A few weeks ago, I read a story about two Denver men who pulled off a real life Weekend at Bernie’s. They visited their friend, found him dead, stuffed him in their car, and drove him around town for a night of chicanery. Making matters worse, they used the dead man’s credit cards to pay for the evening. Headline writers everywhere glommed on to Weekend at Bernie’s, and I can’t blame them. But they had many other options for films featuring corpse high jinx.
Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
There’s a reason all of those headlines referenced this movie. It’s the King of Corpse High Jinx Mountain. It’s a whole movie about corpse high jinx, for crying out loud. Bernie Lomax earned this slot after being thrown off of a roof, dragged around a party, and taken waterskiing, amongst many other activities.
There aren’t many corpse activities quite as brazen as hiding it in plain sight at a dinner party. And yet, that’s exactly what happened in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. A pair of students attempt to devise the perfect murder, capped by hiding the body in an antique trunk that rests in the middle of the room at the party.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Poor Melquiades Estrada was buried, then dug up, then hauled deep into the heart of Mexico… where nobody would claim his corpse. A large part of the charm here is Tommy Lee Jones’ deadpan expression (no pun intended) while having to perform the daunting task of burying his friend hundreds of miles away.
Colonel Mustard? Check. Professor Plum? Check. Mrs. Peacock? Check, and the same goes for all the rest from the board game of the same name, who all make an appearance in the film. The only thing I don’t remember from the board game is the part where you hide dead bodies from the cops and lug them around the mansion. That must have been in the deluxe version.
The Trouble with Harry (1955)
Harry Worp’s lifeless body is the impetus behind the whole movie, much like Bernie Lomax’s corpse. Several people fear that they inadvertently killed him. He’s buried, dug up, buried, dug up, hidden in a bathtub, and then buried again before it’s all said and done. For good measure, his body is discovered by a very young Jerry Mather, best known as the kid who played Beaver Cleaver.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
“Sometimes the dead can be more useful than the living.” So sayeth The Man with No Name, just as he’s staging a pair of corpses to make them look like they’re still alive. The ruse was used to incite a civil war between warring families, and it ultimately worked. Unfortunately for the corpses, they had to go through a second death.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Aunt Edna passed away doing what she loved–napping after spiritedly yelling at the idiot who married her niece. That idiot, Clark Griswold, found a genius solution for handling her corpse. Namely, he strapped her to the roof of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and dumped her off on her son’s back porch in Phoenix.
2005 was a vintage year for doing odd things with corpses in movies. In Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, Jeff Bridges takes his Lebowski character and warps it into a heroin-overdosed corpse. His daughter lives and plays around the lifeless body in her own fantasy world. Eventually, the corpse is stuffed via taxidermy.
Only Alfred Hitchcock could be ghoulishly cool enough to place three movies on a top 10 list of corpse high jinx. I guess you could call Psycho the mother of all films featuring corpse shenanigans.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Take the heroin overdose of Tideland, the family-friendly vehicle from Vacation transporting a dead relative, mix them with pornographic magazines and a child’s beauty pageant, and you’ve got Little Miss Sunshine.