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Cinematical Seven : Screen Deaths (buffy movie mention)

Sunday 27 November 2005, by Webmaster

Until about two seconds ago, this list was called "Great Screen Deaths." Then I realized that there’s really nothing "great" about at least six of the seven deaths on the list: one is pathetic, one is funny, and another has singing. Definitely not "great." All they’ve got in common is that each of them has stuck with me (in good ways, though, not like those goddamn flying monkeys), and added something crucial to the film in which it is found.

Hoards of the dead await you after the jump.

1. Joe Gideon, All That Jazz: Since the entire movie is essentially a long death scene, it was pretty much destined to top this list. Actually, as far as I’m concerned, anything that takes the form of a nearly 30 minute musical number starring Ben Vereen and Roy Scheider should top all movie-related lists the world over. All that Jazz is still the only movie that has left me with my mouth hanging open at the inspiration and audacity of its makers - I mean, the circulatory system suits? The This is Your Life-style audience? The disco tube of death? The body bag? It literally takes your breath away. Or mine, anyway.

2. A really bad guy, Hard-Boiled: Though Hard-Boiled is mostly just John Woo’s explosive "COME GET ME!" reel for Hollywood, it also happens to contain one of the most striking images of his entire career. The film’s opening shootout takes place all over a restaurant, ending up in its kitchen. There, the fight is finally one-on-one: Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) has wasted pretty much all of the bad guys, and the one that remains shot Yuen’s partner. After lots of shooting and dodging around, Yuen launches himself across a flour-covered table, slides onto the floor, and lands with his pistol at the bad guy’s forehead. Emerging from a white cloud and covered with flour, Yuen is transformed into a murderous ghost, come from another world to have his revenge - it’s an astonishing image. Then, just as your brain adjusts to what is really going on, Woo cuts to a closeup of Yuen’s face as it goes from ghostly white to blood splattered. No more bad guy.

3. Painless, MASH: This one is tenuous, I realize, since Painless doesn’t actually die - but I’ve granted it a place on the list because as far as he knows, he’s killing himself, and that’s good enough for me. The contrivances of his funeral sequence make it one of the high-points of a movie that is nearly perfect: the Last Supper tableau, the MASH theme ("Suicide is Painless") sung at the bedside, the willing of worldly goods, and the rescuing goddess of sin. Robert Altman is a genius.

4. Bonnie and Clyde, Bonnie and Clyde: Really, there’s not much that can be said about this one. Bonnie and Clyde don’t just die, they’re torn apart by bullets (a screen event for which guys like Sam Peckinpah and John Woo are eternally grateful). The way Arthur Penn shoots the scene makes it even more jarring: he starts with quick cuts setting up the danger, pauses with close-ups of the pair as they realize what is about to happen, and then slips into a loving slow motion that allows us to morbidly scrutinize the destruction of the pair. At the time, the scene (and the movie as a whole) was so shocking that it was almost uniformly condemn. By the end of the year, however, the condemnation had turned to praise, and Time actually issued a retraction of its initial negative review. So, yeah. You could say it’s a pretty extraordinary little picture.

5. Swede, Shane: This death is notable because of how devastating anonymous it is. Always over matched, Swede allows himself to be goaded into pulling his gun and, in a moment that surprises no one, is killed. He falls, gracelessly, into sucking, ankle-deep mud and is laughed at by his killer. And that’s it. It’s a pathetic waste that could easily have been avoided, but there it is. (The people who think Shane presents an idealized version of the American west apparently missed this scene.)

6. Harry Lime (the second time), The Third Man: So the chase goes on a little too long. Ok, a lot too long. But can you blame Carol Reed? He’d found the prefect place in which to indulge his noir fetish, and he wasn’t going to give it up before he’d had his fill. As a result, we’re treated to shot after shot of deep shadows, dark water, and wedges of light and dark, all of it accompanied by the echoing sounds of running feet, rushing water, and the occasional gunshot. What’s not to love? 7. Amilyn, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In a movie full of unexpected intelligence and wit, even the deaths are clever. The guy dies forever, and it’s hilarious. Period.