The Cinema Comes Alive!
An analysis of five movies depicting someone in need of a sudden escape from a villain shooting a steam pipe to release steam into the villain’s face to facilitate that escape, and whether it was appropriate
1) Dangerface (1957)
Scene: Rex Jumper is pinned by three of Mr. Evilicus’s henchmen and about to be fed to the glowing anacondas
Action: Rex kung-fus the henchmen, kicks a .45 out of his pants leg at the last second, and shoots the steam pipe next to Mr. Evilicus’s head, serving up a hot spray of nature’s finest, at which point he dives over the railing into the Thames for a clean escape
Steam pipe usage appropriate? Oh yeah
2) A Thousand Acres (1997)
Scene: The characters played by Michele Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange confront their father about a lifetime of verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse on the family farm
Action: Jason Robards delivers a boot to each of their stomachs, spins, and shoots the steam pipe next to Jennifer Jason-Leigh’s head, bathing her in the good stuff so he can jump on his favorite horse and gallop toward Des Moines
Steam pipe usage appropriate? Debatable. The film’s poor box office showing may hint that the audience was expecting more of a “let’s talk our way through this” vibe
3) Ken Rankin: Action Eater (2004)
Scene: Hung upside down from a roof beam and dangled over a vat of piping hot five-alarm chili, Ken realizes this is curtains for him.
Action: Ken tells the Livid Robot that he’s forgotten one factor in the equation: the element of surprise! He gnaws his way through the ropes around his feet, makes a shotgun out of an old golf club and a cigarette lighter, and shoots the steam pipe next to the Livid Robot’s head, dousing him with premium vintage steam-a-roony and making him go “AAAHHHHHHH, WHY WAS I EVER MADE?” while Ken hops into his glider and hightails it for Six Flags
Steam pipe usage appropriate? No, considering that A) this was the eleventh time in the film that someone in need of a sudden escape from a villain shoots a steam pipe to release steam into the villain’s face to facilitate that escape and B) according to an expository title crawl, the film takes place “in a post-apocalyptic world when there are no more amenities, not even television or steam pipes”
4) Frost/Nixon (2008)
Scene: Richard Nixon, played by Frank Langella, is cornered by David Frost’s relentless questioning
Action: Nixon makes the fatal mistake of asking Frost if he wouldn’t mind moving a little closer to the steam pipe beside his head so that he can shoot it and make a break for safety; an indignant Frost counters by using words with even more syllables
Steam pipe use appropriate? Judgment call; while the steam pipe wasn’t actually shot in the film, it appears to have been exquisitely made by the prop crew and lit with great care by director of photography Salvatore Totino
5) Watch Out for That Steam Pipe, Moron, You’re Standing Right Next to It! (2007)
Scene: All of them; this is a two hour montage of clips from Hollywood films in which various action heroes use the steam pipe for its intended purpose
Steam pipe usage appropriate? Yes, except for a clip from 1984’s CrimeCop in which Lance Smackit means to shoot a steam pipe but misses and instead gets the villain right in the heart, killing him instantly and bringing the movie to a close just forty-six minutes in. Also, a lengthy lecture about the history of steam itself adds little to the experience, and the inclusion of a scene from an unidentified Mexican crime thriller depicting the villain frantically blowing the jet of steam away from his face after the pipe is shot just isn’t terribly realistic. Come on, people.