Strapped in cinema
As October continues, I have been watching some of my old favorite movies. You find yourself doing that when the weather starts cooling off. I noticed something. In more modern movies, the equipment being used by the characters had no style.
In the past, filmmakers seem to have had some kind of signature piece of equipment that the main character could use. It was something that you didn’t see every day. Usually this means it cost a good deal of money. Today, everything seems like it is off the shelf. I guess that is product placement for you.
Of course given that I tend to lean more toward action movies and horror movies, said pieces of equipment are usually weapons. In some movies, a good weapon was almost as important as a good villain. There just couldn’t be a movie without one. Well, there could, but it would be a much duller movie.
Just for fun, I decided to put together a top 10 list of my favorite movie weapons. Just to keep this clear, these are movie props. In some of the cases, the real-life equivalent doesn’t exist and it was powered with special effects. In other cases, these are real, and probably somewhat costly. In any event, they graced the silver screen in a way that left their impression on cinema history.
10) James Bond movies – Walther PPK: This sleek pocket automatic was very appropriate to match the strength and elegance of the main character of these movies. The filmmakers did kind of overstate this gun’s capabilities. In some of the older Bond movies, the report sounded like a cannon going off. In real life it was a light pistol designed for off-duty German police officers. It is also something that a real covert agent might carry, as it is light, concealable and has acceptable stopping power. And lets face it – Walther PPK = cool. By the way, the new Bond movie “Skyfall” will be out next month.
9) First Blood – survival knife: As anyone who has ever seen the movie will testify, this is a hunk of steel. The 9-inch bladed, hollow handled short sword that was Rambo’s co-star was crafted by the late custom knifemaker Jimmy Lile. Now, Lile’s family is putting out a new line of these. If you need a good knife and have $3,500 lying around you aren’t doing anything with, this may be the ticket. As far as the plot of the later movies in the franchise are concerned, I used to say that if actor Sylvester Stallone ever got too old to play Rambo, they could just have a machine gun flying around by itself shooting bad guys and the movie would still have the same effect.
8) Scarface – “little friend” : As scumbag drug dealer Tony Montana is fighting toward the end of this film to keep from meeting his much deserved end, he gets out an M-16/M-203 over under assault rifle/grenade launcher to take on an army of assassins. This scene leads up to his yelling, “Say hello to my little friend,” before firing the grenade launcher. The end fight scene in this movie is amazing. Of course, if this movie is ever edited for television, I suspect it will be about five minutes long.
7) MacGyver – Swiss Army Knife: This wasn’t so much a weapon as it was a tool to make weapons. In the television show, the protagonist used his brains, his wits and his Swiss Army Knife to fabricate all manner of things from common materials. I was going to put the specific model he used, but it turns out that he used several different kinds. Most of the flat Swiss Army Knives, both Victorinox and Wenger models, were used in the show. As an interesting aside, actor Richard Dean Anderson, who played MacGyver, doesn’t own a Swiss Army Knife. He said the ones used in the show were props and were returned to the prop department after shooting was complete.
6) The Terminator - .45 long slide with laser sighting: Today laser sights are seen everywhere. You can buy a laser pointer for $5. At the time, in 1984, industrial lasers were brand new. It wasn’t even a real gun sight. It was a helium neon laser attached to the top of the gun. It required 10,000 volts to start and 1,000 volts to continue running. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger had to wear two power supplies the size of car batteries under his coat and have cables running up his arm to power the laser. The pistol was a standard AMT Hardballer longslide .45. It is kind of a stainless clone of the Colt 1911 model with a seven-inch barrel. There are T-shirts dedicated to this gun.
5) Dirty Harry - .44 Magnum: I don’t think the hand cannon that Clint Eastwood carried in this crime drama would ever be carried by an actual police officer. There would be a problem with over-penetration. A round would go through a criminal, through a witness, through the wall, through a tree outside … For those who don’t know, .44 Magnums were designed for close range hunting of large game such as elk, but have been used on cape buffalo and polar bears. It has even been used against elephants with success. Of course, in movies visuals are everything, and seeing the Smith and Wesson Model 29 with the 6-inch barrel come out from under Clint’s coat was definitely inspired.
4) Men in Black – noisy cricket: This pea-sized ray gun really packs a wallop. Tommy Lee Jones gives this to Will Smith as the two intergalactic peacekeepers are pursuing a 15-foot tall bug that has landed on planet earth. It creates the sound of a cricket while propelling an orb of energy and sends Smith flying when he fires it. In the book “MIB Agent’s Handbook,” it says the weapons are deliberately given to rookies and bets are taken as to how far the agent will fly as a result of the recoil.
3) Enter the Dragon – nunchaku: Admit it. How many people out there had to nurse a knot on the back of your head as a result of trying to learn to swing a pair of these? If you are like me, it was really two sticks cut from mop handle and tied together with some kind of twine. Well, Enter the Dragon is the movie that started the American obsession with this martial art weapon that originated as a Japanese flail used to thresh rice or soybeans. Of course, seeing Bruce Lee flatten about 20 attackers with a set is a pretty tremendous selling tool.
2) Predator – “ole painless”: You saw right, the large gun carried by future Gov. Jesse Ventura in this classic sci fi film was an M134 mini-gun. It is a 6-barreled 7.62mm gatling gun designed to be vehicle mounted. It fires an impressive 6,000 rounds per minute. To the best of my knowledge – especially considering it weighs 85 pounds unloaded and needs a large battery pack to work — a human held version isn’t real.
1) Jaws – jaws: OK, this may not actually be a weapon per se, but you would have a hard time convincing anyone being crushed in what is the equivalent of a hydraulic press lined with hundreds of daggers of that. The truth is that in instances when Great White sharks have bitten humans, it was most often a case of mistaken identity. The shark, for whatever reason, thought the human was a seal – its preferred prey. These sharks can get pretty big. I’ve seen photos of sharks that were the size Jaws was supposed to be. Although, as far as attacking humans goes, the movie Jaws did much more to promote that stereotype than any actual attack.