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Odessa Steps

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"When ruthless White Russian cavalry arrives to crush the rebellion on the sandstone Odessa Steps, the most famous and most quoted film sequence in cinema history is born."

The "Odessa Steps" scene is a Stock Parody of the climactic scene from The Battleship Potemkin, where a crowd of civilians of Odessa (formerly Tsarist Russia, nowadays' Ukraine, spelled there in romanized as "Odesa") is ruthlessly cut down by soldiers as they flee down a broad stone staircase. The main elements of this trope are 1) violence 2) on a staircase (duh), with 3) the horror prolonged through camera tricks like Slow Motion or extended shots/repeated footage to give the impression of never-ending carnage. Optional: Oncoming soldiers, the scene taking place in eerie silence (or with any human voices silenced), a character shot through the eyeglasses, and a Baby Carriage descending the stairs unescorted in a similar fashion to Empathy Doll Shot. Though many people remember the famous scene in the train station of The Untouchables (1987), they may not be familiar with the fact that this itself was a complete reference to a grander version set on the steps at Odessa in Battleship Potemkin.

And because it is one of the most memorable things to come out of that film, a lot of fiction now has action sequences on a staircase in slow motion. Unlike the "King Kong" Climb, though, the original and its place in popular culture are not universally recognised; scenes that are smaller Shout Outs may be invoking the Genius Bonus. One such type of this scene is any case of a baby carriage rolling down stairs/downhill being put in slow motion and drawn out, often with a P.O.V. Shot from inside/looking into it (rather than a simple shot).

Note that, as the above paragraphs do describe, a full homage is not necessary to fulfil this: just enough to be recognisable. Truth be told, a lot of homages do just feature canny action sequences on large staircases — particularly the Alfred Hitchcock film Foreign Correspondent take on the scene; it combines the shooting-the-glasses and staircase brigade elements of the original. Most films with an action or attack sequence on a long frontal staircase is most likely an homage, though, given the scene's renown (and sheer impracticality to recreate for any other reason).

The actual staircase, the Richelieu steps, have now been renamed the Potemkin Stairs because of the film. The extended time that the action takes on the steps is an extension of their architecture, however, as they were designed as an optical illusion to appear much vaster than they are. And although there were extremely violent clashes between the military and rebels in the city in general during the 1905 revolution, there is no historic record of any mass shooting on the steps as depicted in the film.

The original scene was one of the first uses of montage.

See also Baby Carriage and Homage Shot.



Anime and Manga

  • Ergo Proxy: Viewers are treated to a baby carriage falling down a flight of stairs in slow motion during the mall chase early on in the series. Later, the carriage is shown lying on its side in a puddle of (presumably the baby's) blood.

Film — Animated

Film — Live Action

  • '71: Gary knocks over a woman pushing a pram while being chased by IRA gunmen.
  • German culture mag "Aspekte" from 16/Feb/18 with a report about the Berlinale, in form of a short film. Everything is totally meta, and of course assorted stock film references can't be amiss.
  • Brazil has a short sequence that remakes the three most iconic shots, but with the Baby Carriage replaced by a vacuum cleaner.
  • Dune (2021): Denis Villeneuve deliberately modeled the clash between the Atreides and Harkonnen soldiers on the steps of the Arrakeen Residency after the iconic scene.
  • Evil Easter 3: Ozu shooting the Nazi Ape in the eye recreates the famous Eye Scream from the scene.
  • Fantozzi: There is a Film-within-a-film in this Italian work — in the second installment of the movie series, the titular White Collar Worker, Ugo Fantozzi, is forced, alongside his colleagues, to watch (a much longer parody-named version of) the movie as a "routine ritual" demanded by his boss. It is during the Odessa steps scene when the protagonist snaps and yells, "To me... Battleship Kotiomkin... is nothing but crazy bullshit!". Then the narrator — Fantozzi himself in first person — remarks in an "epic" tone: "Ninety-two minutes of applause ensued". (And hilarity ensued, too.)note 
  • Foreign Correspondent: Hitchcock's 1940 film includes a scene on a grand staircase in which a camera is rewired to physically shoot whoever it is pointed out. The resulting shot into the correspondent's glasses and the backwards fall down the centre of the staircase is an obvious homage to Battleship Potemkin.
  • The French Connection has two: a mother pushing a baby carriage being shot and so releasing it, plus a shoot-out down a staircase.
  • Ghostbusters II: The films opens with this happening to Sigourney Weaver's baby, who is instead saved by the Ghostbusters, but the shots are replicated identically, as part of the psycho-telekinetic villain having vehicles run away.
  • The Godfather: The film starts its homage sequence referring to Battleship Potemkin, but then reproduces the fall from Hitchcock's film exactly.
  • The Three Stooges short Grips, Grunts and Groans: While running from some train depot guards, the Stooges knock over a baby carriage — containing a baby — and use the commotion of two women panicking over the injured infant to hide from their pursuers. It isn't exactly played for laughs, but it also isn't counted as a karmic strike against the Stooges, either.
  • The Hidden Fortress: A horde of prisoners runs down a staircase to meet the army.
  • Inglourious Basterds: The Film Within a Film "Pride of a Nation" (about Fredrick Zoller) shows a soldier get shot in the eye before covering it and screaming.
  • Metropolis: Fritz Lang's groundbreaking film from 1927 shows the workers in the bowels of the city panic at the rising floodwaters, and stampede up the stairwells seeking safety. Once they attain the city proper, the workers ascend the stately steps to the control building, seeking to confront the Master about their class disparity.
  • Naked Gun 33⅓: Frank has a flashback to the time he witnessed multiple baby carriages tumbling down a flight of stairs, and Nordberg managed to save one - though had to be stopped from spiking the baby after the save.
  • Revenge of the Sith: An homage during the Order 66 sequence as Anakin Skywalker, now known as Darth Vader, leads the clone army up the steps of the Jedi Temple to begin the purge.
  • Steps is a short film that takes place on the steps. Not the actual stairs but an incredible simulation, complete with obnoxious tourists.
  • The Trotsky: Leon has multiple dreams in which he is the baby on the Odessa steps. In the first dream, his stepmom is the woman pushing the carriage and his father is a nearby military guard. Later, he has the same dream again, with Alexandra as the woman, and his mentor as the guard.
  • The Untouchables (1987): The most famous example, and where most people remember the scene from. It's a complete sequence homage, but in Union Station in Chicago.
  • When Nature Calls: Troma does a parody of it in When Nature Calls (1985)
  • Woody Allen:
    • bananas: When Fielding ends up in the war in San Marcos, during one of the shoot-outs there's a baby carriage rolling down the stairs.
    • Love and Death: Not to the Odessa steps sequence per se, but to the stone lion montage that comes afterwards. It plays when Boris and the Baroness have sex, and the third lion, instead of rising triumphantly, is plopped down in exhaustion.
  • World War Z: Minus the steps, but the protagonist and his family stop at a supermarket that's being looted by panicked civilians. As he takes one daughter to get medicine, his wife puts their younger daughter in a shopping trolley and starts getting food and other supplies off the shelves. Suddenly he hears his daughter scream and sees her go flying down the aisle in the trolley, because her mother has just been attacked by a couple of opportunistic criminals.

Live-Action TV

  • Man Down: A black comedy reenactment occurs involving protagonist Dan and his friends, plus a baby carriage that turns out to contain not a baby but a literal Large Ham.
  • Power Rangers in Space: In the episode "Silence is Golden", The Psycho Rangers have Applied Phlebotinum set up to hone in on the sound of the Rangers' voices within Angel Grove. So Cassie is hurrying back to base as silently as possible when she sees a baby carriage about to fall down a flight of concrete stairs. She struggles between protecting herself and warning the mother, but what other choice does she have...? (Besides morphing in public and rushing up to save the kid herself as the Pink Ranger, anyway.)

Video Games

  • Chex Quest 2's "Cinema" level (its upgraded version, at least) has several "movies" playing, including one that is a loop of a baby carriage rolling down stairs. This is probably the most cerebral shout-out to be seen in a game about heroic anthropomorphic breakfast cereal.
  • The Licensed Game of The Untouchables (1987) uses the iconic film scene with the baby carriage rolling down the steps as the premise for an Escort Mission.
  • The Big Red Adventure, the sequel to Nippon Safes Inc. that parodies Communist and Post-Communist Russia, features a parody of the sequence in the introductory clip, with Dino (the resident Dumb Muscle and Butt-Monkey) playing the baby in the carriage.

Western Animation

  • Codename: Kids Next Door: In the episode "Operation DIAPER", a baby carriage rolls down a flight of stairs during a fight with a group of tooth-stealing babies. Number 3 chases it and catches it at the last moment, only to get punched in the face by the occupant.
  • The Critic: In the episode "Eyes on the Prize", Jay's student film, L'Artiste Est Morte, invokes this. It uses (cartoon) clips of parodies of famous film scenes — the Odessa steps one looks like it was filmed at his college, probably.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: A baby carriage goes careening down the steps in the episode "Gem of a Different Color" during the Changewing attack. It hits a cart and the baby is catapulted through the air, but fortunately Fishlegs and Meatlug are able to catch it safely.
  • Histeria!: The episode dedicated to the Russian Revolution has a segment about the making of Battleship Potemkin, with the kids pestering Eisenstein. The editing of the final film is the result of Big Fat Baby playing around in the editing room.
  • Liquid Television: The sequence is reenacted in one segment of Stick Figure Theater.
  • The Simpsons: In one Halloween episode, Homer's ghost has twenty-four hours to do a good deed to get into Heaven. Just when he's almost out of time, he sees a carriage going down a flight of stairs and picks up the baby just because he's annoyed with its wails — the carriage continues its descent and once in a road is hit by a car and explodes in flames. The baby's mother believes it to be a miracle.


Video Example(s):


A Wave of Violence

When the members of Police Squad are staking out a train station, they are faced with a surfeit of innocent bystanders who must be removed or shielded from danger.

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