Rituals are an important part of every holiday tradition. It isn’t easy to crack the code and create an instant Christmas classic, but a few movies seem to sneak into seasonal psyche. It’s a Wonderful Life. A Christmas Story. Cartoons characters like the Grinch and Charlie Brown. For some, Home Alone has become as much a part of Christmas as Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.
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TheWeek.com put together an in-depth analysis of one aspect of Home Alone that is often overlooked. The two ill-fated antagonists take quite a beating over the course of the film. The film is an homage to the maestros of slapstick: Larry, Mo, and Curly. But what would have happened if the two bumbling burglars had really suffered through all that punishment?
Author Lauren Hansen spoke with Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College. Here’s Dr. St Clair’s attempt at cinematic triage.
BB gun to the forehead
There’s a lesson here. Don’t stick your head through a doggie-door. Will the villains learn? Nope. Marv and Harry have a lot more learning to do.
Dr. St. Clair’s diagnosis: “Classic air-powered projectile weapons typically have muzzle velocities of 350 feet per second or less. A BB fired at close range from such a weapon could break the skin, but will not penetrate the skull, and is unlikely to penetrate Harry’s scrotum, especially through fabric.”
Iron to the face
In an attempt to keep the miscreants at bay, Kevin is setting traps. Some of them, in reality, could prove fatal.
Dr. St. Clair’s diagnosis: “Let’s estimate the distance from the first floor to the basement at 15 feet, and assume the steam iron weighs 4 pounds. And note that the iron strikes Marv squarely in the mid-face. This is a serious impact, with enough force to fracture the bones surrounding the eyes. This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture,’ and can lead to serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.”
Handling a burning-hot doorknob
This always seemed to me like an homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, only without the map.
Dr. St. Clair’s diagnosis: “If this doorknob is glowing visibly red in the dark, it has been heated to about 751 degrees Fahrenheit, and Harry gives it a nice, strong, one- to two-second grip. By comparison, one second of contact with 155 degree water is enough to cause third degree burns. The temperature of that doorknob is not quite hot enough to cause Harry’s hand to burst into flames, but it is not that far off… Assuming Harry doesn’t lose the hand completely, he will almost certainly have other serious complications, including a high risk for infection and ‘contracture’ in which resulting scar tissue seriously limits the flexibility and movement of the hand, rendering it less than 100 percent useful. Kevin has moved from ‘defending his house’ into sheer malice, in my opinion.”
A blowtorch to the scalp
Another trap. This one is hell on the scalp. Nothing says Christmas like pyrotechnic hair loss.
Dr. St. Clair’s diagnosis: “Harry has an interesting reaction to having a lit blowtorch aimed directly at his scalp. Rather than remove himself from danger, he keeps the top of his skull directly in the line of fire for about seven seconds. What was likely a simple second-degree skin burn is now a full thickness burn likely to cause necrosis of the calavarium (skull bone).” That means the skin and bone tissue on Harry’s skull will be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant.
Walking barefoot on Christmas tree ornaments
While it may not be as brutal to an iron to the face, this scene has a way of making people wince. Way too many nerve endings in the feet.
Dr. St. Clair’s diagnosis: “Walking on ornaments seems pretty insignificant compared to everything else we’ve seen so far. If I was Marv, I’d be more concerned about my facial fractures.”
Paint can to the face
Kevin seems drawn to head-shots, and the paint can attack is no exception.
The doctor’s diagnosis: “Assuming the paint can is full (roughly 10 pounds) and the rope is 10 feet long, Marv and Harry each take a roughly 2 kilo-newton hit to the face. That is easily enough to fracture multiple facial bones, and is probably going to knock you out cold. Also, I wouldn’t expect either of the Wet Bandits to walk away from this with all of their teeth.”
Shovel to the back of the head
The ending seems almost anticlimactic. But there wouldn’t be a sequel if they buried Harry and Marv at the end.
Dr. St. Clair’s diagnosis: “Seriously? At this point, Marv and Harry have both suffered potentially crippling hand and foot injuries. Harry has proved to be nearly impervious to burns, and both managed to retain consciousness after taking a flying paint can straight to the face. Suddenly, a frail elderly man appears and weakly slaps them in turn with a flimsy aluminum Home Depot snow shovel. And, somehow, this is too much for them, and they collapse. This movie was way more believable when I was 8.”