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Broken Lever of Doom

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Textbook example of Broken Lever leading to Oh, Crap!.

Lev: Pull the lever!
AJ: [waving it in his face] THIS IS THE LEVER!!!

Someone breaks a lever, so whatever was turned on with it can't be turned off and so the machine or process goes into overdrive. Likely to result in an Oh, Crap! moment for the culprit and/or witnesses.

Usually Played for Laughs as we watch the character trying to stop the runaway machine from wreaking havoc. This task is harder with No Off Button. Sometimes someone who Does Not Know His Own Strength will break at least one lever.

See also Detachable Doorknob, Removable Steering Wheel and Failsafe Failure. Contrast Destruction Equals Off-Switch.


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  • The Honey Nut Cheerios ad "Honeyway Train" has Buzz encounter a broken brake lever on a Runaway Train. He uses his honey dipper as a substitute handle to engage the brakes.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Love Live! Sunshine!!: In season 2 episode 3, Chika finds a solution for Aquors to get from the Love Live qualifiers and their school's open house in time by using an orange farm monorail from a classmate's family plantation. However, the monorail turns out to be quite slow, causing Kanan to grab at the level and try to speed it up. She ends up breaking the level and makes the monorail rocket down like a rollercoaster, which humorously does let the girls reach their school in time to perform.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Goofy Movie: While Goofy and Max try to stop their runaway car, arguing all the while, Goofy accidentally pulls out the gearshift when he tries to stop it.
    Max: You should have put the brake on!
    Goofy: Why don't you just put it on yourself?!
    [he pulls on the shift and removes it]
    Max: See? You ruin everything.
  • Happens in Incredibles 2, when Mr. Incredible tries to stop the Underminer. They have a struggle inside the Tunneler vehicle during which Mr. Incredible throws the Underminer on a control panel, bending a lever in the process. When Mr. Incredible later tries to stop the vehicle by pulling the lever, it breaks off and he watches helplessly as the machine digs its way up to the surface where it causes extensive collateral damage to the city before it can be stopped by a concentrated effort of the superheroes. Watch the lever breaking here.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Armageddon (1998), while aboard the Russian space station AJ is told to keep an eye on the fuel pressure and pull a lever if it gets too strong. When the pressure spikes, AJ tries to pull the lever and has it snap off in his hand. Cue Stuff Blowing Up.
    Lev: Pull the lever!
    AJ: [waving it in his face] THIS IS THE LEVER!!!
  • In Avatar: The Way of Water, Spider seizes the opportunity in the middle of the battle to sabotage the bad guys' ship. He uses a fire extinguisher to knock out a pilot, then shoves the power lever forward and smashes it with the fire extinguisher so they can't turn it off. Sure enough, this makes the ship crash on the rocks.
  • In the Horror Comedy remake Little Shop of Horrors, the sadist dentist Orin Scrivello puts on a gas mask that allows him to take in large amounts of laughing gas from tanks on his back. After a while he wants to take off the mask but accidentally breaks the valve controlling the flow of gas, and he slowly begins to asphyxiate. Watch the scene here.
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy: While LeBron and Bugs are retrieving the Looney Tunes from across the Serververse, they find Daffy acting as "Super Duck", having tied up a conductor so he can win the glory for stopping a speeding train. Unfortunately, he breaks the brake lever while trying to use it, requiring Superman to come to the rescue.
  • Spider-Man 2: During the train scene, Doc Ock hijacks the train, then pushes the gear lever up until it breaks, so that no one can stop the train easily. Spider-Man has to resort to physically stop the speeding train with his powers.
  • In the black comedy Undertaking Betty, Christopher Walken's character is a progressive funeral director arranging for a Star Trek-themed funeral. But then a machine that is supposed to lift the coffin a couple of feet up goes out of control after its lever breaks off resulting in the coffin breaking through the churches' ceiling. Watch the scene here.

  • The Famous Five: In Five on Kirrin Island Again, the villains set up Uncle Quentin's equipment to cause a massive explosion, and have altered the mechanism to the dungeon entrance so that it cannot be opened from the inside, preventing Uncle Quentin and the others from escaping.
    In vain, Uncle Quentin swung the lever to and fro. Nothing happened. The stone did not move.
  • Inverted in Sargasso of Space, where one of the heroes, Ali, accidentally breaks the main control lever of the Forerunners' gravity-magnifying superweapon while turning it off, so it no longer can be turned back on. This saves the police cruiser attemptitng to land on the planet, but also seals the heroes with no light and limited supply of air inside of the machine's colossal maze-like grid that rapidly drains any active power source within it. Luckily, they are able to navigate to the outer wall of the maze by memory and counting steps, and melt their way out with blasters before those get drained too.
  • Skin Game: to pass the Gates of Ice, Harry has to run through an ever-shifting maze of giant ice blocks and turn it off with a lever so the other party members may follow. Later, when pursued by the Genoskwa, Harry uses his Winter Knight's strength to turn the lever back on and snap it off in a single motion before darting back through the reactivated trap, correctly expecting his much larger enemy to get caught somewhere and be ground into paste.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "The Edge of Destruction", a broken spring causes the Fast Return Switch to get stuck, causing the TARDIS to go whizzing back in time to the creation of the Universe... and, therefore, destruction.

    Video Games 
  • Half-Life: Alyx: When Alyx finally reaches Fairview Junction, she has to activate a Combine console in order to activate the emergency brakes for the train carrying her father Eli. The console's main lever breaks off the moment she grabs it, however, forcing her to find another way to stop the train.
  • Once you've struggled to get a hang of the weird controls of Heavenly Bodies and opened the first door, you go up to the next one and pull the lever with confidence, only for it to break off and force you to find another way through. Then in the penultimate level, the lever that's the only way from stopping an explosion breaks off and leaves you to watch helplessly.
  • In Psychonauts, Sasha Nein's training stage only begins for real when Raz manages to break off the lever on the Training Dummy-spawning machine, sending it into complete overdrive, so the two of them have to work together to get the literal horde of enemies under control.

    Western Animation 
  • The 1936 Betty Boop cartoon "Betty Boop And Little Jimmy" has Betty using a reducing machine (basically, an orbital motor agitates a leather belt that allegedly jiggles body fat away). Little Jimmy stumbles onto its control lever, both pushing the device to maximum and snapping off the handle. A desperate Betty sends the boy out to fetch an electrician. Y'know, instead of pulling the cord from the power socket himself.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters: In "Train to Doom-de-Doom-Doom," Apparitia snaps the brake lever off of a train engine's controls, rendering anyone unable to stop it.
  • In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "The Diabolical Department Store Danger", the elevator brake lever, which the Hooded Claw had sabotaged, snaps when Penelope pulls it. The Bully Brothers had also placed a rocket under the elevator, sending it and Penelope toward the roof at high speed.
  • Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?: On his first day working at a pickle factory, Pontoffel blows it by pushing on the pullem and pulling on the pushum. By pulling, he ends up breaking the lever off the pushum, causing everything to go haywire. This also results in him getting instantly fired.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "SB-129", Squidward panics while using his Time Machine to escape from the prehistoric age and snaps the lever indicating the "Past" and "Future" options. Once the machine goes haywire, he suddenly ends up finding himself in an endless white void, seemingly divorced from time and space as he knows it.


Video Example(s):


"Big mistake Indy!"

When Short Round tries to pull the breaks on their mine cart, the lever breaks leaving the cart to become a Runaway Train.

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