March 13, 2008

Deadly Extremities

The Machine Girl (2008)The upcoming Japanese film The Machine Girl (Kataude mashin gâru) is an over-the-top revenge story about a schoolgirl who lost her family as well as her left arm to a Yakuza gang. In her quest for vengeance, she replaces her dismembered limb with various weapon attachments, such as a chainsaw or a rotary machine gun. If you haven't seen the trailer yet, pay a quick visit to and check it out.

The Machine Girl
's prosthetic weapon gimmick started me thinking about other films in which a character's limbs have been enhanced for combat. It may simply be an amputee tricking out their stump or an individual who's undergone significant body modification, but I've rounded up a baker's dozen of notable instances from the last four decades of film.

Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007)The most recent example is also an obvious influence on The Machine Girl: Cherry Darling's combination machine gun/rocket launcher leg in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. Although it's unclear just how the trigger mechanism functions, it looks cool enough to forgive the lack of real-world logic. It's also par for the course in the director's unapologetically outrageous love letter to seventies grindhouse cinema.

Evil Dead 2 (1987)Devotees of his oeuvre know that this is not the first time that he has creatively customized a firearm. In 1995's Desperado, Rodriguez modified mariachi guitar cases so that they hid rocket launchers and automatic machine guns, and he gave Tom Savini's character a phallic crotch revolver the following year in From Dusk Till Dawn.

Discussion of this particular topic cannot really get going without mentioning what is surely the most memorable deadly extremity movie of all: Evil Dead II. After cutting off his possessed right hand with a chainsaw, the character of Ash modifies the power tool to fit onto his stump. Bruce Campbell achieved an international cult following with the role, and the iconic character returned in another sequel (Army of Darkness), a handful of video games, comic books, and even a stage musical.

Missing hands are probably the most common disfigurement in this pseudo sub-genre. Herman Scobie (played by George Kennedy) sported a steel claw as a substitute for his right hand, with which he menaced Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant's characters in the 1963 Hitchockian romp Charade.

Live and Let Die (1973)Roger Moore's debut as Agent 007 in Live and Let Die had him taking on a corrupt Caribbean Prime Minister known as Mr. Big. One of Mr. Big's henchman was a reptile wrangler named Tee Hee Johnson who lost his hand to an alligator bite and subsequently wielded a set of mechanical pincers. He demonstrated their power by twisting James Bond's gun into scrap metal.

Before the advent of such useful devices, a lost hand was often replaced with a simple hook. Thanks to numerous permutations in urban legend, the image of the hook-handed killer has been well represented in cinema. For the purposes of this post, I'll just single out a couple of popular examples. If you're eager for more, Richard Harland Smith offers an extensive examination of this type of villain over at

Rolling Thunder (1977)After penning the screenplay to Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader co-wrote another late seventies meditation on violence and vengeance called Rolling Thunder. A recently returned Vietnam vet is targeted by a band of outlaws. They rob his home, kill his family, and stuff his arm in a garbage disposal. He ends up wearing a hook-hand, which he sharpens into a lethal weapon and uses to seek bloody revenge.

The film later inspired the moniker of Quentin Tarantino's short-lived film distribution company. The logo for Rolling Thunder Pictures even featured the image of a hook striking a flat surface, which mimicked the letterform of a capital 'R.' Unfortunately, Tarantino's endeavor didn't survive long enough to oversee the release of its cinematic namesake; this grindhouse classic remains tragically unavailable on DVD.

Candyman (1992)One of the more infamous hooks in modern movies belongs to Daniel Robitaille, a.k.a. Candyman. Borrowing elements from the folklore of Bloody Mary, the 1992 film introduced horror fans to the vengeful killer who terrorized the residents of Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing projects.

After having his hand sawed off by a lynch mob, Daniel was covered in honey and swarmed to death by bees. His soul was somehow captured inside a mirror, allowing him to return whenever the name Candyman is repeated five times. The living urban legend swung his gnarly appendage through two sequels: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999).

Enter the Dragon (1973)In the 1973 kung fu favorite Enter the Dragon, the crime lord Han makes use of interchangeable attachments for his left hand stump. Throughout the majority of the film, he wears a fake hand discreetly sheathed in a black glove. For the big rumble in the third act, however, he switches out the fake hand for an exotic tiger claw weapon. When Bruce Lee quickly disarms him of that one, he opts for a four-bladed extension that resembles the paw of a robotic wolverine.

X-Men (2000)Speaking of wolverines, Logan is easily the most popular character in the X-Men movie franchise. A set of retractable claws in both of his forearms inspired his mutant nickname. Coated in the nearly indestructible alloy known as adamantium, Wolverine's twin weapons give him a distinct advantage in hand-to-hand combat.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)The shear-fingered subject of Tim Burton's 1990 fairy tale may never have engaged in much violence, but Edward Scissorhands could certainly give Freddy Krueger's customized glove some competition in a slasher contest.

Hellboy (2004)It may not be versatile enough to type with, but Hellboy's Right Hand of Doom sure proves useful during a fight. It's indestructible, impervious to pain, and delivers blows with the force of a sledgehammer. The ancient appendage is also a potential catalyst for the Apocalypse, as seen in Guillermo del Toro's 2004 film adaptation.

Robocop 3 (1993)As a cyborg, RoboCop's entire body could arguably be considered a weapon. However, a scene from RoboCop 3 is what ultimately inspired his inclusion in this post. Officer Murphy receives an impressive upgrade in the form of a multi-weapon arm attachment. The combination machine gun/anti-tank launcher/ flame thrower extends from where his left hand was.

The 1989 film Tetsuo: The Iron Man went beyond the usual enhancements of arms and legs. The title character's body gradually becomes metalized, and his penis mutates into a large power drill. In one of the movie's most controversial moments, the man's girlfriend gets fatally ravaged by his spinning tool.

Tunneler from
Puppet Master
Blade from
Puppet Master

And finally, even though they're not human, several of the murderous marionettes in the Puppet Master film franchise have specialized weaponry built into their anatomy. The top of Tunneler's head is a deadly drill, Torch wields a flame thrower in his forearm, and instead of hands, the character of Blade sports a knife and a hook.

1 comment:

Colfax said...

"Rolling Thunder" is available for streaming viewing through Netflix.