Let me share Number 72 from my post on 100 Movie Clichés:
72) Dead for Sure, No Doubt About It
In a movie, the absolute proof of the death of a character is when blood drips slowly from the corner of the mouth. This is in too many movies to document. An interesting variation was the dripping of liquid metal from the evil mutants mouth in X-Men 2. As a physician, I can tell you that blood coming from the mouth after a fight is either, 1) a sign of a communication of the esophagus with a major blood vessel, which would be fatal, or 2) a cut.
No, I was not a doctor. That’s from a collection of reader-submitted movie clichés found on Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary. And now I’d like to share something that amused me recently in the “Answer Fella” (AF) column from the May, 2009, issue of Esquire:
It seems that in every movie, to show a person is dying they have him bleed from his mouth, even if it’s an arm wound. What kind of wound really causes someone to bleed in the mouth?
AF, who bleeds heavily from the mouth and dies a little bit every time he visits his dentist, posed your question to Dr. Armand Dorian, ER doc, professor of emergency medicine at UCLA, and – most crucially – a technical medical advisor for the TV shows ER and Grey’s Anatomy.
“Bleeding from the mouth happens most often when you have any trauma to your lungs. If you have a significant wound that has something to do with your lungs or your gastrointestinal lining, from your mouth all the way down through your esophagus to your stomach, you’ll actually end up spitting up or vomiting blood.”
But from an arm wound?
“Say the guy got hit in his arm or got his arm chopped off and he’s spitting up blood – what happens is you create a huge amount of pressure inside your chest, kind of like a retching cough, [which] can cause microtears in your mucosal lining, which can actually bleed.”
Come on, doc: Give it to AF straight.
“It’s just an easy place to put blood because the actor can keep it in his mouth and spit it out. And it looks good on camera because they get to show the guy’s face – which is what the actor wants.”
Exactly! Got that? Thought you might like to know.
See also: 100 Movie Clichés, Movie Clichés, Movie Mistakes, Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary, MythBusters, and How Stuff Works.
Now wait just a damn minute, MM. You have an article about Cinema’s “Blood in Mouth Syndrome,” and yet you have a picture of Zooey Deschanel at the top? What’s up with that?
She is also in the May online edition of Esquire. And I love her.