Curious Curses : Movies Cursed From The Start

People love the movies.  It’s a fact!  Ever since the dawn of the age of the silver screen people have been curiously fixated on the motion, the sound, and then the colors brought to them from the minds of movie makers.  Horror, romance, science fiction, action and adventure all rolled into an industry that has become a life of it’s own.  Sometimes the stories behind the movies are what make the movie interesting.  Intrigue, murder, death and tragedy all play a part in the drama that is movie making.  There are some stories that stand out from the rest as having particularly curious problems.  So curious in fact that so many rumors abound that the film had been plagued by more than just bad luck.

Out of the various cases of cursed movies, I have chosen the following seven as having the worst strokes of bad luck in the curious history of film.

Poltergeist Series

A truly sad and well known curse comes from this 1980’s suspense horror about a little girl stolen by poltergeists through the television set.  The movie was a blockbuster and still a cult favorite but the tragedy behind this Spielberg classic is anything by victorious.

  • The actress Dominique Dunne, who played the older sister, was killed by her ex-boyfriend shortly after the films release.
  • The main child star, Heather O’Rourke, died from Septic shock when she was 12.
  • They used real human skeletons in the pool scene during the finale which some believe caused the bad luck.
  • Both the good and bad spirits from the second movie (Will Sampson and Julian Kane respectively) died after completion of the film.
  • Louis Perryman who played Pugsley in the movie was murdered in his Texas home when he was stabbed with a sharp object.
  • It had a clown doll it it!  I don’t care, that makes it cursed from the get go!

The Omen

This classic must see revolves around the story of the antichrist and the family that would supposedly bring him to power.  However this movie also has the reputation as having the worst coincidences of all cursed films.

  • Separate flights for both actor Gregory Peck and executive producer Mace Neufeld were struck by lightning when flying between the USA and England, and producer Harvey Bernhard was barely missed by a lightning bolt in Rome.
  • A plane hired by the studio to take aerial shots in Israel was switched at the last moment by the airline, and the clients who took the original plane were all killed when it crashed on takeoff.
  • A restaurant that Neufeld and Peck were to eat at in England was bombed by the IRA.
  • Some time later, a zookeeper who was helping the studio with handling animals was attacked and eaten alive by lions.
  • On Friday the 13th, special effects artist John Richardson got into an accident in Holland decapitating his assistant.  Reportedly, when he crawled from the wreckage, the sign above him said Omen, 66.6km.
  • One of the film’s tiger handler’s died.
  • Gregory Peck’s, who played Robert Thorn, son shot himself in 1975.
  • A stuntman on the movie deliberately threw himself off a roof.

The Crow (Or The Curse of Bruce Lee)

A personal favorite, this 1993 movie is connected to a martial arts legend.  Brandon Lee, the only son of the famous Bruce Lee, died during the filming by an accidental discharge from an improperly loaded prop gun.  In reality this should be called the “curse of the Chinese merchant” since it follows closely to the deaths of both father and son.  Both were killed while making films, both were sudden, and both died 20 years apart.  For myself, both are greatly missed.

It didn’t stop there though, A TV series was made called The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, and while filming an explosive stunt, the stunt coordinator was killed when a piece of debris shot up in the air hit a tree and then struck him in the head, killing him.

Wizard of Oz

What else can you say about this MGM classic?  How about, without you really knowing about it, has had some rather serious problems and long term affects for its cast.  This happy fantasy story about a young girl being transported via tornado to the whimsical land of Oz and her attempts to find the wizard to get her home has been a family staple for decades.

  • Buddy Ebsen, the actor who played the Tin Man, had to quite when he found out he had been inhaling aluminum from the powder makeup for the costume!
  • Jack Haley, who replaced Buddy Ebsen, also suffered from a serious eye infection from the new paste makeup for the Tin Man.
  • Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, had to take time to recover from severe burns she received from a pyrotechnic scene where she was supposed to burst into flames.
  • Even Toto had his paw accidentally broken when a solider in the film stepped on his paw.
  • Frank Morgan, the Wizard, was seriously injured in a car crash four months after its release.
  • Clara Blandick, Auntie Em, later killed herself at the age of 81 with sleeping pills and a plastic bag over her head.
  • And Judy Garland…Oh, Judy!  She had a real run of bad luck after the films release in 1939.  Four failed marriages, typecasting, drug and alcohol addiction, and an eventual overdose in 1969.
  • There was also talk of “munchkin debauchery” but no proof was ever given to the rumors.

The Conqueror

I have actually never met someone who didn’t like John Wayne.  Ever!  Isn’t the curious!?  His films they may criticize but not the man himself. The Conqueror is arguably his worst film as he was most likely miscast as a Mogul warlord.  This movie, however, has been credited for giving cancer to 91 people!  I still have a hard time with this one since most old Hollywood smoked and drank excessively but let’s look at the details.

  • The movie was presented by Howard Hughes, the Spruce Goose inventor, and he decided to shoot in Snow Canyon State Park which was 137 downwind from the nuclear testing sight on the Yucca Flats.
  • To make the movie more authentic, he shipped trucks loads of the soil from Nevada to Hollywood to shoot there.
  • Within at least 20 years after the film was released, 91 actors and crew members succumbed to cancer including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and director Dick Powell.
  • Pedro Armendáriz, who played Jamunga, killed himself in June of 1963, rather than live with his terminal diagnosis.
  • Agnes Moorehead of Bewitched fame, died in 1974 of uterine cancer regretting ever having taken the role.
  • Howard Hughes himself would later act quite insane and it is said that in his last years he would just watch this movie over and over again.

The Exorcist

Still a movie for horror movie buffs!  This movie portrays the story of a supposed real life exorcism and has been controversial from the beginning!   With such gruesome and intense imagery being conveyed, there has been many injuries and accidents that have made this movie infamous as well as famous.

  • Jack MacGowran, the actor that played the role of Burke Dennings, died shortly before the film release.
  • The film The Exorcist was adapted from the 1971 novel, which was actually based on true events which took place in Maryland in 1949.
  • Jason Miller, the actor that played Father Karras, had a son named Jordan that was seriously injured when a motorbike ran over his legs.
  • Linda Blair had a mental breakdown during the filming.
  • During the scene where Linda Blair is flipping around on the bed, she fractured her lower spine when the harness she was strapped to came undone, and the scenes of her screaming was real
  • Ellen Burstyn, who played the role of Chris MacNeil, received a permanent injury to her spine: the harness that was used to shoot the scene pulled her away quickly and when she landed, Burstyn landed on her coccyx.  That scream was real!
  • Temperatures on the set were incredibly cold, as cold as -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, for the cold bedroom scenes for that frosty breath effect. At one point, it actually began to snow on the set as a result of the amount of moisture in the air in conjunction with the cold temperatures. (I don’t considered that cursed, I consider it kinda wonderful.)
  • The first set of the MacNeil home actually burned down in an unexplained accident and had to be rebuilt.  This delayed filming for 6 weeks.
  • It caused widespread hysteria when released. Reports of fainting, people being institutionalized, and at least one miscarriage.
  • In all, a reported nine people died during the production of the film.
  • Apparently people even went as far to kill themselves because they couldn’t get the horror out of their heads.  I find this goes about as far as “The music made me do it,” philosophy.

The Superman Franchise

For those of you who really don’t know, Superman has been on television since the 1940’s!  The franchise has been plagued by misfortune from the start which has, of course, resulted in the rumors that it is cursed.  I mean, the whole franchise!

  • The original Superman in 1940 was played by Kirk Alyn, but he failed to find work afterwards and later died of Alzheimer’s.
  • George Reeves played the man of steel in the 1950’s and, like Alyn, was only really known for his role as Superman.  He was found shot in the head just days before his wedding from apparent suicide.  The movie Hollywoodland is based off of his mysterious death.
  • Christopher Reeve played Superman from 1978, the Actor was paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown from his horse in a cross country equestrian riding event in 1995.
  • Lee Quigley, who played Superman as a baby in the 1978 film, died in 1991 at age 14 due to solvent abuse.
  • Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, sued DC Comics for not being properly compensated for the design.  They eventually got a settlement but they both never worked on any other high profile comic again.  Some say they cursed the franchise from the start…I say that it’s bad business!

As far as curses go, who knows.  This world is full of strange and curious coincidences melted together with happenstance and we’ve believed far weirder things you must admit!  And truly, why can’t we believe a little hokum every once in a while?  Don’t get me started on religion!

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