Cobra skewers and roasts Night Slasher
At number 10, the final death in Cobra is like the Tim Duncan to the Jordans, Kobes, and Lebrons of the other elite 80s Action deaths- perhaps it’s not the most flashy or memorable scene, but when you sit down and look at the end product, everything you could ask for is there-
1) Set in a factory that somehow uses giant hooks to manufacture large quantities of sparks and molten steel. Though obviously abandoned, the factory is humming along at full capacity, which includes like 20 random small fires. I’m not sure about the business model of the facility, but the scene opens with a hook rolling ominously behind the villain in a foreshadowing that can only be called artful.
2) Excellent foreplay. The back and forth between Cobra and Night Slasher over who will penetrate whom with what and their discourse on the failings of the liberal criminal justice system is a fine prelude, as educational as it is erotic. Did you know that it’s illegal for a cop to shoot a man who is threatening to kill him while armed with a sawed-off in one hand and a giant knife that is studded with smaller knives in the other hand? Night Slasher calls Cobra a pig at least four dozen times before finally demanding “take me in. Pig.” Out come the chains–not that there’s anything gay about leather-clad men calling each other “pig” during chain play.
3) Inept women. The bad chick briefly comes to the aid of Night Slasher, postponing his death for two minutes by jumping on Stallone’s back as Sly is about to squeeze the trigger, which has helpfully been labeled “fire.” She is promptly blasted. Stallone’s chick is of even less help, cowering in hiding, rather than blindsiding Night Slasher when he seems poised to kill Stallone. In an 80s Action male encounter, the only function of women is to remind us of their uselessness.
4) Great performances. Obviously, Sly is one of the greatest people ever to live. But Kudos also go to Brian Thompson. While blessed with simian sex appeal, he’s not afraid to die shrieking like a woman. Too many of the stuntmen and karate consultants who die in 80s action go out with pride, depriving us of the satisfaction of a final display of cowardice and agony. Not Thompson who, finally stuck on Sly’s steel, wails and claws pointlessly at the point of penetration in his back as he is dragged to immolation. He even tries to protect himself against a raging blast furnace by covering his face with his arm. Small deduction for going limp when he reaches the flames, rather than emitting a final, blood curdling scream, but this remains an elite novelty death.
5) Pre-mortem one liner: This is where the law stops… and I start.
Local man unable to continue living without throat
Marshall Teague’s epic demise in Roadhouse ranks right up there with the very best novelty deaths that 80s action has to offer. While the mode of death is fairly unique, it’s the gritty, sweat-drenched pre-mortem fight that makes it one of my personal favorites. Teague’s character, Jimmy, is the embodiment of what you want in an 80s action henchman- he’s cocksure, wears an earring, leaves his chest exposed, has an accomplished martial arts background, and after knocking out the token fat guy, he uses the dude’s belly to vault himself onto a stage with a pool cue. Swayze, however, is the peaceful warrior– calm, calculating, and possibly heterosexual. Yet from the moment we see the two of them on screen together we know a bloody engagement of some kind is imminent.
After blowing up the old landlord’s house, Jimmy rides off on a dirt bike, stops to look back at his handiwork, and laughs the kind of ridiculous bad guy laugh that cracks me up every time I see it. Swayze, meanwhile, is wearing nothing but tight gray sweats and a beaming coat of oil. The two square off near a small pond and it isn’t long before Jimmy takes Swayze from behind in a chokehold and says, “I used to fuck guys like you in prison.” Now interpret this however you want but Jimmy is gay; it’s clear from the beginning what he’s interested in. When he realizes that he cannot have our hero, he decides that nobody will, and pulls a gun. “I’m gonna kill you the old fashioned way,” he says. What’s the new way, you ask? Right, Swayze knocks the gun into the air and promptly rips Jimmy’s throat out with his bare hands before kicking him facedown into the water. Somehow Jimmy lets out a final audible grunt despite missing a good portion of his neck.
Kelly Lynch shows up at the end of the fray to see if Jimmy is alive because she’s hot, sympathetic, and useless. Okay, she also happens to be a doctor. After discovering that there is nowhere on Jimmy’s neck to check for a pulse, she stands up and casts a disapproving scowl at Swayze, who she awkwardly fucked mere nights before, and walks away without a word. Naturally Swayze becomes enraged. He hauls the corpse into the pond and sends it adrift to be carried out by a pretty damn strong current in what amounts to little more than an Olympic-size swimming pool. While Teague’s death is only a preamble to the symphony of murder Patrick conducts at Jackie Treehorn’s mansion, it remains in 9th position for obvious reasons.
Bullet proof vest < rocket launcher
Death Wish is one of the seminal films of 80s action and therefore, the Western Cannon. The innovations of the film would echo through countless depictions of inept cops, unpunished criminals and hot, steamy vigilantism. I don’t know how legendary 80s Action producers, Golan and Globus–-figures celebrated alongside the likes of Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir in their native Israel– got their hands on the franchise, but it took their genius to improve upon such a classic. With some critical examination they saw that, for all of Death Wish’s greatness, there was fat to be trimmed and replaced with lean muscle. Rather than squandering running time on a coherent story line, they could have Bronson kill a bunch more people. Instead of a compelling, emotional core, why not a bigger gun? Lesser filmmakers would have run into a dead end were they to follow this line of thought, because the conventional (and inferior) story elements (such as character development) used to build to a climax have been replaced by violence and hardware. Where do you go after ninety minutes of Bronson blasting thugs with the biggest hand gun in the world? It seems like a question with no answer.
Until you see Bronson use a rocket launcher to kill one guy. At close range. Inside a small apartment. But, given that the gloriously reverse-mohawked villain, Fraker, is wearing a bullet proof vest, it’s the only logical solution. Fraker has already been shot half a dozen times. The way bulletproof vests work is that, if you are shot, you pass out. Then you spring back to life and have the drop on everyone. Everyone, that is, who doesn’t happen to keep an anti-tank weapon by the phone, next to a pencil and paper for taking messages. Bronson blasts Fraker, turns half the apartment into a flaming hole, and Fraker’s scant, smoking remains become a spectacle for passers by on the street bellow. The scene worked so well that there was no real choice but to rehash it in the Death Wish 4 climax.
Italian scum beaten almost as badly as he deserves
There is no movie in Seagal’s catalog that better demonstrates his streak of sadism than Out for Justice. Virtually every scummy, unlaundered guido in Brooklyn gets beaten to an oily pulp at some point. Nobody escapes. Hell, even a Chinaman and a crusty Irish boxer get their asses handed to them on a silver platter. But when the dust is settled and the trail of corpses carted away, none of the beatdowns come close to the hurt that Seagal puts on Richie Madano (William Forsythe). See, Richie killed Bobby Lupo, which, is, really the last thing in the world you want to find yourself doing. So Seagal appropriately saves his most severe ass-mugging for last. He pummels Richie, and I don’t mean quickly, I mean he fucking pummels him in what can only be interpreted as a degrading S&M snuff session. Somebody, somewhere, has masturbated to this clip, I’m sure of it.
Richie doesn’t land a single punch. Instead, he is clubbed and prodded with a variety of cutlery and other kitchenware including a humungous pepper-grinder. He is thrown into walls, onto tables, into cabinets, and finally, headfirst through a window. Having already confessed to liking pain, Richie understandably convinces himself that his next effort to kill Seagal will succeed. What results is a cataclysmic failure to achieve and surely one of the most bizarre and kinky novelty deaths of all time. Rather than drop his jeans and slather Richie’s chest with a broiling mound of feces, Seagal opts to conclude the humiliating rendezvous by planting a corkscrew into his forehead, thereby avenging the proud memory of our beloved Bobby Lupo. Also, this particular killing might be Steven’s most passionate as it was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit.
Horse spunk saves the day, yet again.
The “X-factor” of this epic battle between Dolph and JCVD is a syringe which, particularly in a barnyard setting, seems to be loaded with horse semen. Now people have accused us of reading homoeroticism into these films where it doesn’t exist. But you don’t have to crack page one of Freud to raise an eyebrow at a pair of rain-soaked, musclebound studs achieving greater power through semen injections. “Hey, what’s the big deal? Popeye ate Spinach, Dolph and JCVD shoot piping hot ejaculate into… their hearts?” And no, I don’t buy that it’s just a coincidence that the substance is identical in color and consistency to the ol’ baby batter, especially since the power juice at the center of Dolph’s I Come in Peace is exactly the same. JCVD’s useless chick is seemingly dispensed with a nice preliminary killing-– she’s fleeing to safety when Dolph chucks a grenade that blows her up. Is JCVD upset about his love interest being blown into cornflakes? Sure baby! Like he’d be upset if you spilled his Fresca.
There’s some more horseplay before the actual death and frankly, it’s pretty dull stuff. Eventually, JCVD, powered by a fresh sperm injection, impales Dolph on the blades of a corn thresher and there’s a satisfying moment of agony. But Dolph then plays possum, drawing JCVD in for a closer look. When he gets his chance, Dolph makes a last ditch effort to pull JCVD onto the blades, but he counters with a Seagal-worthy arm snap, leaving Dolph helpless, in agony and slowly bleeding to death. That’s a good start. Finally, we get what we have been salivating over since the corn thresher first entered the frame. JCVD turns on the machine and chunks of œbermensch are sprayed across the heartland, fertilizing the fodder of continued American supremacy.
5: RAMBO III
Kourov gets hanged and banged.
Whether he’s wandering the foggy backroads of the Pacific Northwest, shoveling rocks in a military prison, or repairing wagon wheels in Thailand, history has shown us that it doesn’t take a whole lot to get John J. Rambo back in the swing of killing commies. In Rambo II we saw him duped and leg-swept into refighting Vietnam by Charles Napier and the Cobra Kai Sensei. This time around Rambo’s hand is forced into action by the capture of Colonel Trautman who, for some reason, decided to deliver American missiles to the Mujahideen with a few jeeps, an AK, and a dozen ill-equipped guides who are all stuffed with bullets in a matter of seconds. Are we to believe Trautman thought he could actually make a difference in Afghanistan? Or are we to believe he sacrificed himself knowing that Rambo is the only human being capable of defeating Russia single-handedly? Or are we to believe that Rambo merely wants to uphold the right of Afghan men to participate in their sacred game of drag-the-goat-carcass-through-the-sand without fear of Russian helicopters launching rockets at their horses because he is better at it than them and feels guilty? Have fun sifting through the mound of bodies to find your answer.
There are some complicated novelty deaths to consider here as the movie is basically an endless string of them. For example the Russian Spetsnaz Commander is shot, then impaled by the cannon on Rambo’s tank, then blown up, which is a death as improbable as Charles Bronson’s reanimated corpse lacing your cannolis with cyanide. For sheer hilarity, though, the novelty award goes to the Commander’s bodyguard, Kourov. We all know the mountains of Afghanistan are littered with giant holes in the ground that serve as entryways to a gargantuan subterranean netherworld of Islamic horror. So Kourov and Rambo throw down near one of these openings as Trautman creepily watches, sometimes observing through the scope on his gun. After a quick and playful tussle, Rambo wraps a nylon rope around Kourov’s neck, pulls the grenade pin attached to his vest, then kicks him into the blackened maw where he falls roughly thirty feet, snaps his neck, and erupts into a fireball that rivals the explosion of Alderaan. USA!!!!
Emil briefly experiences life as a goulash.
I think I’d actually like Emil M. Antonowsky if it hadn’t been for the scene where he was going to murder the gas station attendant because he went to college. Other than that, he just seems like a fun-loving degenerate who smokes while pumping gas. Plus, I like how screenwriter Edward Neumeier felt that a character with 4 minutes of screen time required a middle initial. But the way he tormented the gas nerd was just unforgivable. It revealed Emil to be a bully and an anti-intellectual so he probably deserved to be shot off of his motorcycle while trying to get away from the gas station, then to skid across the top of a car and some asphalt and land in a heap of injuries. If that’s the second worst thing to happen to you in the movie, and a very distant second, you’re making a run at 80s action immortality.
Indeed, Emil’s actual death is kind of a replay of the first accident, only with more toxic waste and fleshy liquefaction. Emil’s driving again, Robocop shoots his ride again, only this time, he’s not lucky enough to crash into a car. After plowing his truck into a huge container of toxic waste, Antonowsky comes spilling out the back of his truck, a half-melted, steaming-hot insta-mutant. He gasps for air, begs for help (although he is clearly further beyond any kind of medical help or restoration than Rocky Dennis after a chimp attack) and zombie-shuffles in front of Boddicker’s speeding car. In his slightly dissolved state, Emil explodes on impact like a balloon filled with chum, mucking up Bodicker’s windshield something awful. Be sure to appreciate how Emil’s head remains largely intact as it slides like a curling stone along the hood, windshield, and roof of Boddicker’s car.
The Arnold transforms a simple, third world tool shed into a schoolhouse: of pain.
It might seem like there should be more Arnold on the list, but for all the great one-liners and set-ups, the actual murdering is often just a bit less than spectacular. This is not the case with the tool shed scene in Commando. Unfortunately, there is no tradition of oral history amongst 80s action goons because they all die within seconds of assuming their roles. If there were, fathers might pass down to sons the knowledge that firing hundreds of rounds into a small structure where your target is trapped can often be useless if every shot is aimed on the assumption that the target is standing erect in the center of the building. Rake the ceilings and floors to be sure, son, otherwise someone will swing down from the rafters and stab you in the heart with a pitchfork, like what happened to your uncle Miguel.
The glorious violence of this scene largely speaks for itself, but I enjoy the added irony that Arnold has turned on hired Latino help with the very tools that sustain their people. Every tool of the gardener, landscaper and handyman is used to kill a man who, barring this highly unusual case of some guy picking him up at Home Depot to guard a weirdo’s compound off the coast of Santa Barbara, relies upon those tools for his very livelihood. It would be like if Arnold killed Irish mercenaries by throwing drunken police officers at them. The violence itself is elevated to full blown slasher status for a few shining moments. I don’t remember Voorhees ever killing so many with such a variety of pointy things in so short a span. We’d not see a novelty spree killing of this magnitude again until Punisher: Warzone.
2: INVASION USA
And THAT’S why, you don’t snort coke through a metal tube.
We only have to wait about ten minutes to witness the best novelty death sequence of Invasion USA. While Chuck is busy wrangling crocodiles and hamming it up with his pet armadillo in the swamps, Rostov and his cohort of terrorists are literally invading the United States of America. Surely if waves of impoverished Cubans can take over Miami, then a batch of well armed terrorists can take over the country. Rostov’s plan is to bring America to its knees in less than 24 hours but before he does so, he decides to hit up a motel and sell some cocaine to Frank Nitti from The Untouchables. The strange part about the scene is that it has almost nothing to do with anything other than to show us that Rostov is a bad, feathery-haired motherfucker. Presumably he’s trading a couple ounces of blow for a huge cache of weapons that he already had.
Anyhow, before he and Nitti can complete the transaction, Nitti’s broad starts greedily railing lines off the desk as any befitting cokewhore should. This must’ve angered Rostov because he slams her head down, driving the metal tube deep into her nose, sending her screaming and flailing across the room. Rostov then shoots a couple of goons in the hallway before casually sliding his gun into Nitti’s pants and firing two shots at his cock. Afterward he grabs the hysterical bitch and hurls her through the window in a display of wanton violence that’s pretty extreme even by 80s action standards. Because the scene is completely irrelevant to the plot it ends up acting as a pretty effective, and clearly intentional, anti-drug advertisement. People who buy and do drugs deserve to be castrated and killed. People who specifically snort cocaine are always at risk of having their utensil irrevocably lodged into their nasal cavity. Minorities conduct drug deals. People who sell drugs also deserve to be killed but preferably at the hands of bearded American patriots. In fact, the only acceptable form of commerce is a proper and shady cash-only weapons deal.
Seagal kills one Jamaican at least four times.
Frankly, the Ruthless camp is divided on the matter of 80s Action’s greatest badass. But their can be no disputing Segeal’s status as master of the novelty death. He has achieved the peerless greatness attained by so few in any endeavor. One might argue about the greatest ballplayer, the greatest director or the greatest beauty. But in the field of novelty deaths, Seagal stands alone in unchallenged supremacy–-the Shakespeare of the severed spine; the Kasparov of defenestration. Half a dozen of Seagal’s kills could be in the top ten of all time, but Marked For Death is his masterpiece. One of the many turns of genius that sets Seagal apart is the corpse kill. He realized that the mere fact he had killed someone, and they were now a dead body, should not prevent him from killing them at least once more. In Under Siege, for example, one assumes that Tommy Lee Jones’ character has perished once Seagal has driven a giant knife into top of his skull, up to the handle. So? Like so many men of innovation, Seagal sees a starting line where most see the finish line. Rather than be satisfied with allowing Jones to die only once, Seagal throws him through a radar screen, issuing a corpse kill by massive electrocution. Now you might think that pushing beyond even the corpse kill would risk ridiculousness. But you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. And dead wrong again. For, in Marked For Death, Seagal performs a dizzying combination that others had yet to even conceive, let alone attempt. Lesser novelty killers were still wondering how to pull off the corpse kill when Seagal surpassed it. While they strove for the 360 dunk, he went straight to the 540 off-the-glass tomahawk: the double kill, corpse kill with a twin.
Now, as every schoolchild knows, the primary villain in Marked For Death is the mysterious Skrewface who seems to have voodoo powers. When Seagal catches up with Skrewface, he quickly crunches through a couple of henchmen and finally gets his hands on the antagonist. Even with the preliminary slice to the balls, you have to initially be a bit disappointed with the quick decapitation via samurai sword after only a few seconds of pain. The only uplifting aspect of the kill seems to be that Seagal lugs Skrewface’s head around town like a newly won Stanley Cup to prove to the henchmen that their leader is not an invincible shaman, but rather a visibly mortal drug-pusher. But then, Skrewface appears alive and well. A twin! Now we are cooking!
You can look at this one of two ways. You can count this as Skrewface being killed twice (corpse kill not included), or you can roll it into one grand ball of suffering for the remaining twin. Before the first punch is thrown in the final battle, Seagal opens with, “Oh hai, here is your twin brother’s head, which I chopped off a while back. I might use it at the bowling alley later.” Using this as a starting point, Seagal proceeds to beat Skrewface shitless, slice open several wounds with the sword, then thumb the Jamaican’s eyes back into his skull. This culminates when Seagal audibly snaps Skrewface’s spinal chord in several places which, if it didn’t kill him instantly, would certainly leave him with nothing more than a few seconds of shutting down. Seagal then lifts the motionless Skrewface and hurls him down an elevator shaft to certain death. Finally, Skrewface is impaled on some machinery at the bottom of the elevator shaft, because after you have lethally destroyed a man’s spinal chord, then thrown him several stories to his death, it’s best to also impale him. No matter how you choose to divvy up this smorgasbord, the basic facts are as follows. At the beginning of the film we meet a character named Skrewface. By the end of the film we have seen him suffer four different fatalities, garnished with various beatings and mutilations.
While we’re at the whole list making thing, we’ve compiled a list of potentially offensive acts you could perform and listed them in order of the severity of the beating, torture and death that you would suffer as a consequence.
4. Take your Vespa club to the Laughlin River Run.
3. Start a chapter of D.A.R.E. in Juarez.
2. Finger paint a picture of Mohamed in the ejaculate you release after spanking to Ayatollah Khamenei on Al Jazeera.
1. Borrow Seagal’s TV tray and then forget to return it.