We tend to romanticize working in show business, but it’s not always the glitz and glamour that people expect it. Being a television or film star – or especially a stunt double – can be a pretty dangerous gig. Accidents during production have historically led to the injuries and deaths of countless people.
Join us as we take a closer look at some of the worse accidents and injuries that occurred on the sets of film and television productions in the 1970s.
Barquero – 1970
During the filming of this Western film, the movie’s director Robert Sparr dies in a plane crash; One of tragic injuries from 1970s films. He’s scouting out filming locations with a cameraman, Gerald Finnerman. Their single-engine plane went down near the Brush Hollow Reservoir right outside of Penrose, Colorado. The pilot of the aircraft dies in the crash, but the cameraman miraculously survived.
One of the film’s leads, Lee Van Cleef, is to be on the flight as well to accompany Finnerman. Sparr as they did their scouting, but at the last minute, he decides not to join them in their excursion.
Catch-22 – 1970
While filming a bombing scene, second-unit director John Jordan pulls out of a B-25 Mitchell aircraft and dies. He wasn’t wearing a safety harness while the plane was up in the air. If he had, he would have likely survived.
Golden Eagle – 1970
Thai actor Mitrr Chalbancha dies while portraying his signature action-hero character, Insee Daeng, the masked crime-fighter.
On the last day of filming, Mitr supposes to grab hold of a rope ladder that was dangling from a helicopter. Sadly, he wasn’t able to secure his grip on the ladder, but the pilot didn’t realize this and took off. Mitr then lost his grip and plummeted to the ground.
Disturbingly, the incident captures on camera and featured in the final cut of the film. The accident, however, omits from the film’s DVD release.
Tora – 1970
While rehearsing aerial scenes prior to filming in Oahu, Hawaii, a BT-13 airplane that alters to resemble a Japanese Val dive-bomber went down in a sugar cane field near Ewa. The pilot, Guy Thomas Strong, dies in the crash.
Zeppelin – 1970
While filming aerial shots over the Irish Sea, two aircraft, including a helicopter camera-ship, collided mid-flight. Four crewmen die in the collision; Assistant director Burch Williams, cameraman Skeets Kelly, Pilot Jim Liddy, and co-pilot Gilbert Chomat.
A Clockwork Orange – 1971
If you’ve ever seen this controversial yet critically acclaimed Stanley Kubrick film, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the notorious MK Ultra-Esque brainwashing scene. During filming, actor Malcolm McDowell‘s cornea scratches while his eyes props open for a fairly long duration. He suffered temporary blindness from the incident.
Later, during the film’s production, McDowell sustained a broken rib during a scene when another actor taunted and attacked him to demonstrate his rehabilitation.
Kamen Rider – 1971
While filming a scene for the episode entitled ‘The Terrifying Cobra-Man’, the film’s lead, Hiroshi Fujioka, broke his thighbone in a motorcycle stunt accident when he drove straight into a telephone pole at nearly 50 miles per hour.
For the next four episodes, in Fujioka’s absence, stock footage uses and another actor calls into dub over his lines. The ratings took a hit as the audience clearly could tell that something had changed. The series producers eventually felt as if they had no other choice but to replace him with a character played by Takeshi Sasaki.
Fujioka later returned to the show in episode 53, ‘Monster Jaguarman – Deathmatch by Motorcycle Fight’. At that point, however, neither actor can prepare, so the series ends up having two leads.
Enjoying this video so far? Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more Hollywood news, stories, and secrets. And don’t go anywhere just yet. We’ve still got quite a bit of territory to cover. Turns out, the 70s were a pretty dangerous time to work in the entertainment industry.
Von Richthofen and Brown – 1971
After the plane he is flying crashes at Weston Airport near Dublin, Ireland, stunt pilot Charles Boddington dies. The next day, another airplane crashes, but fortunately, no one dies. The plane’s pilot, Lynn Garrison, and actor, Don Stroud, were, however, injured.
Matlock Police – 1971
When losing control of his vehicle while attempting to round a gravel bend while filming a chase scene, a cameraman strikes a crew member, and they unfortunately die and this is one of the tragic injuries.
Deliverance – 1972
While filming a scene involving a canoe, actor Burt Reynolds injured his coccyx. He went on to make a speedy recovery and finished filming the movie with little delay.
The Godfather – 1972
During the shooting of a fight scene where James Cann threw Gianni Russo over a fence, Russo slammed into a metal garbage can and broke two ribs, and shattered his elbow.
The Last Lion -1972
Working with wild animals always comes at a bit of risk. During the production of this South African action film, sound tech James Chapman learns this hard way when he mauls to death by a lion.
Napoleon and Samantha -1972
Apparently, no one learns any lessons from the accident that happens earlier that year on the set of The Last Lion, because during the filming of this adventure film, actress Jodie Foster mauls by a lion. But unlike Chapman, Foster survived the event, although it understandably left her with quite a bit of trauma.
The Bell From Hell – 1973
On the last day of filming this European horror flick, Claudio Guerin Hill, the film’s director, kills after he fell from the bell tower that the film borrowed its name from. It remains unclear whether he jumped intentionally or fell accidentally.
Enter the Dragon – 1973
While filming a fight scene for this iconic martial arts film, actor Robert Wall accidentally cut Bruce Lee’s arm with a broken glass bottle. After healing from his injury, Lee intentionally kicked Wall for real during the re-shoot. He kicked the man with such intensity that an extra fractured his arm while attempting to catch Wall.
The Exorcist – 1973
During the filming of the scene where actress Lind Blair’s character Regan MacNeil levitates and thrashes about rather violently, some kind of mechanical failure caused her to fracture her spine. The injury later caused Blair to develop scoliosis after she reinjured her spine during the shooting of a motorcycle scene for another film.
Another serious injury occurred on the set of The Exorcist when actress Ellen Burstyn fell backward after her possessed daughter struck her. That scene ended up in the final theatrical cut of the film.
Primal Man – 1974
Thirty-six people including Actor Janos Prohaska and his son, die in an airplane crash while filming this now obscure television series.
The Eigher Sanction – 1975
While filming this action-thriller, a 27-year-old English climber named David Knowles was killed during a rock slide incident. Mike Hoover, a mountaineer, almost was killed as well, but fortunately, he managed to survive.
The Great Waldo Pepper – 1975
Stunt Pilot Frank Tallman was seriously injured when the Nieuport biplane he was flying crashed while filming an aerial scene for this drama film. He survived the accident but suffered two crack vertebrae, needed 58 stitches, and had to take off a couple of weeks of filming to recover.
Carrie – 1976
Actress PJ Soles, who portrayed Norma in this groundbreaking supernatural horror film based upon the Stephen King 1974 novel of the same name, ruptured her eardrum after pressurized water from a hose struck her in the ear during the shooting of the film’s now-famous prom scene.
Hand of Death – 1976
Jackie Chan was knocked out when he was attempting a stunt in this Hong Kong martial arts film.
No Deposit, No Return – 1976
The President of the Stuntmen Association, Dale Van Sickel, suffered severe brain damage and spent the remainder of his life as an invalid after his car went out of control and struck an abutment after hitting an inappropriately applied oil slick while filming this Disney crime comedy film. His family successfully sued the production studio after the incident.
The Omen – 1976
Gregory Peck crushed the hand of his fellow actor Guglielmo Spoletini when he slammed a car door. Spoletini’s finger was almost amputated ruin the accident.
A Bridge Too Far – 1971
A stuntman named Alf Joint was severely injured while attempting a stunt that involved him jumping off a roof. The spooky thing is he later said that he felt as if he had been pushed.
Also, during the film’s production, special effects director John Richardson and his assistant Liz Moore got into an automobile accident that killed Moore.
Because of these two incidents, people began to say that the 1976 supernatural horror film was cursed.
Hi-Riders – 1977
Stuntman Vic Rivers drowned to death after his car went off a ramp into a pond on the Paramount ranch
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – 1978
Actors Jack Riley and George Wilson sustained minor injuries when the Hiller UH-12 Helicopter they were in crashed while filming an aerial scene for the film. The shot of their crash ended up being included in the film’s theatrical release.
Comes A Horseman – 1978
While filming a scene where the character portrayed by actor Jason Robards was dragged to his death by a horse, Robards’ stunt double hit his head on a fence post and was killed. That grisly scene found its way into the final cut of the film, although it was cut short right before the accident transpired.
Grease – 1978
While filming the prom scene in a room without windows that reportedly reached temperatures up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, actor Michael Tucci experienced heat stroke. Later on, during the musical film’s production, while shooting the ‘Grease Lightning’ sequence, Jeff Conaway fell and injured his back.
Apocalypse Now – 1979
Martin Sheen slashed his hand breaking a mirror while filming the movie’s opening scene. He was reportedly too drunk to realize that his hand was gushing blood. Later on in the film’s production, Sheen suffered a heart attack, but he returned to the set just six weeks later after taking some time off to recover.
Charlie’s Angels – 1979
Stuntwomen Jeannie Coultar and Julie Ann Johnson suffered serious injuries while filming on location near an airfield near Magic Mountain when a stuntman, high on cocaine, drove a vehicle that the two women were supposed to jump out of, faster than he was supposed to.
That about wraps up this video, but hopefully, learning about all of these accidents and incidents is a sobering reminder of just how risky it can be to work in film and television. You might think that it’s a fairly safe work environment – and for the most part, it is, especially these days with all the regulations and rules that are in place – but it’s certainly not foolproof. Accidents still happen.
What was the most shocking injury or death you learned about in this video? Do you know of any that we failed to mention? Let us know in the comments section below.
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And as always, thanks for watching! Be safe out there.