Mortician Breaks Down Dead Body Scenes From Movies & TV (2024)

[upbeat music]

Hi, I'm Victor M. Sweeney.

[bell dinging] Victor is a mortician

and funeral director.

Today, I'm gonna break down clips from movies and TV

about dead bodies.

And just so you know, there might be spoilers ahead.

Let's get into it.

Decomposition from the movie Psycho.

[suspenseful music]

If you look at Mrs. Bates's face

you're gonna see that her eyes have completely decomposed,

leaving only the empty sockets.

Likewise, you'll notice that her zygomatic arches,

that is the cheekbones, are extremely prominent

as the skin is tightened up.

Desiccation would be the breakdown of a body by drying,

so we're talking about mummification here.

Mrs. Bates's skin,

it would probably be something similar to a football.

It would be hard and leathery.

[Lila screaming]

This situation in Norman Bates's basem*nt

would be incredibly illegal.

Most states have a system by which they track a body

from the time of death

until the time where they are either buried or cremated.

Setting the features and cosmetizing the deceased

from the movie Bernie.

You must cast the nails to the person.

[wistful music]

You wouldn't want a mechanic to have the nails

of a flight attendant.

So this clip gets so many things right.

[Bernie] It's very important to remove any unwanted nasal,

ear, or facial hair.

So we see Bernie here removing facial hair,

and this is very important across the board, male or female.

Ideally, when someone is in the casket

we really want them to look their best.

So for a man that might include removing

unwanted nose hair or ear hair.

[Bernie] A little deb will do ya,

and it's no more peeking.

We see Bernie glue both the eyes and the mouth.

This is a common practice, but not always necessary.

It might be the case that eyes are not meeting correctly

and you may need to glue them,

but generally they'll abut quite nicely.

[Bernie] And we must always be on guard

for the mischievous lip drip.

You'll notice when Bernie is gluing the lips

that they're kind of a grayish color.

What that might show me

is that there is too much formaldehyde in the solution

and too little dye,

'cause generally your internal dyes in the fluid

are what's gonna create that nice rosy color in a body.

And if there's too much aldehyde,

it's gonna create a gray cast,

and what you really want is a pink cast.

If it's already happened, it's too late

and it would need to be corrected by a lipstick

or a heavier makeup.

[Bernie] Then apply highlights.

Do not over-cosmetize.

This is great because you see him actually warming up

some of the features.

You wanna try to hit the hotspots with makeup or blush.

Generally the forehead, the lower ramus,

that would be the lower jaw.

You're also gonna try to hit the tip of the nose

and the point of the chin.

Just a note to always remember,

too much color does not make one look more alive.

Flying body, Mousehunt.

It doesn't matter what color it is.

[handle clanging]


[casket crashing]

They're usually weight-tested and strength-tested

so this terrible, terrible thing

doesn't happen to people in real life.

You'll see that the casket has what's called bail handles,

so they have individual handles for each casket bearer.

Typically, you're gonna see a casket

with what's called a swing bar handle,

so it's gonna be a rail that runs the whole length.

[dramatic organ music] [casket lid clacking]

You can see the light actually poking through,

so that's gonna tell us

that this is a non-gasketed casket.

There's no seal around it.

It would also be my assumption that it is not locked.

The lid shouldn't be that wobbly,

which is gonna be a huge problem

when you see him totally destroy the hearse

and shoot up in the air.

[body thudding]

Another odd thing about this,

Dad's not wearing any pants in the casket.

It's common enough where people don't wear socks or shoes,

but typically in an open casket situation,

you're going to see at least the top of the pants.

So I can't imagine they had his underwear hanging out

or his maybe dress shirt tucked into them.

I don't know.

Moving casket, Death at a Funeral.

Don't close that! [mourners yelling]

What are you doing? I'm going to let you out.

[mourners yelling]

[casket crashing] [mourners screaming]

The casket should be locked.

The way it flopped open tells me it's not.

It maybe shouldn't be as easy to move as this shows.

[mourners screaming]

One thing to notice is that they have Dad

facing the wrong way.

What kind of Mickey Mouse business

are these people running anyway?

This will come into play when they go to the cemetery

for burial, let's say, as most cemeteries are aligned

east to west with the head being at the west end

and the foot being at the east.

That's why it's called a headstone

'cause it's typically on the west end of the grave.

The reasoning for that goes back a long way to Antiquity

where in Christianity they believe that the Second Coming

is going to come from the east.

So that way if you were to rise out of the grave,

your feet will be here and your head will be facing east

as the sun comes up.

Coffin flop from I Think You Should Leave.

We showed over 400 naked dead bodies

on our show Coffin Flop.

[bodies crashing] [mourners screaming]

Every example in here is not a coffin, but a casket.

Caskets are rectangular while coffins are generally shaped

like a human.

The other issue I noticed

[body crashing] [mourners screaming]

you see this clip where the gentlemen falls out of the side,

his head is on the wrong side of the casket.

He should be the other way around

with the head on the left side.

[body crashing] [mourners screaming]

In addition, there are a number of naked bodies

falling out of caskets, which would lead me to think

that they can't be public visitation funerals.

They must be closed casket.

But then the question remains, why are they still naked?

[body crashing] [mourners screaming]

I don't know what to tell you, bud.

Mortician's worst nightmare, dropping a body.

Taking out the viscera, The Haunting of Hill House.

Do you know what I'm doing right now?

I'm elbow deep in our sister's chest cavity

pulling out a bag of her internal organs.

That's what happens when a body's autopsy--

So this representation is pretty accurate.

Typically with an autopsy,

there are two major incisions on the body.

There's the Y incision, which starts at the collarbones,

meets at the base of the sternum,

and then goes down all the way to the pubic bone.

Maybe not so accurate that she cracks open the chest cavity,

because in addition to making that incision,

the chest plate, that is the breastbone, is cut out as well.

So ideally there's nothing to crack

'cause everything should be kind of wide open.

Don't talk to me that way.

We see here that she's clipping through multiple sutures.

More often than not when you get a body back

from the medical examiner, it's just quickly stitched up

because they know the funeral director, like me,

is gonna have to do most of the work

in undoing [chuckles] the body

and then redoing everything after the embalming.

So they don't take a great deal of time

making nice, tight stitches

because we're just gonna have to undo them again.

That's what happens when a body's autopsied

and I have to take it out.

The red bag that you see her pull out

of the chest cavity there is called the viscera bag.

So this would include all the organs

that are removed from the body

and then studied by the medical examiner or coroner.

[gloves rustling]

Probably the longest task of embalming a body

that's been autopsied is typically the suturing up

of the body, but then also of the head.

What you want to achieve as a nice, tight suture,

so that way you don't have any leakage

or anything like that coming out of the body.

There's one method called the whip stitch,

which is circular movements around the incision

in order to get it nice and tight.

It doesn't have to look good,

but it just has to be effective

in order to keep a nice, good seal.

There's another type of closure called the baseball stitch.

So if you were to look at a baseball,

you're gonna see threads going left and right

and left and right all the way down in almost a chevron.

This is a great stitch.

It's one of the most secure, as far as leaks is concerned.

Cremation urn costs from The Big Lebowski.

That's $180.

It is our most modestly priced receptacle.

Now $180 for an urn that you would actually use

in a service is not an unreasonable amount.

$180? Well, can't we just...

You know, I would say typically an urn

might be even more than that.

But the fact that the funeral director

says it's his most--

[Victor And Funeral Director] Modestly priced receptacle--

Is probably not accurate.

Generally at a crematory, built into the fees

they're going to have the cremation itself,

and then the cremated remains,

that is the pulverized bone dust,

is going to come back to the family sealed in a bag

and it's going to come in and urn much like this,

just a black, hard, plastic urn

that would be suitable for burial

or anything you really need.

No frills, no bells.

Scattering the [beep] ashes.

But especially if they're going to do as they plan

and scatter Donny's ashes,

there's no reason a family or friends should be forced

to buy an expensive urn for something they're only gonna see

just briefly and won't really serve any real purpose

for what they're planning to do for a service.

Just because were bereaved doesn't make us saps!

Sir. Ideally,

you as a funeral director are doing your job

beforehand to make sure it never gets to that point.

Not just talking him off the ledge,

but making sure he knows what he's getting

so he's not surprised and then angry

about a funeral bill that he can't afford.

In accordance with what we think

your dying wishes might well have been.

Later, we'll see the cremated remains of Donny

scattered at sea.

In The Big Lebowski here,

we will see a Folgers can being used,

but I have filled teapots, I've filled cookie jars,

jewelry chests, you name it.

Anything that could be suitable used as an urn is fair game.

Broken urn, Meet the Parents.

[cork popping]


Oh. Oh!

[urn crashing]


Ideally, those cremated remains would be sealed

in a bag inside that urn, so when the urn itself broke,

the cremated remains would remain intact in the bag.

And this doesn't seem to be an unreasonable amount

of cremated remains for a human.

It does tend to differ.

Typically the amount of cremated remains you'll get back

is based on the size of the person,

but primarily on their bone density.

So generally men will have more cremated remains

than a cremated woman would.

It takes a lot out of him.

Embalming from the movie Kissed.

[cheerful music]

Welcome to embalming.

Ah, that's more comfortable.

Where to begin?

Okay, right away you'll see the gentlemen

is laying on the table.

His head is not up.

He puts his head up afterward.

His head should be up almost from the time

you pick them up from the hospital.

Hi head needs to be elevated

to make sure the blood isn't pooling

in the backsides of his ears.

Also, this guy's wearing no personal protective equipment.

He's wearing a smock, yes, and gloves,

but he's wearing his daytime clothes.

He should be in a gown, in a smock over that,

two pairs of gloves, a face mask, a face shield over top,

a hair net, and shoe covers.

And as you can see, he's wearing none of that.

So if you were to have blood splatter, let's say,

that guy's shirt is getting ruined.

[embalmer tapping] [embalming machine whirring]

The lid needs to be on that embalming machine,

otherwise he's gonna be releasing

formaldehyde gases into the air.

The jugular is for draining

and the carotids for injecting.

I'll give the guy a little credit.

He's right on that.

Your carotid artery is a very good artery

for introducing embalming fluid.

It's large, it's gonna be rubbery and fairly flexible.

And so as you're pumping fluids in

at a high volume and at a great deal of pressure,

that artery is able to withstand that.

He's also accurate that the jugular

is a good place to drain from.

It's a large vein, both of them up by the neck.

So he would be accurate there as well.

Trocar, many see it as the embalmer's sword.

I hope funeral directors and embalmers

don't talk like that.

We suck out all the goo,

then we replace it with more magic elixir,

that way our young friend won't bloat up like a pig.

Embalmer's sword and miracle elixir, come on.

Also, he's pointing it the wrong way.

Typically, when you insert a trocar,

you want to go near the navel

and you actually wanna go upward first.

So you wanna go into the thoracic cavity

and draw out all the fluids out of there first.

The reason being is after you draw out the fluids

from the thoracic cavity,

you can move down to the abdominal cavity

without having to remove the trocar

and you're not introducing, let's say, gut bacteria

into the thoracic cavity.

You're doing it the other way around.

What's happening is he's puncturing

all those lower abdominal organs.

He could be puncturing through the intestines

with fecal matter.

And then what is he gonna do?

Turn around and stick that fecal matter

right up into the thoracic cavity or up into the throat?

That'd be terrible.

You get used to the smell.

Mortician makeup, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I'm here.

Oh. What on earth

did you do to your face?

I had it done at a funeral home.

For a corpse, Frank looks great.

For a live person, not so much.

You go to a funeral home to get gruesome repairs.

Most embalming chemical companies will also have

a specialized makeup for the deceased.

Whereas most makeup is meant to go on warm bodies,

this makeup is meant to go on cold bodies.

You'll notice he has kind of a hale cast to him.


Ideally in the casket, you don't wanna have that look

because that's the look a dead body will normally take on.

You look like you're at your own wake.

[Mortician] Frank?

So in his case, the mortician could have just used

a little bit of rouge.

You can see he darkened around the eyes quite a bit,

and that would be abnormal for what I try to do.

You don't want to draw great, great focus

to closed dark eyes, 'cause again,

that provides the effect of a look of death

and we wanna avoid that if at all possible.

I gotta get my makeup redone.

Glass casket, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

♪ Ever entreating ♪

Historically, full glass caskets or coffins

were not the norm.

At a certain point in the 19th century,

caskets or coffins might have a little window for viewing.

So it's possible they'd have a little door

above where the face is and there would be a pane of glass

so you could see your loved one

and without having to open the casket.

Today, we don't often have glass caskets,

although there are companies that are starting

to promote the idea of plexiglass caskets

so you can get a full view of your loved one.

I, myself, am not crazy about the idea

because every so often there are things that go wrong

with a body that you can't control,

and you don't want that to be on full display

in front of a grieving family.

There is always the potential for what we call purge.

That would be the expelling from an orifice

of something that shouldn't be there.

So you could have lung purge,

usually it's like a frothy white color.

You could have stomach purge,

which is generally the consistency of coffee grounds.

And then you could also have brain purge.


And in a glass casket, that might be a major issue

if that were to happen and you weren't there to catch it.

Gosh. That's a bad sign.

Transporting the body, Six Feet Under.

You grab his shoulder on three.


[sheets rustling]

One, two, three.

This is a great example of how to throw your back out.

Probably the proper way to do this

would be to have one of the directors roll the body

and then there's what's called the slider board.

It's like a thin, plastic, almost like a stretcher

that can go underneath the body.

So we'd roll them, put the slider board underneath,

lay them down upon the board,

and then actually both of you go around to the cot side

and pull them off the bed

and onto the cot that way, working together.

The body becomes unshrouded.


And we see the gentlemen has an erection.

Angel lust.

Does that happened a lot?

I've been doing this since I was 18.

I've never seen that happen.

The only time I've ever seen corpses have erections

is actually during the embalming process.

If the pressure is up too high,

sometimes that will direct fluid to the spongy tissues

of the penis, causing a slight erection.

And if that were to happen,

I would just turn the pressure down

and that'll decrease in time.

Wrong dead body, Death at a Funeral.

Who's this?

You know, I asked myself the same thing

when my dad passed.

I said, Who is this man?

No, no, Brian.

Who's this in the coffin, 'cause that's not my father?

Oh [beep].

So it's certainly possible to put the wrong body

in a casket, but a lot would have to go wrong first.

Okay, listen--

Ideally, even from the time you bring someone

from the place of death into your care,

you are tracking who it is every step of the way.

In my own experience, I'm in a small enough area

where I'm not dealing with four or five deaths in a night,

so getting people mixed up just doesn't happen for me.

In larger areas where maybe they have maybe, say,

a central embalming location,

it'd be extremely important to identify

and tag every individual who comes through.

And that could be done like by a toe tag, like in a morgue.

Generally, it's actually just done with an ankle

or a wrist bracelet

with the persons name and the date of death.

Then you're able to track who is going where

and at what time, because this is the kind of thing

you never wanna have happen.

Almost never happens?

I said that out loud?

This is not Burger King.

You can't just mess up my order.

I would be just utterly shocked.

You think?

The first thing you do when it's something like that,

I hope it never happens to me,

is you just fall on your sword.

You just apologize, you don't make excuses,

and you make it right.

And it might be that that funeral is free.

Look, I'm trying.

Draining blood from the body, Final Destination.

The risk of cheating the plan, of disrespecting the design

could incite a fury that could terrorize

even the Grim Reaper.

In this clip, we're seeing a specialized embalming tool

called a drain tube.

So we have on the rounded end here,

this is gonna go down the vein,

you have to cut the vein and insert this in the vein,

and then as pressure builds in the body,

we can then pull the end here and this stopco*ck opens up

and the blood will actually pour out of the side.

So you're able to direct the blood.

And then if you need to decrease the flow

or stop the flow or open it up,

you have some control over how much blood

is exiting the body at a certain time.

So that's spot on, actually.

The deceased has a drain tube in his right jugular,

but there doesn't appear to be any sort of insertion

for the embalming machine.

Now it's possible it could be going into his femoral artery

down on his thigh, but it just seems peculiar

that he's gonna be draining blood

without also introducing any fluids into the system as well.

[dramatic music] [blood spurting]

The removal of the drain tube

is fairly accurate in this scene.

Interestingly enough, we don't see any ligature,

so there's no string at all.

Typically when we're embalming, we wanna have some ligature

to tie off those arteries and veins that we're working with,

otherwise you're going to have leaking, right?

If we've made a hole in the circulatory system,

it's gotta go somewhere.

Ideally, he'd have those veins ready to tie off.

He'd have the ligature there.

He'd pull out the drain tube and tie it tight.

[claps] Okay then.

Taking a dead body, Little Miss Sunshine.


Wait, wait, wait.

Not yet. Not yet.

One of the many things wrong

with them taking grandpa through the window,

as opposed to through the proper channels,

is that the state wants to track where a body is

from the time they pass away

until the time of what we call final disposition,

either burial in the ground or cremation, generally.

What's gonna happen to grandpa?

Initially, they're gonna track the place of death,

which would be in this case, the hospital,

and then they're gonna have a transfer permit

which would be to the funeral home.

So missing that step, nobody's gonna know where he is

until he gets back in the care

of someone with proper jurisdiction.

He's slipping.

[sheet tearing] [upbeat music]

So as far as getting a dead body out of a hospital window,

I think they did a really good job.

Some points for improvement:

winding that shroud a little tighter would prevent

some of that floppiness.

If they had a little more time to plan ahead,

it wouldn't be the worst idea

to have something firm underneath him

so they can make that smooth transfer

without him falling down.

Ideally, they would wanna put him out feet first

because then those on the receiving end

would have less weight to carry initially,

and then they could even rest his shoulder blades

on the windowsill before making that final transfer out.

[upbeat music] [door slamming]

Calling the mortician, The Godfather.

All right, friend, are you ready to do me this service?

So typically, people don't show up to me

bringing the body with them.

Usually I go to where the death has occurred.

In this case, I feel very, very bad for the undertaker.

It's good that he's making good

on his favor to the Godfather.

So the first thing we'd have to do

is perform a very thorough embalming.

With something like this where you have multiple punctures

of organs, certainly arteries and veins,

you're going to have to make sure

you have a high index fluid,

so that would be a fluid that has more aldehyde than normal.

And because you wanna make sure

that anywhere that fluid touches is preserved and fixed,

then you're gonna have to make sure

that you do a very thorough examination of the body,

because all of his extremities, I would think,

are not gonna get as much circulation

as they normally would,

being that the fluids going into the body

are gonna take the easiest exit,

which is gonna be one of those many, many bullet wounds.

Look how they massacred my boy.

Preparing the body for an open casket,

The Haunting of Hill House.

We put her in her favorite clothes.

And finally, I take extra special care

to make sure she looks just like she supposed to.

We're seeing in this clip, this is called a head block.

So this rests under the head.

You can see it, it's concave on two sides

so it provides the ability to lift the head

either lower or higher, depending on the person's build.

What we're trying to achieve when we use a head block

during embalming is we're trying to lift the head up enough

so that way when it rests on the pillow in the casket,

it looks natural instead of being perfectly flat,

because then you'd have their chest raising up

along with their neck.

One other thing you're gonna notice too

is that the lady in the clip here,

her head is tilted slightly to the right.

Ideally, when someone is laid out on the table,

you wanna have them looking over the end of their right toe

with their head neither too far forward,

we'd call that navel gazing,

or their head too far back, which we call stargazing.

We wanna have it just right in the middle

so that way they have a restful posture

and then their head tilted slightly,

so that way when the family approaches the casket,

they're seeing their loved one face on

instead of just their profile from the side.

So when I'm done, she will look just like she always did,

just like you remember her.

One thing that she mentions to the boy

that I really, really like is she's describing

what's sometimes called a memory picture.

So one of the reasons we have open casket funerals,

which may seem very strange to other cultures

and other parts of the world, is exactly as she says.

We wanna create an environment that is peaceful

and create an environment where an individual

can look like themselves again.

Burying a body with their glasses, My Girl.

His face hurts. And where is his glasses?

He can't see without his glasses.

Put his glasses on.

You guys, this is the saddest movie.

He was gonna be an acrobat.

But this scene is really great

'cause it does speak to the truth

that you normally see people with their glasses on.

Even though I'm not wearing my glasses

when I'm asleep and laying down,

in the casket it's another thing

because you're usually looking at a person

and trying to make that image of them

as you would normally see in everyday life.

Poor Thomas J.

You can see him here, he's still in the casket

with the effects of those bee stings.

That's one thing, if I were the funeral director,

I would work very, very hard to cover those up.

Not that you want to deny the fact that that's how he died,

but his family isn't going to want to see him

with the cause of his death all over his face.

There are two ways that you can reduce swelling in a body.

One way is to actually weight down the swelling

with a soaked piece of cotton

that would just be soaked in water,

but heavy enough to reduce that swelling

to a flattened area.

And then once the tissue is fixed,

then it would not be a raised, swollen area anymore.

The other method is to actually use

what's called a tissue reducer.

So this is quite an older model,

but if it's not broke, don't fix it.

But a tissue reducer is basically a small iron,

and you can see the foot on the end here.

It gets hot, hot, hot, and you actually would use this

in conjunction with some face cream.

You'd put cream over the swollen area

and then use the hot iron to actually iron out

those raised areas.

So it would cause the tissue to constrict

and then therefore the swelling to go down.

It takes a fair amount of skill and care

to use something like this.

But in a situation like Thomas J. here,

for the family you would want to do everything you could

to decrease the swelling of those bee stings.

American military funeral, American Sniper.

Fire! [rifles firing]

Present arms!


I would say in this clip,

they absolutely had the military funeral down perfectly.

So every veteran that passes away

that has been honorably discharged from the military

is eligible for certain burial benefits.

These would be things like a flag to drape over the casket.

It would be military honors at the grave site,

and that would include rifle volley,

so the firing of the guns.

Fire! [rifles firing]

It would include Taps.


And it would include the folding and presentation

of that flag to the next of kin.

Veterans are also eligible for a marker from the government

for their grave, whether upright or flat,

whether granite or bronze.

Ready! [rifles clicking]

Aim! Fire! [rifles firing]

So with the shooting of the rifles in this clip,

you'll hear that often referred to colloquially

as a 21-gun salute,

but that is actually technically reserved

for only the president, former president, or heads of state.

So actually at the grave site, a veteran is going to get

just what's generically called a rifle volley.

It could have seven rifleman, it could have two,

it could have one.

Lowering the casket, The Royal Tenenbaums.

[melancholy music]

So I have to say that this ending scene

for a funeral is just fantastic.

Typically, when a casket is lowered into the ground,

more often than not there's actually a device

set up over the grave to kind of automatically

and slowly lower it into the ground.

In this case, you see the family doing it manually,

which I think is a good thing.

Generally, anytime you can get a family to step in

and do some manual work themselves,

I think it makes it all the more meaningful.

In addition to that kind of manual work,

families might put a scoop of earth into the grave.

Fire! [BB guns popping]

We see the little boys firing their BB guns

in honor for their grandpa.

Probably my favorite part of this whole thing

is the absolutely false epitaph that is on his headstone.

[whimsical music]

I would love something like that for myself someday.

My favorite epitaph I ever saw had the person's name

and when they passed away

and the only epitaph was, A good man.

And that's always kind of stuck with me.

I mean, that really should be the goal of all of us

to just be a good person,

and if that's all that said, all the better.

[bell dinging] Conclusion.

Being a mortician, I think there's a lot of stigma

against morticians and funeral service generally.

There's always the idea that we are greedy or vultures

or preying on the vulnerable,

but really can you think of many more professions

where people are working holidays and nights and weekends

to take care of someone you love on your behalf.

As we're all going to experience,

or maybe we've experienced already, death is a part of life

and it's always a fun and interesting challenge

to see it portrayed on film or in TV.

[calm music]

Mortician Breaks Down Dead Body Scenes From Movies & TV (2024)
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