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When Props Attack

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Some fights come with strings attached.
Where Special Effect Failure overlaps with Fight Scene Failure, this is a scene where a supposedly animate object or creature attacking a character is obviously an inert object that the actor is trying to manipulate while supposedly "fighting" it.

Usually this involves something small strangling someone or biting someone's throat, which allows the actor to stagger around holding the Prop to their neck and occasionally wiggling bits of it.

A common necessity in an era before cheap CGI or animatronics, but often looks rather comical now.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes had several examples, including Calvin's dad pretending that he was being attacked by a poltergeist to scare Calvin. It's implied that this is what onlookers see when Calvin and Hobbes "fight".
  • A late 2011 Garfield strip had Garfield eating cookies in the cookie jar, but when Jon catches him, Garfield pretends that the cookie jar is eating him. Jon isn't fooled one bit by it:
    Garfield: Help! I'm being eaten by a cookie jar!
    Jon: Get out of there!
  • Back in the very early days of Peanuts when Charlie Brown was more mischievous, he once made it look like a snowman was chasing him by towing it around in a wagon.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Beethoven, the crooked vet simulates an attack by the title dog by smearing fake blood on his arm, then grabbing Beethoven's face and shaking it.
  • Ed Wood includes a dramatization of the real-life incident during filming of Bride of the Monster where Bela Lugosi had to fight an inert giant octopus prop.
  • Singin' in the Rain: During the "Make 'Em Laugh" scene, Cosmo "flirts" with a headless mannequin, which proceeds to slap him and they tussle for a minute or two off screen.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The second episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace, "Hell Hath Fury", in which the characters are fighting Animate Inanimate Objects. Including Sanchez struggling with his own gun, then battling a kitchen whisk trying to stab him in the neck, and then wrestling a garbage can.
  • Parodied in the Monty Python's Flying Circus "Scott of the Sahara" sketch, in which Scott wrestles a lion which is partially Stock Footage, partially a guy in a lion costume, and partially this.
  • An episode of Police Squad! has Frank Drebin react this way to a wig tossed in his face, staggering around and grunting in pain for several seconds before pulling it aside.

  • The main plot of The Prop Dept is that props from a prop department have come to life and have to be defeated by the main characters.

    Web Original 

Real life

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A particularly notorious example is the fight between Bela Lugosi's character Dr. Vornoff and a giant octopus in Bride of the Monster. Allegedly, the prop was stolen from a bigger studio's store, but a vital electric motor was left behind.
  • The unused US ending for Frankenstein Conquers the World has Frankenstein fight a giant octopus. The effect looks okay for the most part, but it’s noticeable in a few shots that Frankenstein’s actor, Koji Furuhata, is moving the prop’s tentacles himself.
    • The page image demonstrates an interesting version of this trope; as the film was shot at normal speed, for scenes where Frankenstein lifts Baragon, Haruo Nakajima would step out of the suit, which would then be filled with fabric stuffing to keep its shape. The suit was then hoisted on wires to allow it to move, and also to make it easier for Furuhata to lift the suit up above his head.
  • The fight between George and the lion in George of the Jungle, partially.
  • The fight between the Skeleton and the Mutant in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Like with the rest of the movie's bad effects, it's all part of the fun.
  • The original Killer Rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a section of the Ancient Prophecies series, we see an Aztec family being attacked by their own wooden tools, and a modern family attacked by their kitchen and IT equipment, both done like this.
  • In a sketch on The Benny Hill Show, Benny plays a TV nature presenter parodying David Attenborough. One of the animals he shows is a giant spider, which is really a prop that Benny slips onto his hand and his fingers are the spider's legs. While Benny is holding the "spider" and talking about it, the spider crawls up Benny's chest towards his neck. Benny drags the spider back down to abdomen level, and it starts crawling up again. He also gets attacked by an offstage "elephant", which is somebody's arm in a gray sleeve simulating the elephant's trunk.
  • The non-CGI parts of the fight between Buffy and the giant enchanted snake in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Shadow", which reverses the usual by having a small actor clinging onto a very large almost-inert prop.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of The Goodies where Graeme is supposedly being attacked by a bat.
  • The Polymorph going for Lister's throat while disguised as a shami kebab in the Red Dwarf episode "Polymorph".
  • In Sapphire and Steel, "Assignment 3" features a series of poltergeist attacks by animal spirits, leading the spectacle of David McCallum being "attacked" by a pillow that's supposedly animated by the ghosts of the birds whose feathers it's stuffed with.
  • In Scrubs, J.D. imagines a demon baby launching out of Jordan and attacking him. The baby in question is a lumpy plastic doll.
  • In one episode of Van-Pires, the Motorvators' fight against a living electric guitar is half the actors waving around a very obviously inanimate prop guitar pretending it's attacking them and half a really cheaply rendered CGI guitar just kinda flopping around.