Nine or ten years ago I raved about Marlon Brando‘s inspired air-bubble death scene in Edward Dmytryk‘s The Young Lions, which I happened to watch again last night on DVD. The scene is the second to last one, as I recall (I can’t locate the original Mr. Showbiz posting), and I don’t think anyone has died since with such remarkable delicacy and finesse.

Brando’s Christian Diestl is in a German forest not far from an abandoned concentration camp, sick of war and soldiering and bashing his rifle against a tree in a mad rage. He then runs down a hillside and right into the rifle sights of Army G.I. Dean Martin, who immediately opens up. The fatally wounded Brando tumbles down the hill and lands head-first in a shallow stream.

The camera goes in tight; his mouth and nose are submerged. A series of rapidly- popping air bubbles begin hitting the surface — pup-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup — and then slower, slower and slower still. And then — this is the mad genius of Brando — four or five seconds after they’ve stopped altogether, a final tiny bubble pops through. There somethiing about that last little pup that devastates all to hell.

I’ve sure I’m prejudiced toward Brando. (He also died brilliantly in Viva Zapata, tucking himself into a kneeling fetal ball with his arms outstretched and his palms facing up as he’s riddled with bullets fired by an ambush posse of several Mexican soldiers.) I’m sure many others have died just as vividly. If anyone can describe an exceptionally fine death scene — one so good you can only go “wow” — please share.

One of the absolute worst death scenes of all time is when Burt Reynolds is shot at the end of Robert Aldrich‘s Hustle. The way he falls and breathes his last is atrocious.