Ridiculously elaborate movie weapons

The fine line between badass and goofy-ass battle equipment

When Jesse “The Body” Ventura first hoisted a minigun in Predator (1987) audiences’ eyeballs bulged out a quarter inch and gun nuts drooled into their popcorn. Here was a weapon that was designed to be mounted onto a helicopter and that spat high-calibre death from its gas-powered rotating barrel. The props department had to customize the hell out of this gun just to make it portable even to a steroid freak like Governor Ventura. Knowledgeable gun experts snickered over the fact that no human being however muscular could possibly carry enough ammunition for this beast to last for more than a few seconds of full-auto fire. Still audiences fell in love with the thing and the minigun became a fixture in action movies and video games for years to come. It’s just barely on the right side of the fine line between “ridiculous movie weapon” and “awesome movie weapon” — the selfsame line I’d like to examine in this week’s Video Vulture.

Movies are filled with loving close-ups of ridiculously elaborate weapons that are supposed to be impressive. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they cause the audience to crack up laughing.

• Gimmicky sword from Beowulf (1999) — No not the new CGI extravaganza with Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie. I’m talking about the laughable post-apocalyptic B-movie starring Christopher Lambert. There are plenty of needlessly elaborate weapons here — in fact every single club spear and flare seems to have an unnecessary buzz saw attachment — but the big prize goes to Lambert’s huge sword which has more gimmicks than he knows what to do with. Imagine if your Swiss army knife was six feet long and every single blade corkscrew and tweezer shot out with a loud “twang!” sound effect. That’s what Beowulf’s sword is like. Plus it has a huge lever sticking out of the handle like the throttle of a motorcycle. What is this gizmo? The emergency brake? Spit valve? Whammy bar? Is Lambert suddenly going to flip the sword over and use it to play Guitar Hero ?

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: Ridiculous.

• Flexible retractable yo-yo sword from Saviour of the Soul (1991) — We all remember that flexible “Green Destiny” sword from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000) right? Well here’s a collapsible sabre that makes Green Destiny look as rigid and inflexible as an iron girder. The hero of Saviour of the Soul uses a weapon so wibbly-wobbly it’s really more like a tape measure than a sword. See it bend around corners! Wrap around opponent’s limbs! Retract into its handle thus turning into a toy yo-yo! (Really.)

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: Awesome.

• Machine Gun Leg from Grindhouse (2007) or Planet Terror (2007) — Rose McGowan loses one of her gorgeous legs but gets something even better to replace it: a machine gun! It never runs out of bullets! She can walk on it without clogging the barrel! She doesn’t even have to pull the trigger to fire it!

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: Ridiculously awesome!

• “Thunderball Fists” from Infra-Man (1975) — We here at Science Headquarters have just created the world’s first bionic superhero but something is missing. I know! We’ll install Thunderball Fists! Now Infra-Man’s fists can detach and fly into bad guys!

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: Awesomely ridiculous!

• Four-barrelled Derringer from Sabata (1969) — No matter what kind of goofy-ass frontier weapon you put in the hands of Lee Van Cleef he’s going to make it look cool. Here he wanders the lawless west righting wrongs with his two-piece sniper rifle and custom-made four-barrelled Derringer pistol. Oh yeah and he’s friends with an acrobatic frontier ninja who doesn’t talk.

What’s so special about Cleef’s Derringer? Well for one thing it’s got an “S” engraved in the handle. Also once he’s fired all four shots he can point it up in the air and fire one last bullet out of the bottom of the handle. Surprise!

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: Mildly awesome but why doesn’t he just use a six-shooter like everybody else?

• Buzzsaw yo-yo from Octopussy (1983) — This thing looks so cool you almost forget how stupid it is. I’d call it the ideal weapon for assassinating sleeping people from a mezzanine but it can’t even do that right.

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: So ridiculous.

• Super Shotgun from Blastfighter (1984) — What’s the ideal gift for a sworn pacifist who’s just out of prison? How about the world’s coolest shotgun? This baby’s got a long distance night-vision scope for sniping in the dark and fires a ludicrous assortment of trick shells. Each shell is transparent so we can see all the explosives and poison darts inside. Of course you’ll only have to use it if those violent drunken rednecks push you too far.

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: So awesome

• Cabbage Cannon from The A-Team (TV series) — Once per episode the bad guys would lock the A-team up in a warehouse full of spare parts and leave them there until morning. Then the theme song would blare and the heroes would burst out of there with newly constructed weapons saving the day in a completely nonfatal way.

One time they built an enormous tank with a turret-mounted cannon that fired cabbages. The evil terrorists got bonked on the head with leafy vegetables until they surrendered.

Ridiculous or Awesome Verdict: Mmph… Hurhurhr… BWAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!