11 October 2016

Killing Me Softly With Your Song…or Anything Else You Have Handy

As mystery/thriller writers, we know there are certainly a lot of ways to kill someone. As Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin), says in “Cat Ballou”: “Guns, bottles, fists, knives, clubs – all the same to me. All the same to you?”
But let’s face it – been there, done that – and these are pretty mundane and ordinary ways to off someone. If you want to kill someone in an interesting and unique way, especially if you’re a character in a movie or book, you have to let the creative juices flow, like Herb Hawkins (Hume Cronyn) and Joseph Newton (Henry Travers) do in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (even if not in script format or what ended up in the film):   

Herb (Cronyn): You folks are getting pretty stylish. Having dinner later every evening.
Joe (Travers): Ha ha!
Herb:  l-l picked some mushrooms.
Joe: You don't say?
Herb: Mushrooms mean anything to you, Joe?
Joe: I eat 'em on my steak when I'm out and the meat's not good enough as it is.
Herb: If I brought you some mushrooms, would you eat 'em?
Joe: Suppose I would. Why?
Herb: Then I've got it. The worst I'd be accused of would be manslaughter. Doubt if I'd get that.   Accidental death, pure and simple. A basket of good mushrooms and...two or three poisonous              ones.
     Joe: No, no. Innocent party might get the poisonous ones. I thought of something better 
     when I was shaving. A bath tub. Pull the legs out from under you, hold you down. 
     Young Charlie (Teresa Wright): Oh, what's the matter with you two? Do you always have to 
     talk about killing people?
     Joe: We're not talking about killing people. Herb's talking about killing me, 
     and I'm talking about killing him.
     Mrs. Newton/Emmy (Patricia Collinge): Charlie, it's your father's way of relaxing.
     Young Charlie: Can't he find some other way to relax? Can't we have a little peace and quiet 
     without dragging in poisons all the time? 
     Mrs. Newton: Charlie! She doesn’t ' t make sense talking like that. I'm worried about her.


Of course, there’s always poison. Sure it’s been done before, but what hasn’t. So maybe get creative with it like this bit from The Court Jester:

    Hawkins (Danny Kaye): I've got it! I've got it! The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the             pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?
    Griselda (Mildred Natwick): Right. But there's been a change: they broke the chalice from the                 palace!
    Hawkins: They *broke* the chalice from the palace?
    Griselda: And replaced it with a flagon.
    Hawkins: A flagon...?
    Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.
    Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.
    Griselda: Right.
    Hawkins: But did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?
    Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle        has the brew that is true!
    Hawkins: The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has          the brew that is true.
    Griselda: Just remember that.

Uh, okay.


So let’s talk about some creative ways to kill someone, though this list will hardly be complete.
And here’s a starter list of many fun, fab and creative ways to die as found in movies:

Poison string – James Bond
Light Saber – Star Wars
Captive Bolt Pistol – No Country for Old Men
Painted to death (gold, of course) – Goldfinger
Odd Job’s Hat – Goldfinger / James Bond
Chain Saw – American Psycho and, of course, The Texas Chainsaw Murders
Infection – Night of the Living Dead, V for Vendetta
Getting stomped to death by Ryan Gosling – Drive
Getting shower rodded to death by Ryan Gosling – Drive
(I could just list all the killings in Drive here and have a pretty good list…)
Getting stabbed to death by an ear of corn – Sleepwalkers
Wood chippered – Fargo
Getting raked to death - Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Getting skulled by a Louisville Slugger – the Untouchables
Getting blasted from a cancer gun – Videodrome
Getting run over by Bozo – Toxic Avenger
Sliced and diced and decapitated by flying glass – The Omen
Getting impaled by a stalactite – Cliffhanger
Luca Brasi getting garroted in The Godfather
Steak-boned to death – Law Abiding Citizen

And let’s not forget the multitude of “fun” deaths in the Saw movie series with its mélange of creative and grisly deaths: http://sawfilms.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_deaths

This list of creative mayhem is by no means exhaustive nor complete. It’s barely the tip of the iceberg – in fact, I’m sure someone was iceberged to death in the movies…like in Titanic.

Oscar Wilde puts it pretty well in The Ballad Of Reading Gaol:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword.

So what are some your favorite ways to off someone that you’ve read about or seen in a movie? Hmm…


Please check out my story Deserted Cities of the Heart in Akashic’s recently released St. Louis Noir.



  1. I actually thought that was pretty extensive.... troublingly so--and just in time for Halloween! (Tara has been watching a couple of scary movies lately, and last night we watched All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which had a particularly gruesome killing involving a shotgun...without ever firing the gun itself.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Art! And that list just barely touches the surface... ;) .

    I'm not familiar with All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, but you've piqued my curiosity. I might have to check it out.

  3. My all-time favorite is still from the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Lamb to the Slaughter", where Barbara Bel Geddes kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb, throws it in the oven, and serves it to the police officers who come to investigate. Now THAT's the way to do it.

  4. Good stuff. Eve, "Lamb" was based on a story by Roald Dahl.

    At the risk of a spoiler, the movie MISSOURI BREAKS has a rather unique example of someone getting their throat cut.

  5. Paul: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is an interesting film in many ways--and its history has been interesting, so after you watch it, I'd suggest checking out the Wikipedia article on it, which is extensive. The reviews have been mixed--drastically so, with some critics comparing the look of the film to Terence Malick (seriously) while other see it as just another teen slasher flick, adding nothing new to the genre. I can see both views.....

  6. I can't describe it without spoiling the movie, but the final death in DEAD AGAIN is nicely done, in more than one way.

  7. Killing has become so mundane in newer movies. You can't even kill zombies in too many ways, they keep coming back...Just like Schwarzenegger in his Terminator movies. I usually kill people with a gun myself, but I did have one lady, an aging actress, bump off a pair of her younger rivals in other ways. The first actress was electrocuted when she brushed her teeth at the metal sink in her trailer on the set. The other was gassed in the garage with the motor running while the killer sat with her using an oxygen mask. She got the oxygen from her doctor after that other actress tried to kill her the same way. I guess that is just fair play...

  8. The following was told to me as a true occurrence, but it may have been lifted from a movie ... I'm pretty sure it didn't come from a book. Anyway, about 10 years ago, a former friend told me that during a horrible winter in Rochester, N.Y., several years earlier, the man who later became her baby daddy stabbed another woman to death with a huge icicle!!

  9. I know I shouldn't take this seriously, but Odd Job didn't actually kill anyone with that hat, Paul. On the other hand, Goldfinger getting sucked out of that plane, that was pretty good. So was the body paint asphyxiation [wasn't sure if I was going to spell that right, but it didn't get underlined]. I can't remember the movie where they discussed the ice bullet. That's always been one of my favorites. It would do its damage and then melt leaving no evidence. Another one of my favorite deaths was from Cabin in the Woods. I think that may be the only case where someone was gored by a unicorn horn. Then of course there's Mr. Creosote in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life who blows up because he couldn't eat another bite.

  10. That’s a great one, Eve! Thanks.

    Thanks, Rob. Have seen that, but so long ago I don’t remember what it is. Will have to check it out again.

    Thanks for the additional thoughts, Art. And I’ll try not to check out the Wikipedia article first, thought that might be hard.

    Thanks, B.K. Dead Again is a really good movie.

    Thanks, Gayle. That’s great with the killer sitting with the oxygen mask while the other person is gassed to death. Sometimes you just gotta go with the gun and some you gotta be creative.

    Thanks, Elizabeth. I’m not sure if that’s a true story or not, but I think it has been used in movies ‘cause then the ice melts and no murder weapon :) – See Bruce’s comment below.

    Thanks for the clarification on Odd Job, Bruce. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve seen Goldfinger. And also for the other great examples. So many creative ways to off someone.

  11. Thank you Paul. I did know about the ice bullet murder(s). But I still believe the story about the icicle that my former friend told me might actually be true, because she herself killed that man in self-defense!

  12. Don't forget "Fried Green Tomatoes." (The secret's in the sauce! :) )

  13. Elizabeth, I'd like to think it's true. It's a pretty cool thing to do (not sure if that pun is intended or not).

    Thanks, Jeff. Ah, the secret sauce, good one!

  14. I remember a particularly good one in a Clancy book. It was more torture to get information, but the subject died anyway. The main character put a bad guy into a hyperbaric chamber, increased the pressure several atmosphere,s and then would decrease the pressure and cause painful "bends" to get him to talk.

    The beauty of it was that the bad guy couldn't leave the chamber or he would die in a few minutes. As it was, his body had been through so many cycles, he died anyway. Elegant.

  15. That definitely sounds creative, Chris. Cool how he takes something that's supposed to help with the bends and turns it into an instrument of torture. Thanks for mentioning it.

  16. I heard that a massive injection of nicotine is a way to avoid detection

  17. That's a good one, Mark. Thanks.

  18. Secret in the sauce indeed!
    And I've heard about the nicotine one, too. Also a distillation of ant poison. Sounds like a lot of trouble to my lazy characters, but hey! You never know...

  19. In one of my books, my heroine, Nan Vining, neutralizes a guy with a shower curtain and rod. Doesn't kill him but manages to truss him up sufficiently to escape the shower stall. I'm fond of that one.


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