Special: Mega-Movie Myths
- Awning Fall/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: you can survive a fall through multiple multiple awnings. plausible, but not recommended
- Cutting a Sword in Half/Count of Monte Cristo: You can cut a sword in half with another. busted
- Ejector Seat/Austin Powers: Goldmember: You can completely conceal an ejector seat in a car. plausible
- Shooting Locks Off/Big Trouble in Little China: You can shoot a lock off with a gun. plausible (requires shotgun or rifle), but many safety issues
- Jumping a Gorge with a Car/Dukes of Hazzard: You can jump over a gorge in a car using a dirt ramp, and the car will keep running. busted
- Ballistic Breakout/Underworld: You can shoot a floor out beneath you. busted
Unlike any other episode recounted on this site, I actually got to see part of this episode shot in person. See On the Set with the MythBusters for my recounting of being on the set. You can also see my Awning Fall (with spoilers) photos as well as my Awning Fall Setup photos.
I think that this episode has some of the best-executed myths to date: Ejection Seat and Jumping a Gorge. Sometimes episodes end on a bit of a down note when something goes wrong with the setup itself, but this episode managed to pull off two full hours of satisfying myths.
Myth: In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jumps out of a window and awnings safely break his fall.
See On the Set with the MythBusters for my recounting of watching this myth. I wrote this before the episode aired, which is why it goes to great lengths to not talk about the actual myth or results.
Buster Drop Test
- 3 awnings. Zebra Awnings made some awnings similar to those in the movie. 100% acrylic, 9.7ounce/sq. yard.
- Nuclear fallout shelter. The concrete on this shelter was reinforced with a lot of rebar, leading many broken drill bits
- 85% hits top awning and lands 20ft out in the street
4%1% that he goes through one awning and into the next
- -1% that he goes through two awnings and lands safely in the third
- 100% buster death
Buster rolled off the first awning and partially broke through the second, leaving his butt piece poking through the hole in the awning.
Jamie: "His ass fell off"
The shockwatches showed 75g in the chest, which meant broken ribs and heavy damage, but he ‘survived‘ the fall.
Jamie: "If you're gonna fall off a building, this is not a half-bad way to do it. You know, I mean, I wouldn't recommend trying it, but if you got to, I'd go this route."
Tory Drop test
They wanted to show an actual person doing the fall, so they had Tory suit up for the drop. There were actually three drops, though only the last used the awning: stunt person, Tory without awnings and then Tory with awnings. They were originally have Adam do the fall, but for insurance reasons, they used Tory instead.
Unlike the Buster drop, they cut through each awning and retaped them. They didn't want Tory suffering the same injuries. Tory was also rigged up so that the rate of his descent could be controlled and safe.
Before and After:
Cutting Swords in Half
Myth: You can cut a sword in half with another (e.g. in the remake of Count of Monte Cristo)
They found some high-quality replica swords to avoid the expense of the real deal. They got two high-carbon katanas to do the actual cutting and as the target sword. They got stainless steel katanas for velocity tests, softer targets, and play.
Simple whack-a-sword test
Tory: "Alright, the whole myth is trying to cut a sword with another sword, right/ So why don't we just try to cut a sword with another sword?"
After putting on chainmail, Grant and Tory repeatedly whacked the high-carbon katana until their hands stung. The best they could do was chip the blades.
Grant and Tory weren't strong enough nor expert enough to slice a sword, so they brought in Richard Hill and Michael Esmaikadef, Tameshigiri sword experts, to measure the velocity of their swings. The experts brought some actual antique Japanese swords for show, but for the test they used modern equivalents.
- Straw mat target: 6ms to slice 7" = 48mph.
- Ballistics gel: 9" gash
Robot sword swinger
Grant built a sword-swinging robot to match the measurements from the experts. He originally tried releasing some weights to swing the blade around, but the blade wouldn't swing at th erequired speed. The rig was lightened and a pneumatic actuator was used to power it instead, which got them to the required speed. They then tested it on the ballistics gel and it penetrated to the same depth as the swordsman.
Grant positioned the robotic sword swinger so that the blade touched at the percussion point -- about a third of the way down -- which has the best balance of strength and speed for a sword. They tested two variations of striking: edge-to-flat side and edge-to-edge. The edge-to-flat strike is more realistic, as you block strikes with the side of your blade.
The high-carbon blade went straight through the show katana (stainless steel) like butter, which didn't really tell them anything other than show blades are really just for show.
High-carbon steel katana blade hitting an identical katana blade:
- edge-to-flat: busted
- edge-to-edge: busted (the target sword broke at the hilt due to a stress fracture, but it wasn't sliced through as in the movies)
Many movies don't use katana blades, including the Count of Monte Cristo, so they got a Viking sword, a Scottish claymore, and a European rapier. All of them were high-carbon steel replicas rather than the (expensive) authentic item.
- katana blade hitting a rapier (flat side): the rapier appeared to be cut by the katana, but on high-speed it was clear that then blade actually snapped instead of being cut. busted
- Scottish claymore hitting a katana (flat): the claymore is 4x as heavy and twice as long, so it moved much slower than the katana. It managed to bend the katana, but neither cut nor broke it. busted
- Scottish claymore hitting a Viking sword (edge): both blades were nicked, the claymore slightly worse. busted
Myth: You can completely conceal an ejector seat in a car.
In Austin Powers: Goldmember, Austin Powers launches from an ejector seat in his car, over a helicopter, guns a-blazin'. This is similar to James Bond's ejector-seat-equipped Aston Martin.
For this experiment, they wanted to have Adam drive the car and eject a dummy from the passenger seat. The ejector seat was powered by compressed air. Actual airplane ejection seats use rockets to launch the pilot at 50 ft/s out of the plane, but they didn't want to incinerate the car.
They sent Mythtern Jess to find an old Avante Studebaker, which has a similar height and roofline. The sporty car turned out to be too streamlined and narrow in the roofline as the glass often goes over the passenger's head. They went with an old Toyota instead as it fit their requirements for trunk space and roof clearance.
- Toyota car
- Air supply in trunk
- Trapdoor in roof of car
- Tubing for air cannon ejection mechanism
- Air cannon: five metal tubes embedded in a seat that fit snugly over five slightly smaller tubes in the car. 2600 lbs of lift. Capable of 130 psi.
- 260lb seat +
- Secret switch inside of fake gear shifter
In order for the myth to be plausible, the ejector seat had to be 'undetectable' -- otherwise no one would ever sit on it. They disguised the tubing and seat, though they found that the seat was a bit high. In order to test whether or not the ejection seat was ‘detectable', they invited multiple people over to check out the car. Bob Carroll, tow truck driver, sat in it and immediately asked if it was an ejection seat. Dontel Hood, one of Jamie's interns, didn't notice either the trapdoor in the roof or the overly high seat. John Walker, Area 51 Productions, spotted the secret switch and wondered if it was a push-button automatic. Their last test subject spotted the cutaway roof and figured out it was a James Bond car.
They figured that a couple of fooled people was good enough -- if they had more time and resources, they could have done an even better job hiding the mechanisms.
At 10 psi they fired it up and were able to launch the chair all the way through the roof and onto the trunk
At 90 psi, they were able to launch the chair with 120 lbs out of the car, clearing the roof, and landing just behind the car.
For the final test, they wanted to stick Rescue Randy in the car -- Buster was in pieces from Awning Fall. However, Rescue Randy didn't fit in the car and they had to go with 65lb Simulaid Susie instead.
They charged up the tank to 130psi, and as Adam drove the car, he launched the ejector seat. This sent Simulaid Susie arcing behind the car.
Shooting Locks Off
Myth: You can shoot a lock off with a gun (e.g. Big Trouble in Little China)
Grant picked up a variety of locks at Lockworld and Tory brought back some doors. They setup with the locks and doors was very similar to Hollywood on Trial. They added a bulletproof glass cage for safety, and Sergeant Alan Normandy of the South SFPD was back to help with this gunfire as they went out to the gun club.
- 9mm: shot a standard Master padlock three times. It still worked fine with the key. busted
- .357: the lock looked worse for the wear, but it still worked fine. busted
- 12-gauge slug (1600 ft/s): battered the lock to the point where it could be ripped open by hand. plausible
- M1 Garand: went through the lock and door jam. plausible
- 9mm: lock still worked. busted
- .357: loosened, but still locked. busted
- 12-gauge slug (1600 ft/s): the lock popped right out. plausible
- M1 Garand: the lock popped right out. plausible
While you could shoot the lock off with the shotgun or rifle, there is the big safety issue with potentially deadly shrapnel and ricochets.
Jumping a gorge with a car
Myth: You can jump over a gorge in a car using a dirt ramp, and the car will keep running (e.g. Dukes of Hazzard remake)
They determined from footage of the film that the General Lee went about 175ft. The World's Longest Car Jump was 272ft by Ray Bowman. Bowman successfully landed the car on four wheels and it kept on running, but Bowman had to spend six weeks in a hospital with busted vertebrae. Their plan was to hit a 30 degree dirt mound at 70mph.
The mythbusting used yet-another remote-control car (#5) (Rear Axle/Drive Shaft Pole Vault/Jet Taxi/JATO), but this was the very first to feature "Jamie-cam". Jamie added a remote camera to the hood of the car so that he could use it to steer more accurately -- accuracy was much more important for this myth in order to hit the ramp straight-on. The car was the same from the Rough Road Driving Myth.
Jamie, using his experience as a former building inspector, oversaw the construction of "Hyneman Mountain", the 30 degree dirt mound. They stacked up the dirt a foot at a time and steam-rolled each layer in order to make sure it was compact. Jamie: "Nothing like a good hump, that's what I always say"
Next up was the testing of the remote-control car.
Jamie: "Remember if the car gets out of control, don't try to outrun it, go at right angles. Nature knows that's the best way of getting out of the way of something that's faster than you are."
Just like in the Driveshaft Pole Vault Myth, Jamie accidentally drove the car through the fence at Alameda. Luckily, Adam wasn't in the car this time. Jamie had forgotten to wire up the failsafe that engages the brakes if it loses radio signal.
Jamie: "Oops, here we go again… I haven't set the failsafe yet."
Adam: "We better call the fence company again."
Jamie drove the car perfectly into the ramp -- it went flying in a cloud of dirt and landed nose down, completely trashing the front half of the car. The total distance was 172 ft -- within 3 ft of the calculated Dukes of Hazzard distance.
Adam: "The car is busted, the myth is busted" (you can jump a gorge, but you're not driving away)
Myth: You can shoot a floor out beneath you.
In the movie Underworld, Kate Beckinsale's character escapes by spinning in circles while shooting two automatic 9mm pistols in order to cause the floor to fall away.
Sergeant Alan Normandy of the South SFPD, on hand for yet-another gun myth, didn't give the myth much chance of success.
For safety reasons, they decided to setup the experiment rig with Tory standing on a safety deck above a target deck made out of plywood with vinyl tiles on top. Tory would shoot down at the deck at the deck using an MP5 (9mm) through a 1" circular slot he cut in the safety deck. 150-180lbs of sandbags were stuck on top of the target deck so that the deck could give way if Tory was successful in shooting out the floor around them.
Grant: "So now Tory gets to live out his Counterstrike fantasy"
The movie used two 20-round clips. After Tory used way more than two 9mm clips, Grant came out with the 12-gauge shotgun.
Grant: "He's a lot better at this online"
Grant and Tory spent half-an-hour taking shots with their respective weapons. After much stomping, they finally broke the floor out.
The main problem with shooting out the floor was that the support beams provided too much support.