To celebrate the home entertainment release of the aliens vs teens horror Extraterrestrial we look at legendary genre actor Michael Ironside’s best movies and the entertaining ways he departs them (and you thought Sean Bean had it bad). Ironside is an underappreciated actor and his filmic characters have a habit of extremely memorable maimings… which we celebrate below. If you want to see how/if he dies in Extraterrestrial you better watch the film!
Total Recall (1990) Arms Ripped Off
Ironside was already a prolific actor when, in 1990, he appeared in Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi classic Total Recall, a film that would be for many cinema-goers their first taste of his blood on the big screen. Loosely drawing from Philip K Dick’s “ We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, Arnold Schwarzenegger struggles to figure out who he is after a memory implant goes wrong. Constantly there to remind him is Michael Ironside’s character Richter- chief henchman to the governor of Mars tasked with hunting down Quaid (Schwarzenegger). In typical Ironside style, Richter is dementedly single-minded and utterly ruthless in his pursuit, right up until the final set-piece confrontation between the two. Total Recall was one of the last ever big budget productions to make large-scale use of miniature effects over CGI, and conversely was one of the first to use CGI on a smaller level. But it’s the little things that make this film memorable- it’s nigh-on impossible to not grin like a madman when Arnie delivers his classic, “see you at the party” line whilst casually tossing away Ironside’s severed arms.
Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) – Decapitated
Ironside back doing what he does best- playing bad guys and losing body parts. Highlander II often finds itself listed as one of the worst movies ever made, with many taking exception to its convoluted plot and endless conceptual non-sequiturs. However, that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. If you can suspend your disbelief there’s fun to be had watching Ironside’s General Katana flying from his home planet (without the aid of a ship) across the cosmos to New York, crashing through the sidewalk and directly through the roof of a moving a subway train. And what with it being a Highlander film, and him being the bad guy, he inevitably loses his head to Christopher Lambert’s Macleod. But Ironside allegedly returned the favour during filming when he inadvertently lopped off part of Lamberts finger.
Starship Troopers (1997) – Legs Bitten Off
Equally entertaining, if not a million times more direct in its delivery, is 1997s Starship Troopers. The second Paul Verhoeven film to star Michael Ironside, Starship Troopers depicts a star-faring humanity of the not-too-distant future who come into conflict with a monstrous race of Arachnids. Ironside makes a brief appearance as soldier-come-teacher, Rasczak, who having already lost an arm in a previous conflict is still as keen as mustard for the military and damn well wants his students to be the same. Director Verhoeven, who grew up in Nazi occupied Holland, wanted to create as blatantly a fascist, militaristic society as he could in the movie, satirizing the overtly right-wing nature of the book on which it was based. SS style uniforms and endless propaganda videos create a blend seamlessly with the gung-ho, “the only good bug…” attitude of the newly recruited troopers. Enter Rasczek later on in the film leading his former students on the bug planet with the kind of aplomb to give Colonel Kilgore a run for his money. He finally meets his end after some crafty bugs undermine him, sucking him down into the sand. When he is finally pulled from the dirt, he is alas minus a pair of legs. With that he orders former star pupil Jonny Rico to shoot him, giving him the kind of death only a man like that should deserve.
The Machinist (2004) – Arm Chewed Up
For anyone who thinks that Ironside is a one trick pony who is only at home playing comic book villains in sci-fi films, here’s one to make you think again. The Machinist see’s him play a much more grounded roll as a blue-collar factory worker alongside a famously emaciated Christian Bale (he lost 4.5 stone for the role). The mundane setting for his unfortunate accident makes it all the more uncomfortable to watch- you certainly won’t have the same smirk on your face as you did when he lost his arms to Arnie in Total Recall. A mentally fragile Bale leans on the wrong button and you can only watch in horror as Ironside’s sleeve catches and his arm is slowly dragged towards its date with the loud spinny-thing that usual eats metal for lunch.
Scanners (1981) Causes Head Explosions!
OK, in this particular feature he actually manages to stay relatively intact, but at what cost? Both written and directed by Cronenberg, the Scanners are a group of people imbued with powers of telepathy and telekinesis that allow them to hear the thoughts of other people, control their actions and interfere with computers. Inevitably a morally questionable security firm, ConSec, become interested in weaponising these individuals. Ironside’s character Darryl Revok plays a scanner gone renegade against ConSec. In the course of his actions against the firm he bestows one of the most memorable on-screen fatalities (and one perhaps we would have expected to befall his character) when during a scanning demonstration he uses his superior skills to make ConSec scanner’s head explode. Ephemerol, the drug which causes the scanners to be born with special powers bears a striking similarity to thalidomide- both marketed as morning sickness cures taken by mother during the course of their pregnancy. Only time would tell the true cost of bad science.
EXTRATERRESTRIAL is available to Download from 9th March and on DVD and Blu-ray from 16th March, 2014