A Few Of My Favourite (Deadly) Things



‘So, I guess you think a lot about killing people,’ said the customs officer as he went through my bag yesterday. I’d told him I was a writer because I was trying to explain why I had four copies of the same book in my bag. And I suppose I do think about murder rather more than the average person. But no matter how original the death, you can bet someone got there before you. Here are just a few of my favourite movie demises.

‘Detour’ (1945)

This one’s a good argument for cordless phones. Tom Neal is the pianist on the run with Ann Savage whom he manages to strangle through a motel room door, after getting mad at her and pulling on the telephone cable that’s passed through to the next room. What he doesn’t realise is that she’s passed out drunk on the bed with the cord around her neck…

All of the ‘Final Destination’ Films (2000-2009)

Based on an idea so bonkers that it could have been stolen from a Phillip K Dick novel, these five films were really great fun, even though they were basically five versions of the same story (and to be honest you can miss Part 4, the weakest). In each a major disaster occurs and the survivors realise they’ve cheated ‘death’s grand design’, so they’re picked off in new Heath Robinson-esque ways. The films are atmospheric and suspenseful, and will make you fear everyday objects. Here’s one of the unexpected deaths, involving dumb lottery-winner Evan.

‘The Abominable Dr Phibes’ (1971)

Vincent Price is the avenging doctor wiping out all those responsible for his beloved wife’s death, killing them according to the plagues of Egypt, which stretches a point to include this death! Robert Fuest from ‘The Avengers’ directed, and you can tell. Both this and the sequel are great fun, set in the roaring 20s.

Berserk! (1968)

Michael Gough works in a circus run by ringmistress Joan Crawford, here seen in her late terrifying stage, strutting around in a high-cut fetishistic outfit that makes the most of her legs. When Michael leans back against a tent-pole having a smoke, someone is on the other side of it. One thump with a mallet and a steel tent spike has gone straight through the hole in the pole, into Gough’s brain. This is the film in which Diana Dors gets cut in half with a circular saw, too!

It’s time someone revived Dr Phibes – Mark Gatiss perhaps?

13 comments on “A Few Of My Favourite (Deadly) Things”

  1. Jo W says:

    Thanks,Chris. That was a really gentle way to be pulled screaming into Friday. 🙁

  2. Rachel Green says:

    I loved all of those movies. Also Vincent Price’s “Theatre of Blood” 1973 – very inventive deaths.

  3. snowy says:

    A Phibes film is in development as I type, with Malcom McDowell pegged to play the Doctor. The plot as so far announced seems as if it pulls elements from all three books, [there is a third book, in case nobody knew. And some short stories written for graphic novels.]

    But can they recapture the tone of the originals? Now that so much time has passed and other films have taken the ideas and stretched them so much further.

  4. C Falconer says:

    I still like the wine bottle trebuchet from Midsommer Murders – which I suppose is a sub-genre all of itself. My family were convinced that Joyce Barnaby was a cousin to Jessica Fletcher as well as an angel of death, as wherever she went and whatever hobby she took up, people died.

  5. Steve says:

    Hello from an irish pub in Frankfurt. Not sober…
    So what was the book????
    Love the Dr Phibes films… Somehere over the rainbow…

  6. Vivienne says:

    Just about recovered from Evan, but maybe another glass of wine needed before Dr Phibes.

  7. Ian Smith says:

    Here’s a few of mine…

    Death by snails – Aenigma (1987)
    Death by celluloid – Terror (1978)
    Death by bowling pin – There will be Blood (2007)
    Death by knitting needle 1 – The Old Dark House (1963)
    Death by knitting needle 2 – The Crazies (1973)
    Death by icicle – Die Hard 2 (1990)
    Death by stalactite – Cliffhanger (1993)
    Death by pottery – The Naked Prey (1965)
    Death by stereo – The Lost Boys (1987)
    Death by snake-in-a-bag – Cry Blood Apache (1970)
    Death by corn-on-the-cob – Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)
    Death by slurry – Inbred (2011)

    Best not to think too much about that last one, actually.

  8. admin says:

    Well thank you for that!
    Actually I’ve read the third Phibes book and it’s awful – as are the others; a classic case of the films being great and the original novels being unreadable. Let’s hope the writer’s not involved for once!

  9. snowy says:

    Well I don’t want to be the one to micturate on your pommes pont-neuf, but he is.

    [However film one was co-wriiten with someone else, film two only used his characters though he might have penned the novelisation?]

    I’ll hang onto my froideur until they land a Director.

  10. Chris Hughes says:

    Our personal family favourite is an overheated piece of old melodramatic tosh called The Naked Jungle with Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker. Our Charlton plays a sort of cross between Max de Winter and Heathcliff. Death is by rampaging ‘marabunta’, killer ants who sweep through devouring all before then. Always caused great hilarity to yell ‘marabunta ‘ when an ant drops into your Pimms on a summer afternoon in the garden!

  11. Wayne Mook says:

    Death by slurry pit was used in a Public Information Film about the dangers on a farm called Apache in which kids die, the deaths: crushed by tractor trailer, drowning in a slurry pit, swallowing poison chemical, crushed by heavy iron gate and finally crashing a tractor. They showed it at school in the 70’s.


  12. Stephen says:

    Hi Chris, have you read the Dr Valentine stories by John L probert.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    And the charming death of a man in some sort of waste disposal pond on someone’s farm. There was a gyrator in the middle that ground things up just like a kitchen electric grinder and all you saw was the whirl pool in the middle. Gah!

Comments are closed.