Most of the Deaths Of The Month we have on HCF are either gruesome, blackly amusing or examples of great film-making, perhaps because those sorts of on-screen deaths are easier to think and write about rather than what is actually the reality of death for most of us: something that is just very very sad. Here, I present an extremely poignant death scene which is moving not just because of what occurs on-screen, but also because it was the final film appearance of the legend that is Vincent Price, some of his classics having been reviewed for their Blu-ray releases here on HCF not long ago. By the time director Tim Burton was lucky enough to get his idol, someone he had virtually worshipped since he was a child, to appear in his 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, the 82-year-old star was very ill, suffering from Parkinson’s disease and emphysema as a result of being a lifelong smoker. He fainted several times during filming and his schedule, along with his three scenes, had to be cut down.
Price plays The Inventor, a sort of cross between Geppeto and Frankenstein I suppose. When Avon lady Peg goes up to the strange castle near the town in which she lives, the Inventor has already died, leaving Edward, the man he has been ‘creating’ , not quite finished -most notably having scissors for hands – and up there living alone. Edward is taken back to Suburbia, and is initially welcomed until things turn sour and Edward becomes an outcast. His only friends seem to be Peg and her daughter Kim, whose initial hostility towards him has now changed. Edward returns to their house and Kim asks him to hug her. He replies: “I can’t” [I feel sad even typing this], and we go into the third and lengthiest of the film’s three castle-set flashbacks showing The Inventor. It’s not quite Christmas, but the Inventor brings him an early present: some hands. Edward gazes on them in wonder [those expressive eyes of Johnny Depp especially working wonders here] and gently touches and caresses them with his scissors. Composer Danny Elfman’s almost heavenly music, playing what I call the ‘Edward’s Heart Theme’, add immensely to the beauty of the moment, but then turns darker as The Inventor suddenly sports a pained look on his face and collapses to the ground dead. As he does so, the hands he was holding fall onto the scissors and are chopped into bits. Edward stokes his dead creator’s face with one of his scissor blades, and draws blood. As with much of the film, Edward doesn’t seem to comprehend everything that has happened, and I always wonder if The Inventor knew his days were numbered which is why he gave Edward his present early.
A terrific scene in a truly magical, beautiful and heartbreaking [the ending always brings on my tears] film, and a film that Burton still has yet to top despite the many fine ones he’s made since. As for Price, he died soon after the film’s release, but Edward Scissorhands would have been a lovely and rather appropriate [given Burton’s Gothic tendencies] farewell to the silver screen even if life hadn’t imitated art so quickly.