You know sometimes that behemoth known as Twitter can change the way you think about things. I’ve been on there a while now and I would never have got the idea for this post if it had not been indirectly inspired by a guy on there called SquidyUK. Met him once... nice chap. But he’s always going on about comedy... much more than I would ever think about myself. For me the greatest comic performances are by The Marx Brothers, Woody Allen and a smattering of classic comedy movies such as Harold and Maud, Bringing Up Baby and the Jay and Silent Bob movies.
But this guy goes on about comedy all the time... and he’s brilliant about it because a) he really knows his stuff and b) he’s passionate about his interests. And something I tweeted in response to him once got me thinking about the subject of famous comedians in dramatic roles in movies, who then die under violent circumstances. The Violent Comedian Death or VCD if you will. My criteria is pretty much for non-comedy movies (although a couple on this list are debatable as they have strong comic elements to them)... so you won’t find any zombified Nick Frosts or pseudo-zombified Bill Murrays in here. They don’t quite match the criteria and give you that... “what the heck did they just do to so and so” moment which you get with some of the following.
Why only seven? Well I’d like to say I could tie it in to the legacy of the Seven Deadly Sins around about now but, honestly, I could only think of seven fairly good ones. But if you’ve got any real humdingers that I’ve missed off... please feel free to list them in the comments section below!
Right let’s get to it.
7. Warren Mitchell - Moon Zero Two 1969
After space-suited henchman and all round funnyman Bernard Bresslaw (Well, I only asked) has been shot and the escaping air in his suit propels him off towards a certain death in deep space like a crazy air filled balloon, ultimate super-villain Warren Mitchell (yes folks, it’s evil Alf Garnett in space) is left trapped on an asteroid about to explode as it hurtles to the moon. After it finishes hurtling there it does, indeed, duly explode. But it’s okay... in space, nobody can hear comical racist bigots scream!
6. Dan Akroyd - Grosse Point Blank 1997
The two master assassins square off against each other in a hail of bullets and much house destroying mayhem. In the blue corner we have John Cusack, a fine young actor (2012 regardless) and in the red corner we have comedy icon turned villainous assassin Dan Akroyd. Mr. Akroyd combines his moment of meeting his maker with a special TV appearance... as John Cusack smashes a TV down onto his head screen first and Danny boy’s head is left sizzling with electric inside. Time to change the channel.
5. Leonard Rossiter - Deadlier Than The Male 1967
International assassin Elke Sommer is waiting for future Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter in his high rise apartment. She seduces him, a more than willing victim but, mid-clinch, she stabs him with a drugged spike which she has hidden in her ring. This renders national treasure Rossiter completely paralysed for a few minutes (although, to really sell that illusion, it would have been really good if they reshot that scene where he accidentally blinks). Miss Sommer signals to her fellow assassin Sylva Koscina and the two of them, after monologuing to Mr. Rossiter for a bit, carry him to his window and drop him to his death in the busy London streets below. Not so much Rising Damp as Falling Limp! The Fall and Fall of Reginald Perrin... if you will.
4. Peter Sallis - Taste The Blood of Dracula 1970
Comical voice of lovable claymation favourite Wallace and stalwart companion in BBC's long running sit-com Last of the Summer Wine, Peter Sallis goes in search of his daughter who has been “vamped up” by Christopher Lee in his trademark Dracula role. Good old Clegg is about to do the right thing and plunge a wooden stake through his daughters undead heart when she surprises him and jumps up and turns the tables on him with a fellow “bride” of Dracula. Then, on Mr. Lee’s instruction, Mr. Sallis finds himself in a coffin with the big wooden stake thunked into his chest as Kensington gore goes spurty-spurty over his nice Victorian costume. Last of the Summer Blood? More stake Gromit?
3. Omid Djalili - The Mummy 1999
British/Iranian stand-up comic Omid Djalili has been irritating the hell out of us lately with his moneysupermarket adverts on TV. If you want an antidote to that, just watch Stephen Sommer’s first Mummy movie... in this, Omid agrees to not finish his public execution of Brendan Frazers character (a particularly lengthy and protracted hanging scene which was severely shortened on the UK home video releases) and release him from his prison as long as he gets to come on the profitable archaelogical dig and get a piece of the action. But poor Omid gets more action than he bargained for when he is plundering a tomb wall of it’s precious Blue Gold Scarabs. A real, flesh eating scarab breaks out form one of these valuable baubles and burrows into his foot through his boot. Gaining entry to his body the audience is treated to some semi-dodgy CGI work as we see the bug crawling up inside the half-crazed comics body towards his head. Mr. Djalili is so demented and driven insane from the pain that he starts to run through the tomb at speed until he runs himself straight into a tomb wall, knocking himself dead with an impressive cinematic impact. His haggling days are officially over.
2. Mantan Moreland - Spider Baby 1968
Ooh... this is an unusual one. Stand up comedian Mantan Moreland is probably best known these days for his regular supporting comedic role as chauffer Birmingham Brown in the Sydney Toler Charlie Chan films made for Monogram. His straight man was Ben Carter and you can see brief examples of their stand-up routines in the Charlie Chan films The Scarlet Clue and Dark Alibi. At the start of Jack Hill’s Spider-Baby, however, he plays a motor-scooter courier with a special delivery for the house where a truly disturbed and demented family live. As he apprehensively approaches the sinister looking house and climbs up the steps, the comedy baggage from his previous roles are stuck in your mind and you assume that at any second he’s going to go into his “Yassuh, boss. I’s a getting outta here” scaredy cat routine.” But no... things get suddenly grim for poor old Mantan. There is no answer to the door but a window is half open. So he sticks his head in and the window slams down on his head trapping him. Then from across the room is one of the murderous young teenagers in the family, brandishing two butchers knives with which she slices poor old Mr. Moreland’s head into shredded wheat. Yes, you will see this much loved comedian’s sliced off ear fall to the floor in glorious black and white!
1. Sid James - Quatermass 2 1957 (also known as Enemy From Space in the US)
And now on to my favourite VCD in a movie. Sid James is a much loved comedian who you all may remember from the Carry On series, Bless This House, Hancock’s Half Hour etc. In the big screen Hammer remake of the BBC serial Quatermass 2 he plays a reporter who Quatermass is using for his own ends to put pressure on the people in authority to take him seriously and get “the story” out there. In their investigation of the mysterious “overshots” landing in the small community of Wynnerden Flats, an overshot lands in the local pub/dance hall and infects a girl to use as host for the alien spore inside. Then a group of nazi-like sinister, gas masked men who are used to do the bidding of the alien power threatening the earth come to investigate. They see “our Sid” as he is trying to phone the story in to his paper from behind the bar. They turn and delivery two bursts of machine gun fire into him. He dies reaching back for the phone before the second burst. An impressive Violent Comedian Death scene if ever there was one.
Honourable Mention: Leslie Phillips - Lara Croft Tomb Raider 2001
And a final honourable mention goes to The Decapitation of Leslie Phillips... which I didn’t think I could rightfully include in the main listing because it’s a deleted scene which never found its way into the final cut of the movie.
Good ole Leslie Phillips... such a nice man. He does, however, betray Lara Croft’s trust in this movie. While this betrayal is left a minor, undeveloped plot point in the final release print of the movie... this deleted scene found on some of the DVD releases reveals a grimmer conclusion to this characters story arc. After giving the main villain what he needs, the bad guy decides he doesn’t trust Mr. Phillips either... so he cleaves his head from his body to make sure he never regains his conflicting conscience and tells Lara all about his evil villainy. You do get to see Leslie Phillips head rolling away from his collapsing body in this scene. Ding dong!