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THE DEATH OF MURPHY
It is one of the most excruciating segments in the film as the helpless Murphy is taunted and tortured before being literally blown to pieces with shotguns and pistols.


Murphy's death scene was consciously made so horrendous to gain sympathy for him. Up to this point, you really don't know the guy very much; so it was felt that something pretty extreme had to be done to give the audience a chance to empathize with him. Paul Verhoeven is known for being into these crucifixion-resurrection themes and kept saying, "How can we resurrect Murphy as the all-powerful RoboCop if we don't crucify him first?"



Murphy's 'crucifixion' was accomplished through the grim artistry of special effects makeup supervisor Rob Bottin and all the scenes were shot in postproduction in an abandoned auto as­sembly plant in Long Beach. They firsts took a life-mold off Weller's hand and arm in alginate. Then they cast the hand itself in fiberglass and divided it up into three sections. Each section fit onto one of three tygon tubes inside the hand, from which they could pump false blood and compressed air. It was done this way because Weller's head was positioned so close to his hand that it was felt it would be too dangerous to use a squib to blow the hand apart. And with compressed air they could do it over and over again. That hand was so tough and so securely positioned that it would explode in an exact pattern. They could put it back together, explode it again and the fingers would go off in exactly the same direction. For the actuall shoot, they stuffed the interior of the hand with foam latex guts and pumped stage blood into it. Also as a nice touch, there was a foam latex stump hidden inside that was visible once the fingers blew off.

In preparation for the scene, members of Bottin's crew laid down a false floor about six feet off the ground and drilled a hole through the false stage so that the actor's real arm and hand could be slipped beneath the flooring and hidden from view. A polyfoam arm costumed in a police uniform was then velcroed to Weller's shoulder. In turn, the fiberglass hand was attached within the sleeve to the false arm. Underneath the hand was an aluminum brace bolted to the top of the false floor. Supporting both the hand and the poly­foam, this brace was hinged at the elbow. A section of it also ran underneath the false floor, allowing a hidden puppeteer to manipulate the hand and arm out of camera range. Two other roboteam members were also required, one to operate the compressed air controls and one to force out the stage blood by means of a hand-pump.



Staggering to his feet, Murphy is riddled by scores of shotgun rounds - an effect augmented by physical effects supervisor Dale Martin, who taped tiny amounts of squibbed baby powder onto Weller to suggest the fragmenting of his body armor. Then, in another scene scissored to avoid an X-rating, Murphy's right arm was blown off to reveal a grisly bleeding stump. With the actor's real limb hidden beneath his uniform, a false polyfoam arm was again attached at the shoulder with Velcro and then yanked off by means of a thin monofilament line. Scraps of shredded latex, strategically placed squibs and a latex stump equipped with blood tubes completed the illusion of Murphy being further mutilated by Botticker's men.

The final shot, however, is administered by Clarence Botticker himself - a shot in the head with a high-velocity Desert Eagle handgun. While the scene lasts less than a second in the final print, the head shot was originally a longer, more visceral effect - one which also fell victim to the ratings system. In the theatrical version it got cut down to about six frames long. Not only had Paul Verhoeven set up this very nice tracking shot to cover the action, but Rob Bottin had built this really elaborate puppet of Peter Weller just for the one sequence. Luckily it can be viewed in the directors cut that was released years later.

The Weller puppet was a full torso, complete from the waist up excepting, of course, the missing right arm. They began by first casting Peter's face in alginate which is the stuff dentists use to make impressions of teeth. From that they cast a plaster head, made a mold of it, poured foam latex into the mold and baked it up in the oven so that it came out rubbery and flesh like. Then the painters and hair people went in to detail the face, which was laid over a fiberglass under skull. A fiberglass neck with a pivot point at the collarbone supported the under skull, enabling the head and neck assembly to rock back on mechanical shoulders attached to a fiberglass torso. The torso, in turn, rested on a pyramidal angle-iron base set down into a hole in the false deck and screwed into wooden blocks to prevent any unwanted movement. Four cable operators were required to make the puppet perform such human functions as opening its mouth in a silent scream of agony. Added detailing was achieved by misting the face with water to suggest perspiration and by smearing the forehead entry wound with liberal amounts of stage blood.



In the final print you can just barely see what's happening but the puppet was rigged so that most of the back of the head blew off. To do that they put a squib and charge in the back of the head that was wired up and let down behind the dummy. The wire then ran across the stage, up Kurtwood Smith's pants leg and connected to his gun. When he pulled the trigger, it completed the circuit and blew the charge. The piece that blew out was foam latex, and the wig overtop of it had been prescored to blow out in a certain shape. The fiberglass skull had also been cut there so we could pack foam latex bits and plenty of blood inside the skull. The Weller puppet also had the ability to sit up. Once in an upright position, it could be made to flip over onto its back by means of a bicycle chain hooked up to a gear mechanism that ran to a steering wheel.

Finally, a vibrator was employed to suggest that Murphy was trembling with fear. To give the figure some kind of life, they put in a fan motor with an eccentric wheel down at the base of the puppet rig. When it was turned on, it just vibrated the whole torso. As Murphy begins to slip into death, he hallucinates about his son's favorite television show, TJ Lazer, a segment directed by Ed Neumeier and photographed by Mike Miner. Shortly afterward, he dies on the operating table. Morton immediately puts his RoboCop program into action.


NEXT: The Melting man



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