Post by Steven Dale
If you’re confused why some people are scared of the idea of cable cars and gondolas as mass public transit, you need only to take a glance at Hollywood to get a better understanding.
Take this unbelievably absurd scene from the James Bond film Moonraker:
In it, James Bond and his Bond Girl of Choice are riding alone in the Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car in Rio. But their travels are aborted when a villainous henchman named Jaws stops the cable car with his bare hands (0:17).
Worried, Bond ever-so-wisely declares that he’s sure they’re “better off out than in” and proceeds to climb out of the cable car onto its roof (0:30), because James Bond that’s why.
With the cable car swaying precariously (0:45), Jaws snaps the steel propulsion cable with his teeth (0:51) thereby sending Bond careering over the edge of the cable car where he dangles for his life (0:55).
Jaws boards the lower cable car to pursue Bond by climbing along the steel cable (1:20) and upon reaching said cable car is shuttled up to meet him by another henchman (1:30). (Inexplicably, the fact that Jaws just seconds ago severed the propulsion with his teeth has no impact on the system’s performance.)
When the two cable cars meet at the midway point the other henchman stops the system (2:05) allowing Jaws to leap several metres from the roof of his cable car to Bonds’ (2:12). A fight (clearly) ensues.
Bond (clearly) prevails and locks Jaws in the cable car from the outside (2:59) using a locking mechanism that apparently didn’t prevent Bond from escaping in the earlier parts of this scene.
Bond then slides down the cable using a length of chain (3:12) which he had foresight enough to bring along with him earlier in the scene (0:32). Infuriated, Jaws proceeds to chase Bond down the length of the cable while still in the cable car (3:28).
As the cable car gains on the escapees (3:44), Bond senses the inevitable and jumps from the cable (3:55), landing in a soft field of grass and palms below (3:57). Jaws and the cable car, however, speed toward the lower station (4:02) destroying everything (4:05) except – presumably – his dentures.
Now I’m not going to bother going through why this scene is utterly ludicrous, because that’s obvious.
What I do want to point out is how the technology is portrayed.
- The Richard Burton classic Where Eagles Dare portrays a similar roof-top cable car battle.
- In the original Spiderman film, the Green Goblin and Spiderman battle atop the Roosevelt Island Tram with cataclysmic results.
- In roughly 25% of all its seasons, The Amazing Race a gondola or cable car is featured. The technology is used less as a means of transport and more as a challenge or device of fear that contestants must overcome. The clearest example of this is in Amazing Race Australia, Season 2. In Leg 10, contestants were required to climb atop the Grouse Mountain Aerial Tram in Vancouver to claim a sequence of three flags attached to the system’s arm and one of its towers. And just in case you needed to ask, of course the system was in motion.
- Before it burned to the ground, Universal Studios Florida had a ride called Kongfrontation whereby riders of the Roosevelt Island Tram were assaulted by an enormous mechanized King Kong.
- The anime cult hit Avatar, The Last Airbender features an escape and fight sequence atop a fictional aerial tram.
- The 1940 British thriller Night Train to Munich features a climactic aerial tram gunfight (1:29:30).
- And then, of course, there’s this stupid thing.
This is such a common element of film and television, TV Tropes has gone so far as to classify it as the Cable-Car Action Sequence , remarking how it shares several similarities with the so-called Elevator Action Sequence. The difference of course being that we have no shortage of film and television scenes in elevators that don’t involve people plunging to their death.
Not so with cable cars. According to Hollywood, cable cars are good for one thing and one thing alone: Killing you.
(Note: Like most filmed depictions of public transportation, I have virtually no recollection of any positive depictions of cable cars. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist. If you know of some, please post links in the comments.)
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