s Donald Pleasence, of course. The OBE awarded actor challenged super spy James Bond as the evil old man baby. He survived a dystopiam prison and Kurt Russell’s jawline in Escape from New York as president old man baby. The only one who could go toe to toe with icons of the era, it’s doctor old man baby.
As with every genre film, Don never faltered to read a slasher script like Shakespeare. He brought energy, experience, eloquence to making his role a crucial staple in horror alongside the villain and final girl. He was so good they kept him around, making his efforts to prevent Myers’ massacres seem more fruitless than tireless. The poor psychiatrist can scream as much as he wants while insisting he’s repeatedly shot one of his patients. A beard, scar, cane, and six Halloween holidays later, the doctor was out.
It was a shame his genre legacy wrapped with a convoluted mess of a sequel insinuating that he’d be the next unstoppable stalker after a young Paul Rudd beat the boogeyman to death.
3, 4, & 5. Various, Cliffhanger
Hang on, guys, and let’s remember the ones who didn’t. Rocky in the Rockies; it’s Cliffhanger. Rocky IV, too, I guess. In an era of real life superheroes, scripts would be green-lit on the sheer basis of putting larger than life stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger in deadly scenarios. Like Sylvester on stage with Dolly Parton or Arnie in his mistress.
This one delivers a legitimate triple threat. Dear mother of special effects worker Mario Cassar received the first dedication, which is a genuine sign of care for the entire production crew all being significant. You have to respect a mum throwing money into the wind for a son who’s throwing money into the wind for a film about throwing money into the wind.
With a wild leap to the second, in true fashion, it’s legendary stunt-man Wolfgang Gullich. Not only performing the toughest of set-pieces too much for sissy Stallone, he was an all round actual awesome mountain climber. Said to be one of the best climbers in history. Explains that jump in the original trailer that everyone points out; that wire was just to keep him strapped down in frame. Did the mountains finally conquer him? Sadly it was just another car crash, I guess Lightning can strike twice. That was a callback to Cars. Ranft also died in a crash. Could’ve set that one up smoother.
Now, the third unfortunate soul actually got a second chance. Early audiences reportedly hated one bit of a bunny biting the bullet. Criminals recovering stolen fortune and trying to kill people wasn’t villainous enough, but then animal cruelty was too much. Stallone himself apparently forked out 100 large to re-shoot the stuff to not shoot the fluff.
6. Jim Henson, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
Secret of the Ooze opens with Jim Henson, his name is there front and centre commending him for transforming these animated animals into real flesh and blood, or whatever they make turtle soup from. An amphibious Frankenstein advancing animatronic anthropomorphisms of actors’ enunciations. If that’s complicated to read then just imagine how hard it was to actually make these fellas family friendly. Actually, spare the imagination, just watch the recent TMNT films for how ugly it can get.
Unfortunately, despite yet another hand in your nostalgia, his own family didn’t want to remember him this way. In fact, neither did Jim; he thought there was too much violence in the first Turtles feature, as did actress Judith Hoag, and quite a few concerned parents. So in producing this sequel, we lost the original weapons, the original April, and the original intent of the comic. Nevertheless, Jim still did his job, and though the passion wasn’t there entirely, he still delivered the best in the business. For contrast, just check mentioned-less Henson-less expressionless mess of the third entry.
7. Raul Julia, Street Fighter
From one ’90’s fighty to another, new challenger approaching! For the nerds out there, I’m referencing the Nintendo Smash series, which I think at some point or another had characters from Street Fighter, maybe. In a film with iconic, international athletes, casting liberties may vary, from Kylie Minogue to Miguel A. Núñez Jr. Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme gets top billing as all-American character Guile taking lead in a well known Japanese series of games.
Between hard hitting punches and accents, the real scene-stealing Shadaloo superstar here is Raul Julia. Much like Pleasence, Julia brought all his charisma and presence from broadway, bringing with him his collection of Tony’s, who I presume wrote the plays. Playing megalomaniac Bison, his grand speeches likely have more words than the entire game it’s based on. Perhaps this wasn’t such a leap for the actor as both the theatre and Street Fighter feature characters on a 2.5 dimensional stage.
8. Phillip Swartz, Con-Air
Here comes the airplane, it’s the ’90’s flighty, Con-Air! Convict crazies kidnap Cage on a crash-course toward that big road in Vegas. The one with the guitar and that, well not anymore, they crash into it. Spoilers.
Big stunts mean big risks, when welder Phillip Swartz was tragically crushed to death during production of one of the planes used on the screen. However, it was a stationary model, though, so that is more of a con-ground. The man put the effort into deliberately making these gigantic metal structures look real and dangerous, it’s an inherently daunting task and he worked harder than most to succeed.
9. Don Simpson, The Rock
Usual producers in crime Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson made a bunch of these soaring action films but Donny didn’t actually like a gang of angry people taking over a plane. This didn’t prevent him from producing a gang of angry people taking over a rock.
The one with Sean Connery, not Dwayne Johnson. Neither of them are dead, though Sean is basically comatose after that Sir Billi. The Rock is yet another popular staple of the bombastic blockbusters of Hollywood by Don Simpson. Cultivating a culture of cinematic excess, Simpson was a Walter White in knowing the formula to big hits, a simple high concept with a lovable star is still dominating the industry. This being Simpson’s last success, he earned a rightful dedication. In terms of quality, this film may be paint by numbers, but I’ll be damned if those colours don’t explode off the screen.
10. Johnny Ramone, The Wicker Man
Between The Rock and Con-Air, Nicolas Cage had proved himself a Hollywood Houdini, and true to his name, could escape the most climactic cages. Except one; and after all that solid steel, he basically can’t get out of a big wicker chair.
The Wicker Man remake is a strange experience, not least for being the third Cage movie in a row where a deceased’s been attached to the credits. This time it’s someone who was less involved in the film than Cage’s acting coach. Johnny Ramone of the Ramones family band had been good friends with Nic and is featured for allegedly introducing his pal to the original British horror. If anyone needed a reason why rock and roll is bad for society, it’s a stretch.
11, 22,012, 22,013. Various, The Expendables 2
Moving on from one masculine massacre for a gendered cult to another, it’s also Stallone bringing out the dead with Expendables 2. This time it’s dead children.
Mother Nature’s, that is, I had you there, this article was almost in poor taste. Stallone and the crew got a slap on the veiny, oily wrist by the Bulgarian EPA for chucking out a bunch of shrubs next to a cave door. For specifics, they had permits to film in the location, but obviously not to permanently alter it. They maybe didn’t see the first ensemble film and understand permanently altering everything, including their own bodies, with explosions, crashes, and excessive flexing.
Living up to the title where everything, bar the entire lead roster, is going to get wrecked, the native bat population of the very same locations plummeted 75% that year. That’s 30,000 to just 8,000. Stallone was said to have not wanted to work with live bats back in Cliffhanger, not to make any allegations but we can presume cows weren’t the only animal meat he was clobbering from the ceiling.
Amidst all this wanton destruction, an actual human being was caught in the fray. Yet another fearless stuntman Kun Liu lost his life while doubling for the stars who you’d think would be able to do a stunt or two after several decades of doing this. His family even sued them for unsafe work conditions, which was probably bolstered with the production killing all wildlife and plant life around them.
?? The Gallant People, Rambo III
Look who it is, Stallone showing his face again, which is in hindsight most likely weathered from all the surrounding grief. He’s on the war path, this time on screen, with Rambo Third Blood, constantly mowing down the Ruskies in Afghanistan during the time they were our mates.
Rambo must’ve been close with quite a few of them given the closing message of the film, those brave Mujahedeen. That depends, however, if you’re watching this on DVD it’ll pay dues to Rambo’s other mates, the gallant people of Afghanistan. What’s the distinction, then, for the historically uninformed? Mujahedeen roughly translated to, “people doing Jihad”. So for a very short while, our all American badass was fighting alongside the Taliban, which is decidedly un-American these days.
Not a great moment of history captured on film but hopefully with our last entry we can look to the future and see if America’s links to war are any less heavy handed.
9/11. Various, Star Trek Into Darkness
Nope! Though the Star Trek sequel doesn’t absurdly end with a tribute to the Daesh, it still references one of the US’s greatest tragedies in the ongoing political conflict. It’s no subtlety that many of Hollywood’s biggest disaster films are fueled on the potent imagery of recent terrorist acts, explosions and property damage became all too real after 2001.
A dour pessimistic message in the reboot to the revered Roddenberry utopia, history is doomed to repeat itself, even through blatant homages, I mean parallels. Twelve years after the World Tower incident, Star Trek Into Darkness feels itself far beyond mere entertainment but a sobering social commentary which has to be dedicated to the, “post-September 11th war veterans’.
There is a glimmer of good conscience here in that a fictional post-war universe must still commemorate the brave soldiers who fought to get us this far. That’s why our real life troops deserve far better than being reduced to a cheap, faceless ploy from Hollywood to capitalise on blind patriotism. Star Trek the original series reflects many, many social issues with optimism and intelligence but in a feature reboot where space elves escape volcanoes and brash yet sexy captains ignore basic privacy, the audience is squarely in the mood for escapist entertainment.
What do they want us to feel, or even think, after the bad guy literally crashes his ship into a building, only to survive, then get beat in a heroic fist fight and put into a fridge sleep? I know what I think, what a failed attempt at making a film less forgettable than slapping ‘Never Forget’ on the end.