Not to be confused with Inconveniently-Placed Conveyor Belt, a common hazard in video games.
The main character(s) have become trapped on a conveyor belt (mining ore cart, log in a flume, or any other mechanized delivery system) responsible for shuttling them into a large blast furnace or incinerator, crusher or grinder, large rotary saw blade(s) or anything else that will give them a quick and painful end.
Sometimes this is done purposely by the villain (like tying the Damsel in Distress to railroad tracks) as part of (or in place of) a Death Trap, or as a method of interrogation (as an alternative to physical torture). Still others, the hero may wind up in such predicament by more or less coincidence, but still have to find a way to escape whatever machinations whose job of processing and/or assembling raw materials is invariably lethal to their soft warm bodies.
Commonly seen in large mechanized factories, mills, mines, research labs — or any place with No OSHA Compliance. This may also provide the reason why the heroes always end up trying to run against the direction of the conveyor instead of, say, trying to leap off the side - it may be One-Dimensional Thinking on the part of the writer, or perhaps the conveyor belt is situated high up where there really is nowhere else to jump to.
If the hero wasn't deliberately tied or trapped on this conveyor by a villain, expect them to trip over something, or get an arm or leg snagged underneath whatever debris or items normally travel the belt, just to up the tension. Likewise, if there are any Mooks trapped on the conveyor with the hero, expect them to be the first ones meeting whatever doom awaits at the downstream end. Depending on the length and path of the belt, sometimes the ultimate fate of the conveyor belt is unknown at first, giving everyone a moment to look up in shock once they realize exactly what they're being drawn towards.
Playing Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" in the background during such a sequence is purely optional.
Originated as a standard Cliff Hanger scenario in 19th-century melodramas and the silent matinee film serials that followed them, such as The Perils of Pauline (and echoed repeatedly on The Perils of Penelope Pitstop). Probably a Dead Horse Trope, at least in the dramatic sense. But then, it wasn't too bad in Enemy Mine. See also Packed Hero.
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Robo Rally, a board game by Richard Garfield, has lots of these. If you aren't careful, they'll carry your robot off the board and/or into a bottomless pit.
Tintin en Amérique features a cannery, where Tintin is tricked into falling into the meat grinding machine.
In "The Pearl" in Jonah Hex v.1, #64, Jonah and the Girl of the Week are tied up and dropped on a conveyor belt leading into a copper smelter.
In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe story "W.H.A.D.A.L.O.T.T.A.J.A.R.G.O.N.", Huey, Dewey, and Louie get trapped on one when they're wandering around a woodwork factory looking for the logs that used to make up the old Junior Woodchucks' fort club house. Donald saves them in the nick of time by turning it off.
Films — Animated
Played straight in the New Zealand movie Footrot Flats: A Dog's Tale - the main canine character, Dog, ends up on a conveyor belt that is moving towards a swinging circular sawblade, three very vicious, very evil dogs surrounding the sides, ensuring he doesn't escape. He does, of course.
Near the end of The Brave Little Toaster, the characters have become stuck in a junkyard filled primarily with (anthropomorphic) cars whose fate is to be placed on the conveyor by the resident electromagnetic crane and smashed to death in a teeth of a crusher at the end of the line. Their owner, who has come looking for them, also becomes trapped on the belt, leading to a Heroic Sacrifice by the toaster to jam up the crusher's drive gears.
In Toy Story 2, while trying to rescue Woody from being shipped to Tokyo, the characters wind up in the airport's automated luggage processing center - a maze of conveyor belts and parcels, but (fortunately) none of it lethal.
In Monsters, Inc., Sully thinks that Boo was trapped on one of these, when it was actually just a piece of her monster costume. In a way, this allows the scene to be much more gruesome than it otherwise would be, juding by Sully's reactions as he watches the costume-piece go through one crusher and thrasher after another, assuming Boo is in there.
Chicken Run has the various machinery inside and leading into the Pie Machine, which is basically lots of conveyor belts all put together.
Kung Fu Panda 2. Po gets caught on one made of bamboo in Lord Shen's cannon factory. Although he's not tied to it, Po can't run fast enough to avoid going over the edge into the smelter fortunately he's grabbed onto a fork that he can stick into the bamboo planks and get carried away underneath.
Robots: Fender is placed on one and is able to escape before getting chopped to pieces and thrown into a furnace. However, it's a little embarrassing when he loses his original bottom half and has to do with one more suited for a female.
Bigweld is also put on a conveyor, but is saved before getting dumped into the furnace as well.
Subverted in the movie version of Dudley Do-Right, where the eponymous Mountie goes 'bad' to fight against Snidely Whiplash, who has taken over the town. He ties one of Snidely's minions to a conveyor belt heading for a sawblade for interrogation. Once he has gleaned the information he needs, Dudley seems to have trouble stopping the conveyor belt — then he breaks apart the sawblade to reveal that the "saw" was just a harmless cardboard prop all along.
In one of the film's most famous scenes, the eponymous villain of Goldfinger straps James Bond to a table and uses an industrial laser in place of the traditional sawblade; here, it is the peril that inexorably advances toward the hero, rather than the other way around (compare Chained to a Rock). Bonus points because of where on Bond the laser is headed.
Interestingly, in the original book, they did use a buzzsaw. And Bond faints before being spared by the villain.
The dialogue of that scene is played with in thisxkcd comic, although a centrifuge is substituted.
Parodied in Austin Powers in Goldmember, where Austin's father is strapped to a conveyor belt-esque contraption that would eventually pour liquid gold over his genitals.
Also parodied in Carry On Spying, where everything, including gravity works backwards when the conveyor belt is reversed.
In the Jackie Chan Movie Mr Nice Guy, during the construction site fight, Jackie is knocked down on a piece of plywood sliding towards a circular saw, which he rolls out of the way of at the last second, then does a sideways roll over while it's still spinning.
Remember, live stunts, no stuntman.
There's another Jackie Chan movie with a conveyor belt o' doom. It's a sticky surface that gets chopped into lengths by blades at the end of the conveyor belt. Jackie and the girl get stuck on it while fighting mooks. In the end, Jackie gets himself and the girl off (with some Clothing Damage)... and then goes back and stops the belt just before the mooks get sliced into pieces.
In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Anakin and Padme find themselves on a conveyor belt on Geonosis. Anakin battles Geonosians, and in the process has his lightsaber destroyed and his arm stamped on a metal plate. Padme falls in a giant crucible, and is only saved from being incinerated by molten metal by R2D2, who deactivates the machinery just in time.
In Minority Report, the main character, John Anderton, finds himself on a conveyor belt on which machines are building cars, and fights his enemy on it. He manages to avoid the machines for a while, but in the end finds himself trapped in a car that's being built right around him. At a certain point we see a machine close in on him, then the camera cuts on the outside of the car, leaving the audience to think he has been squashed flat. Instead, as the car is completed we see he is right in it, and as it exits the factory he drives away from his pursuers.
Also in Diamonds Are Forever, as Bond is knocked out, placed in a coffin, and conveyed into an incinerator at a Vegas-style funeral parlor.
As an example where someone actually died in Child's Play 2, a factory worker is shoved in and has plastic eyes forced into his.
In Like Flint. Derek Flint falls onto a conveyor belt and is almost carried to his doom inside a document furnace. Later, a man falls from a height onto the belt and suffers that fate.
In Hellboy II: the Golden Army, the eponymous demon hero does this to a villain (sort of)- he goads the enormous troll into firing his spring-loaded, retractable fist at him and ducks- while standing in front of an enormous pair of spiky wheels.
In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy fought a Thuggee guard on a conveyor belt that led to a rock crusher. Things were further complicated by the brainwashed prince stabbing a voodoo doll of Indy just as he gained the advantage in the fight. Indy of course escapes, the guard... doesn't.
The same film features a cage that is used to lower human sacrifices into a large lava pit. Indy manages to save Willie from a fiery demise in this device, but an unnamed Sacrificial Lamb is not so lucky.
In the film adaptation of Richie Rich, Professor Keenbean invents a sort of futuristic recycling machine that transforms trash into various objects. Later in the movie, the bad guys try to use the machine to dispose of Richie and his friends, who are forced into its cage-like intake hopper. Thanks to Keenbean's intervention, they barely escape being transformed into bedpans (or possibly bowling balls).
In the 2009 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, Lord Blackwood has Irene Adler shackled to an assembly line with a bandsaw blade designed to saw pig carcasses in half.
The late-entry AIP beach movie How To Stuff A Wild Bikini leads up to a melodrama sawmill setting, and perpetual biker-shnook Eric Von Zipper gets comically sawn in half, with bloodless, cheap effects photography.
Titular beast in Razorback meets its demise during the climax inside a pet food factory when the hero tricks it into a conveyor belt, leading to a giant fan that shreds it to mincemeat.
In the film Mannequin, the protagonist's nasty, jealous ex-girlfriend puts several mannequins on a conveyor belt, including the hero's lover, hoping to destroy them. Luckily, he is able to save her in time.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit contains elements of this trope along with Chained to a Rock near the climax of the film, when Roger and Jessica Rabbit are suspended by chains while a nearby contraption spraying The Dip, Judge Dooms weapon of choice, inches ever closer. Notably comparable to Goldfinger, although this plays with the tension by having the stream swung back and forth haphazardly.
The scene where Judge Doom gets his hand stuck to the steamroller and is slowly crushed contains the inescapability of the trope.
The Anthony Horowitz book Skeleton Key has a scene like this too, where Alex Rider is drugged so he's unable to move except for his head, and put on a literal conveyor belt. The main purpose is to get information out of him, on threat of being ground to a pulp starting with his feet.
In Animorphs, once, the kids morphed bulls and went into a slaughterhouse to investigate Yeerks tampering with human food. Ax was very happy to get out of there.
In a Nancy Drew book, the titular heroine is shoved down a garbage chute. Initially disoriented, she's horrified to quickly realize that she's trapped on the trash compacter's conveyor belt. Luckily, a malfunction stops the machinery in the nick of time.
This happened at the Part 1/Part 2 break of Batman at least once, and probably more.
In the Blake's 7 episode "Ultraworld", unconscious Cally is strapped onto a conveyor belt to be assimilated into the giant brain running Ultraworld. She is saved at the last minute, the other characters having to contend with zombie-like baddies, who switch the machine back on each time they switch it off — cue lots of fake fighting.....
In one of the old episodes of All That, Kenan Thompson's super alter ego, who is lactose intolerant, gets strapped into a conveyor belt which will spray milk on him, but he gets rescued all right
The Doctor Who serial The Seeds of Doom featured a man-eating mulching machine, and plenty of gory description of what would happen to any living bodies that went through it.
The Sun Makers crossed this with Sauna of Death, when Leela is captured and sentenced to death by "steaming".
In one episode of CSI: Miami, a woman is drugged on a plane and chucked onto an airport convoy belt—where she gets a fatal head injury from a luggage arm.
In the Jonathan Creek, two sisters are practicing a magic trick where one of them is strapped down and moved towards a buzzsaw which drops away at the crucial moment. Except it doesn't and she gets cut in half lengthwise.
An episode of the Game ShowTruth or Consequences required a woman from the audience to stop an incredibly complex machine before its conveyor belt dropped a pie on her husband's face. There were all kinds of lights, switches, etc. on the machine which she flipped frantically, but unbeknownst to her, the only way to stop it was to pull the electrical plug out of its outlet.
One of the so-called "bonus rounds" on Distraction; if your prize (which they state very clearly that you have already won) makes it to the end before you answer the question correctly, it meets the wrong end of a wrecking ball.
The entire premise of Downfall. Don't answer in time, and your prizes, your money and eventually you go over the side of a 10-story building.
Mrs. Peel of The Avengers is tied up and put on a conveyor belt to a giant buzzsaw in the episode "Epic".
Knightmare had one of these in the form of the "Corridor of Blades", a conveyor-floored hallway with large rotary saws toward which the dungeoneer hurtled. It picked off many hapless dungeoneers who were poorly guided through, or into, it.
In the New Tricks episode "Dark Chocolate", Gerry is almost dragged into a chopping machine when his jacket gets snagged on a conveyor belt in a chocolate factory.
In the MacGyver episode "The Black Corsage", MacGyver and Frank Colton are captured in a fish processing plant, tied up and placed on a conveyor belt that will feed them into a fish grinder.
In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the gang tries to film a fake a news story in which they rescue kittens. One of their attempts has them try to construct a conveyor belt that leads to Charlie chopping enthusiastically with a butcher knife. After trying it out with a stuffed animal, the gang realize that it's too obvious that they're the ones imperiling the kittens in the first place.
Breakout Kings: In "The Bag Man", T-Bag feeds one of his victims into a rock crusher at a quarry.
Monty Python's Flying Circus: The architect sketch in episode 17 features a proposed design for an apartment building from an architect who, it turns out, mostly designs slaughterhouses.
Mr Wiggin: Good morning, gentlemen. This is a twelve-storey block combining classical neo-Georgian features with the efficiency of modern techniques. The tenants arrive in the entrance hall here, and are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme comfort and past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled flesh slurps into these...
First City Gent: Excuse me....
Mr Wiggin: Hm?
First City Gent: Did you say knives?
Mr Wiggin: Rotating knives,
Second City Gent: Are you proposing to slaughter our tenants?
Mr Wiggin: Does that not fit in with your plans?
Referenced multiple times in the song "Along Came Jones" (which is about watching Cliff Hangers on TV).
"And the Great Big Saw Came Nearer and Nearer", performed by Spike Jones & his City Slickers.
In Robo's sidequest in Chrono Trigger, a room in a Bad Future's factory sports a conveyor belt where live humans are transported and (with a blood-curling scream) transformed into... small, shiny stuff.The whole point of the quest is to stop everything.
Getting caught in one of these is also revealed to be the the reason why Lucca's mother is crippled. Lucca is given a chance to go back in time and prevent it from happening, though.
Wildly twisted in God of War 2: You can't get to the next area because there is a large crushing wheel blocking your way that is right in front of a Conveyor Belt-O-Doom that constantly tries to make you hit the damn thing. The solution? You find a half-dead member of Jason's Argonauts, bring him to the belt, lay him on it, and then watch as he screams in horror and is carried under the wheel where his crushed bones jam it, allowing you to break it and pass through.
There are a couple of instances in the original game that are both straighter and infinitely more annoying.
Subverted in Quake IV, where the player gets Strapped to an Operating Table on a conveyor belt, having drugs injected and parts of his body removed and replaced by Strogg cybernetics. The Stroggification is interrupted when the People Jaryour character is placed in towards the end is smashed before the control chip can be activated. It's pretty traumatic; you can watch it here! The conversion actually improves your character, including increasing your health by 25%, and giving a noticeable boost to running speed. Sure, his fellows are disturbed and distrustful of the Strogg on their side, but he never complains. And, in the end, it pays.
In Portal, GLaDOS attempts to kill Chell by tricking her onto a conveyer belt that travels through a furnace. The trap would be extremely difficult to avoid had Chell not had a portal gun, which makes it very simple.
Parodied in Portal 2, where one of last traps is a conveyor belt into a grinder which you escape by jumping off it onto a ledge on the thing's side—no portals necessary. It's so pathetic that Wheatley will instead say it's more of a death option than a deathtrap and will actually be quite surprised if it kills you.
Half-Life has a section where Gordon has to cross over a bunch of conveyor belts to get through a section, in which some are going one way and others are going another way. and they basically create a long obstacle course, if you stay on one of them long enough you end up back where you started. This is in addition to a conveyor belt he has to use in an entirely separate part of the game to get through a crushing piston.
Early in Space Quest III, Roger gets dumped onto a conveyor belt and must jump off before he lands in the garbage shredder at the end.
Getting caught by the Big Bad in the NES game Nightshade leads the eponymous character to end up in this situation, and it's up to the player to figure out a way to escape before the inevitable occurs.
The boss of Gene Gadget Zone in Sonic 3D Blast takes place on one of these, with a large row of spikes at the end of the conveyor belt. The player must hit Eggman's ship, avoiding spike strips and missiles.
Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel for the Game Boy had a variant on this, except it was the player who got the pain. In what is probably the otherwise great game's Scrappy Level, legendary Bad Ass Solid Snake must infiltrate the enemy base, by going through a color coded box sorting system via conveyor belt. It eventually leads into a showdown with Marionette Owl, part of the Quirky Miniboss Squad.
In Creatures, there were a number of 'torture stages', where Clyde has to save other critters who have been tied to Conveyor Belts O Doom by solving a complex item interaction puzzle.
They turned up a lot on the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games, where Sonic is on a conveyor belt and has to be really quick to avoid being crushed by something or cut with decending buzzsaws.
One particulary nasty moment of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth has Jack, the protagonist, walk to an ore grinder and suddenly have a vision of a man who is bound and carried by the conveyor and then dumped into the same grinder. A second later, poor fellow's mutilated remains rain onto Jack. Furthermore, after getting upstairs, Jack discovers that the only way out is up the same conveyor. Naturally, the villain activates the conveyor again, and Jack survives only by jumping onto the catwalk over the grinder, which breaks and blocks the cogs. The whole episode is pretty nightmarish.
In the finale of Heavy Rain, Norman Jayden can get into a fight on a conveyor belt of doom with the Origami Killer, who can kill him if you fail the button prompts.
A variant of this may occur naturally in Minecraft if flowing water goes into a lava pool. This is an especially frustrating way to die, since it will result in all your dropped items also being washed into the lava.
In Dangan Ronpa, one of these is used for Naegi's, Kirigiri's, and ultimately Junko's final execution scene, where they are bound to a desk and slowly moved toward a crusher.
In "Don't Fool with a Phantom", the last episode of the original Scooby-Doo series, the Wax Phantom (the Monster of the Week) left Shaggy and Scooby tied up on a conveyor belt that would dump them into a tank of melted wax, and Shaggy quipped, "That bit went out with the silent movies!" You know it's a Dead Horse Trope when it's being parodied in the early 1970s.
Not that this stopped the Snow Ghost from tying Velma to a log and sending it towards a buzzsaw in an earlier episode...
Spoofed in Darkwing Duck, where in one episode Darkwing has to train a newbie villain how to carry off the trope properly.
Averted in Codename: Kids Next Door: After being placed on one such conveyer belt, Numbuh Five calmly takes one step to the left (and off the machine), walks to the end of the belt, and switches it off.
An interesting subversion in ReBoot occurs where Enzo has himself tied up and put on one of these devices on purpose. The intent was to get his quarreling friends to rescue him, and reconcile with each other in the process. This fails when the two start arguing again when they meet each other in front of the Conveyor Belt-O-Doom, and Enzo has to be rescued by his dog.
In the Underdog episode "Batty Man", Underdog and Polly are chained up and placed on a conveyor belt that goes to a machine that turns anything into bowling balls. Underdog is still able to access his Super Energy Pill, though.
In the Inspector Gadget episode "A Star Is Lost", Gadget, Rick Rocker, etc. are tied up with reel-to-reel tape and put on a conveyor belt that goes through a record pressing machine. Similarly, in "Quimby Exchange", the characters are frozen in blocks of ice and sent towards a chopping machine.
There was another with Penny on a Conveyor Belt o' Doom, tied up and heading for a laser that's used to cut up diamonds.
Mr. Nezzer puts the title characters of the VeggieTales episode "Rack, Shack and Benny" onto one of these in the way to the furnace. The episode takes place in a chocolate factory.
Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons in an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. Itchy ties Scratchy to a log and sets it on a conveyor belt to a buzzsaw, but the conveyor belt is ridiculously slow. Frustrated with how long it's taking, Itchy simply gets an ax and butchers Scratchy himself.
Also on a segment of "Treehouse of Horror XXIII" where Bart and Lisa's heads are attached to the same body, Bart tries to gain full control by having a buzzsaw cut off the Lisa head. Needless to say it doesn't work out like he hoped.
In Transformers Animated, the episode "Home is Where the Spark Is" has Bulkhead on a conveyor belt that brings him towards a large machine that would crush his head he wrestles with it to keep it from getting him during most of this part).
SWAT Kats had one of these that Dark Kat put the heroes on, while he and Hard Drive were stealing the Turbokat in "Night of Dark Kat".
Used straight in an episode of King of the Hill (and the person on it doesn't make it off safely).
In the American Dad! episode "Black Eyes Only", Stan is tied to one by the Black Villain (yes, that's his name) and slowly fed into an incinerator. He escapes by getting Sexpun's evil clone to suck on his feet, causing her to do a Heel-Face Turn and free him.
Richard Adler, the workshop teacher in South Park, attempts suicide by placing himself on a conveyor belt with a circular saw at the end. He appears to have second thoughts about it, but only because he realises that he's going toward the saw balls-first, and proceeds to reorient himself.
In Johnny Bravo, episode "Yukon Yutz", the villain ties Johnny to a conveyor belt with a buzzsaw at the end. If I recall correctly, Johnny was saved by the ultra-hard gel in his hair, which broke the buzzsaw.
In the episode "Part-time Job" in Cow and Chicken, the Red Guy sends Chicken on a conveyor belt to a frying machine.
In a Super Chicken episode, a melodrama villain actor snaps and thinks he's a real villain, taking his female co-star to all the usual places, including the sawmill, to persuade her to go to the Villain's Annual Picnic with him.
In The Penguins of Madagascar episode "Operation: Plush and Cover", the penguins are caught in a conveyor belt in a toy factory, which leads to an incinerator for rejected toys. Attempts to turn it off only activates more crushing devices.
The Looney Tunes short "The Ducksters" begins with Porky Pig tied on a conveyor belt to a buzzsaw as part of a quiz show hosted by Daffy Duck (he had to answer the question before reaching the saw). At the end, Daffy is on the receiving end of the conveyor belt after Porky buys the radio station with his prize money and turns the tables on him. Daffy, apparently doesn't know the answer to his question and instead yells for a doctor.
Animaniacs: The accidental version happens to Mindy and Buttons in "Up the Crazy River". As always, Buttons comes off the worst for it.
Subverted in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Starting from Scratch": Furball ends up on a conveyor, but when he realizes it ends in a rotary saw, he just turns his back toward it in the hope that it will scratch his back, where he has a flea.
In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Gadget is captured and tied to a conveyor belt which is sending her to be chopped up. As she had been pretending to be Chip's moll, the villain, Rat Capone, says he's going to turn her into a "mini-moll". It's only because Monty manages to put his friend's life above his cheese addiction that Gadget is saved.